Sunday, August 31, 2008
The Dream were even willing to try faith healing against the Fever. Picture provided by SPMSportsPage.com
On Saturday, the Dream played the second of two back to back games. The Dream lost for the second night in a row, this time 87-72. It is the Dream's seventh straight loss.
It was one of the rare times that I didn't get to see a game. I was at DragonCon with my visiting friends, and since they only get a chance to visit once a year, I didn't think it was right to prioritize a radio broadcast over seeing them. This leaves me with only three places to get information about what happened.
1) Message boards, in this case both the Atlanta Dream Message Board and Rebkell. In both cases, information was scant. Fever-Dream draws little interest, it seems.
2) The news. There was about as much interest in the news as there was in the message boards. From an article in the Indianapolis Star, I learned that Betty Lennox scored 21 of her 27 points in the second half and that at one point, the Dream closed to within eight points, 70-62, with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it was as close as the Dream could get.
3) The boxscore. We'll look at the traditional indicators.
Shooting percentage: The Dream won here, 52 percent to 48 percent. Usually, field goal percentage is the decisive key. But not here.
Offensive rebounding: The Fever whipped the Dream on the offensive boards. The Fever got 13 offensive rebounds, but the Dream was limited to only three. Furthermore, the Fever outrebounded the Dream 35-22. The number of the Fever's defensive rebounds was 22; the number of the Dream's total rebounds was 22.
Ebony Hoffman picked up 14 rebounds by herself. She had seven offensive rebounds. Ebony Hoffman and the Dream's inability to stop her was probably the major key to Indiana's victory.
Turnovers: Almost even. The Dream turned the ball over 20 times; the Fever turned it over 18 times.
Free throw attempts: The Dream sent the Fever to the free throw line 29 times compared to the Dream's 19 visits. Once again, the Dream have outfouled their opponents. Erika De Souza would foul out with 39 seconds left in the game.
(* * *)
Next, we'll look at shooting efficiency:
Lennox: Had a good shooting game. 27 points, 21 shots.
De Souza: 15 points, 16 shots. However, her two rebounds are atypically low.
Castro Marques: 11 points, 9 rebounds. Another good game.
The problem is that no other member of the Dream scored more than four points. Latta only scored four.
Catchings: 23 points with 18 shots. A good shooting game.
Douglas: 21 points, 21 shots.
Sutton-Brown: 21 points, 21 shots.
Hoffman: 9 points, 13 shots. Not very good, but her rebounding made up for her poor shooting.
Bevilaqua: 5 points, 6 rebounds.
Flow of the game: The Fever got out in front of the first quarter. The Dream once again found themselves behind the eight ball early on and never got out from behind it. The final three quarters were won by the Dream, 61-60. The first quarter did them in.
Minutes played: If you look at the Indiana starters minutes, each starter of the Fever played 30 minutes. The starters stayed in and they carried the Fever on their backs.
The only member of the Dream to play thirty minutes was Betty Lennox. As for "disappearing players" - players with over twenty minutes played and scoring under five points - the Fever had only one such player. The Dream had three.
So what did I conclude?
I'm concluding that the Dream are getting better at shooting. They're getting better at shooting most likely because they've become a lot more aggressive...or desperate. They work their way close to the basket and take shots at a higher percentage. It might explain Latta's dropoff in production over the last two games - the Dream is no longer shooting from long range. Latta becomes a worse shooter the closer she gets to the basket.
They are also more aggressive at defense. But too aggressive. Having no way to stop their opponents, they're overfouling and sending teams to the line time after time after time. Kasha Terry didn't play at all, but everyone made up in her absense.
A sign of their ineffective defense is that they've given up two games when they've let their opponents have hot shooting games. Once can be explained by luck; twice is harder to explain. The Fever shot 48 percent, a bit astonishing for a defense-minded team.
We've solved our offensive problems. Defensively, we're a joke. We still can't win games.
(* * *)
This leaves the Dream with five games left to play.
September 2: Seattle
September 5: at New York
September 8: Indiana
September 11: at Los Angeles
September 12: at Seattle
The Dream might win one of the games against Seattle - Betty Lennox probably hates Brian Agler with a passion and might drop 30 on the storm - but the best chance for a win in the remaining five games is the follow up game against Indiana. It is also the Dream's last home game and the Dream would want to make a statement.
Let's suppose that the Dream fail to win any of their last five games. It would put the Dream at 3-31 for the year. This would be a 0.088 winning percentage.
If the Dream fail to win one more game, they would be a real candidate for the all-time worst season for any professional franchise.
Worse than the 9-73 of the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76-ers.
Worse than any of the ABA teams of the 1970s.
Worse than any team of the old Women's Pro Basketball League of the late 70s.
Worse than any team of the WNBA's old competitor, the American Basketball League.
Worse than any NHL team.
Worse than any baseball team, even the old 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
Worse than any of NASL franchise, or any MLS franchise.
Coaches get fired when they have seasons this bad. If Marynell Meadors can't win one of these last five games, I can't see her keeping her job.
Furthermore, I've heard rumors that Betty Lennox had not given her best effort in some of the games before the break - her demotivation and relationship with Meadors affected her play. Latta seems to be in Meadors's doghouse.
You remember the old joke about the CEO that was forced to leave his company. He told the incoming CEO that there were three envelopes in the desk, numbered #1, #2 and #3. "Use the information inside the envelopes in times of crisis. Don't open them until you're ready to do whatever the envelope says without even opening it."
The first year was horrible. The company bled money. The new CEO opened envelope #1. It said "Blame your predecessor."
(Marynell Meadors has no predecessor.)
So the new CEO blamed the old one for the company's bad shape. The explanation was accepted. Sales began to turn around.
The second year, there were serious defects in the company's merchandise. The new CEO was taking heat from the press. In desperation, he opened the #2 envelope.
"Reorganize," it said.
(Meadors has tried multiple lineups. She's shipped out all the Milos. She's traded for new players of all shapes and sizes, all ages and experiences.)
Things turned around. Then the company had three straight negative quarters. The stockholders were getting ready to hold a new meeting to discuss problems with the company. The new CEO would be the topic of discussion. Wanting to head things off at the pass, the CEO opened the #3 envelope.
He read the advice.
"Prepare three envelopes," was all the messsage said.
We need a win. And Meadors needs a win most of all, to dodge a bullet. But will this team play for her?