Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Shalee Lehning, Tan White, and Erika de Souza- all top performers this game.
Okay, my thoughts on the game...as they occurred....
1) It's good to see that Carol Ross is still out there working with the players. Last night before the game, she was working with Erika de Souza. The last time I saw the two of them work together, de Souza had a great game and I was hoping that she could do the same.
This time - for the first time ever - I saw Marynell Meadors out of the locker room during pre-game warmups. Granted, she was sitting on the bench but at least she was taking it all in.
2) This is the first time I've ever seen the "Claw's Crew" banner hanging up. Was it ever there before?
3) It appeared to be some sort of youth group night. I must have seen two or three youth groups in attendance. Usher's camp (yes, that Usher) was honored at halftime, but were all of these kids from Usher's camp?
4) Usually, the warm-up music is not much more than a collection of contemporary urban hits that leave an old man like me scratching his head - since I'm not familiar with any of the artists. However, oddly enough, they played the Steve Miller Band's "Rock'n Me". Was someone over 40 in charge of the music?
5) Before the game, the "After School All-Stars" were honored, and rightly so. They received the honor for reading the largest number of books. I don't care if they were reading US Weekly or if they were frankly lying about the numbers. The message is worth repeating: "reading a lot of books is good".
6) Interesting trivia fact: Coco Miller (Dream) and Kiesha Brown (Sun) are from the University of Georgia basketball team, class of 2001.
7) Singing the National Anthem before the game: the Ringgold High School Women's Ensemble. (I hope I got the name right.) Four young women, in choir dress, with the colors presented. Very nice job.
8) This is the very first time I've ever seen people at an Atlanta Dream game sitting in the luxury boxes. Were they the friends of the owner? Were they the friends of Usher? Did they just sneak in? It's great to see the luxury boxes getting some use - hey, if no one is using them, why don't you sell tickets to them? I might even pay!
9) Three words that will strike fear into the heart of any WNBA player or coach: "Referee Michael Price".
10) It looks like the intro film has finally been edited. It appears that nearly all the references to Nikki Teasley have been excised, and a clip of Ivory Latta has been inserted. It's a whole new ballgame.
11) Starters for Sun: Whalen, Phillips, Gardin, Jones, Gruda. Gruda is going to be a killer.
Starters for Dream: Lyttle, de Souza, Miller, Castro Marques, and Holdsclaw. Meadors has Miller in there because she needs to put points on the board.
12) I sighted a sign. "Welcome Back Latta #12". The crowd always cheers more loudly when any reference to Latta is made, even when its on the film or just an ordinary announcement. I suspect we should change our name to the Atlanta Ivorys.
13) We got off to a 7-0 lead. The Sun missed their first 8 shots. We had 8 rebounds in the first four minutes of play. Holdsclaw did a nasty behind-the-back dribble on the way to a layup. We looked sharp, and the Sun didn't.
Three of those seven points were from a 3-pointer by Coco Miller. Children's Health Care of Atlanta got $50 for the 3-pointer. I suspect that the tills at Children's Health Care of Atlanta are looking mighty empty this year. (We give Children's Health Care $50 for every 3-pointer we hit.)
14) We went up by 10 points in the first quarter. Of course, I've seen the Dream spot teams 10 points leads and lose, but it was a good sign. We led 23-13 after the first 10 minutes. Izi lost the ball as time expired when Kiesha Brown stole the ball from her, but as Kiesha heaved up her desperation shot - too late before the buzzer sounded - Izi delivered a punishing block. We were on fire.
15) Connecticut Sun only shot 25 percent in the first quarter. We were shooting 45 percent.
16) The Shooting Stars were wearing blue last night, and looked great - well, the Shooting Stars always look great. EXCEPT FOR THE MEN! Get them out of those short pants, someone, PLEASE! And get them a decent looking shirt!
17) Star, the hardest working mascot in the WNBA, was wearing a pear of flexi-stilts. Whoever is under that mascot costume must be a great athlete.
18) We got more of a chance to see Gruda in the second quarter, and it seemed that at times that only with Gruda's help could the Sun keep themselves above water. Lehning was in - she played for about 30 minutes - and she played smartly. We were keeping our 10 point lead and the Sun was only shooting 1-for-8 from the 3-point line.
19) And then, the Dream finished the quarter with 10-2 run! The last basket of the half was a breakaway layup from Shalee Lehning. Chante Black attempted another last second shot but Erika de Souza blocked it! (I will admit that Sancho Lyttle went over someone's back but she got away with it.)
20) The above brings me to another point. For once, Michael Price has swallowed his whistle. There was no one in foul trouble from either team, and it would stay that way for the entire game. (Maybe Michael and his two friends wanted to leave early.) The Dream and the Sun were going to be allowed to play tough basketball.
21) I'm sure Sun fans have made this observation multiple times, but it's new to me. At one point, the Sun had Kiesha Brown, Chante Black, and Tan White. If they had a player named Green, it would be a true Kodachrome, but all the Sun have for greenery is Kerri Gardin. Maybe "Gruda" is French for "blue", I don't know.
22) Even though the Sun were shooting under 30 percent for the half (10-for-35), I was worried. The sun had 26 total rebounds to our 24. I believe that every time we had played the Sun before, whenever we led in rebounds we won and whenever we lost the battle of the boards we lost the game. (Maybe that should have been a sign.)
23) Usher's "Camp New Look" finally got its honors. I had never heard of it. If you want to find out about it, you can go here. It appears to be a program that promotes motivating youth to get involved in their communities...in which case, I can't say enough good things about such a project.
24) The mystery has been revealed. Star is a HE!!
For halftime, Star did a trick where someone was sent out to do some double-dutch jumproping while blindfolded. The key was that Star would blow his little airhorn when the ropes got close to the volunteer's feet - the idea being that the jumper would then know exactly when to jump. Of course, one the airhorn sounded the victim was abandoned by the jumpropers, and whenever Star blasted the airhorn, the patsy would jump...surrounded by absolutely nothing.
A person turned to me and said, "I think I saw this halftime show in the NBA...in 1952."
25) Some Italian fans showed up and the Jumbotron gave them some love. Let me tell the WNBA, we could learn a lot from the energy and excitement that the singing, banner-waving European fans bring to sporting events. Unfortunately, no arena in the United States will ever allow that spontaneous excitement - God forbid a banner poke someone in the eye! - and we'll have to be satisfied with "Every-BODY clap-your-hands!" (CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP....)
26) In the third quarter, Asjha Jones began whittling down the Dream's lead to 13 points, but the Dream were still in control of the game. Jones would cross the double-digit mark in the third.
The Jumbotron pointed out the presence of John Abraham of the Atlanta Falcons in the stands. Abraham didn't so much as look up until the final seconds of his closeup. He appeared to be checking text messages on his cell phone.
27) Speaking of famous (or semi-famous) people in the audience, Van Chancellor was at the game. For you WNBA outsiders out there, you're probably scratching your heads and saying, "Who the hell is Van Chancellor?" The answer is that Chancellor's Houston Comets won the first four WNBA championships. If Chancellor wants to come back to the WNBA and coach the Dream - we'll take him!
Chancellor was not exactly styling. As the coach of the LSU Tigers, he was wearing a purple number - with brown shorts. His fashion disaster didn't stop young basketball players from lining up, getting their pictures with him, asking his autograph, etc. etc.
28) It was looking fine. The Dream had a 55-36 lead with 2:43 to go in the third quarter. This is about the time you think of texting your friends, going to the concession stands to see if they have any pizza, etc. etc.
And then the wheels came right off the wagon as the somnolent Sun woke up. The Sun threw the zone at the Dream and the Dream just stood around, a big mistake. The Dream forgot how to play offense and turned the ball over three times before the quarter was over. The Sun scored the next eight points, not missing a single shot as the Dream led by 11 points, 55-44, going into the fourth.
29) Like a stunned fish, the Dream refused to get up off the bottom of the boat in the fourth. The Sun managed to work our lead down into single digits. Up 61-51, Kiesha Brown hit a 3-pointer off an assist by Tan White. Sancho Lyttle missed a shot but Erika got one of her 17 rebounds that night. Then Izi tried a shot and she missed.
Five seconds later, Brown downed another jump shot. It was 61-56 Dream, and our lead had fallen by 14 points to just two possessions. Meadors wisely called a time out.
30) The Dream played the "Guess the Song" game on the Jumbotrown. The purpose of this game is to pick someone over 50 out of the audience as a member of the Dream sings a popular song - horribly - on the Jumbotron. If the oldster can guess the song, they win swag.
This time, it was going to be Ivory Latta singing, so the crowd was naturally happy. The song Ivory was given to sing was Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)". Latta decided to do some dance moves to accompany the tune. Latta might have great basketball skillz, but when it comes to miming a video she has the coordination of a brain-damaged chipmunk with apoplexy. (The New York Liberty did it a lot better.)
Good thing for the oldster that there are newborn ants in the Peruvian jungles that have heard this song. Swag was appropriately awarded.
31) Also in the audience - Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats. Here's a question: I heard something about the ESPN show "Around the Horn" where one of the panelists said the NBA doesn't respect the WNBA. (This must have been in regard to Bill Laimbeer and the Pistons coaching vacancy.) Then tell me this: if this is true, how come I see so many NBA players at WNBA games? It can't be just promotional, because I don't think I've seen a game where there wasn't an NBA player in the house this year in Atlanta, even if it's an old NBA player like Dr. J.
32) Up 65-56, Izi attempted a 3-pointer and missed, then committed her third personal. However, we had people picking up the slack. Coco Miller was playing Tan White so closely that they're registered in Iowa.
Miller got the ball stolen by Whalen. Then Whalen got the ball stolen by Castro Marques. Both teams were fighting for this, the Dream to hang on and the Sun to steal the win.
33) Up 69-62, with just 1:31 to go, the Dream had their next episode of cardiac arrest. Tan White got open for a 3-pointer, to close the gap to 69-65 with 36 seconds left. Tan White then stole the ball from Coco Miller and made a running layup to close the gap to 69-67 with just 10 seconds left.
The last time the Dream led by just two points in this game? When Izi made the first shot 59 seconds into the game, giving the Dream a 2-0 first quarter lead.
34) However, the Dream would get the ball back, and this would force the Sun to foul. They fouled Lyttle, who was shooting around 66 percent in her career but is shooting around 80 this year. She hit both of her shots, putting the Dream up 71-67.
35) Eight seconds left. The Sun need a 3-pointer, so they give it to the player who hit the last 3-pointer for them...Tan White. She misses, and Holdsclaw gets the rebound - and the game with 1.6 seconds left.
She could have missed both of her free throws and the game would have been out of reach. She missed the first, hit the second, and the Dream escaped with a 72-67 win.
Okay. Enough of that. More about this game later.