I thought I’d have nerves before last night’s game, but I didn’t. I just had a good feeling about it, and my feelings about games are always right. They really are.
I arrived early, as usual, but I was a little wistful because it would be our last game at Staples Center this year. If the Sparks make it to the second round, the game or games will be played at USC’s Galen Center, down the street. The Sparks were also bumped during the playoffs in 2006, so I guess I should be grateful we don’t have to drive to Anaheim. But, the way women’s basketball is still pushed to the side in this day and age makes me sad sometimes.
Almost the entire Storm team were out warming up, but as usual, only CP, Bobbitt and a couple other Sparks were on the other end shooting. I noticed Sheryl Swoopes, who sustained a concussion during a game in Seattle two weeks ago, was out with the Storm. I didn’t think she’d be ready to come back yet.
Again, I sat with my two friends who like to say hi to the players as they come off the court. Christi Thomas, who had season-ending knee surgery in August, stopped to talk for a moment. She said it’s hard to feel part of the team when injured – especially since she has to go do rehab now when the rest of the team is practicing. But she said she’s hanging in there.
One thing I noticed right away was the different temperment of the entire team. Each and every one of them were much more serious and quiet than usual, which is normal for the playoffs. They all walked off the court and quietly said hello to people, or simply waved. Even the usually-ebullient Delisha Milton-Jones was subdued, barely mustering up a smile as she passed.
Before they were about to come out for formal warmups, I heard much more exuberance from the back of the tunnel. Thomas was “whooo-woooo”ing really loud, and the rest of the team was answering her louder than usual. I liked that (I guess I’m still a little haunted by that Atlanta game).
The music is better! Shoot-around started with Jay-Z’s new song “Jockin’ Jay-Z,” which is so dope it should be illegal. More quality selections followed that one, and pretty much continued throughout the game. I liked that, too.
With a few minutes left to go in shoot-around, they pulled Parker out of the lineup and stopped the music to present her with her rebounds award. She’s had 229 for the season, which is amazing. Lisa Leslie was then given her blocked shots award. I noticed that Swoopes paused in shooting to give Parker a few claps, but didn’t clap for Leslie.
The Sparks have an unusual tradition of giving one player the mic as they all come to the bench just prior to tipoff. The player then welcomes fans to the game and usually asks for cheers. Last night it was Bobbitt’s turn, and she asked the crowd for it’s supp-owaht (New York for support). I think Bobbitt need to seriously try rapping – I really do. Anyway.
In the first half, the Sparks looked fantastic. They had good ball movement, and shots were falling. But what was really making the difference was their defense. They were really stepping up and limiting the Storm, forcing them into ugly shots, if not denying them in the first place. It was exciting ball, and with a 44-27 lead at halftime, fans were smiling.
The Sparks fell apart a bit in the second half, though, seeming to forget their brilliant defense. Seattle also started making more shots. But what was really irritating me and my seatmates for a while was the sudden total lack of offense on LA’s part.
The point guard – whomever it was at the time – would set it up, and everyone else would just keep standing outside the key. No one would make a move to cut across the lane or otherwise go toward the basket. Then someone would end up taking a last-chance desperation shot from Michigan, which of course wouldn’t fall. And the ball would fall into the Storm’s hands……you get the picture.
If it were my team, I’d have made them keep going to the rack. If you can’t make the shot, then you’ll draw the foul.
There was one extremely hot play under the basket, though it was in the first half. Parker did a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to a cutting Jessica Moore, who laid it up and in. I nearly had a heart attack, the play was so beautiful. Apparently it made Sportscenter’s #4 play of the night last night. No wonder.
The Storm did make their run in the second half, but the Sparks contained them, and as the final buzzer sounded, they sent some really beautiful purple and gold confetti (ribbon pieces) down from the ceiling, creating a snowing effect.
Margo Dydek’s son was in the house. A short dude was sitting behind the bench holding him, and she took him into the locker room at the half. She put him back in the guy’s arms when she came back out, and he wandered off somewhere. The baby was cute.
One of my friends told me that a fan who CP slapped hands with after the game accidentally pulled her arm back and made her tweak her right shoulder. She grimaced, they said. That scared me. I hope she’s allright, but then again we’re talking about Iron Woman.
Jack Black was in the house again. He’s a regular, and they always put him on the jumbotron because he does some crazy shit. Last night he was doing the “walk like an Egyptian” dance, among other things, before he finally waved the camera off:
Even funnier, Black was sitting next to Shelden Williams, who was texting someone before Black began his performance:
Black kept going on and on, and Shelden finally stopped and just stared at him, giving him the horror look. Obviously, Shelden will not be dancing courtside at a game anytime soon.
Besides Black, Penny Marshall was in the house.
Right now the Sparks are in a hotel somewhere in rainy, cold Seattle. They will play tomorrow at 2 p.m., at which time I’ll be hunkered down at a viewing party in West Covina with a bunch of other crazy ass fans. I am worried.
For one thing, there’s the season-long problem the Sparks have of peforming poorly in the second half. Then there’s the Storm’s home record of 16-1. The reason they have that is because of Seattle fans. Seattlites always pack Key Arena, and they’re loud. It’s the worst arena in the league to play at if you’re the visitor, and the Sparks will really have to focus to win there. With their sometimes-lapses………well, I worry.
I don’t have a feeling about tomorrow’s game yet, which is weird. Maybe I need to sleep on it.