Wednesday, June 11, 2008
New York has Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Theatre District, the yellow cab, Hebrew National Hot Dogs, the Metropolitan, MOMA, Sak's Fifth Avenue, and the MTA.
Atlanta has the World of Coca Cola, Turner Field, and...that's about it, really. Since the first time the Yankees invited themselves to Atlanta for a barbecue in 1864 and the fire got out of hand, the City of New York inevitably finds itself locked in battle with America's Delta Hub.
The next team coming to Atlanta for crackers and ice tea ("sweet or unsweetened?") is the New York Liberty at 3-4. Wouldn't it rock if Atlanta's first win came against the New Yorkers?
Since Becky Hammon left, the New Yorkers have had a hard time putting things together on the court. Most of the time, they look sloppy and they play sloppy basketball. If the young Liberty squad has gained experience from 2007, we haven't seen it yet. They're actually better defensively than offensively, but supposedly the Liberty draw a lot of fouls early in the game. They also don't have a marquee player like a Diana Taurisi or a Seimone Augustus, no one player that you can say "we need to stop Player X if we have a chance to win."
So we already have two keys to the game: pray that the Libs get into foul trouble early and for Atlanta to spread out the defense. Another key: shoot the three. The Liberty like shooting the three; I believe they're second to the Sun on their dependence on the outside shot. The Dream is going to have to go for a "high-variance" strategy, Latta is going to have to take the ball and have another 10-plus scoring game...and not because everyone was guarded so well that Latta was forced to take shots because she couldn't move the ball.
The Dream, however, have their own weaknesses. First, they don't have a true center, so they can be challenged physically under the hoop. Lacy isn't a great defensive player. Feenstra doesn't have much mobility. Castro Marques is in Spain. DeSousa is injured. The Liberty could just come marching down the paint like Sherman and dare the Dream to do something about it.
Second, the only player on the Dream other than DeSousa (injured) or Castro Marques (absent) who is an offensive threat is Betty Lennox. If you stop Lennox, you stop the Dream because it's unlikely that any player will step up in her absense. The fact that Lennox hasn't quite transitioned from ball hog to team player (although she's made progress) means that Lennox can be forced into bad shots.
Third, the Dream are 12th in field goal percentage (the Liberty are 10th). Every time the Dream have failed to shoot 40 percent, they've lost by at least 10 points. Every time they've shot better than 40 percent, they've kept it within 10. If the Dream have their typical bad day -- the Sparks held them to a junior-high level of 29.2 percent -- the Liberty might not need much to win.
Atlanta has to act like a Chicago politician if they're going to win this game: "shoot early and often". As for the Liberty, if they handcuff Betty Lennox the game is already in the bag.
My hope is that years from now, when New York WNBA fans say, "the Dream sucks", we can always answer back, "Now what was the name of that team against who we got our first franchise win? Rhymes with 'iberty'."