Glancing over media coverage of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, it should quickly become evident that the KeyArena crowd was nothing short of electric.
But by now it should be a given that Seattle Storm fans are almost unconditionally supportive of their team.
That's sort of what I took from Game 2 -- for long stretches, the game was excruciating to watch due to a combination of unforced turnovers by both teams and inconsistent officiating. I normally say that if the calls are going both ways almost randomly it doesn't matter. But the constant arbitrary whistles had such an impact on that game that even two days later the moment that stands out for me about this game is Dream coach Marynell Meadors' opening statement.
"I think it was another great game," said Meadors. "Both teams played hard."
I chuckled hoping that she keep repeating this statement and gives us a moment of controlled frustration akin to Rasheed Wallace's classic press conference. That wasn't to be, but I just needed someone to acknowledge what had just occurred.
The fact is that both teams did play hard -- extremely hard -- and that's what led to a lot of the sloppiness. It was a physical game but for the most part attempts at well executed defense. The arbitrary whistles (and non-whistles) on top of the physical play ended up obscuring the fact that both teams did indeed play hard. Agler commented after the game about people critiquing the Storm for not playing well and this is not quite that -- saying that the officiating made the game difficult to watch is not necessarily saying anything about how the Storm played basketball.
But in any event one of the defining characteristics of this Storm season has been their ability to persevere through all kinds of difficult and less than pretty circumstances. So it was nothing new for fans to tolerate a choppy spectator event if it meant watching the Storm win on the league's biggest stage. It's difficult for me to appreciate a competitive game when it's that difficult to watch, but the fans did a better job of keeping things in perspective.
And perhaps that's what made the electric atmosphere in KeyArena most impressive -- the 13, 898 fans that filled the lower bowl waving their white towels didn't look at the game as a singular event that would have otherwise been only mildly satisfying as a spectator affair but kept their focus on the big picture.
The best way to describe how fans took this game was a rather awkward farewell from another media member as we walked away from the post-game press conference.
"Well, goodbye and I hope I don't see you again," she said expecting the Storm to wrap this title up in Atlanta.
As exciting as a Game Five might be, Game Two was as much a final sendoff as anything with the fans giving their squad a little something for the road as they travel across the country. And for that, they deserve a championship.
Greeting them at the parade will suffice if they win it on the road.
Anyway, a game was played and what occurred might have some bearing on what happens tonight in Game 3 as the Storm try to sweep.
Adonal Foyle face had a dual meaning in Game 2.
Key Stat: free throw rate
What happens in an ugly game full of whistles? An unreasonable number of fouls and lots of free throws! And in a three point game the Storm marching to the free throw line at a rate of is undoubtedly the most significant reason why they won this game.
"We did foul a lot," said Meadors. "I thought we were aggressive and I thought we got a lot of fouls. I thought there were too many fouls called."
That's not at all to take anything away from what the Storm did -- they did an outstanding job of forcing the issue by remaining aggressive throughout the game and drawing the fouls. Of course that starts with the play of Lauren Jackson.
Storm statistical MVP: Lauren Jackson
There really isn't much more to say about Jackson at this point except that she's got to be the front-runner for Finals MVP if they win tonight.
Oh, and, as Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer has called for, she needs a theme song.
But we can now say that she was one free throw attempt shy of a WNBA Finals record with 17 attempts and a free throw rate over 1 (meaning she had more free throw attempts that field goal attempts). Had a few of the layups she missed gone down, she would have had a few more three point plays.
Storm key contributor: Tanisha Wright
When Tanisha Wright was going off in the second quarter, I joked that it was worthy of Adonal Foyle face - just sick. After struggling to the point of being a non-factor in Game 1, she came through in Game 2 with 17 points and a true shooting percentage of 73.02% and a strong free throw rate of 66.66%. The key for Wright was hitting a rather easy jumper in rhythm about mid-way through the first. After that, she was clearly more confident, turning the corner in situations where she might have hesitated or been indecisive in Game 1.
But the more important thing to watch for in a contest with a team that likes to apply pressure is Wright as a secondary ball handler. Wright was not at her most efficient as a ball handler in Game 2 with three assists and three turnovers and she the Dream will look to force her to make plays instead of Sue Bird.
"Coco Miller did a great job defending [Bird], so they ended up letting Tanisha Wright bring it up a lot," said Meadors. "So I thought we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish along those lines."
In Game Three, it will be interesting to see how effectively the Dream are able to handle Wright.
Dream statistical MVP: Sancho Lyttle
Once again, as strong as Lyttle was statistically, her biggest impact was defensive - showing up with three steals and two blocks - and having her in foul trouble did hurt the Dream quite a bit. With McCoughtry rather inefficient as a scorer thus far this series, Lyttle has been the Dream's MVP by far.
If you're looking for another x-factor for Game Three, her playing for a normal complement of minutes -- and pairing her with another big so she isn't the sole post defender -- could be a big one.
I predicted Storm in four with the Dream winning this game. Here's what's going for the Dream: they still have not played near their best possible and have stuck right with the Storm.
Then again, the Storm haven't necessarily played their best and are up 2-0.
So my only prediction in a series that has been unpredictable is that there will be another close game.
Cowardly, but that's all I've got.