Thursday, May 28, 2009
Forget Angel or Chamique. Erika was the number one scorer.
Ah, the empty seats! Ah, the smell of food wafting down from the concessionarium! Ah, the attendees that don't think the WNBA is some sort of book club! It all adds up to one thing - the WNBA preseason.
And don't think that I haven't waited long enough. I was having to play WNBA basketball with hand puppets.
We begin with a new laborious round of observations:
1. We have some new warm-up music. I think it was a song sung by a young lady swearing that various names were not hers with the plaintive cry of "that's not my name". If anyone can inform this old man what the name of this song is, let me know.
2. It was good to see Tamera Young again. Pigtail Power is back for 2009.
3. I was on the lookout for Tennessee jerseys. I found two young women wearing Tennessee t-shirts, but they were inexplicably sitting behind the Connecticut bench.
4. The announced attendance was 4,890. I understand that this is
a) a weeknight, during
b) the Memorial Day week, during
c) the preseason, when
d) an NBA game is on….
…but I think that attendance has to be off by at least a factor of three. Either that, or there were 3,000 people sitting behind me.
5. National Anthem Update: No, we haven't forgotten how to sing the National Anthem in Atlanta. The singer was a guy named Micky McCauley…I think he was an amateur, but he was actually very good. If he was 17, he could have had a good shot at American Idol, at least in the auditions.
6. Starting lineups:
Dream - Teasley, Castro Marques, Holdsclaw, de Souza, Snow
Sun - Whalen, Phillips, Gardin, Jones, Black
7. It looks like the new hot jersey number is going to be #1 - Chamique Holdsclaw's number. I caught two people in the front row wearing #1, and they didn't look like Big Smooth.
8. The start of the game: immediately, there was something wafting from the court that had never wafted from it before…the sweet, sweet smell of competence. The Dream had a formidable inside game. The problem was that we didn't watch any part of the perimeter. The Sun's Erin Phillips went four for five from the field and rained down buckets from the perimeter. Either she wasn't being guarded, or she got open pretty easily - I couldn't even tell who was supposed to be picking Phillips up.
9. The starters were down 16-12 - not too bad - when Meadors made her first substitution with 4:07 left in the first quarter. (The Dream's first 2009 substitute - Coco Miller for Izi.) The joke was that Meadors was so surprised by competence that she forgot how to substitute. 2008 made it easy for coach Meadors - just wait until the Dream fall behind by 10 points, call a timeout, then substitute. In 2008, it didn't take long.
10. With 35 seconds left in the first quarter, the McCoughtry Era began.
She didn't have much to do in that first 35 seconds. The first quarter ended up with the Sun up 23-18. Part of the problem was that Teasley tried the same 22-foot 3-pointer two times, an it sank neither time.
11. Down 23-21 in the second quarter, McCoughtry had her first breakout move. She stripped the ball from her defender, and sprinted down the court for an easy layup to the cheers of the crowd.
You can tell that McCoughtry plays intense defense. Not in the sense that "I'm going to wave my arms up and down like a maniac." She has this preternatural ability to remain within point blank range of a defender, and she moves her hands as if she's poking for a soft spot.
Having her on the court brought the entire team's defensive intensity up by one click. Angel is the real deal, or at least she was on May 27, 2009.
12. One problem right away was that Atlanta got into foul trouble…and stayed in it virtually the entire game. They had 10 fouls during the second quarter - Meadors said in an article that she'd never look askance at an aggressive foul, but isn't 10 fouls too much of a good thing? It seemed as if the Sun were on a perpetual conga line to the charity stripe.
At least, no one would have to teach the Dream how to be aggressive in 2009.
13. Chantelle Anderson and Shalee Lehning made their first appearance in the second quarter. Their appearance meant that all of the Dream's training camp attendees would be playing in this game.
Chantelle went 0-1 with one defensive rebound and one personal foul during the three minutes that she played. As we found out today, Chantelle was told by the Atlanta Dream organization that she would be released. As she said in her Yardbarker entry, she wondered why they didn't at least give her the chance to play longer so that she could showcase herself for a few minutes for some other team.
Side note: Chantelle had the longest hair of any player. Her extensions came down to almost mid-back. She certainly wasn't wearing her hair up.
14. Shalee Lehning almost had a steal, to the cheers of the crowd. Marlies Gipson proved to be a capable shooter, hitting one from 3-point range (that fell with a little bit of luck). The fans really took a liking to our visitors from Kansas State. The impression I got from Lehning's play was that she acquitted herself well.
We managed to turn things around and actually led 42-39 at halftime.
15. As it turned out, they were giving out free passes to "Land of the Lost" at the game. See, you should have been there.
They interviewed Fred Williams at halftime. Or rather, someone shoved a mic in his face as if he had nothing better to do. He said that the Dream had to avoid "ticky-tacky fouls" as he put it. (As it turns out, the Dream would commit a grand total of 29 ticky-tack fouls.)
16. During the third quarter, Meadors stepped out almost to the coach's box outer line to yell instructions to her team.
Eight feet behind her was assistant coach Carol Ross. Yelling out instructions to her team. Talk about feeling someone's hot breath on your back, figuratively speaking.
17. McCoughtry would make her second steal-plus-sprint-plus-layup and get the crowd up to its feet. The Dream led 52-45.
Betty Lennox + defense = Angel McCoughtry.
18. During a Dream 10-3 run in the third, we saw the first of Lyndra Littles, the second round draft choice of the Sun in the 2009 draft. I hate to say it, but she was unimpressive. Nothing special. She was only 5-for-8 at the free throw line, and she was 0-for-5 shooting. (She did have four offensive rebounds, though.)
All in all, the Sun had 38 visits to the free throw line, hitting 25 shots for a 65.8 percent free throw percentage. If the Sun had been just a little better at the free throw line - say 73 percent - they could have sent the game into OT.
19. Regarding these fouls - it seemed that any time a member of the Dream made incidental contact with the Sun, they were charged with a foul. I'm not saying the referees did a bad job; rather, in tough to call situations I suspected that the refs assumed that "the Dream started it".
20. Chamique Holdsclaw: still able to fake out defenders and make impossible shots.
21. Ahead 64-57, the Sun went on an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead, 65-64. Part of this was because the lineup for the Dream looked like this: Coco Miller. Jennifer Lacy. Sancho Lyttle. Shalee Lehning. And aside from Lyttle, that lineup doesn't strike fear in anyone.
22. So would this be another game where the Dream would fall apart? Not this time. The Dream answered the Sun's 8-0 run with a corresponding 8-0 run to take a 72-65 lead. By this time, they had McCoughtry, Holdsclaw, and de Souza back on the court.
23. About de Souza: 16 points, nine rebounds. Fast. Powerful on the inside. Coming off her season from Ros Casares didn't seem to wear her out in the least. I think this was the game where she earned her spot on the team, if she hasn't earned it in training camp.
24. When Nikki Teasley was called for a foul late in the fourth, Chamique virtually lept out of her seat. Can't say that Chamique doesn't support the team.
25. A free throw from Lauren Ervin put the score at 74-71 Atlanta with just 34.4 seconds left. (It was the first of two free throws. She missed the second.)
De Souza got the rebound. She got it to Angel, who made the shot and put the Dream up 76-71 with 13.3 seconds - defense kept the game out of reach for the Sun. When they scored their final bucket, there was only 1/2 second left in the game.
26. The scoreboard operator - who must have been drunk, being slow with baskets and putting up the incorrect score more than once, made his final mistake - Erika de Souza was the player of the game for the Dream, with 16 points…and 98 rebounds. I think for the Sun, it only seemed like 98 rebounds.
(* * *)
The game was over. For the first time - ever - the Dream has a record over .500, even it's only the preseason.
You know what? That game was just so damned good I want another one. Thank goodness that we get another one next Saturday, at home against the Indiana Fever.
Leading Dream Players
Erika de Souza: 16 points, 18 shot attempts. Nine rebounds. Plus-minus of +5 (the Dream scored five more points than the Sun when she was on the floor).
Chamique Holdsclaw: 16 points on just 10 attempts. Great shooting. +1
Nikki Teasley: 2 points, 5 shots. Seven assists. +3
Angel McCoughtry: 14 points, but 17 shot attempts. However, she had five rebounds and an astonishing +14 in plus-minus.
Michelle Snow: 2 points, 3 attempts. Six rebounds. +3.
Iziane Castro Marques: 4 points with a -11 plus/minus. It might just be the fact that the less talented players were on the floor when Izi was there - other bad players can drag your plus-minus down.
Shalee Lehning: -4. Zero points, but three assists in nine minutes of play.
Sancho Lyttle, Chantelle Anderson: -3