Monday, July 6, 2009

12/2009 - Fever 78, Dream 74

Angel gets some instructions from Carol Ross.

When we came into Indianapolis last night, we faced a problem - the Fever had won seven straight games and had that intangible called "momentum". I don't believe much in momentum, but I believe it can buoy a team's emotions (or, in the case of the 2008 Dream, depress them). On the other hand, we had beaten the Dream at home in our opener - if you beat a team once, you should be able to do it again.

As I wrote in the previous post, the weakness of my ISP kept me from seeing much of this game. I managed to catch a little bit of the Fever's Live Access, but not much - maybe 15 minutes of the game in total.

As for seeing anything outside the game, it was very difficult. I enjoy the glimpses of promotional activities and general goofiness that come with seeing a team on Live Access. For the Fever, all of that was missing. The Fever still have a radio station broadcasting their games (unlike the Dream) and whenever there was a time out the Live Access broadcast showed...commercials. Most for companies/concerns in the Indianapolis area, places that I'd likely never visit unless I go to a Fever game. Apparently, the Fever front office want to make their Live Access look as much like a TV broadcast as possible.

That forced me to focus on the game. We got off to a fairly nice start. Erika de Souza seems to have woken up after the previous game, scoring Atlanta's first four points. De Souza was definitely working hard. However, Indiana went on an 8-0 run and we fell behind 16-10.

Meadors brought Latta into the game in the first quarter. She didn't help. It was more the introduction of Angel McCoughtry that brought some spark back into the Dream. Angel scored 4 points, an assist and a steal in those final four minutes of the first which helped Atlanta close to within two at the end of the first, Indiana leading 20-18.

The Fever came out with another run, this time a 9-0 run after we tied it in the second. Shalee Lehning stepped out on the court, and for once, no one could dispute that this was what the Dream needed. Unforutnately, Chamique Holdsclaw had 3 personal fouls in the first half and zero points to show for it, but Lehning and Lyttle stepped up and helped the Dream fight back. This time, it was the Dream's turn to go on a 9-0 run and close to a 35-35 tie with just over a minute to play. We might have had the lead at halftime, but Tamika Catchings sank a couple of free throws to give Indiana the 39-38 halftime lead.

Both teams wrestled for control early in the third. Ebony Hoffman got the worst of it, picking up her fourth and fifth personals within 10 seconds of each other. Catchings was a real problem for the Dream, having six steals before the third quarter was over. McCoughtry was scoring in double digits and Lehning had gotten her fourth assist. We led 59-55 but a last-second 3-pointer by Briann January closed the Fever to within one, 59-58 after three quarters.

The Dream, however, had an Achilles heel: personal fouls. Iziane Castro Marques racked two personals in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Jennifer Lacy followed with two of her own, and the Fever got to visit the line some more, sparking an 8-0 run ot put the Fever up 66-59. We closed the gap to 66-63 with a jumper by Lyttle with 5:42 to go in the fourth. The problem for the Dream was that they couldn't stop the fouling (or couldn't get the calls, depending on how you wanted to lok at it). The Fever went to the free throw line six straight times and led by nine, 72-63, with just over three minutes left in the game.

With 2:02 to go, Shalee Lehning hit a 3-pointer to close us to within four, 74-70. We were still hanging in there and the thought that the Dream could steal the game wasn't far from my mind. With 19 seconds left, Angel McCoughtry turned the game into a one-possession game with a layup that put the game 76-74 Fever. Lehning committed the foul to get the ball back and Tully Bevilaqua missed the first of her two free throws. 77-74 fever, 14 seconds left, and we had the ball.

We put Latta and Lacy out there in the hopes that we could sink a three-pointer. We've been a horrible 3-point shooting team all year and our chances probably weren't good...but at least we had the opportunity. The ball ended up in Lacy's hands, and her 3-pointer turned out to be an air ball. We were forced to foul Catchings, who only had to hit one of two of her free throws.

She did. Game over. I can't help but feel that we had this in our hands, but lost it. (I feel bad for the bettors: according to Frisco del Rosario, the "line" on this game was 152 points, and the total of both teams' points was exactly that: 152. House wins.)

Looking at Dean Oliver's Four Factors:

Field goal shooting: The Dream shot 45 percent as compared to the Fever's 35 percent. Another game where we outshoot the opponent by 10 percent, and lose any way. The Dream does not have a problem with shooting the ball - except for 3-point shooting - and they can put points on the board.

Offensive rebounds: Indiana 11, Atlanta 9. We were essentially tied with the Fever in rebounding, 32-31 overall in our favor. Offensive rebounds are killers because it gives you a second chance to shoot and ameliorate your mistakes.

Turnovers: The Fever lead this one, 14-21. I would normally point to turnovers as the problem - Tamika Catchings had six steals - but I wouldn't call it our worst problem.

Free throw visits: This is what killed the Dream. The Dream sent the Fever to the charity stripe 35 times, and the Fever hit 30 of those shots. We only went to the line 22 times, and hit 18 shots. Almost two out of every five points scored by the Fever were scored from free throws. We can't fault the Dream for playing aggressive - we want them to play aggressive - but there's a difference between playing agressive and losing control, and the Dream were on the wrong side of the line.

Now, let's look at the individual players:

For the Fever:

Tamika Catchings: 19 points and 9 rebounds. 5 assists, 6 steals. Now you know why the Fever is so damned good. Catch shot 10-for-11 at the free throw line.
Tammy Sutton-Brown: 22 points, 9 rebounds.
Katie Douglas: 10 points, but 5-for-15 shooting.
Ebony Hoffman: 8 points. Fouled out.

And now the Dream.....

Erika de Souza: Erika finally wakes up with a fine showing. 15 points, 8 rebounds. 4-for-4 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Erika gets the Dreamer of the Game award.

Angel McCoughtry: Maybe Angel is finally learning to not just save it for the fourth quarter. 15 points for Angel in a fine performance.

Sancho Lyttle: You can't say our posts weren't trying. Lyttle had 18 points and 6 rebounds. She also played 35 minutes this game, so she gets extra gold stars for endurance.

Shalee Lehning: This was Shalee's best game of the year, with 9 points and 4 assists. She's supposed to be able to bring some ambiguous energy to the team; this is one of those times you could clearly see it.

Michelle Snow: 2 points and 4 personal fouls for Snow. She only played seven minutes. You can almost feel the dip in production between Lehning and Snow.

Chamique Holdsclaw: She was essentially a zero for the Dream. She only played 12 minutes and early personal fouls limited her effectiveness.

Jennifer Lacy: She also played only 12 minutes. Four points on 2-for-7 shooting.

Ivory Latta: Now we're getting to the players that hurt the Dream more than helped them. Latta has the best excuse, since this is only her second game this year. In the seven minutes played she didn't score any points - we got her back because we wanted her to score - but the raw plus/minus of +5 is promising.

Coco Miller: Six turnovers for Coco Miller led the team. That's almost bad enough to be named the Bad Dream except for....

Iziane Castro Marques: I swear, I'm going to call this the Iziane Castro Marques Memorial Award. 1-for-9 shooting. Four personal fouls. Her 29 minutes on the court should have been given to other people. I am absolutely puzzled at what Marynell Meadors sees in her. Definitely the Bad Dream of the game. Her two personals in the fourth quarter got us off to the wrong start.

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