Thursday, July 23, 2009
Great night for Kara, but the Dream were just a little better.
Pity these noon games. You can't see them at work, obviously. I have a computer, but unfortunately, the amount of bandwidth that WNBA Live Access sucks down could be spotted by my IT department from space. Therefore, all I could do was follow message board postings and a live boxscore blow-by-blow as the Dream won a strange game against the Shock 98-95.
This is a win that I felt we backed into. I'm not condemning the players, by any means - I think that the players would have won the game under most circumstances. The Dream have been playing better and better as the season's progressed, and the Shock have a lot of problems with injuries and the disappearance of Trader Bill. They've treaded water at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and we've played a lot of close games on the road. I was confident that we could knock off the Shock for a road win.
When the first quarter started, we had Holdsclaw, Lyttle, de Souza, Castro Marques and Lehning as our starters. Ivory hadn't won the role of starting point guard, not just yet. It might have not mattered in the first quarter, because the Shock started with a 6-0 shot and no one was hitting anything. At one point in the game, Chamique Holdsclaw was 1-for-6, Sancho Lyttle was 1-for-3 and Erika de Souza was 1-for-5. We were shooting in the 20s, and whenever that happens you're going to have trouble.
Detroit kept a six point lead. At 2:14 left in the first, Shalee Lehning was replaced by Ivory Latt. One minute later, Ivory would hit her first 3-pointer to close us to within 20-14. That six-point buffer would not be seriously challenged, and a quarter where the Dream shot 36 percent gave the Shock a 22-16 first quarter lead. (The fact that the Shock only had one turnover in the first definitely helped.)
The Shock marched out to a 10-point lead in the second. Sancho Lyttle was forced to the bench to be replaced with Michelle Snow early in the second. It was a puzzling decision. Lyttle wasn't in any sort of foul trouble, she just wasn't shooting well. Snow, on the other hand, wasn't exactly a game-changer in 2009.
Detroit sent the Dream to the foul line enough, and Latta hit another 3-pointer - her 9th point in the game - to bring the Dream back within six points. McCoughtry made it into the game and Atlanta went on a 9-2 run. A layup by Angel with 2:05 to go gave the Dream its first lead of the game, 37-36. Lyttle, back in the game, was still having trouble, travelling and getting a shot blocked by Deanna Nolan. McCoughtry made a 3-pointer with about a minute left, and then sank another couple of free throws for her 11th point of the game. The Dream took a 42-38 lead into halftime.
It was Detroit's tendency to foul that was keeping Atlanta in the game. We were still shooting great from the stripe - 13-for-13.
The Dream, however, had a hard time getting started in the 3rd. Lehning was replaced by Latta just two minutes in because no one from the Dream was hitting anything. Detroit took a 49-42 lead but the Dream cut their lead down to 3 points with 2 minutes left to go in the third. By the final minute of the third quarter, the Dream cut the lead down to two....
...but Chamique Holdsclaw was called for a flagrant foul against Alexis Hornbuckle of the Shock with just 0.7 seconds left to go. Initially, the call was going to be a "flagrant #2" which would have called for an immediate ejection, but the call was changed to a "flagrant #1". Claw got to stay in, Hornbuckle hit her free throw and Detroit led 65-62 after 30 minutes.
McCoughtry was really pouring it on. She had already scored 16 points off the bench. What shocked a lot of Dream fans was that neither Jennifer Lacy, Coco Miller, nor Tamera Young had played any minutes. Their entire 30 minutes were spent as spectators.
A pair of free throws from Ivory Latta finally gave us the tie at 67-67, and a jump shot by Michelle Snow put us in the lead 69-68. For the rest of regulation, the lead would swap places with no team getting beyond a possession of the other. With the game tied with 15.3 seconds left to go on a layup by Michelle Snow, she was fouled by Kara Braxton. Snow got three throw and the Dream were up 87-86...but the Shock had the final possession.
For some...bizarre reason...Coco Miller was pulled off the bench with 15.3 seconds left. The Dream would end up foulding Taj McWilliams, and the ball game was in Detroit's hand. However, with 8.4 seconds left, Taj missed the first one but hit the second one. The game was tied 87-87 and the Dream would have the last possession.
McCoughtry would miss the final shot, but Michelle Snow would rebound and hook the ball in as time expired. The Dream thought that they had walked away with a victory...but the instant replay showed that Snow wasn't even close to making the shot before the buzzer. The game would go to overtime.
The Shock would turn the ball over five times in the overtime period, and the Dream would take a 95-91 lead. Kara Braxon would put it up with 1:33 left to close the score to 95-93 in favor of Atlanta. McCoughtry would miss a 3-pointer, but Michelle Snow would steal the ball the Dream would have the ball with 50 seconds left.
Unfortunately, Ivory Latta turned the ball over, giving Deanna Nolan a chance to tie the game with 17.9 seconds left. She missed. The Dream would get the rebound, and the only hope for the Shock was to foul. Sancho Lyttle would hit one of her two shots, and the Dream led 96-93 with 14 seconds left.
Detroit had one more possession. Deanna Nolan tried the 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left, but missed it. Kara Braxton would get the layup and score, but the Dream had the ball for the final three seconds. Detroit would have to foul and send Ivory Latta to the line.
Latta hit both shots. 98-95 Dream. And then...Miller comes back into the game, once again for inexplicable reasons. Shock ball, 2.6 seconds left. Katie Smith - one of the premier 3-point shooters in women's basketball history - tried the shot, but it wouldn't go down. The Dream would walk away with the overtime win.
(* * *)
Now let's look at the Dean Oliver's Four Factors.
Field goal shooting: For once, the Dream would not outshoot its opponents. The Shock shot 48.1 percent from the field, the Dream 42.3 percent. Both sides were 4-for-13 from the 3-point arc, so 3-point shooting was a non-factor for once.
Offensive rebounds: The Dream outrebounded the Shock 12-9 on the offensive boards, and led overall in rebounding 37-32.
Turnovers: A wash. We had 18 to the Shock's 17 - but those five turnovers in the overtime period hurt Detroit.
Free throw visits: This killed the Shock in the end. We sent Detroit to the line 19 times, but the Shock gave the Dream 39 chances to make a free throw. We hit 34-for-39 at the free throw line. Ivory Latta's career night partially resulted from going 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
(* * *)
Let's take a look at the Detroit Shock:
Kara Braxton: 25 points and 12 rebounds on 12-for-16 shooting. She was the firepower for Detroit.
Shavonte Zellous: 20 points. 8 of those points came from free throws. Remember that awful game when we sent Zellous to the line about 200 times?
Taj McWilliams: 15 points, 5 rebounds, but 4 turnovers.
Deanna Nolan: 10 points and 9 assists, but she couldn't get those last shots to fall.
Katie Smith: 11 points, but 6 turnovers.
And now let's look at the Atlanta Dream:
Michelle Snow: I'm sure a lot of people, when asked who the Dreamer of the Game would be, would have said, "Ivory Latta, because she had a career night." But look at Snow: a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double with 5 offensive rebounds and just 2 personal fouls. And all of this in just 30 minutes of play. Clearly, it was Snowtime in Detroit, and Snow gets her first Dreamer of the Game accolade.
Angel McCoughtry: And then, Angel would say, "well, what about me?" For the limited minutes that Marynell Meadors is giving McCoughtry, Angel does the most with them. She had a raw plus/minus of +22, with 20 points and 6 steals.
Ivory Latta: Her 22 point-game was a career high - do you think that Ivory still has some resentment against the Shock? She was 10-for-10 from the free throw line and 5-for-5 from the floor, with 2 3-pointers. You can also add three assists to that.
I think that Latta now deserves the starting spot. If she doesn't start after the break, we're going to be wondering why.
Chamique Holdsclaw: Awful shooting: 13 points, but 13 missed field goal attempts. However, Claw had 4 rebounds and 4 steals. She simply found other ways to contribute.
Iziane Castro Marques: Or is it "Castro-Marques"? I'm not sure. She made it to 10 points, and her shooting was okay.
Sancho Lyttle: An off-night for Sancho. She had 14 points and 7 rebounds. I'm sure a lot of WNBA players wish they had off-nights like that.
Shalee Lehning: The typical stat line for Lehning - zero points - but she did have a couple of assists and a couple of rebounds. Lehning only played 10 minutes. Took a 3-pointer in the first quarter, missed it, and didn't shoot again.
Erika de Souza: What a letdown. They couldn't keep her from the boards - she had 6 turnovers - but only 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting. Also, three turnovers.
Coco Miller: She played twenty seconds and earned a "trillion" - a stat line filled with nothing but zeros. At least Meadors brought Miller in when it was exciting...but why did she keep her on the bench for 38 minutes?
So who is Still Snoozin' for the Dream? I'm not giving out the demerit - there's a first time for everything, and this is it. There wasn't a single player on the Dream that hurt us in the win. Everyone helped a little bit, or at least in Miller's case, they didn't hurt us.
On the other hand, two things bothered me. First, the weird substitutions. Second, the lack of use for either Jennifer Lacy or Tamera Young. Maybe they're still hurting, and Meadors decided to let them get healthier. But hasn't Young been healthy for some time now? Furthermore, it's not as if there's a game coming up and there existed a need to keep Lacy and Young rested.
This is just weird. If we're talking sleeping metaphors, our coach might need an alarm clock, or the front office might need a wake-up call.