Monday, July 21, 2008
It's a lot more fun writing about winning than losing, although writing about losing can be illuminating. I wonder how the people on the Atlanta Hawks beat must have felt in the non-playoff years of the Hawks, having to writing column after column kicking a corpse around.
The Dream headed to Phoenix for the final game of a six game road trip. The team had played a game in Sacramento the night before, waited for a commercial flight, had to check their luggage the same way you and I check it, had to deal with the same old flight delays, landed in Phoenix, and probably had just enough time to get dressed before playing yet another game.
The pregame from Art Eckman had its share of nuggets. From Coach Meadors, we found that Erika de Souza...is running. Or at least, she has run, apparently without incident. The plan is to put her in for a few brief minutes on the Tuesday game and gradually increase her minutes for Friday and Sunday. Given her few brilliant performances before her injury, this is good news.
We also got some idea of how the Dream will be spending the Olympic break. Six members of the Dream go on vacation for the first week of August. Then, those six come back and six disappear the next week. During the break, the members of the Dream - save Erika, who will be in Beijing - will work on their individual games and on community service projects.
There were still some questions to be answered. Would Cappie Pondexter play? Would Phoenix hang around with the 2-1-2 zone? (Art Eckman would probably not tell us that.) Could the Dream win the rebounding battle that Coach Meadors said was the key to getting a win? Who knew?
It was time for tipoff...
1) The Dream starters: Latta, Lennox, Castro Marques, Lacy and Terry. Very surprising to see Kasha Terry start. She probably got the start because Alison Bales did so poorly in the last game.
2) One of the questions was "would the Dream give up another 10 point lead in the first quarter?" The answer, clearly, was "yes". We set our usual inept standard of shooting and passing, combined with the usual dumb mistakes that a road logged team makes.
Betty Lennox threw the ball out of court. Kasha Terry made not one but two three-second violations. The Dream racked up six turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Not that we weren't doing well at first. Lennox seemed to be able to find the basket in the first quarter, unlike in previous games. We were only down 15-11 to start the quarter....
..and then Phoenix went on a 19-2 run that essentially ended the game. The first quarter ended 29-13. Atlanta didn't make a single visit to the free throw line and shot 6 for 20 from the field, exactly 30 percent. That was when the fans suspected that it was going to be a lonnnnnnnng night in Phoenix.
3) With a 21 point lead shortly into the second quarter, Phoenix had pretty much put this one in the "win" column and they began to send out their scrubs including....
a) Yuko Oga. Oga would set a career high in minutes played with 17. (She would probably set a career high in personal fouls during a game, fouling out in the fourth quarter with six.)
b) Alice Quigley, a little used rookie out of DePaul, and
c) Brooke Smith, a rookie out of Stanford. The only regular season games she's played in have been games against the Dream, with two career games in total. She would not only score her first points...ever...in the WNBA, but actually score nine points against the Dream.
4) Only Kasha Terry and Tamera Young kept us in the second quarter at all. Part of the help was that Phoenix kept sending us to the free throw line while not making any free throw attempts at all in the second quarter.
5) Aside from visits to the free throw line, Phoenix was dominating every stage of the game. We won the second quarter -- 24 to 22 -- in a quarter when Phoenix had three rookies on the floor. We managed to crawl within 14 points, 51-37, by halftime.
6) Telling stat:
Atlanta sent ten players onto the court in the first half. Six of them scored.
Phoenix sent ten players onto the court in the first half. All of them scored.
7) The halftime talk was with Sue Panek, Director of Basketball Operations for the Dream. She threw down some interesting knowledge:
During the six game road trip, the Dream:
* took 31 bus trips
* stayed in six different hotels
* spent 17 hours waiting for transportation
* flew on six different airlines
* spent time in nine different airports
And like I said, the Dream were flying commercial, just like you or me. At least they had rows to themselves and were not in the back of the plane. However, they had to get their two hours before flights to check their bags.
8) We also learned about a basketball camp being held August 4th-5th at the 2nd Baptist Church in Atlanta, off Ponce de Leon. Dream players will be holding a mini-camp. For information, call 404-604-2626 and ask for Andrea Blanton. I'm going to try to find out more about the camp.
9) By halftime, Kasha Terry had 14 points and 7 rebounds. Both were career highs and the game wasn't even over. On the other hand, Alison Bales had played 11 minutes and had scored zero points.
10) The starters got back in and began to try to pick away at the 14 point deficit. Problem was, Phoenix put their starters back in as well. With the help of Izi Castro Marques and Ivory Latta, we managed to stay within 14 points.
Was Phoenix concerned? Hardly. They put Yuko Oga back in again. With Alison Bales in, Oga actually fouled Bales. That's like the joke about the flea and the elephant. Yuko Oga is sort of a Japanese version of Ivory Latta, only without the talent.
11) As for the third quarter, the quarter where the Dream traditionally come back...well, no. Phoenix just dumped on us. They shot 48 percent from the field in the third quarter and scored an amazing 38 points.
You have to realize that 38 points in a quarter would put most NBA teams to shame. Phoenix's 38-point effort was tied third all-time for most points in a quarter in a WNBA game. (The record holders? Phoenix, who had 40-point quarters in two different games in 2007.)
12) With the score 89-65 at the end of the third and the game a foregone conclusion, the Dream would have to drag themselves across the floor and pray that they could keep Phoenix from reaching stratospheric levels of points. At 5:22 left in the fourth, Coach Gaines called a full time out with the score 98-70. The question was undoubtedly, "should Phoenix go for the all-time record in points scored?"
13) Having no reason not to, Coach Meadors threw Chioma Nnamaka into the game. Nnamaka acquitted herself well, scoring four points on four attempts with two offensive rebounds in six minutes of play. Clearly, the Chioma Nnamaka Era has begun in Atlanta.
14) We learned the answer to the question, "would Phoenix run up the score?" The answer was "no", as Phoenix showed a lot more class in this home game than they did at Atlanta where they treated the Dream as sort of an annoying figure of jest. The final score was 110-84. If Phoenix had scored five more points, they would have had the record, but in the final minutes of the game, Coach Gaines was playing Brooke Smith.
15) Postmortem on players:
Lacy: Scored one point in almost two quarters of play. Nonexistent. She must have too busy admiring the championship ring from the 2007 season that she received from the Phoenix Mercury to bother to come out and play.
Castro Marques: Scored 17 points, but on 21 shooting attempts. Most of her shots were from free throws.
Kasha Terry: Career high 16 points. "Player of the Game", such as it is.
Betty Lennox: Disappeared. Six points total on 12 shooting attempts.
Ivory Latta: Did a decent job. 18 points. Shot well.
Tamera Young: Abysmal. Nine points, 15 attempts.
Alison Bales: On milk carton somewhere in Phoenix.
(* * *)
So, the road trip is over. It wasn't bad, two road wins and four road losses, with most of the losses coming due to the sheer fatigue of travel. We have an 11 am game on Tuesday and the sad part is that I won't get a chance to be at it, nor listen to it on the radio. I damn the necessities of having a job. Oh, if I could only get paid to blog!!