WNBA.com is going bicoastal for the 2004 WNBA Finals. Throughout the week, we'll keep you informed of the latest happenings on and off the court with photos, fresh content and Q&As with players and coaches. The WNBA.com Finals Blog will be updated several times daily to bring you a real feel for what's happening in Connecticut, Seattle, and the friendly skies in between...


Brought It Home
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 13, 2004 2:00 a.m. ET


The Storm reign supreme.

The Seattle Storm had one goal in the postseason, and that was to "Bring it Home."

Mission accomplished.

More than an hour after the final buzzer sounded on their 74-60 win in Game 3 and the last of the confetti flittered to the floor, the Storm locker room was soaked in Champagne as the Terror Squad's "Lean Back" blasted out of the stereo. In the hallway, Lauren Jackson did interviews in her bare feet. A few feet away, Sue Bird chirped happily to reporters.

The Storm had come a long way from their first season in 2000 where they won a grand total of six games. To put that in perspective, the Storm won six playoff games to win the title this year.

As far as the reason for the Storm being able to bring it home, Storm coach Anne Donovan has a problem most coaches would love to have. And in Game 3, it was the difference.

The Storm had too many options for the Sun to stop.

Coming into the series, the focus was rightfully on 2003 WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and All-WNBA first team guard Sue Bird. The two overall No. 1 picks are the cornerstones of this now-championship franchise.

As this series showed, the Storm are much more than just Jackson and Bird. In the first half of Game 3, Kamila Vodichkova scored 12 points to get the Storm off to a lightning fast start. In the second half, reserve guard Tully Bevilaqua threw herself around KeyArena like a Hollywood stuntman, picking up key loose balls and generally making a nuisance of herself.

But in the end, it was WNBA Finals 2004 MVP Betty Lennox who made the biggest difference. Lennox took control of the series and carried the Storm to a title.

For the Sun, they couldn't throw it into Puget Sound in Game 3, as they shot .328 from the field. After the game, their thoughts went to what could have been. One reporter asked if Nykesha Sales ruminated about her final missed shot in Game 2.

"I was sort of frustrated about it through [Sunday] night," Sales said after Game 3, "thinking of how critical that shot was, the opportunity I did have. But as the leader of this team, I had to put it behind me and try to get the troops ready for today."

And the Sun were game, until Lennox took over in the second half. Again and again, Lennox found a way to score, to lift Seattle. On the other end, again and again, the Sun couldn't find the range.

Lennox, an hour after she raised the Tiffany crystal trophy as the WNBA Finals MVP, she still couldn't find the words to describe how she felt. That's OK. She didn't need to make a sound.

Her play spoke volumes.

Donovan Makes History

As we noted before, Anne Donovan became the first female coach to lead a WNBA team to a title. Until the final buzzer sounded, Donovan said, it wasn't about that.

"Going up until now, it's been about winning a championship," Donovan said. "I've said that and I've meant that. I'm glad that there's a woman that won a championship. I'm very glad.

"No better candidate than me."

That comment drew laughs, but Donovan, given the moment, waxed philosophical.

"I have to tell you, yeah, it's something we've been striving for," Donovan said. "I think there's a lot of great coaches out there. In order to get to the next level of respect, we have to win championships, we have to win conference championships, WNBA championships and I think it will help.

"Some of the credibility issues that people are reluctant to give female coaches, this will help."

Cool Notes

-- Every previous WNBA champ led the league in point differential during the regular season as the Storm did in 2004 (+5.09)
-- This is the fourth time the Finals went the distance since expanding to a best-of-three series in 1998 (Houston over Phoenix, 1998; Houston over New York, 1999; and Detroit over Los Angeles, 2001), with the home team winning each time
-- Lennox's .688 (11-of-16) field goal percentage in the second game eclipsed the previous record of .625 (10-of-16), set by Phoenix's Michelle Griffiths at Houston, Sept. 1, 1998

Last Word

"Seventeen thousand people -- I think we're starting something here. The Storm, we are on our way to doing great things, starting with our first championship. And, hopefully, people come back."
-- Storm guard Sue Bird

Betty, Betty Nice Performance
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 11:41 p.m. ET


Fans and the media agree, Lennox was the one.

The confetti's falling now, the Storm have put on their title lids and the Sun have left the floor as Seattle celebrates its first professional sports title since 1979 as the Storm defeated the Sun, 74-60 in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

Your MVP is Betty Lennox, who led the Storm in scoring in each game, and took over Games 2 and 3 in the final moments. She deserves it.

This will come as no consolation to the Sun, but they played a whale of series and had an incredible season. Kudos to them.

But for now, the Storm are WNBA champs. Seattle coach Anne Donovan becomes the first female coach to win a WNBA title. And still, the team with homecourt advantages takes the title.

Back in a bit.

Hurts to do This
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 11:23 p.m. ET

Losing in the title series hurts. I can only imagine how a coach feels when he brings out the players, the starters, who have played so hard, all season long. That's gotta be tough, almost as tough as losing.

The Chant Starts
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 11:23 p.m. ET

"Betty! Betty! Betty!" goes the KeyArena crowd with Lennox at the line.

Lennox Again
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 11:07 p.m. ET

Betty Lennox with the sick fadeaway and the foul. She converts the foul shot... And the faces on the Sun bench just got longer and the KeyArena crowd got louder.

And a driving layup for Lennox. That's taking charge.

One More Run?
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 11:05 p.m. ET

With 7:58 remaining in regulation, the Storm lead 59-48. Do the Sun, who haven't given up this whole series, have one more run left in them? Can they put the pressure on the Storm?

Someone on Connecticut needs to catch fire.

Better Possessions
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:59 p.m. ET

The last two Sun possessions, missed shot by Debbie Black and a missed shot by Taj McWilliams-Franklin, have not been pretty.

More Hustle
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:52 p.m. ET

If KeyArena were a restaurant, floor burns would be today's special Tully Bevilaqua just slid about 20 feet across the floor to pick up a loose ball.

Just under 12 minutes left in the second half.

Whalen of a Play
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:49 p.m. ET

Wow, what a play by Lindsay Whalen to save a possession for the Sun. The rookie point guard made a diving stop of a ball going out of bounds. Unfortunately for the Sun, they didn't score on the possession. But what hustle.

Rolling Again
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:42 p.m. ET

Again, it looks like the Storm are playing at a faster pace as they've jumped out to a 49-42 lead.

Sun coach Mike Thibault, who said yesterday that he doesn't like calling early timeouts, called a timeout just 1:27 into the second half after the Storm scored the first six points of the half.

Once Again ... It's Close
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:22 p.m. ET

Did you think someone was going to run away with this game? The Storm tried, but the Sun quickly dried up Seattle's 12-point lead.

Quick assessment of the first half. Near the end, the Sun were dictating the tempo on both ends of the floor. They slowed the Storm break to a crawl on defense and on offense, they made crisp passes as the Storm failed to find their woman on defense. Slowly, but surely, the Sun worked their way back into the game, where it's now Storm 37, Sun 36.

The Storm need to get back out on the break. The Sun need more of the same.

Back in a bit.

Comeback
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:06 p.m. ET

Are you kidding me? The Sun have tied this game at 29-29.

Not Setting Yet
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 10:03 p.m. ET

In Game 2, Debbie Black came back to the bench yelling, "We won't go away. We won't go away!"

She didn't do that in Game 3, but her words still hold true, as the Sun have worked their way within four at 29-25 with 3:29 remaining in the first half.

Keeping Up With Jones
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 9:51 p.m. ET

Asjha Jones has turned into the Sun's version of Kamila Vodichkova, as she has scored Connecticut's last six points as the Storm have left her on double team switches.

Up And Down
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 9:51 p.m. ET

With 7:26 remaining in the first half and the Storm up 26-16, Seattle just seems to be playing at a faster pace right now.

Also, the Sun's Nykesha Sales and Katie Douglas are a combined 1-for-9 right now. Both teams have cooled off a bit, though.

Make No Mistakes
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 9:44 p.m. ET

So far, this has been the most efficient game of the three, as through nine minutes of play, there have only been three turnovers total.

Dishin' It Out
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 9:37 p.m. ET

All you need to know about Game 3 so far is that when Kamila Vodichkova scored to give the Storm a 20-11 lead was that Seattle had eight field goals and seven assist. They have not missed the open woman yet.

Meanwhile, Vodichkova has been the beneficiary of many a pick-and-roll, with an emphasis on rolling to the hoop. She leads all scorers with 10 points.

Keyed Up
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 9:12 p.m. ET


"You're looking live! ..."

I've always wanted to do an blimp-type establishing shot for the blog. Thanks to the Space Needle (Is there anything it can't do?), we were able to get one.

In my Brent Musberger voice, here goes: "You are looking -- LIVE! -- at a sold out KeyArena where the Connecticut Sun will take on the Seattle Storm for Game 3 of the 2004 WNBA Finals."

Ah, that was fun. Anyway, the place is packed again. And it should be even noisier tonight (for us, at least) as the people behind us now have Thunderstix.

Also, we just got some great news for the league and for women's hoops. For the first time in WNBA Finals history, all three games have been sold out. Nice work, fans. Nice work.

H-O-R-S-E-in' Around
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 8:40 p.m. ET

About 40 minutes before game time, you couldn't tell Sun coach Mike Thibault was about to coach the biggest game of his career. He and his 13-year-old daughter Carly Ann, who is here as a Sun ballgirl, were having a mini-shooting contest. We don't know who emerged the victor, but both Carly Ann and coach hit shots from out of bounds just in front of the Sun bench.

Arriving Early
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 7:52 p.m. ET

How psyched are the fans for Game 3? They opened the doors 90 minutes before the game and people started streaming in.

Speechless in Seattle
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 7:50 p.m. ET

It was a gorgeous day in Seattle today. I don't have the words to describe how nice it was. So, I did something touristy and went to the top of the Space Needle to gather photographic evidence. This should hold you over until the game starts. We're going to walk around and get info for 10 Cool Things.

Enjoy!

Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound from the Space Needle


Looking northeast toward Lake Union


And finally, majestic Mt. Rainier rising behind the Seattle skyline


What They're Saying
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 2:20 p.m. ET


Hahahahahaha! Pressure, what pressure?
(Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images)

It's game day -- Game 3 of the WNBA Finals (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2). One game to win it all. Sports doesn't get better than that.

Last year, WNBA fans witnessed a tense and well-played Game 3 between the eventual champion Shock and the Sparks after a nail-biting Game 2, which was also won by Detroit.

Hmmm? Coincidence? We're certainly hoping Game 3 will follow form in terms of its excitement and intensity.

That being said, here's what writers covering the series had to say before tonight's game.

During practice on Monday, the Sun were keeping it light (yeah, there's a pun in there somewhere) and not concerned with the pressure.
-- Hartford Courant

Seems that the Storm were just as relaxed.
-- Seattle P-I

The Sun want more balance on offense.
-- Seattle Times

The Sun also seem to thrive in pressure situations.
-- The Day.com

One writer notes there is both good and bad to the WNBA season ending tonight.
-- Los Angeles Times

And to you Storm fans who have come around, this writer says, thanks, you've come around at the right time.
-- Seattle Times

Finally, some interesting trivia for tonight's game. If the Storm win, Anne Donovan will become the first female coach to win a WNBA title. She's already the first coach to lead two different teams to the Finals (she was coach of the Sting in 2001).

If Seattle wins, it will be their first professional sports title since 1979, when the Seattle Sonics won the NBA title. Also, if the Storm win, Sue Bird will have won her fourth title on different levels -- high school, college, pro and Olympics.

If the Connecticut wins, it will be the first time a state has won a pro basketball title and a college basketball title in the same year since the Pistons won the NBA title and the University of Michigan won the men's NCAA Division I title in 1989. Of course, the Nutmeg State will have three major hoops titleists if you throw the UConn men into the mix.

Well, that's it for now. We'll blog again soon from KeyArena.

One Last Workout
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 12, 2004 1:12 a.m. ET

The Seattle Storm may have gotten in their last full practice earlier today at KeyArena, but that didn't stop one of their players from pumping a little iron in front of over 100 Storm and WNBA fans tonight.

But that is just what forward Adia Barnes did.

Barnes joined WNBA and women's basketball legend Jennifer Azzi in a pavilion just steps from the Key to conduct a fitness workshop for women. Sponsored by Russell Fitness and the WNBA, the retired Azzi (now running her own fitness and training company), Barnes and a strength and conditioning coach, Richelle Lund, spoke with fans of all ages about the importance of nutrition, strength training and cardiac exercise. Azzi and Barnes related elements of their careers as WNBA players to healthy lifestyles that just about anyone can adopt.

One such useful tip said that we should eat ad drink water every three hours. Another says that all eat like 2-year olds, with smaller portions of natural foods, and only when we are hungry.

Barnes assisted Azzi and Lung in demonstrating the proper ways to stretch, lift weights and answered questions about her own regiment. Of course, an occasional question about tomorrow's decisive Game 3 came up as well. Barnes admits that she also picked up a few new tidbits from the experts today.

"I knew most of that stuff because we work on it everyday," she said, "but, yeah, I learned a lot."

But not to worry, Storm fans. Barnes didn't strain herself or exert too much energy and promises to be ready to go tomorrow...

It's All Ball Now
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 11, 2004 8:50 p.m. ET


Seattle's Betty Lennox splits the double-team while meeting the press as well as she did in Game 2.
(Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images)

Well, we've spent the day in Seattle. It's a little chilly today, but it's fall, for goodness sake, so I'm not complaining. And for those who haven't been out to Seattle, try to get here. This place is gorgeous.

Anyway, we went to practice today to gather quotes for the Blog. And we had some questions too. Here are the topics we will cover today:

The Fatigue Factor
It's been a long season for many players in the Finals. For Seattle, it's been longer than most, flying across the country twice in four days. Will they have the legs for Game 3 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)?

The Final Shot
Why was Nykesha Sales so wide open for Game 2's final shot? We ask if the play was planned that way or did the Storm miss an assignment.

And finally...

The KeyArena Atmosphere
What's it like to play at home and face it on the road in The Finals?

And while you think we'd ask about adjustments, let's get that out of the way first. None are needed, really. Both teams say they are happy with what they've done so far and the only adjustment they need to make is to do what they've been doing all season long, except a little bit better in Game 3.

"Early in the game, late in the game, every possession is going to matter tomorrow," Storm coach Anne Donovan said. "Who hustles, who gets the loose balls, who gets after the offensive glass and both teams love to get out in transition."

Or as Sun coach Mike Thibault said: "It's all about playing basketball."

Damn, if that isn't a good motto for life. But I digress.

So, let's get to the questions, shall we?

The Fatigue Factor

Donovan said this was her biggest concern coming out of the Sacramento series.

"My biggest concern out of the Sacramento series was that Connecticut hadn't traveled at all," Donovan said. "In the whole playoffs, the furthest they had to travel was Washington, which was five hours.

"We went to Minnesota, we went to Sacramento, we played three games against Sacramento, we had to travel and play. My biggest concern was fatigue for us. These 48 hours, where we can get our legs back will really benefit us."

A reporter asked if the Storm will be fresh for Game 3.

"I think we will be," Donovan said. "I think we're weary today, but we'll be ready tomorrow."

Betty Lennox agrees.

"Yesterday was an early game, so I got a lot of rest last night," Lennox said about Game 2's 4 p.m. PT start time. "Normally, we get to bed around 11 or 12 o'clock. Last night, when I got home, it was about 8 o'clock.

"I'm a person who's going to take advantage of my rest, because I know I need to rest to be able to perform the way I do."

Despite a weary look on her face, Sheri Sam also said fatigue won't play a factor for Game 3.

"This is Game 3, this is it," Sam said. "It's for the championship. The bumps and bruises won't come into play until the next morning. It's something we've been playing for and fighting for all year, so I don't think it will stop them from stepping onto the court."

As far as physical play, Thibault said this series doesn't compare to last year's bruising Finals series.

"I watched Detroit and L.A. last year," Thibault said. "We're probably only in the middle of the pack when it comes to being physical in this league.

"I think the physical play of this series is highly overrated.

The Final Shot

When Nykesha Sales found herself in the corner with the ball in her hands with the clock winding down, no one in KeyArena was surprised Sales had the ball.

Sales was surprised, however, that she was so wide open.

"I was a little surprised," Sales said. "We were just watching the tape and Sheri was watching the play. But I got too far on that baseline for a right-handed shooter. It was going, but it hit the backboard. If I had been on the left side, it would have been a much better shot.

Sun rookie point guard Lindsay Whalen said the play developed just as Coach Thibault drew it up.

"It was designed so that either I would go to the basket or someone would slide to the corner," Whalen said. "When Lauren came over to me, obviously T [Taj McWilliams-Franklin] curled, but I had two people.

"You knew it had a chance, she had hit so many tough shots that night you figured you'd take the chances at that point."

The Finals Atmosphere

With a Storm record 17,000-plus people in attendance for Game 2, players from both teams have had nothing but praise for the Finals atmosphere.

"I thought the fans got their money's worth last night," Thibualt said. "I don't know if I did."

Sun guard Debbie Black said that even as an opposing player, one can't help but draw energy from the crowd.

"We loved going into Madison Square Garden, too," Black said. "The atmosphere here is like that, you know loud, very hostile.

"You feel good whether people are cheering for or against you, to be honest. It's just a great experience."

Seattle point guard Sue Bird said she and her Storm teammates feed off their fans' raucous energy.

"We feed off that. All season long we've fed off our home crowd," Bird said. "They really get us going. When we hit a big shot and the crowd goes crazy ... the other team knows it. It makes them kind of go, 'Uh oh.'"

Storm players often exhort the crowd by waving for them to cheer louder. Bird said that's all part of the plan.

"Yeah, why not? There's 17,000 here, you might as well enjoy it. This is what it's all about."

And where did the Game 2 atmosphere rank for Lennox, who scored 27 points to help the Storm win?

"Right now, it ranked one game away from winning the championship," Lennox said.

Instant Classic
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 11, 2004 1:50 a.m. ET


Nykesha Sales' last-second heave for the WNBA title went wide right.

I wanted to take a little time after the dust settled to assess Game 2.

(Game 3 is Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Be there.)

Here goes: Game 2 was one of the best games you'll ever see on any level. And you can thank Seattle's Betty Lennox and Connecticut's Nykesha Sales for that. And if Lennox was brilliant, Sales was genius.

Let's look at Sales first. How could we not? At least not without shades. She was the brightest star on the Finals stage in Game 2

She scored a WNBA Finals record 32 points, hit a WNBA Finals record 14 field goals, set a WNBA Finals record for most points in a half with 21 in the second half and, with the exception of the one that smacked the side of the backboard, hit her last seven shots of the game. She's the reason the fans in a packed KeyArena almost had a collective cardiac arrest.

Sales had that look great players get when they know they're playing well and they're carrying a team on their shoulders. Sales looked as if nothing could stop her. Only when her last shot hit the side of the backboard did she look human.

Speaking of which, how did Sales manage to get wide open on that shot? No one was within 10 feet of her. Well, Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen broke down the Storm defense and made it into the lane. On the weakside, Storm guard Sheri Sam, who was on the weak side, didn't see Sales slide behind her into the corner. Whalen, however, did see Sales.

(SportsCenter suggested that Whalen should have hit Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was open in the lane, with the pass. Yes, that was an option, but when you have a chance to get your best scorer, who hasn't missed a shot in the last six minutes, an open look for the title, that's what you do. Whalen made the right play.)

As for Lennox, she nearly matched Sales move for brilliant move down the stretch. Lennox finished with 27 points, including Seattle's final eight points. She too had the look. Nothing could stop her.

But Sales almost did. The show these two players put on at the end of Game 2 was nothing short of spectacular. And for those who witnessed it, will not soon forget it.

As for Game 3, initial thoughts are the ones I had earlier Sunday morning. It will be tough for the Sun to win in the din that is KeyArena. No WNBA team has ever clinched a title on the road.

And while the Storm can breathe easier after winning Game 2, they still haven't received that game from Lauren Jackson. Although she scored 15 points, she needed 15 field goal attempts and four free throws to do it. For a player who makes it look easy, Jackson has had a tough time in the first two games.

The Sun, meanwhile, can look to Game 2 and feel confident that they can push the Storm to the limit on Seattle's home court. But they'll need more than Sales and Katie Douglas, the only Sun players in double figures.

Also, can the Sun get over that historical hump that looks like a mountain to road teams in the WNBA Finals?

We'll find out Tuesday.

Deep Breath
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:42 p.m. ET

I've never heard an arena do what KeyArena just did when Nykesha Sales attempted her three to win the game.

First it was a collective "Oh no!" considering the woman taking the shot had already scored 32 points and had just hit a fadeaway three. Then the place went silent for a split ssecond as everyone, everyone took a deep breath. It was as if all the air in the building left it. And then euphoria as the shot hit the side of the backboard.

But what a game by Sales with 32 points. And kudos to the Sun coaching staff for drawing up the play that Sales wiiiiiiiiiiiiide open in the right corner.

Still, the Storm live to see another game, Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, which will be Tuesday, Oct. 12 in Seattle (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

We'll be back in a little bit with some final thoughts for the night.

Amazing!
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:25 p.m. ET

There's nothing else to say about this game except what an amazing contest this has been. Simply amazing.

Betty Lennox Lewis
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:21 p.m. ET

Seattle guard Betty Lennox has been throwing roundhouses in the final moments of this game, scoring the Storm's last eight points.

Holy moly! Nykesha Sales just hit a fadeaway three to get the Sun within two points.

Noisy!
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:15 p.m. ET

Did I say it was quiet? Hahahaha. What a fool am I. Betty Lennox just scored four straight points to put the Storm up six, 63-57, with 3:06 left in regulation and this place went nuts. After all, the Storm have retired the No. 6 for the Storm fans.

Sales Job
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:12 p.m. ET

Connecticut's Nykesha Sales has 27 points and has scored the last eight for them, including two on a Gervin-esqu finger roll. Yes, she's hotter than a thousand suns right now.

The KeyArena crowd has hushed a little.

Sun Still Hangin' Around
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:10 p.m. ET

The Storm try to pull away, but the Sun won't give in, just like Debbie Black said.

By the way, during the most recent timeout, they played "C'Mon Ride That Train." Doppler led the train and it seemed as if 400 people streamed onto the court to join the train.

Still Sittin'
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 9:00 p.m. ET

The Sun's Wendy Palmer is still on the bench with right shoulder strain. She has a huge ice pack on it right now.

Hot Under the Collar
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:50 p.m. ET

Sun coach Mike Thibault just put the "T" in Thibault. Boy, was he steamed. I think his glasses fogged over.

Giving it Their All
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:45 p.m. ET


Determination, personified.

See the above photo? See the looks on Nyskesha Sales' and Sheri Sam's faces? See that? Both teams have been physical, aggressive and determined and this Game 2 has been good because of that. The Storm have attacked the hoop, the Sun have often effectively countered.

I'm fortunate enough to be here to see it.

Crowded House
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:35 p.m. ET


The KeyArena is full.

We told you the KeyArena was packed to the rafters for Game 2. Above is visual proof. A sellout crowd of 17,072 fans in full throat are here, a Storm record for attendance, playoffs or otherwise.

By the way, the yellow Thunderstix they've handed out look like giant, mutant Good N' Plenty candy.

Up Five, One Half to Go
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:35 p.m. ET

Here we go! Storm lead by five, 35-30. Should be a good second half.

Not Playing Nice
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:15 p.m. ET

This game has been extremely physical so far. Many a scrunchie has had to be adjusted after a hard foul.

Lacrossed Our Mind
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:11 p.m. ET

The Storm mascot, Doppler (Get it? Doppler? Storm? I'm just waiting for Radar O'Reilly from M*A*S*H to show up... but I digress.) was tossing t-shirts into the crowd with a lacrosse stick. I've seen t-shirt slingshots, t-shirt cannons and t-shirt chuckin' cheerleaders, but never have I seen the lacrosse stick used as a t-shirt flinger.

Whalen Away
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:03 p.m. ET

Bad news early for the Sun. Lindsay Whalen just picked up her third foul with 3:44 left in the first half. She probably won't see action again until the second half.

Meanwhile, they just flashed Sonics' great Downtown Freddie Brown's image on the screen to huge cheers during a timeout.

Fast Breakin'
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 8:01 p.m. ET

Wow, Lauren Jackson can run the floor. So smooth. As was the fastbreak the Storm just scored on.

They Don't Go Away
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:59 p.m. ET

Janell Burse with the nice block! But Debbie Black is right, the Sun don't go away. Kudos to them for reeling the Storm, who are only up five after being up 12, back in.

Perpetual Motion
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:50 p.m. ET

Even on the bench (yes, we're seated near the Connecticut bench), Sun guard Debbie Black can't stop moving. After getting back to the bench, Black sat down and said, "We don't just go away. We just don't go away."

Caffeinated
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:38 p.m. ET

The Storm just look like they have more energy early.

Sun coach Mike Thibault just turned to no one in particular on the Sun bench and said, "We can't get any loose balls," after Alicia Thompson hit an improbable leaner with the shot clock winding down, after Thompson chased down, yes, a loose ball.

Pullin' Up
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:35 p.m. ET

Betty Lennox just hit a shot that's been out of fashion for a while in the NBA: A pull-up jumper. And it was with a lot of time left on the shot clock. It was nice to see someone still knows how to do it and that someone was willing to take an open shot. It makes the hoops purist in me happy.

At the First Break
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:30 p.m. ET

Katie Douglas drained a nice layup (and one!) to make the score 11-4 with 15:32 left in the first half. And while that was a nice play, the Storm have charged out of the gates. They're clearly more aggressive early.

And Nykesha Sales just picked up her second foul with 15:17 left in the first half. That's not good.

On Fire
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:25 p.m. ET

Yikes! Seven consecutive Storm points before Nykesha Sales answered with a bucket.

By the way, I have this guy behind me who has a voice like a foghorn, so if you see a typo, blame him for startling me.

Anthemic
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 7:20 p.m. ET

KeyArena is packed to the rafters for Game 2 and it is loud in here. They're being egged on by Storm players on the video board. The ThunderStix are in full effect as well. Also, it appears we'll be getting the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" cheer when Lauren Jackson makes a nice play.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old Marcus Pettit belted out the national anthem. What a voice that kid has on him. Take that David Cassidy!

Also, saw the Sonics' Rashard Lewis and Reggie Evans are here in the house supporting their Seattle counterparts.

All right, time for tipoff!

Pre-Game Blog Warm Ups
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 6:45 p.m. ET

It's quite a scene here at KeyArena in Seattle. Fans cheered a shooting contest between Sun guard Katie Douglas and coach Mike Thibault, who still warms up players before the game. Why is this unusual? Usually, only assistant coaches ply players with passes before the game, but Thibault, who spent 24 years as an assistant in the NBA has found it hard to break that habit. He also works up a sweat as he plays token defense against Sun rookie guard Lindsay Whalen.

Anne Donovan, who had a storied playing career, didn't break a sweat addressing the media courtside before the game. She noted how the Storm as a whole didn't need to make too many adjustments, but the players had to make adjustments in their matchups.

"A lot of our adjustments have to come in our individual matchups," Donovan said. "Lauren [Jackson] can't let their physical play bother her.

"Sue [Bird] knows, mentally, that she needs to be more agressive against Katie Douglas, but she has to do it physically. Katie has the advantage in size over Sue, but Sue has the advantage in quickness. And she needs to use it."

In another interesting development, some young man was selling Sue Bird "band-aids" or little sticky strips that go across the nose, naturally. We'll have a picture of Bird with hers in the Game 2 edition of Ten Cool Things.

So, that's the early story here at the Key. We'll have more in a bit.

At the Key
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 5:15 p.m. ET

We're here at KeyArena for Game 2. The Sun just arrived as did many of the Storm, including coach Anne Donovan. Lauren Jackson and Sheri Sam were the first players to hit the floor to warm up. Sam, who was 2-for-7 from the field, and Jackson, who was 6-for-19, hope to have a better game than they did in Game 1.

We have no idea what will happen in the game, but we know the entertainment for the Storm fans will have a hip hop flavor.

A break dance group were on the court practicing as we arrived followed by the Bucket Boys, the kids who use buckets as drums. I've seen these guys before at the 2004 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. They're good.

We're going to walk around the arena to see what's cookin' behind the scenes. Join WNBA.com a little later when Beth Coppin joins us. Who's Beth Coppin? Well, she's only 2004 WNBA Virtual GM winner. See what she has to say about her championship season.

From Must Win to Just Win
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 2:15 p.m. ET

Well, here we are -- game day. It's a little less than five hours before the Game 2 of the WNBA Finals between the Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm with the Sun holding a 1-0 series lead.

But then again, you knew all that. But what you also need to know is I believe Game 2 is a must win for both teams.

For the Storm, it's simple. They lose, their season is done.
-- The News Tribune

“This game will be more than about KeyArena,” Seattle coach Anne Donovan, who is the first coach to take two different teams to the WNBA Finals, told the Tacoma News Tribune. “This will be about us executing to win Game 2.”

But a must win for the Sun? Surely you jest.

I don't, and here's why. If the Storm win Game 2, the Sun face a Game 3 in Seattle. No team has ever clinched a WNBA title on the road. That's not to say the Sun wouldn't be able to pull off a historic victory, but it would be more difficult to do it in an opponent's arena.

As a matter of fact, the team that has had home-court advantage in the Finals has lost at home only once in the six years the WNBA has had a three-game Finals series. You may remember that game: New York's Teresa Weatherspoon hit a half-court shot to lift the Liberty to a 68-67 win over the Comets in Houston in Game 2 of the 1999 Finals.

So, it's not impossible, but for the Sun it's probably for the best if they win today.

As far as how the teams are spending their time before tipoff, neither team practiced before Game 2 like they did before Game 1. The Sun did have a walk-through practice in a ballroom at their hotel in downtown Seattle, and Sun coach Mike Thibault stopped by to say hi to all those in the WNBA office here. Taj McWilliams-Franklin also ducked her head in as she munched on a Granny Smith apple wearing a green "I Got Game" t-shirt. The visual pun? There was a picture of an old Atari joystick underneath the words.

Meanwhile, there is a great article in the Seattle Times today by Steve Kelly as to why the WNBA is ascendant: Great point guard play. And this series has two of the best: The Sun's Lindsay Whalen and Seattle's Sue Bird.
-- Seattle Times

And while she got the best of Bird in Game 1, Whalen's reach extends far beyond the court in this series one Connecticut writer notes. It all went down on Draft Day last April.
-- Hartford Courant

If the Sun do win Game 2 tonight, they would become the second consecutive Eastern Conference team to win the title. Houston and Los Angeles, both from the West, won the first six WNBA titles.

Well, that's all for now. We're going to get ready to head to Key Arena. We'll blog again once we arrive.

Behind the Scenes at Key Arena
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 10, 2004 2:19 a.m. ET


A Key Arena worker waits patiently to get to work.

Less than 24 hours before tip off in Game 2 of the 2004 WNBA Finals between the Sun and Storm, the crowd at Seattle's Key Arena was already rockin'. The fans were raucous, the atmosphere was electric, the smell of hot dogs and popcorn permeated the concourse and the athletes were suited up and ready to go.

For a minor league hockey game.

The Seattle Thunderbirds were the only local team in sight Saturday night as they took on the Portland Winterhawks in WHL action. But immediately after the game ended, 10 arena workers and a group of team and league officials began the transformation process that would turn Key Arena back into a basketball arena.

While it would be exciting to see Lauren Jackson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin go at it on ice skates (and Sue Bird certainly has the bruised face of a hockey player these days), the entire process is expected to be complete by 6 a.m. Sunday and the Arena will be ready for WNBA fans by early afternoon.

The ice was covered, the familiar green and yellow Storm court was pieced together, tables and chairs for teams, media and fans were put out and miles of cable was laid for television and internet (thank you very much) coverage.

But which Storm team will show up? The team that dominated the Monarchs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals or the exhausted, frustrated team that lost Game 1 last night? After flying across the country twice in three days, the Western Conference champions are back in the Emerald City. But instead of letting her weary players go home upon arriving early this morning, Storm coach Anne Donovan immediately held an afternoon practice at their training facility.

Meanwhile, the Sun checked into their hotel late this afternoon and got settled in for what they hope is a brief stay. Guard Lindsay Whalen spent a low-key evening at dinner with her parents, who flew in from Minneapolis today to watch their daughter play tomorrow night.

But the Whalens will be in hostile territory. With the expected sellout tomorrow night, Seattle is expecting to set a record for women's basketball attendance at Key Arena. The first 5,000 fans that arrive on Sunday will receive a special ribbon and pink Beanie Babies doll in conjuction with WNBA Breast Health Awareness Night. Representatives from the Susan B. Komen Foundation will be on hand as WNBA President Val Ackerman presents them with a considerable contribution on behalf of the league.

Storming Across the Country
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 9, 2004 10:15 p.m. ET


In case you wanted proof that we are actually here in Seattle...

After traipsing through three states (Connecticut, New York and New Jersey) to make our flight, we've arrived in Seattle, Wash. (Our fourth state today! Is that a record?) in plenty of time for Sunday's Game 2 of the WNBA Finals (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

So, what will Sunday bring? Well, in order to think about tomorrow, let's take a quick look at what happened yesterday in Game 1, where the Sun, using a smothering defense took control of the series with a 68-64 win.

For the fifth consecutive playoff game, the Sun held an opponent below 37 percent shooting as the Storm misfired at a .351 clip from the field.

But the talk in the papers centered around Sun rookie point guard Lindsay Whalen, who debuted to rave reviews. Even the headline writers gave Whalen props with a "Sue who?"
-- Hartford Courant

And while the win was nice, Connecticut realized that they almost blew it at the end.

"We had some letdowns," Sun guard Katie Douglas told the Seattle Times, "which can happen in a game of this magnitude. But we were able to get through it, and now it's on to Seattle to get one more."

The Sun also did a number on Storm center Lauren Jackson.
-- ESPN.com

One Seattle writer noted how Jackson had been playing nearly year round and is now playing with a sore foot. According to the article, she won't let it bother her.

"It was pretty frustrating," Jackson told the Seattle Times. "It didn't feel like I got involved at all, but I think we can change things. I'm not worried. I was fading away from a lot of my shots inside.

"Obviously they were falling short. I think if I power up a little bit harder I won't miss those shots. It's just a matter of getting in there and being tough inside. It doesn't matter how they play me, really. The next game I'm going off."

"The next game I'm going off." That's a bold statement. So is this: Seattle could be the next dynasty with Jackson, Bird.
-- Sacramento Bee

First things first, however, as the Storm will be another d-word if they lose tomorrow night: Done.

To prevent themselves from being swept, the Storm need to avoid these three problems and make these adjustments in Game 2 if they want to see a Game 3.
-- Seattle P-I

Well, that's it for now. Matt is headed to Key Arena to see what's the what. He will report back soon about the calm before the storm.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

What A Day
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 11:45 p.m. ET


In Game 1, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and the Sun got the better of Lauren Jackson and the Storm in the paint.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

From practice, where Sun coach Mike Thibault said Connecticut would swarm the Storm to Lisa Leslie's prediction of Seattle in two (we're shooting.500 so far in this sentence) to the Sun's determination to hang on at the end of Game 1, we've had quite a day in the Finals Blog.

We had quite a good game, and despite some shaky moments near the end of the game, the Sun stood tough in the face of the Storm's withering comeback. Though, Sun guard Katie Douglas, who scored 15 points after slightly spraining her right ankle in the first half, said there were some anxious moments near the end.

"It got pretty nerve-racking," Douglas said. "We had some letdowns, which can happen in a game of this magnitude. But we were able to get through it and now it’s on to Seattle to get one more."

Yes, it's on to Seattle for Game 2 which will be played on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

But let's quickly glance back at Game 1. Sun rookie guard Lindsay Whalen had a whale (yes, I went there) of a game with 11 points and a Sun playoff record nine assists. Thanks to some strong Storm defense in the waning moments, Whalen showed some nerves at the end by turning the ball over twice in the last two minutes.

It was clear that the Sun wanted to get into the Storm's collective face in this game. And they did, forcing 17 turnovers, and amazing 15 of which were Sun steals. Sun guard Nykesha Sales said such aggressive defense is Connecticut's MO.

"I think a lot of people underestimated how aggressive we are," Sales said. "That’s a good thing. All year, it’s been happening. We play good defense. Defense wins games. If you keep them from putting the ball in the basket and make them take tough shots, you’re going to have a better chance to win.

Meanwhile, the Storm can take solace in the fact that despite the turnovers, despite shooting .351 for the game from the field and despite scoring eight fewer points in the paint, they have some positives they can take with them on their cross-country flight. The Storm grabbed 20 offensive boards, the forced the Sun into 15 turnover and when all is said and done, all the Sun did was hold serve on their home court.

"Yeah, it was pretty frustrating. It didn’t feel like I got involved at all," Lauren Jackson said. "But, I think we can change a few things – what we did defensively.

"I’m not worried."

As far as the Finals Blog team, we're not worried either. We're excited as we head to Seattle for Game 2.

See you there.

Sun Win!
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 10:08 p.m. ET

Betty Lennox with the big-time 3-pointer! Katie Douglas counters with two free throws! Sun hang on for a 68-64 win in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals 2004.

More in a bit! (I'm using too many exclamation points!)

Five-Point Lead
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 10:08 p.m. ET

Sun have a 66-61 lead with 29.9 to go in the game. Can they hold the lead?

Closer Still
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 10:03 p.m. ET

Like we said, close is good. It may make the fans nervous, but we like anxiety.

With Lauren Jackson's two free throws, the Storm are within five, 64-59 with just under two minutes to go.

Lindsay Whalen has had two turnovers in the last four trips and both teams have missed a layup.

From 16 to 8
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:55 p.m. ET

After opening a 16-point lead at 63-47 with 7:21 to go in the second half, the Sun have seen their lead shrink to eight with 3:33 left in regulation.

Shining Through
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:45 p.m. ET

The Sun look good, more presidential ... Whoops! That's the debate. But seriously folks, the Sun are running (15 fast break points), gunning (50.9 percent from the field and playing tough in the post (32 points in the paint). With 7:49 to go, the Sun's 14-point advantage (61-47) looks solid.

It Goes To 11!
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:38 p.m. ET

The lead goes to 11 for the Sun at a timeout at 10:54 in the second half.

The Golden Girls
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:34 p.m. ET

Wow, what a moment. With Tamika Catchings, Yolanda Griffith, Lisa Leslie, Katie Smith, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson and coach Van Chancellor on the floor, the Sun fans stood for a good three minutes while the Olympians, with their gold medals around their necks, looked up at the highlights on the video board.

I was also fortunate enough to watch the moment with another Olympian, soccer gold medalist Kristine Lilly. We'll feature Kristine in our installment of Ten Cool Things later.

Back to Action
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:22 p.m. ET

If the Storm want to win, they're going to need to hit their outside shots when the Sun double-team Lauren Jackson.

Taurasi for Governor
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:20 p.m. ET

Diana Taurasi gets a standing ovation everywhere she goes in this arena. She could probably give M. Jodi Rell, the current governor of Connecticut, a run for her money in an election.

Speaking of Governor Rell, she addressed the crowd before the game and said: "Sue Bird, we love you, but tonight it's, 'Go Connecticut!'"

Still Halftime
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:11 p.m. ET

In overhearing, then interjecting into, a halftime conversation back in the media room between ESPN's Doris Burke and Seattle radio man David Locke, Burke commented that Connecticut is really being physical with Sue Bird, limiting her effectiveness. Locke, who has seen a few Storm games this year (or all of them...) said that this was as bad as he had seen Seattle play all year, yet they are only down four.

And the teams are now back on the court for the second half... Remember that Diana Taurasi will be by to chat, so send your questions now.

Halftime
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 9:05 p.m. ET

Well, the fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena are happy. Their Sun are up 33-29 at halftime and look pretty good. They're shooting 50 percent from the field and are led by Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Katie Douglas with eight points apiece. Betty Lennox has nine to lead the Storm, while Lauren Jackson has added eight points.

The difference so far? The Storm have turned the ball over 11 times already and only their offensive rebounding (six) has helped them score 10 second chance points. The Storm will need to take care of the rock if they want to escape Connecticut with a win.

In the meantime, Ronnie Spector, of "Be My Baby" fame is entertaining the crowd at halftime. She still can belt.

Douglas is OK
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:55 p.m. ET

The Sun's Katie Douglas suffered a slight (it's always slight when it doesn't happen to you) sprain of her right ankle. She's back in the game.

She's more than OK. Douglas hit a three, her second of the game, with her first shot back to put the Sun up 31-25.

Close Is Good
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:48 p.m. ET

So, far, with 4:30 left in the first half, it's been a well-played (for the most part, the Storm have eight turnovers) game. We'll take close and exciting in every game of the series.

Betty Hoop
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:38 p.m. ET

While this game is full of great players (Lauren Jackson, who can put it on the floor like a guard and drain the three as the trailer on the break), Sue Bird, Nykesha Sales and Lindsay Whalen, it's Betty Lennox who is keeping the Storm in the game with nine points.

Back in Black
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:35 p.m. ET

Fasten your seatbelts, the tenacious D of Debbie Black is in the game. She could guard Fort Knox by herself.

What's In A Name?
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:30 p.m. ET

If you're Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a lot of letters are in your name. And in the first half, a lot of points are in her game. McWilliams-Franklin has eight of the Sun's 18 first points.

Yukon Do It
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:20 p.m. ET


WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie and her new truck.
(Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images)

See, we told you it was nice. Read Lisa's series predictions here.

Chat with Teasley
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:10 p.m. ET

Remember, Nikki Teasley will be along in the first half to chat with us. Submit your questions. WNBA Rookie of the Year and UConn legend Diana Taurasi will join us in the second half.

All-WNBA All The Time
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 8:05 p.m. ET

They presented the All-WNBA first and second teams as well as Lisa Leslie as MVP, who got a huge cheer, and the women from the Olympic team.

Diana Taurasi was greeted with huge cheer, as were all the former UConn players, and Nykesha Sales of the Sun. They really love their hoops here in Connecticut.

And in a nice, nice moment, they received a standing ovation as they left the floor.

Almost Game Time
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 7:56 p.m. ET

It's almost game time and both teams are going through their warmups, the Black Eyed Peas are blasting through the sound system and the sell out crows is already responding to Blaze, the Sun mascot.

We're ready to go. Are you?

Most Valuable Prognosticator
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 7:00 p.m. ET

As you know by now, Lisa Leslie was named WNBA MVP for the 2004 season. (Congrats, Ms. Leslie!)

For her effort, Leslie received a new 2005 GMC Yukon. Nice. (It is, we'll have a picture later.) And she was quite giddy about it. After her remarks to the press, Leslie bounded off stage before she was stopped to answer questions from the press gaggle. She jokingly moved her hands up and down like she was balancing a scale when she answered the question: "Hmm, truck or playing in the Finals?"

The truck is nice, Leslie said, but, yes, most definitely she'd rather be playing.

Leslie was kind enough to sit with Matt Wurst and give him a quick scouting report on the Finals, as well as her prediction.

"Lauren [Jackson] is really tough to stop," Leslie said, "especially for Connecticut, who doesn't have anyone who can get close to her shot."

Leslie also praised Sun center Taj McWillians-Franklin.

"McWilliams[-Franklin] is really tough," Leslie said. "I like playing against her and she's increased her ability to score."

Leslie noted that the backcourt matchup should be good.

"That's a good matchup there," Leslie said. "As far as the guards, Betty Lonnox can get hot at any time and Sheri Sam is a great role player.

I think [Lindsay] Whalen has done a great job stepping up and Nykesha Sales can run up the points for you. And Katie Douglas can too."

But ...

"Overall the pace of the game is more to the advantage of Seattle," Leslie said. "In the playoffs it's a little faster pace. I don't know how Sue [Bird] is going to do with that mask, but that pick and roll they run is deadly, she shoots the ball well."

So, any predictions? Leslie did not hesitate.

"I think Seattle in two," Leslie said. "I really do."

You Know You're in New England When ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 5:45 p.m. ET

You know you're in New England when you walk into the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. two hours before Game 1 of the WNBA Finals between the Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm and some wise guy has put the Red Sox playoff game on the video screens.

Throughout my writing this entry, you could hear people question the action on the screen: "He didn't run?" or "Boo-yah, Sox up."(No, Stuart Scott isn't here.)

Anyway, the Mohegan Sun Arena is nice and cozy. Every seat seems close to the floor, even those in the upper deck. It's one of the few arenas I've seen, however, that doesn't have a gigantic video board over the floor. The ceiling seems lower than in most arenas, and I can venture to guess that a huge video board would block more than a few peoples' view from the upper deck. The video screen about which I spoke before are in opposite corners of the arena.

As for the atmosphere two hours before the game is pretty much like any arena a few hours prior to tipoff. Like kids hanging stockings at Christmas, cameramen hang their camera equipment from the basket stanchion, while the color guard practice their pre-game steps and the announcers check the sound system. It works quite well, by the way, which means they turned it up to 11 when they tested it.

"Sorry," the voice of the P.A. said when he noticed people were startled when his voice first came booming over it.

Well, we're off for the moment. We're going to walk around and see what cool things we can find before tipoff. Back in a bit.

The Final Countdown
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 1:56 p.m. ET

With just a few hours to go before tipoff, each team had one final practice at the Mohegan Sun Arena this morning. With one last chance to go over the game plan, the players from each side looked anything but nervous.

In fact, they were so loose you would have no idea that they were about to play the biggest game of the WNBA careers. For Sue Bird, her primary objective was to make sure that there were enough tickets for all of her friends and family that would be coming to the game. And we all know she has a lot of friends in the state of Connecticut. But with Storm public relations director Liam O'Mahoney also pulling ticket distribution duties on the road, Bird has good reason to be concerned. (We love Liam.)

With just a few team and league officials in attendance (as well as the hardest working woman in the business, Ann Meyers, reading newspaper clips and studying for the game), the Storm got down to business. In what can only be described as a cheer-fest, the players first psych up each other at midcourt, clapping and calling out each other's names. Next, they worked on quick shooting drills (a good three or four minutes went by before anyone missed) before finally concentrating on their half-court defensive schemes.

Prior to the Storm's workout, the home team took the floor for their shootaround and also worked on their defensive schemes, switching and shifting and rotating all over the place.

As for the next few hours, the teams plan on just chillin'. The Storm just had to go up the elevators to their rooms here at the hotel, while the Sun went to their nearby homes. Some will nap, some will watch a movie or just listen to music. Sun forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin is going to do what she always does before a game.

"I'm going shopping," the All-Star said. "I don't need to relax or anything because I am pretty much always relaxed. When you have children, the things you worry about are teething and immunizations."

How does that routine change on the road for McWilliams-Franklin, who is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds over her last three games?

"I already know the malls in Seattle," she said. "There is a great one right in the middle of the city, so I'm not worried there, either."

Fans have already begun arriving at the sprawling Mohegan Sun complex as Sun jerseys and shirts have been spotted at the restaurants and shops around the Arena. However, there has yet to be a David Cassidy sighting. The singer and former Partridge Family star will be singing the national anthem this evening. For those of you who won't be joining us here tonight, be sure to tune in to ESPN2 at 7:30 ET.

One person we know will be watching is budding WNBA expert, actor Victor Williams, who shares all that he has learned so far about the WNBA this season in his own NBA.com Blog Squad blog.

Two others we know will be watching are U.S. Representative Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who announced a friendly wager on Game 1. Simmons bet the taste and fame of Connecticut's Mystic Pizza, while McDermott offered some of Seattle's finest salmon.

Gettin' Ready for Game 1
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 8, 2004 11:45 p.m. ET

Greetings everyone, from Uncasville, Conn. where the Connecticut Sun will host the Seattle Storm in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals 2004 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

We have a pretty full day here at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so we'll cut to the chase as to what's coming in the WNBA Finals Blog today.

Blog Squad partner and WNBA.com editor Matt Wurst is at today's practice gathering quotes from the Sun and Storm and taking photos. He'll post some last minute observations about tonight's game in a little while. So, keep your eye out for that.

We'll be blogging live during Game 1 tonight and offering observations from courtside as to what's happening on the floor. If you don't have a ticket to tonight's game (it's sold out) watch the game on ESPN2 and log on to see what we have to say. It's double the analysis!

We hope to blog half-as-well as the ESPN team, which includes the incomparable Doris Burke and former WNBA star and NBA.com Blog Squad member Rebecca Lobo.

In the meantime, Sparks guard Nikki Teasley will be stopping by to chat during the first half, while WNBA Rookie of the Year Diana Taurasi will chat in the second half. You can submit your questions now for tonight's chats.

We'll also be scurrying around the Mohegan Sun Arena a couple of hours before game time to give you a behind the scenes look at the proceedings. Like squirrels storing food for the winter, we'll be gathering tidbits for Ten Cool Things from Game 1 of the Finals. (Here's an example from the NBA Finals 2004).

Knowing what we know about WNBA fans and the fine people who cover the WNBA, we should have more than enough stuff for Ten Cool Things. We'll have the final results for you after the game.

And finally, the league will introduce the WNBA MVP and All-WNBA teams at tonight's game. Members of USA Basketball Women's team that rolled to gold in Athens will also be honored tonight.

Whew! That's a lot of stuff. But as you can see, it will be a solid gold night.

"Taking the Sun to School"
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 7, 2004 5:22 p.m. ET

Acquay!

So I learned my first Mohegan word - it means "greetings" - on my way back from the Arena just now, which is actually connected to the hotel. It is very possible that I will not step outside again until we have to go to the airport on Saturday, (Bad pun alert! Bad pun alert!) but at least we have the Sun shining and the Storm rolling indoors all weekend long.

So yes, we are back from practice and, boy, was that a good workout! Well, not for us, but I got tired just watching them run. So while Rob is busily recounting the teams' first official Finals practices here at the Mohegan Sun, I'll tell you how we spent our morning. (Have you heard that we got lost? Yes? Oh, ok, good.)

Prior to checking in to the hotel, we met up with the entire Connecticut Sun team, coaching staff, mascot and dance team to kick off the WNBA Finals with a Read to Achieve Reading Rally at The Salem School, in, surprisingly enough, Salem, Conn.

After a school-wide assembly and pep rally, the students returned to their classrooms, where they were joined by members of the Sun. In neighboring classrooms, Katie Douglas and Lindsay Whalen read to fourth graders wearing headbands made out of construction paper with crayon-inscribed messages like "Go Sun," while Nykesha Sales and Jessica Brungo read and chatted with students in Barbara Leyden's third grade class about their favorite sports.

"I play ice hockey," one boy said.

"You have hockey here," a surprised Sales asked? "Like you know how to ice skate? Wow. I'm not very good. But I can rollerskate pretty well."

"I play basketball," another girl said.

"Look at you, the next WNBA All-Star," Sales fired back.

If anyone would know, it's Sales, the perennial All-Star. But she need not worry - by the time this youngster is old enough to challenge her for a job, Sales will be long retired.

"It's That Way"
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on Oct. 7, 2004 1:24 p.m. ET

What do you get when you have two men in a car trying to follow bad -- no wait, that's too harsh -- incomplete directions?

You get twice as lost, of course, and twice as stubborn. But, the Connecticut countryside is pretty, especially with the trees bursting into their finest autumn colors.

But thanks to directions that were, shall we say, less than direct, Matt and I had trouble finding the Salem School in Salem, Conn. for today's Read to Achieve event. We must give a shout out to the a gas station attendant, who said, "Salem's just down that road ... I think," to the woman pumping gas at the same station confirming Salem's existence ("It's that way.") and to the woman at another gas station who said we were headed in the right direction.

We arrived in time at the school in time to see Nykesha Sales, Katie Douglas and the rest of the Sun reading to students. Matt will have more on that event later.

So, now, we're here at the Mohegan Sun Hotel, blogging. We promise we won't get lost again. Why? Thankfully for us, the Mohegan Sun Arena is connected to hotel.

The Real Road to the Finals
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Oct. 7, 2004 12:24 p.m. ET

Who said life on the road is easy?

Not the Seattle Storm, whose road to the 2004 WNBA Finals has certainly been a long and challenging one. You couldn't tell it by the look in their weary eyes, but the Storm's road to the Finals did not begin with the 6 a.m. flight to Connecticut just hours after the team celebrated their Western Conference championship into the wee hours of the morning. It did not begin when the buzzer sounded at the end of their 82-62 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Key Arena. The Storm's road to the Finals did not begin when reigning MVP Lauren Jackson returned from a brief trip to Australia to be with her family in early September. Seattle's great start to the regular season did not even signal the beginning of heir trip down the road to the Finals. It was even earlier than that.

Who said life on the road is easy?

Not the Connecticut Sun. Their road to the Finals may have been a bit shorter than Seattle's since it did not require a cross-country flight, but like the Storm it began way before that. It didn't start after Nykesha Sales, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and co. clinched the Eastern Conference Championship at home with a two-game sweep of New York on Sunday. It didn't begin when they wrapped up the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference on the last day of the regular season or even when Sun coach Mike Thibault inserted rookie phenom Lindsay Whalen into his starting lineup early in the regular season.

For the Sun and Storm, this crazy, twisted, difficult (and, yes, often repetitive) trip down the road to the Finals began during that early morning workout on the first day of training camp back in May, perhaps in a huddle on some practice court, during a quiet lockerroom chat, in the weightroom or even on a trainer's table while being taped up Since then, there have been countless obstacles, bruises, losing streaks, lineup changes, broken noses, family tragedies and other challenges to fight through. And yet, the road only led to the Finals for these two teams.

Who said life on the road is easy?

Certainly not us, your dedicated WNBA.com staff and support crew. Sure, our road to the Finals did not begin in an empty gym shooting jumpers or in a sweaty gym lifting weights, but on an actual road (or, a rental car counter in midtown Manhattan, to be more specific) just this morning. And what would our road to the Finals be without a few hardships of our own ... or seven wrong turns to be exact and nothing but the beautiful, New England foliage to guide us. After a brief, but extremely worthwhile, diversion at a local school (more to follow on this in a bit) and some helpful directions from local Connecticut-ians, we found ourselves at the end of our road, in a hotel parking lot somewhere in the woods of eastern Connecticut.

Each of our respective roads to the Finals have led us here, to the Mohegan Sun, our home on the road for the next few days leading up to Game 1 of the Finals tomorrow night. Even though we have yet to fully explore it, the Mohegan Sun is a sprawling hotel and casino resort that just also happens to be the home of the Connecticut Sun. The visiting Seattle Storm checked in yesterday and various league officials and representatives of the media have already begun to trickle in. I think I just saw Greg Anthony at the hotel gift shop!

I am joined on this Blog-tastic Finals Blog-venture by the proud, new papa, Rob Peterson, a former WNBA.com editor back in the fledgling days of this whole Internet craze (who would have thought it could ever last?), who likely signed up for the trip just to get a good night's sleep.

So for this next week or so, we pledge to you, loyal reader, that we will bring you the behind-the-scenes access from every practice, shootaround, meeting, team meal and anything else they will let us into (...all while staying away from the casino) that you have come to know and love from The Blog Squad. We may even have some guest Bloggers along the way...

Time to stop by the first official practice of the 2004 WNBA Finals...