Saturday, June 27, 2009

8/2009 - Dream 96, Shock 86

Could the Shock contain the Claw?

All right, you want something to read while we're (hopefully) kicking the asses of the Connecticut Sun? Well, here it is. It's certainly worth the cost of blog membership.

1) As it turned out, Tamera Young wouldn't play tonight due to a left ankle sprain. As it also turned out, Young won't be playing at all for about a week or so. Man, that must be one nasty ankle sprain. I wonder if this was the ankle that caused the delay between the end of her time with Extrugasa in Spain and the beginning of her time with SK Cēsīs in Latvia? I hope not, the last thing Little Smooth needs is a history of ankle injuries.

2) Carol Ross and Erika de Souza were working with each other during the game. They seemed to be having a good time. The drill was for Iziane Castro Marques to pass the ball to de Souza up high, and Souza would turn and make the one-handed jumper with one quick finishing pivot. (A move that Erika would make a lot tonight.)

Carol Ross has that physical appearance that makes you think wise old coach. Ross's part in this exercise was to play the part of the defender - to lean on Erika and push her out of position. Ross was giving it her all, but it has to be hard to move Erika out of the way when she has a mind to stay right where she is.

3) On the overhead, I heard the first of several songs from Michael Jackson, "Rock With You". This was the day after Michael Jackson died in Los Angeles, and there would be songs played overhead from all of Jackson's career, from his days with the Jackson Five to his illustrious solo career. But it wasn't going to end with just music. Oh no.

4) The National Anthem was sung by a girl - either four or nine - named Taylor Jackson. (I wondered if she was related to MJ.) She had great pipes, but there was a sort of "Bleeding Gums Murphy" thing going on. There's a Simpsons episode where Our Favorite Family goes to a minor league baseball game where jazz singer Bleeding Gums Murphy sings the National Anthem, complete with embellishments. The impression given by the audience as time progresses is that Murphy's version must be taking hours in real time.

Jackson sang it straight, just as a slower tempo. It's hard for me to stand, due to hip bursitis, so I was hoping she finished soon before I sat down and looked insufficiently patriotic to attend a WNBA game.

5) I've not been able to figure out who the team captains are for the Dream this year. Last year it was Jennifer Lacy and Ivory Latta. The clue I was given is to see which players greet the referees before the game. The group seemed to be Jennifer Lacy, Chamique Holdsclaw and Michelle Snow.

6) This would be the first game with Kristin Haynie playing in opposing colors. Haynie played for the Dream for the entire 2008 season.

7) The entrance of the Dream to the floor was sufficiently awesome. The staff brought out the side lights, and they lowered the house lights and spotlighted the Dream as they came out to the floor. Something special should be happening whenever the Dream enter the court, ready to play....even if it's just Star waving his Atlanta Dream banner.

8) I was worried when the Dream started play, because it appeared immediately that the Shock were going to come out and try to kill us with the 3-pointer, which we can't defend well. Katie Smith immediately started with a pair of threes, and I thought that the Shock would just attempt to bomb us from long range.

9) There were two players who were looking fine out there for the Dream from the opening bell. The first is Nikki Teasley, who has a really sweet dribble drive and she can make shooting the fadeaway jumper an art form when she wants to.

The other player is Chamique Holdsclaw. All year, Holdsclaw has been good for the Dream, but not truly transcendent - Lyttle and de Souza have been the two best players. But tonight, I finally learned what all the fuss was about with Chamique.

From what I saw, Chamique's greatest ability is to control her speed on the dribble. All season, I've seen players like Angel McCoughtry just attempt going at the basket at full speed, hoping to weave through a pile of defenders and make the shot. However, with Chamique, defenders trailing her have two problems - either The Claw will give a microburst of speed, or she'll stop on a dime. Defenders face Hobson's Choice - they either end up outrunning her and leaving her alone for the shot, or they swallow the stop and Chamique blows right by them.

And Chamique can change her acceleration almost at whim, with the runner trying to make those microscopic changes in acceleration - and usually failing. Chamique is like a good comedian - the talent is all in the timing. And even when she's not in the best position, she'll sink the impossible shot, anyway. I wish I could have seen Chamique play both for the Volunteers and the Mystics - it must have been something special.

10) We led by 27-17 at the end of the first quarter. I quickly saw one of Detroit's flaws as the quarter progressed - the fact that even though we turned the ball over more than the Shock during the game, the Shock's turnovers were really those stupid turnovers that no one should make. It's one thing to have your pocket picked or to have someone intercept your high-arcing pass, it's another thing to just stumble about on your end of the court and through careless ballhandling let the enemy get an easy turnover as you essentially pass the ball to her. Most of the Dream's turnovers were "easy turnovers" from the Shock.

11) When Angel came in during the second, I could tell she was really forcing it. How athletic is Angel? I saw her jump so high she could have been called for goaltending if she was anywhere near the basket. Sure enough, during one sequence I saw Angel:

a) pick up an assist,
b) miss a shot,
c) commit a personal foul, and then
d) turn over the ball.

This all took place in the span of just short of one minute. I just rolled my eyes. With Michelle Snow absent without leave again, I wondered what the fate of the Dream would be.

12) With 5:33 left in the game - on Shalee Lehning's second personal foul of the quarter - the announcer made an announcement that few might have paid attention to:

"Atlanta is over the limit". One of the Dream's faults this year has been its propensity to foul - and in the second quarter, they would be put through a crucible of fire.

13) The clear path foul is still being called in the WNBA: Taj McWilliams got called for it. (By the way - is she not being called "Taj McWilliams-Franklin" any more?)

14) The Dream were up 38-28...and then some bad shit happened. There's no other way to explain it. The Dream must have committed 20 personal fouls in the second quarter, if you believe the likes of referees Moe Brewton, Larry Stevens and Curly Tiven. Dream players were being called if they so much as even looked like they were even thinking of what committing a foul might be like. The ball was being stripped out of the Dream hands through the referee's whistle, and in the words of one of the fans, the game became "like stirring paint" - not with one of those fancy-schmancy paint stirrers but like stirring by hand - a slow, laborious process.

Shavonte Zellous came to the line for two shots.
Then another two shots.
Then another two shots.
Then Taj McWilliams got a pair of shots.
Then Zellous for two more shots.
Then later on, Zellous for two more shots.

You get the picture. Zellous went 11-for-13 at the free throw line...IN THE SECOND QUARTER! What the fusck? There are players who don't see 13 free throws all season!

By now, the fans were booing loudly, and their ire was aimed at the referees as the Captains of the HMS Foulfest. Those referees should be happy that the Atlanta Dream is great with handing out T-shirts...nice, soft, T-shirts with minimal range that can't clock a referee.

15) One thing I don't like about Zellous - I suspect that Zellous has a tendency to flop. I don't mean flop as to take fouls, but I don't have a word for a player who tries to get the referee's sympathy for a foul call.

Izi made some incidental contact with Zellous in the second and Zellous hit the floor like she'd had her eye poked out like Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill. She collapsed to to the floor...only to recover seconds later, as if nothing happened, and hit both of her free throws. This wouldn't be the only time we saw Zellous looking for a Best Actress nomination.

16) Detroit regained the lead after their 13-2 run at the free throw line. They led 44-41 at one point, and it looked like the Shock would take the lead into halftime, but Erika de Souza scored a bucket as time expired to give the Dream a 50-49 lead.

17) The Shock went 19-for-24 at the free throw line in the second quarter. Zellous went 11-for-13 and scored 15 second quarter points.

18) Remember when I said that the tributes to Michael Jackson weren't over? Well, as it turned out, during halftime Atlanta Dream mascot Star prepared his own special tribute to the Moonwalker.

He started off slow...but as he (she?) worked up steam, we saw all the great moves: the flipping of the hat. The stomping of the feet. The "claws left, claws right" move from Thriller. (Somehow, Star had found a Thriller jacket.) The tearing of the T-shirt move from the 90s Michael. And of course...the moonwalk!

The crowd goes wild! It was a great tribute to a great entertainer.

19) It wasn't all pretty, thought. The Shooting Stars dancers were throwing T-shirts into the audience, and I saw two overweight ladies dive for a T-shirt. Please, ladies, it's just a T-shirt, and it might not have fit you anyway.

20) The starters for the second half - Holdsclaw, Teasley, Lyttle, Izi and de Souza. Holdsclaw made the first bucket of the half - her 20th point of the game.

21) Back when I saw the Shock in 2008, they were bruisers under the boards - you just knew they would get offensive rebounds almost at will, and get second or third chance points. Not anymore.

22) The Shock couldn't hit the side of a barn in the third quarter, and the Dream went on an 8-2 run. I looked up at the board that listed player points, rebounds and assists and I saw that Erika de Souza had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Holy crap. It's Spanish League basketball again!

23) It was looking good. The Dream lead 67-55, and had recreated their biggest lead in the game. And then, two luminaries were spotted in the crowd:

The first was Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. He's called "Superman", and for a guy who doesn't follow the NBA, even I've heard of him. Apparently, Atlanta is his home. I hope he liked what he saw on the court on Friday.

The second was Julius Erving, good old "Dr. J." himself. He didn't have his crutches with him this time, and I understand that he greeted the Dream players after the game. (Chamique Holdsclaw tweeted about it.) This is the third time that I've seen Dr. J. at an Atlanta Dream game.

24) We led 74-61 at the end of three quarters. However, I wasn't sitting pretty. I think the second quarter really shocked the crowd. We were all fearing that the Dream would send the Shock to the charity stripe 20 times in the fourth quarter.

25) At one time during the fourth, I looked up at the score board. Angel McCoughtry didn't have a single point. What the fusck?

26) The Shock toyed with a comeback, but we kept ahead of them by at least 10 points throughout the fourth. We went over the limit in fouls with 4:59 remaining, and I thought, "Oh God, don't let the Dream screw this up."

Whichever deity I was talking to must have listened. Cheryl Ford would pick up her fifth personal foul and her sixth personal foul in short order, fouling out of the game as the strains of "Hit the Road Jack" by Ray Charles rang out overhead.

27) Smith tried to spark a mini-run. She scored five points in the last part of the fourth quarter, including the 3-pointer that was the last field goal scored in the game. Zellous performed "Hamlet" to the joy of the referees and earned another trip to the free throw line, scoring two points. But not this time. The Dream had not only their first win ever against Detroit, but they had matched their win total from all of 2008 with their fourth victory.

Okay. Enough. Still waiting on company to get here. I'll probably break down box scores tomorrow.

UPDATE: The picture of Dr. J. talking to the Dream after the game? Right here!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI on T's ankle, it's not the same ankle she hurt overseas.