Monday, July 20, 2009
Who wants it more?
Before I begin the write-up on the Dream-Liberty game, I want to go back in time to the Dream-Fever game a few days ago.
For awards in that game, I'd have to have given the Dreamer of the Game to Erika de Souza, and furthermore, I'd have to say that de Souza's performance was the best performance by a Dream player so far in 2009. Try to argue against it. 23 points. 14 rebounds, with 7 offensive rebounds. 10-for-15 shooting. Whenever Erika even got close to the basket, it seemed that she was hitting that wonderful bank shot of hers.
As for the Bad Dream, I was tempted to award it to "The Atlanta Dream Bench". There's nothing in the "rules" that says that the demerit can't be given to a group of people - and really, looking at the bench, there's not much difference between any of them.
Starters: 63 points
Bench: 16 points
To paraphrase Rebecca of the Game Notes of Doom blog, the Dream bench was made of FAILamantium. I don't think I've seen such a discrepancy between the starters and the bench in a long time (except for Lehning, who just played like a bench player). Basically, Castro Marques, Lehning, Lacy, Miller, Snow and Young were all pretty much the same exact amount of useless. For various reasons, Jennifer Lacy, Shalee Lehning and Coco Miller become the first ever shared winners of the Bad Dream award.
And now, on to yesterday's game. The announcer was Mike Crispino - wasn't he the announcer of the Dream/Fever game? I suspect he wanders the land with a hobo's stick and bindle, announcing games for a glass of water and a crust of bread. The Liberty started Loree Moore, Shameka Christon, Essence Carson, Cathrine Kraayeveld, and Janel McCarville. The Dream started Sancho Lyttle, Erika de Souza, Chamique Holdsclaw, Iziane Castro Marques and....
...Shalee Lehning, who had won a second straight start. There was also the addition of a hyphen to Izi's name - it has become "Castro-Marques", at least on her jersey. I'll have to contact the Dream organization to see if this is now the official spelling of Izi's name.
Anyway, the game started poorly from both sides - they looked horrible. The Dream started off 2-for-8 and home team New York started 1-for-8. Atlanta built a lead, but New York then had the lead, and then lost the lead again to Atlanta, adn then got the lead back. I don't think either team was more than six points away from the other. By the end of the first, the score was 18-16 in favor of New York.
There was some smart guard play from both sides. Lehning, about to be forced out of bounds, threw the ball off of Essence Carson's leg. Leilani Mitchell made a great ball save near the end of the first quarter. However, this wasn't a game whose defining characteristic would be great point guard play.
As Atlanta's fans watched the game on Live Access, we got to see the Liberty's regular dance team, the Torch Patrol. C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers University stopped by to watch the game. New York fans hoped Stringer might provide Vaughn a few tips.
The Liberty started the second quarter hot - their first three field goals were all 3-pointers, two by Cathrine Kraayeveld. Face it, we can't defend the three. You know it, I know it, the league knows it. Sancho Lyttle had three fouls and that put Sancho on the bench. New York was starting to build up a lead.
This was the time that my WNBA Live Access faded out on me. I think it knew that it just didn't want me to see the second quarter. While Mike Crispino was talking about the play of "tuh-MEH-ra Young" - or the lack of it - the Liberty were building up steam. With Atlanta up 25-23, it didn't take long before the Libs were up by 10, 37-27.
It was getting hot out there. Michelle Snow lost the small amount of cool which the basketball deities provided her, and they never provided Snow much of it. Snow threw Shameka Christon to the floor, and all Snow got for her trouble was a flagrant foul #1. Then Izi decided that she wanted to jabber with Tiffany Jackson, I believe. Frustration was starting to show.
The only impression it must have given the Liberty was that we were a team in meltdown. New York would be the only team that would score in the second quarter after the altercation. They finished the quarter 44-29, up by 15. They had scored 21 points to Atlanta's 6 points after Atlanta was up 25-23.
How bad had things gotten? Shalee Lehning was leading the team in rebounding. When your point is leading in rebounds, you have a problem.
New York was simply shooting better than we were - about 41 percent to 34 percent, and we had no 3-point power. We were getting the offensive rebounds, but we kept sending the Liberty to the line. We had only been to the line four times - we hit each of our free throws - but New York had visited the line 14 times. Without our shooting power, this looked like it was going to be a disastrous game.
The halftime show wasn't helping setting our stomachs. For halftime, they brought three singers up to sing covers of songs. A girl named Ashley sung "Listen" by Beyonce fairly well. Nikki sang a cover of Seal singing "People Get Ready" with a lot of cracking in the high registers. And someone named Jenna sang...well, to be brutally honest, I don't know what she sang. It was incomprehensible and sounded like a banshee in a blender. (Jenna won the contest, but the audience might have been applauding the Worst Singer. New Yorkers like their fun.)
The third period started horribly. Izi picked up a technical just a few minutes in - jabbering at a referee? The Liberty was still in its high gear, and the Libs built up a 20-point lead, 57-37.
Most people would have shut off the Live Access or gone home if they were at MSG. It looked up until that point that the Dream had just -- well, there's no nice way of saying it. They quit. They were playing that "Ole" defense, where the matador waves his cape as the bull blows by him. The Dream were just waving their capes, thinking about the next game and where they were going to eat after this game.
And then...Chamique Holdsclaw must have told herself, "To hell with this. I'm not going to look into the mirror and say 'Claw, you just quit'. I don't care if we're eighty points behind, I'm not going to quit." And she didn't. She began getting the fouls and scoring the free throws. The Liberty went over the limit and Holdsclaw went to the line a few times. She moved up to around 16 points scored for the game. If there's such a thing as "intangibles", then Holdsclaw was proof of that, and the attitude was contagious.
The Deram began to wake up. They went on a 14-2 run. Then, Claw added a couple of more free throws. The score was now 59-55 and despite the fact that the Liberty would finish the quarter 10-for-22 on 3-pointers after 30 minutes, New York had clearly become complacent. They would score the 3-pointer and sit and admire their handiwork - only to look down the court and find Izi on the fastbreak, having already answered with two points of her own.
With Atlanta down 70-62, the Libs fouled Izi when she was attempting a 3-pointer. It hurt, because every time Atlanta went to the free throw stripe, they scored. Izi sank all three attempts and the score was 70-65. Mitchell tried to get a shot off at the buzzer, but no dice. The Dream had sank 19-for-19 from the free throw line, and were down by five going into the last quarter.
Both teams were now shooting equally well, except from 3-point range. The Dream were beginning to take the advantage in rebounds. At the free throw line, the Dream were pinpoint. The game was now winnable for Atlanta.
Dream fans watched the Timeless Torches perform - yet another New York Liberty dance team, their skills would be honored at the All-Star game. I wondered if the fat black guy who wears #20 was going to make an appearance on the Jumbotron again.
For the first couple of minutes in the fourth, scoring was hard to come by. Essence Carson managed to put New York up by seven, but Lyttle - one of three Dream players with four personal fouls - got a shot and a free throw (the Dream moved to 20-for-20) to close the score to 74-70. And then, Lyttle scored again.
Then Latta went to the hoop, and missed it, but Erika de Souza got the rebound and banked it back in.
74-74. After a 20-point hole, the Dream had come back with 5:50 on the clock. New York wisely called a time out.
With tiny balls being fired from the ball cannon to keep the fans happy, the Liberty regained their composure. The question was whether or not they could hold off a Dream team that felt that New York was on the ropes. The Liberty would take tenative leads, but the Dream had their starters back on the court and simply answered by tying the score.
With 35 seconds left, Chamique Holdsclaw scored her 25th and 26th points of the game on a pair of free throws to tie the game at 84-84. The Dream had gone 24-for-24 at the free throw line, the third best free-throw performance in WNBA history.
New York called a time out. They knew Atlanta's vulnerability - the three. Shameka Christon was on to a career high day and 15 seconds later, she nailed a 3-pointer for her 30th point. The Liberty were up 87-84 with 20.7 seconds left on the clock.
At 15 seconds left, it was up to Holdsclaw to attempt a 3-pointer. Unfortunately, she missed it. Sancho Lyttle got the offensive rebound and scored, but this left Atlanta down 87-86 with 14.2 seconds left.
Atlanta would have to foul, but inexplicably, it took ten seconds for someone to foul one of the Liberty players. With 4.9 seconds left, Shameka Christon was sent to the line in a game where free throws played paramount importants.
She hit both of them. The Liberty were up 89-86, and the Dream had the ball with 4.9 seconds left. Chamique Holdsclaw would be the player to try to redeem herself by shooting the 3-pointer...but she missed.
Chamique was 0-for-3 in 3-pointers...with two of those shots taken with 15 seconds or less left in the game. If either or both of those had fallen, it would have been a brand new ball game. But it just wasn't meant to be. We were 2-for-14 on the night in 3-pointers. But even with 3-point shooting as a problem, the Dream simply decided that they weren't going to roll over and die. If there's any consolation in a loss, that would be it.