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Around the Web: Where the Playoffs Don't Start Until Someone Wins on the Road...or Mascots Storm Radio Stations...

Although the first game of every playoff series is now complete, Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper draws upon legendary coach Pat Riley's playoff wisdom in his approach to the Sparks much-anticipated post-season run:

Sparks to face tough road challenge in Game 2 --
After playing for Pat Riley in the Lakers' Showtime era, Sparks Coach Michael Cooper says he has followed one philosophy regarding the postseason. "Coach Riley used to say the playoffs don't start until the other team wins on the other team's home court," said Cooper, whose team has a 1-0 lead entering Game 2 tonight at Seattle in the Western Conference's best-of-three semifinals. "We're trying to get this second one and hopefully we won't have to make adjustments after that."

However, the Seattle Storm may be pioneering a new way of starting the playoffs as the Storm-Sparks series comes to Seattle for its conclusion (definitely watch the video):

103.7 The Mountain " A Surprise Visit From The Storm
We see all kinds of crazy things on the camera, but today was one of the best. We looked out to see a giant fuzzy mascot. We didn’t think that it was actually here for us. Turns out it was Doppler from the Seattle Storm with cupcakes for Marty and Jodi. They play game 2 of the semi finals against L.A. tonight. Go Storm!!!!!

Regardless of what you believe about what really gets the playoffs started, the Storm are down 1-0 in this series and in need of a win to push the series to a third and final game. And for the Storm, there's no place like home.

LA Sparks set to blow Storm’s season out to sea
With the series shifting gears up north, Storm fans are hoping that the home court will be enough to get wins in tonight’s game and get a deciding Game 3 clinched for Sunday. Seattle has historically owned one of the biggest home court advantages in the WNBA with many teams fearing their trips up to the northwest. This season, the Storm won 13 out of 17 games at home with two of the losses coming in overtime against the West-leading Phoenix Mercury.

While the widespread assumption is that the Storm's biggest challenge tonight will be finding a way to beat the Sparks while dealing with so many injuries, Sparks center Lisa Leslie presents an alternative perspective on the situation.

Storm | Sparks ready for anything from Storm | Seattle Times Newspaper
"This team is a little more dangerous without Lauren Jackson because when Lauren's playing, you know where the offense is going," Sparks center Lisa Leslie said. "You know who's getting the ball. You know they're going low and 50-70 percent of the time, you know exactly what their plays are — Lauren Jackson off the pick-and-roll. "Without her out there, you have no idea who's going to shoot or who's going to drive. That's what makes the team a lot more dangerous."

Also at stake in this series is Storm guard Shannon Johnson's ongoing quest to win a WNBA championship before she retires.

STORM: Johnson At Peace With Decision to Retire
Johnson's WNBA legacy is multifaceted: She has been an elite point guard and a backup, a promising youngster and wise veteran. She has played for five franchises in six cities over 11 seasons. Yet what Johnson hopes fans remember about her is much simpler. "I'm just a tenacious, outgoing person," she says. "Someone that you always saw with a smile on their face. Someone that loved the game and kept giving back to it. Just somebody that was a tenacious guard who enjoyed going out there and playing basketball and gave the fans what they wanted every night."

Looking forward to an exciting game tonight at Key Arena... and more links from around the league after the jump (yes, there is a bit of West Coast bias on Swish Appeal)

The Atlanta Dream will also be returning home in their series against the Detroit Shock tonight and hope to stay alive in their first-ever playoff appearance.

Pleasant Dreams - An Atlanta Dream Blog: Atlanta vs. Detroit, Friday September 18th
With Detroit winning the home opener, Atlanta must win tonight and then win the follow-up game on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. If we don't beat the Shock tonight, it's "see you (hopefully) next year".

With the WNBA's playoff structure in which the three game series starts on the road, there is still reason for hope even after a first game loss. And with guard Ivory Latta on the Dream, you can bet that there is no shortage of hope, energy, or passion for the game...a "positivity parade" if you will.

Dream confident despite Game 1 loss |
No artificial confidence booster was needed at the Dream’s practice Thursday. Not with energetic point guard Ivory Latta leading the positivity parade on the eve of the Dream’s first home playoff game, Friday night against Detroit at Gwinnett Arena.

Shock guard Deanna Nolan is still woozy after a bad fall in Game 1, leaving her status for tonight's game uncertain.

Deanna Nolan uncertain for Shock's Game 2 | Detroit Free Press |
Star guard Deanna Nolan was still woozy this afternoon after the Detroit Shock landed in Atlanta, so her availability for Game 2 of the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals is uncertain, according to coach Rick Mahorn.

Recap of Last Night's Action

If you followed our Phoenix Mercury -- San Antonio Silver Stars game thread last night, then you are already aware of the pain that the Mercury's 92-91 loss has caused Phoenix Stan. He is still in recovery, but his vital signs are stabilizing.

Silver Stars Survive Mercury Rally
“Watching both teams I thought that our ability to take that last run they had at us and our ability to answer it was really key,” said Hughes. “Probably the thing that helped it the most was our ball movement and I thought Sophia Young really converted on some key actions on the inside. You had players like Vickie Johnson who had eight assists and valued the ball really well. Edwige Lawson-Wade really gave us a solid game as well. It was just a good team win.”

Meanwhile, the Mercury are looking forward to going home and capitalizing on their home court advantage.


Silver Stars, Fever win openers in WNBA playoffs - - NBA
"We played a good team who hit big shots, while we missed a lot of ours," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "We fought hard all year for home court, and we have two games at home starting on Saturday, and that's what we have fought for."

Wondering about what happened in the last thirty seconds of that game? Stay tuned for Stan's interview with Mercury coach Corey Gaines for an explanation..

On to the other side of the country, the Indiana Fever stole Game One from the Washington Mystics in College Park, behind strong performances from their MVP candidates. Check out DC Sports Box for a photo gallery.

DC Sports Box - Indiana Uses Strong Fourth Quarter to Take Game One, 88-79, Over Washington

But what really caught my eye about the game was a comment from Fever coach Lin Dunn about forward Tamika Catching's defense.

Mystics Fall to Fever, 88-79, in Playoff Opener -
"We changed some of the assignments" in the second half, Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. "We tried [Tammy] Sutton-Brown on Langhorne and then tried Catchings on her because she was certainly causing us some problems. She was really awesome in the first half we were really focusing on how to limit her touches."

In case there was any doubt about why Catchings is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Dunn's quote pretty much makes it clear -- anytime you have a forward who you are willing to put on a center who just won Most Improved Player of the Year, that's an impressive defender. Of course, I believe Minnesota Lynx center Nicky Anosike is just as versatile defensively and worthy of strong consideration for the award... but that's a topic for another post sometime...

Other News... Thirty years after historic tryout, Meyers looks back
Thirty years to the month of her three days in rookie free agent camp as the only woman to ever participate in an NBA competition, Ann Meyers can't find any video of the event, didn't keep any press clipping and doesn't have the No. 15 jersey displayed at the press conference, yet she has everything because of the fleeting moment with Indiana. Though already a college great at UCLA and well known in women's basketball circles, it was the September tryout that vaulted her to national prominence and led to the invitation to the made-for-TV Superstars competition later that year. Meyers is sure of it. It was at Superstars that she met Don Drysdale, the retired Dodgers pitcher.

Chantelle on Caster Semenya
Out of respect for her privacy, there should’ve been a standard bland answer like, "she was deemed unable to compete at this time and we have no further comment on the situation." Also, the people that leaked the story in the first place showed very little regard for any human angle on this issue (as is not surprising considering most people’s disregard for others they don’t know anyway). And don’t tell me about journalistic integrity and the public’s right to know. Some things should not be reported. There are more buried stories about Jordan in his glory days than there are bodies in the nearest cemetery.