The End is Here
This is not what any of us expected. I truly believed that there was no way the Storm could lose two in a row, in a playoff, in Key Arena. Boy was I wrong. In some way I wasn't all wrong, since the players that showed up to the arena last night barely seemed like shadows of the players we have watched all season. The loss to Houston at the last minute on Thursday seemed to have broken their hearts, their wills and fractured their unity. The crowd knew just a few minutes into the game that we were in for trouble.
Before the Game
I arrived at the game early with my 17 month old son. My wife was sick, and my eldest decided not to come to the game, so we had an empty seat. We got to the game quite early...and checked out all of the discounted merchandise from last year's championship season that was on sale. Unfortunately there was nothing there in his size, so we headed into the arena. We hit the Kid's at the Key line to buy him a $1.00 hot dog and a $1.00 PB&J as insurance...then headed to our seats. We watched the Comet's at shootaround...they seemed very focused. There was a pretty silly contest for dancing which the crowd gave the $100.00 win away through their applause. I am not sure why they picked the guy with the cowboy boots...he barely danced. We got some french fries and some water and settled in. The anthem was by a local gospel singer...a bit more traditional rendition and somewhat less inspiring than Thursday's by Pat Wright. The crowd gave a nice welcome to the Comets players and coaching staff.
There was very lazy defense by the Storm from the outset, and the Comet's took advantage. The guards scored off easy layups via backcuts and finding holes in the zone coverage. Sheryl Swoopes got started on her WNBA first playoff triple double ever pretty early with several assists.
Janelle did a solid job on Snow again, and scored well when she caught the ball down low. The Storm continued to dare the Comet's to shoot against their zone, and the Comet's continued to knock down EVERY shot they took. They were shooting well over 60% for the entire first half.
Any time the Storm looked like they were going to make a push Swoopes, Thompson or Staley would just shoot them down with a three pointer, a layup or a steal. The energy of the crowd was being sucked away. They had come ready, but the Storm players had not. I don't even think LJ's foul trouble actually had an impact. She was fouling out of frustration, but they weren't scoring anyway.
The Storm made their best run out of the half, LJ and Betty leading the way, but seemed to crumble when Staley hit a clutch three once the Storm had got within 10. They never made another run. Izzy seemed to be the only one playing hard after that point.
AD threw in the towel around the two minute mark and pulled most of the starters. The Comet's had been celebrating since the ten minute mark. LJ was emotionally overwrought on the bench. It was heartwrenching to see her. The crowd still rose to their feet for the last minute of the game and applauded the Storm. It was very hard watching them be forced to throw t-shirts to the crowd when it was obvious that they all wanted to go back to the locker room and absorb what had happened to them. Betty was the last to leave the court...she spent a long time hugging her brother on the baseline before turning to the fans and having her last moment with us.
AD told them after the game that she hoped they took this as motivation. The one solid thing about this season is that there will be no decimation to the core this year. LJ, Sue and Betty are under contract, and they will be able to keep Izzy, Tanisha, JB and Suzy if the players want to play. I believe that Zara, Chelle, Simone and Vodo will be forced to earn their way back next training camp.
The title is gone. Sacramento will likely dissect Houston easily in the conference finals. We'll have to see what happens in the east. Next year they need to come back, older, wiser, and ready to take back that title. We'll be ready to ride there with them.