Saturday, June 13, 2009

3/2009 - Sky 81, Dream 73

Is Candice Dupree counting her 3-pointers?

For the first time this year, I'd be sitting in front of NBA TV and not ESNP2. In particular, I would be privy to the experiment that is Chicago Sky TV. My understanding is that Comcast Chicago is going to show five Sky games in their 100 band of channels; NBA TV must have just simply picked up Sky TV's feed.

It was for the first time that we'd meet Brent Stover and Patricia Babcock McGraw. Both of them were rookies. Stover had been working Big Ten games. McGraw had also worked Big Ten games but at least had the advantage of covering the Sky during every season of its existence. We'll see how they do.

1) McGraw started out with a comment about Chamique Holdsclaw: "She is fresh and ready to go." Anyone who has been following the Dream closely knows that this is not so, or at least wasn't so at the beginning of the season, when even Claw herself was saying that she didn't quite have her stamina. When listening to a broadcast there is always the danger in taking the commentator's generalities literally.

2) That being said, I have to say that the Sky have a really great mascot, sort of the Zapp Branigan of WNBA mascots. Unlike other mascots, the Sky Guy is all man - we are left to guess the genders of the other anthropomorphized WNBA mascots. For example, is Atlanta mascot Star a he, or a she, or what? I've always assumed that Star was a "he", but I'm not quite sure.

He? She? What the hell is it? At least with Sky Guy, there's no gender confusion. Sky Guy is male, but he loves women's basketball.

3) Marynell Meadors's record over the past two seasons: 5-31. That ought to give you pause.

4) The starters for the Dream: Teasley, Miller, de Souza, Holdsclaw and McCoughtry. Note: no Iziane Castro Marques, who was just awful in those first two games. One thing you can say about Meadors, she has no qualms in benching starters for poor performance. This can be good or bad. It lets the coach show that she means business, but at the same time, players accustomed to starting roles go completely nuts because of it, and it was - for better or for worse - one of the reasons that Lennox and Meadors clashed so strongly.

5) The Sky starters, for completion: Wyckoff, Fowles, Dupree, Canty, and Perkins.

6) A few matters about the NBA TV/Chicago Comcast experience vs. WNBA Live Access. With Live Access, you get it all sometimes. On some of the broadcasts I've heard no commercials, and the camera will pan out into the audience like the Jumbotron camera at a real game, or you can watch the promotional stunts that take place during timeouts.

Not so with NBA TV. It was all game, so there was no color in the atmosphere. That means that most of my comments will focus on the game, because that's where NBA TV focused.

7. By the time the score was 4-4 in the first quarter, I began to suspect...inadequacy in the Chicago Sky broadcast team. Brent Stover had pronounced Erika de Souza's name incorrectly, and this would not change during the entire game. De Souza's name is pronounced with an "oo" sound, like "loot" or "shoot" - er-IH-ka dee-SOO-za. Stover persisted in pronouncing it with an "ow" sound like "plow" or "how" - er-IH-ka de-SOW-za.

And it persisted. And at no time during the commericals did Patricia McGraw interrupt him to say, "you're sounding like a complete fool". Stover was making Art Eckman look positively Shakespearean and the Atlanta viewers just had to sit there and take it. My theory: McGraw didn't know how the names were pronounced, either. There really isn't an excuse for this because the WNBA press is sent a pronounciation guide to all names. Is the explanation incompetence, or just apathy?

Then again, the overhead announcer also announced the name as de-SOW-za. Egad.

8. At 4-4, Sylvia Fowles hurt her arm and she was nursing the injury. Everyone panicked. Last year Big Syl only played 17 games due to injuries, and Big Syl's absence really hurt the Sky. Chicago fans were thinking the worst. Fowles refused to take the bench and went out to take both free throws. With her right arm hurting, the first free throw was off the mark. The second free throw was thrown up in a "granny shot" with both hands in an attempt to get the ball to fall in. No suck luck.

9. Angel McCoughtry was 0-for-3 in shooting to start. McCoughtry's start was not starting out good.

10. Candice Dupree was just hot in the first quarter. Everything was going in and Chicago extended its lead. Dupree had 9 of Chicago's first 11 points. McCoughtry, on the other hand, was now 0-for-4 and tried to muscle Chen Nan out of the way, but she couldn't muscle away Nan's height - McCoughtry had a shot blocked.

11. Atlanta was down 11-6. Then down 17-10. Chicago was starting to put distance between themselves and the Dream, and this was just the first quarter. Michelle Snow would replace an ineffective McCoughtry, and Shalee Lehning would make her first appearance in the game.

12. Down 19-13, the announcers shared one of those "color" tidbits that I didn't know. It seems that Sancho Lyttle didn't play competitive basketball until she was essentially a senior in high school. You learn something new every day.

13. On the court though, not going so well for the Dream. Shalee Lehning ended up throwing the ball out of bounds because her target couldn't grab the pass. The pass might have been catchable, and the miss might have been the target's though, but I'm reminded of a quote from Magic Johnson - "if your man misses the pass, it's automatically the passer's fault, regardless of circumstances".

Tamera Young wasn't doing much better. She threw a pass to Chen Nan, but made up for it later by breaking up a Sky play. Little Smooth decided to take on Chen Nan too, and suffered the same fate as Angel McCoughtry - getting her shot blocked.

14. Iziane Castro Marques's arrival to the game wasn't promising - not initially anyway. Chicago ball handlers drove right by Izi - they didn't seem to be too impressed by Izi's defense. By the end of the quarter, Chicago led 21-13.

15. The first quarter stats were pretty much exemplified the entire game - Chicago shooting above 50 percent, and keeping turnovers down. They only had two turnovers in the first quarter.

16. In the second quarter, Sylvia Fowles showed that for such a large woman, she could work magic. Not only did she appear to be recovered from her arm injury, but she slid her way between a group of three Dream defenders and somehow found a way to make the shot.

17. Down 28-16, the Dream made a mini-run of seven straight points. Teasley made a 3-pointer. Erika de Souza and Iziane Castro Marques followed up with shots, and the gap was closed to 28-23.

18. It was at this point in the game that Dream fans got a sinking feeling. First, Dupree hadn't cooled down between quarters. She hit back to back 3-pointers as Chicago answered with a run to put the Sky up 36-25.

The second point is best illustrated by the second of Dupree's 3-pointers. Dupree was floating around out on the perimeter all by herself, unguarded. All Chicago had to do was get the ball to Dupree and let her take aim at her target.

This problem has persisted in all of the Dream's game. Here are some people who noticed it:

Candice Dupree: "I felt good about the shots I mean they left me wide open and I can’t miss open shots."
Angel McCoughtry: "I think defensively we’re good at clogging up the paint. One of our weaknesses is guarding the three pointer."
and of course, Marynell Meadors - on Dupree, she said, "We knew she had really expanded her game and we left her open that was a defensive mistake on our part."

The announcers said that part of it was because Chicago set such efficient "high screens". But in many cases, Chicago shooters were open while all of the action was taking place on the other part of the court. Yes, Chicago has a killer inside game and you want as many warm bodies in the paint as you can get. On the other hand, you just can't let players wander about on the perimeter, leading on commenter to note that the Dream look like "the best 5-on-4 team in the WNBA".

19. Down 36-27, there were a few good points. Chamique Holdsclaw has the best...I don't know how to say it. It's not a back to back pass, but the ability to dribble behind yourself as you're moving and pick up the ball with the other hand, instantaneously changing the hand on the dribble. Iziane Castro Marques had 9 points.

As for Coach Meadors...she had a new haircut. Every little bit helps.

20. Late in the second quarter, Nikki Teasley somehow hurt her legs. Even with the replay you couldn't see what had happened...however, it ended with Teasley hobbling off the floor and into the locker room. Every Dream fan out there was praying that Teasley wasn't out for the season, given her history of knee problems.

21. Down 41-32, Angel McCoughtry returned to the game - and finally hit her first shot. The Sky went into halftime with a halftime lead of 43-34.

22. The Sky were shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the first half and had only turned the ball over six times. Dupree led the Sky with 15 points, and Jia Perkins and Sylvia Fowles both had nine points. Chen Nan had a +15 plus/minus.

As for the Dream, Izi had 12 points and the next closest player was Holdsclaw with six points. However, Holdsclaw had a -12 plus/minus and Sancho Lyttle had a -10 plus/minus in the second half with only three points to show for it.

One interesting stat: Fast Break Points: Chicago 11, Atlanta 4.

23. Surprisingly, Nikki Teasley came back out to start the second half as Atlanta fans breathed a sigh of relief. The Dream starters were Teasley, Lyttle, Castro Marques, Holdsclaw and de Souza. With only a few seconds into the second half, the shot clocks had trouble during the game, causing a delay of game. The shot clock was flashing "20" - I took that flashing #20 as a sign that Lyttle would have a good second half.

Sure enough, Lyttle scored a bucket and broke up a Sky play when play started up again. However, the Dream still had all of their flaw. Brooke Wyckoff was left wide open for a three. How wide open? She could have pulled up a folding chair, sat down, and then shot a three. Don't tell me that it was a "high screen" that left her open.

To add insult to injury: Chicago Sky TV showed the shot five straight times. I thought I had accidentally tuned in to a Tribute To Brooke Wyckoff.

24. According to the commentators, Erika de Souza and Sylvia Fowles were left to battle each other for the entire game. With Erika evenly matched, we missed her on the offensive end. In the meantime, the Sky were putting bodies on Chamique Holdsclaw all night. We weren't going to get any free shots. The Sky maintained their 10-ish point lead well into the third quarter.

25. Angel McCoughtry and Michelle Snow came back in for the rest of the indecisive third quarter. You could tell Snow certainly cares about when she wins or loses - she almost went nuts when she was called for a foul. As for McCoughtry, she went to the line four times and missed two of her shots. The fact that Angel was going to the line meant that she was definitely playing hard. Unfortunately, it didn't add up on the box score and the Dream were down 59-50 after three quarters.

Chicago was still shooting at plus-50 percent and were even with us in rebounds. They were turning the ball over more frequently, but not enough to matter.

26. Comments from a message board poster.

"Teasley's back, but she's limping."
"Actually, the whole team looks lame now. :( "

27. The shot clock machinery was going crazy again. It was emblematic of that third quarter which seemed to take forever.

Or maybe it was emblematic of the Dream waking up and going on a 13-3 run. Snow made a shot. McCoughtry drove to the basket with an amazing shot, and then picked up the foul and made the three-point play. With 8:30 left, the Dream had closed the gap to four points, 59-55. The Dream were back in the game!

28. But then the same problem - the Dream leaving players open. Wykcoff scored an almost 3-pointer (her foot was on the line, though) because the Dream simply let her roam the perimeter. The next time the Sky set up a play, I could swear that Chen Nan was thinking, "Hmm...maybe I could shoot a three!"

29. The game stayed with six to ten points - the Dream were clearly hanging around because Chicago couldn't administer the coup de grace.

We actually saw some good basketball, or at least better basketball than in the third quarter. With the score 70-61 in favor of the Sky, ta-MEHR-a Young (that's the pronunciation used by Brent Stover) sank a three-pointer to close the game to 70-64.

With 4:57 left, Tamera Young stole the ball from K. B. Sharp and took the ball to the hoop six seconds later. The score was 72-68, and the game was winnable!

30. But all fell apart. The Dream hit a scoring drought that lasted over three minutes. The Dream went 0-for-6 in that span, with Young and Coco Miller missing two shots each. McCoughtry couldn't put the team on her back, turning the ball over once and committing her fourth personal foul.

By the time the Dream got back on track, there were less than two minutes left and we were down 79-70. Miller would get a jump shot, and Izi would make a free throw, but that was it. The Dream had lost in Chicago, 81-73.

Okay, enough of the blow-by-blow. The post-mortem will come later.


Pusser said...

Meadors' record the last two seasons? 5-31.

Her record in 2009, 2-2. Half as many wins as the Dream had all last year. Please. Credit where credit is due.

Pusser said...

BTW, Shalee's not a scorer...she contributes to all phases of the game (leads the Big XII in double-doubles). If you want her to shoot and drive, tell Meaders to have her do it....and if you don't like 3 defensive rebounds by a guard, you're misguided. LET HER PLAY and see what she does.

Pri3 said...

about erika`s last name.. sounds like "sOW-za" ..and believe me cuz im brazilian :)