Wednesday, June 4, 2008

2008/5 - Lynx 85, Dream 81

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy it its own way."

That's the first line from Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, which might be the sum total of what most people know about Anna Karenina. However, the strength of the line is its universality. "Every good WNBA team is alike, every bad WNBA team is bad in its own way." Thus with the Dream:

Point differential:

vs. Connecticut: -33
vs. Detroit: -12
vs. Los Angeles: -18
vs. Washington: -6
vs. Minnesota: -4

Merely looking at point differentials, the Dream are getting better in that they're not losing as much. Furthermore, the Dream have played four extremely tough teams. Those four teams (Washington is the missing one) have a combined record of 19-3, which is why the Dream are ranked #1 in strength of schedule. In short, it has been a baptism of fire.

A few notes on the game:

1) Atlanta was forced to play "center by committee" with both Erika DeSousa and Izi Castro Marques out for at least a few weeks each. Stacey Lovelace as center, but most of the work was done by Jennifer Lacy and Katie Feenstra.

And oh, how they did it! Lacy scored 16 points off the bench. I don't know if there are any game per game stats, but I suspect it's been a long time since she scored more than 10 in a pro game. Katie Feenstra scored 6 points and had 12 total rebounds.

2) With the Lynx scoring poorly from behind the three-point line (only 9 of their points this game came from three-pointers), the real game would take place under the basket. Lovelace said as much in the halftime report, saying that she felt the other WNBA teams felt that the Dream was weak under the basket and that they could just go to the hoop uncontested. I suspect that the Lynx figured on that being the case.

3) The strength of the Atlanta game came from the bench. Everyone on the bench had a positive "plus/minus", a stat that measures how well your team does with you on the floor vs. without. Lacy and Feenstra had the best +/- games, with +5 each.

4) Nicky Anosike of the Lynx had an astonishing 20 points and 19 rebounds. Much of the game was Anosike vs. "Whatever center Atlanta had".

5) Feenstra has a reputation for being a slow and soft player -- one of these Shawn Bradley types for whom height is the only thing they have going for them. Tonight, Kit fought and the results showed on the scoreboard.

6) This was the first game I think where Atlanta didn't score less than 40 percent from the field. They shot 50 percent from the field. Betty Lennox led all scorers with 28 points, and Lacy was behind her with 16.

7) I'm wondering if part of the key to an Atlanta victory is "How many assists does Lennox have?" B-Money has a reputation for being a ball hog, and on a weak team, the temptation to force shots is even greater. Betty gave her teammates the ball eight times for baskets.

8) Candace Wiggins of the Lynx went 7 for 13, and 5 for 6 on free throws, providing a lot of impact for the Lynx.

9) In order for the Lynx to win, they knew they were going to have to turn on the offense...and amazingly, the Dream kept up with them. The game set a record for Most Points Scored by Both Teams in a Quarter with 70. (36 Lynx, 34 dream). This beats a Phoenix/San Antonio game a year ago. Minnesota's 36 points moves them to fourth all-time for Most Points Scored by One Team in a Quarter.

9a) Betty Lennox scored 19 points in the fourth quarter alone. This put her second on the all-time list for Most Points Scored in a Quarter by a Player, right behind Diana Taurasi of Phoenix scoring 22 two years ago.

10) Bad refereeing? With 19 seconds left, Seimone Augustus of the Lynx blocked a shot that might have been a foul against Augustus. (It's hard to see these games from the radio.) Katie Feenstra had already been called for a "phantom elbow" that had been thrown by Anosike. Feenstra was on the receiving end of that elbow, so I suppose she must have elbowed herself.

I've been reading that WNBA referees have a tendency to award fouls depending on who is the most active -- if the big dog is caught beating the little dog, the little dog draws the foul. And Augustus is the Biggest Dog on the Block. The good thing is that when Atlanta was playing hard, they were getting a lot of fouls in their favor.

11) Critical Play. Down 81-78 with 16 seconds left, the Dream set up a final play. Jennifer Lacy is to inbound the ball. However, the Dream guards blow their assignments, confusing Lacy.

Result? The Dream can't get the ball back on the court. FIVE SECOND VIOLATION. The Dream lose possession, and essentially the game.

There were many comments about how the Dream haven't played long enough together as a team to be familiar with each other's weaknesses. That proved to be the telling point.

12) I'm still not convinced about the power and wonder of Ivory Latta. Everyone tells me she is the heart of the team, but all I see is Latta trying to force shots that she can't make.

13) Attendance was only 5,844 -- a drop of almost 1/2. Then again, this was a Tuesday night game.

So how is the Dream "bad in its own way"? It seems that the Dream can function as a well-oiled, powerful team, but only for about 20 or so minutes a game. The other 20 minutes of those games aren't that great, with your typical poor shot selection that has doomed the Dream to under 40 percent shooting in its last few outings. The Dream, however, is "starting to come together" as Lou Brown from the movie Major League might say. With luck, they'll come together on Friday and deal the Sky a defeat.

On Friday, we play the Sky. I haven't had a chance to attend a game all season. I'll bring my digital camera and see what I can see.

Jambi the Genie: Went 2-3 on his predictions yesterday. Maybe it's time to close the box.

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