Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Storm vs. Comets 5/23

I did not post a pregame entry yesterday because I worried that my trepidation about this game might jinx the team were I to type them on the screen. Unfortunately my silence was of no help. Here are the worries I did not share yesterday...

After the emotional ring ceremony opening day last season the Storm offered up one of their poorest performances since Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson teamed up on the roster, and they played poorly against an otherwise self destructing LA Sparks team. I feared that the likely emotional pre-game farewell ceremony for Storm original, Simone Edwards, might elicit a similar enervated effort from this team.

Van is still a solid coach. Staley, Thompson and Swoopes possess more experience, talent and savvy than some other teams (who will remain unmentioned) possess on their entire current rosters. They had a nasty opener, and I expected the Storm would face a team "with a mission."

Michelle Snow. With JB out of the lineup I feared Wendy Palmer would be severely out-sized on the block and big minutes might be required of the still new posts Tiffani Johnson and Kayla Chones. Facing Tina Thompson, LJ would be very limited in her ability to help on Snow.

If you were at the game, watched it on ESPN2 or listened to it on the radio, you know that all of these concerns came into play in this game.

The pre-game ceremony was indeed emotional. I missed the season ticket holder only event at 6:30, though I did arrive in time. Midway through Anne Donnovan's presentation of flowers I found a tear rolling down my cheek seeing Simone's eyes tearing up on the big screen. That feeling returned later in the game when Betty and LJ videos were played on the big screen saying thank you and farewell. LJ was only partially successful at disguising a depth of feeling for Simone that welled up twice in her recording. Betty's "I will represent," comment was clearly heartfelt. The emotional build up prior to the game with these ceremonies appears to break the team's focus, perhaps they should be saved for the END of games in the future or for independent events.

Van only used 11 different lineups in this game, 10 of those were not used in their first game of the season. Other than the starting lineup every rotation and floor combination was new for the Comets. The Comets picked up where they left off in the playoffs, they dissected the Storm's new defense repeated and with ease. They disrupted the Storm's offensive flow by pressuring Bird and smothering LJ with triple and quadruple teams. Somehow, when LJ got the ball they managed to put three or four players on LJ without leaving any of the other four Storm players on the floor open.

Michelle Snow used her size and agility to dominate Wendy Palmer, Tiffani Johnson and Kaayla Chones in the post. Even her backup, Kayte Christensen, who only joined the team that day after being cut from camp on May 19th, dominated in the post.

The Storm signed another point guard, Edwige Lawson-Wade, an international player from France who has played for both the Liberty in the Comets in the past. They need one. Tanisha Wright and Shaun Gortman are a nice defensive option, but the offense is just stalling out when Sue Bird sits.

In summary, the game was ugly from midway through the second quarter. There was a brief surge at the end of the third quarter through the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Comets quickly retook control and never looked back. The Storm fell to the Comets 84-59.

By the Numbers

Possessions: 65.04 (72.35 2005 average)
Offensive Rating: 84.32 (101.75 2005 rating)

Individual Plus/Minus
Turner: -4
Chones: -4
Johnson: -6
Wright: -6
Gortman: -7
Castro: -15
Bird: -17
Palmer: -20
Jackson: -20
Lennox: -26

Most Effective Lineups
Bird-Lennox-Gortman-Palmer-Johnson: +3
Bird-Wright-Gortman-Jackson-Johnson: +3

Least Effective Lineups
Bird-Lennox-Castro-Jackson-Palmer: -10
Bird-Lennox-Gortman-Jackson-Palmer: -8

Possessions: 74.91 (67.53 2005 average)
Offensive Rating: 120.04 (100.19 2005 rating)

Individual Plus/Minus
Swoopes: 26
Staley: +21
Canty: +19
Thompson: +18
Christensen: +17
Snow: +14
Kostaki: +5
Hodges: +4
Williams: +1

Most Effective Lineups
Staley-Canty-Swoopes-Thompson-Snow: +11
Staley-Canty-Swoopes-Thompson-Christensen: +9
Kostaki-Hodges-Swoopes-Williams-Christensen: +5

Least Effective Lineups
Staley-Canty-Hodges-Thompson-Williams: -4
Kostaki-Hodges-Canty-Williams-Christensen: -2

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