Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2008/32 - Fever 81, Dream 77

Losing this game was like missing a six-foot put in sudden death. So close, and yet so far away. When I was with my friends, they were exhorting to me cheer just a little bit harder - but I held back, because I was so exuberant that I didn't want to commit myself completely, and have my emotions shattered with a loss. I hoped at best for a tie that would send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.

It's probably going to be hard for me to write about this loss, because most likely it was our final realistic change to get a win before the end of the season. Our next games are away games at Los Angeles at Seattle, two teams fighting for position in the Western Conference. For the Sparks, the Dream are not their final home game...but we are the final home game of the Seattle Storm, so our chances of not getting blown out too badly are marginally better in Los Angeles.

1) Before the game started, season ticket holders who attended all of the home games were rewarded by being allowed to walk out on the court and...do something. Once again, this 6:30 p - 6:40 p window - 20 to 30 minutes before the game - is the window of death, because no one is in their seats and the arena is almost empty.
You should have given the season ticket holders something better, say guaranteed first place spots in the autograph lines at the end of the game. Either that, or the Croix de Guerre for all that they had to endure during the season.

2) The posters that were being offered really rocked. I'll have to take a picture of one and post it on the blog.

3) AT last, we got to see the new Adidas Shooting Shirts! It looks like a few changes were made. The "Reflection of a Dream" was moved to the top of the skyline and the red cursive font was replaced with white block font. Furthermore, the Dream logo was made more prominent and moved to the bottom. I don't think either choice reduced the visual impact.

4) One of the attendees was holding a homemade Tamera Young poster, the only poster I could recognize in the crowd. Good to see Tamera getting some love.

5) The Fever came out for the final shootaround and immediately began to practice...rebounding. They'd line up, throw the ball against the backboard and the next following player would have to rebound, then she'd throw the ball, etc. etc. At the end of the game Coach Lin Dunn credited the Fever for their rebounding.

6) Our final National Anthem singer - 9 year old Jasmine Smith. She creaked a few notes, but hey, I'd be nervous too. She's got a lot more guts than I do.

7) There were a lot of cheers for Tamika Catchings of the Fever. I thought Tennessee contingent must have traveled here again, because I saw a couple of fans wearing orange shirts. At the end of the game, I got a closer look at the fans. The fans were wearing the shirts of the Charlotte Sting. If they traveled that far to see the Dream, bless 'em; if they didn't, I admire their kickin' retro style.

8) Once again, the Dream came out dancing in the warmups. I suppose that after a few home games, everyone on the Dream has let down their hair, figuratively speaking.

8b) Guess who was NOT dressed for the Fever? Kristen Mann, formerly of the Dream. Since her trade, she's played in four games for the Fever with a grand total of...zero points.

9) GAMETIME: Gametime started out with Erika de Souza dominating. She scored five points in the first quarter to lead all Dream scorers. All of those points were scored in the first 4:15 of the game, and she got at least three rebounds. Some member of the Dream would find Erika inside and she would just bank the ball in off the glass for a quick two.

10) The first quarter was going to be a sloppy one. There were a lot of calls on time violations. An eight-second violation for Atlanta (too slow bringing the ball out of the backcourt). A three second lane violation for the Dream. A 24 second shot clock violation for the Fever.

11) The Dream were really trying to move the ball instead of individual players deciding, "hey, I have to create my own offense". We were really moving the ball around well, but there were a few glitches, like when Ivory Latta threw the ball to absolutely no one. Remember, Ivory, it is always the guard's fault if the player doesn't catch the ball.

12) The announcer announced the appearance of "TAKasha Terry". Takasha. I think she's a friend of Yuko Oga.

13) We managed to hang around within four at the end of one quarter. The Shooting Stars came out to entertain between quarters, and I have to say they have been a truly professional group all year. They are truly skilled dancers. I don't know if they get paid for what they do, I don't know what their plans are but we have to have these entertaining young women back next year.

14) At about 8:15 in the second quarter, Betty Lennox got the ball on a fast break, chased all the way by an Indiana defender about two feet behind her. The crowd all got on their feet and cheered wildly, but Lennox missed the bucket.

15) Atlanta FINALLY has the T-Shirt Gun back! Ninety percent of the time this year T-shirts and the like have had to be hand-tossed. How come we can't have the T-shirt gun every game?

16) I was rather unimpressed with Tamera Young. She was looking to pass the ball out every time, and I watched her pass up an open look. If you have the open shot, you take it.

17) Ivory Latta, unfortunately, has still not abandoned the tendency of wanting to drive to the basket instead of hitting the mid-range jumper. Tonight, however, she was hitting those drives which made the crowd very, very happy.

18) The Shooting Stars were tossing little round balls to the crowd as some sort of free promo. One of the Shooting Stars was throwing in one section and some guy chased down the Shooting Star and asked for a ball. I find that rather uncool. These aren't handouts. Not everybody gets a ball.

19) Despite shooting only 33 percent after two quarters, we managed to stay within four points, 34-30. Indiana was only 2 of 10 from three point range. We managed to shove the Fever outside to the perimeter because our posts were too dominant, so the Fever should feel emboldened when they play Connecticut in the first round - the Sun ain't got no height.

20) HALFTIME. Entertainment was something called "Quickchange". Two prop magicians did tricks involving instantaneous changes of costume.

You might disagree with me, but for some reason magic acts and sports events do not mix. Probably because magicians (like this guy) wear tuxedos, and tuxedos and professional sports don't match. The lovely assistant did most of the clothes-changing, but the guy did a transformation where he changed from his tux to a Dream uniform. (Jennifer Lacy's jersey, for those keeping track.)

I didn't care for it, but the crowd gave him a standing O.

The next time killer was...golfing? At midcourt? It was some sort of putting contest. At least they could have brought in the little rotating windmill to add a degree of difficulty.

21) When the third quarter started, the Dream went on a six-oh run. We managed to take the lead, 36-34. Unfortunately, Erika de Souza picked up her third and fourth personal fouls, which meant we wouldn't see her again until the fourth quarter. It was a good thing that Latta was really making that drive work, somehow finding the basket in spite of being surrounded by players a good three to four inches taller than her.

22) Tammy Sutton-Brown had a few words to say to Katie Feenstra during the third quarter - wonder if we can get the unexpurgated version?

23) Indiana took the lead in the third, but we were hot on their tails, no more than five points away at most. The crowd was on its feet when Katie Feenstra made a pair of buckets that closed the gap to one point, 55-54. Ivory Latta was standing at the bench and waving her towel around, trying to spark a rally. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lacy made a couple of fouls that let the Fever keep us (barely) at arm's length and the Fever still led by four, 62-58 going into the final quarter.

24) In between the third and fourth quarter, they have a free-throw shooting contest between two chosen members of the audience. A large woman was throwing nothing but air and didn't hit a single shot.

I've probably told this story before, but the Dream personnel wanted me to go out there and shoot free throws. I declined. I would have loved to win any price they gave me, but I knew that I absolutely suck at playing basketball.

25) They put Tamera Young on the floor to start the fourth. The first time she gets the ball, she throws it away. Of course.

26) The Fever began to pull away to start the fourth. First Doneeka Lewis hits a shot. Then Tan White (who would score 12 in the fourth quarter) hits a three. Then she adds another three. Before we know it, we're down 70-60 and the crowd is noticably mute.

27) Then Erika de Souza returns to the game. Izi hits a couple of free throws. Then Erika hits a shot. Then Alison Bales hits a shot, and gets the foul. By now, the score is 70-69 and the crowd is batshit wild.

28) White hits the next bucket. Then, Erika blocks White's next shot and White makes a bad pass. There's an official time out. Eighteen seconds later, Iziane Castro Marques hits a 3-pointer from just outside the line.

72-72 all. Heart attack time!

29) This is the part fo the game that sucked. We were fouled twice, sending both Ivory Latta and Erika de Souza to the line.

Latta only hits one of her two free throws.
Tammy Sutton-Brown is called for her fifth foul.
Erika de Souza goes to the line. She misses both free throws.. Atlanta only leads by one point, 73-72.

30) As the 24-second buzzer sounded with 1:04 left, Tamika Catchings made a basket that put the Fever in the lead by one point, 74-73.


31) The National Parade of Foul Shots. Both teams were now over the limit, and the referees wanted to be noticed. So first Atlanta would go to the line. Then Indiana. Then Atlanta. With 38.3 seconds left, Betty Lennox hit the second of two free throws to put the Dream up 77-76.

Tamika Catchings found Tan White, who hit a mid-range jumper with 28.3 seconds left to put the Fever up 78-77.

It's okay, right? 28.3 seconds left? We get the ball one more time? We win? Right? Right? RIGHT?

32) With 9.2 seconds left...Ivory Latta drives in...AGAIN...and misses. Everyone goes up for the rebound. Alison Bales is called for the foul. Tamika Catchings goes for two....

...she MISSES THE FIRST SHOT. But she hits the second. 79-77, Fever. We still have a chance for a shot...

and Alison Bales is called for a foul...again...this time a loose ball foul. With 3.7 seconds left, we have to hope that Tamika Catchings misses one of her two free throws.

...the first one is GOOD. The crowd sinks. Oh, Tamika, miss this next free throw!

...the second one is GOOD.

33) Betty Lennox tries a miracle backcourt shot...which misses. It wouldn't have helped anyway. Our last home game is over.

FINAL: Fever 81, Dream 77. We beat ourselves as much as they beat us.

(* * *)

Let's look at the four keys to victory:

Shooting percentage: The Fever beat us there, 43.9 percent to 39.7 percent. It wasn't that much of a diference.
Offensive rebounds: The Dream win this stat, 9 to 7. However, we got outrebounded 34-30 overall, and Coach Lin Dunn of the Fever credited the Fever rebounding for keeping them in the game to win it.
Turnovers: Another Dream win, 13 to 18. We scored 24 points off Fever turnovers.
Free throw visits: We got three extra trips, 31 to 28. But it didn't help, as each team hit 23 of its free throws.

Basically, the Fever played well enough defensively - including overall rebounding - to keep Atlanta's shooting percentage down and out of the game. A bunch of shitty calls helped at the end, but you can't blame the referees. If we were any damn good a bad call or two wouldn't have been a factor.

Flow of the game: The Fever led the first quarter, 19-15. Both teams tied every successive quarter, giving you an idea of just how close this game was.

Shooting efficiency: First us, then them.


Lennox: 19 shots, 24 attempts. It really wasn't a good day for Lennox. Dunn also credited the Fever with keeping Lennox below twenty.
Feenstra: 15 points, 11 shots.
De Souza: 11 points, 13 shots. Seven rebounds.
Latta: 11 points, 15 shots. The only reason she managed to break her single-digit game streak in scoring was because she took a lot of shots.
Izi: 10 points, 9 shots. Six assists. I'd have to give either Izi or Kit Player of the Game honors for the Dream.
Bales: Only 7 points, but 9 rebounds.


White: 24 points, 19 shots. Went 4 for 7 on the free throw line. A season high for White, giving her Player of the Game automatically. (Note: what was her last season high? When she dropped 21 on the Dream earlier in the year.)
Catchings: 20 points, 10 assists, six rebounds. 20 shots. Efficient shooting.
Sutton-Brown: 15 points, 16 shots. But it was White and Catchings that carried the team to victory, particulary Catchings at the free throw line at the end.

Southern Belle Milk Carton of the Game: Easily Tully Bevilaqua, who must be still working out jet-lag. 26 minutes played. 1 for 3 shooting, two points scored.

(* * *)

Listening to the final two games is going to be a true labor of love. The Dream will probably be playing for individual accomplishments.

Will Betty Lennox dump 40 points on Seattle?
Will Ivory Latta ever have an efficient shooting game? Latta's shooting percentage has dropped to an abysmal 36.9 percent. Some of the fans were saying that they didn't think Latta would be back next year.
Will Katie Feenstra continue to score in the double digits?
Will Jennifer Lacy ever hit a basket when it counts?
Will Chioma Nnamaka get any garbage time?
Will Alison Bales stop wearing that dark eye shadow that makes her look like a raccoon?
Will Tamera Young be seen again? Or is Coach Meadors forcing her to sit under Kasha Terry's chair for the final two games?

For the answers to these and other questions, tune in next game, same Dream Time, same Dream Channel.

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