Monday, August 3, 2009

20/2009 - Dream 89, Liberty 83

The All American Red Heads are honored at halftime.

"You like me! You really like me!" Sally Field said this in 1985 when she won a Best Actress Oscar. And I think I heard Dream fans saying this to the basketball deities when we beat the Liberty on Saturday night, our first win in seven attempts against the Libs.

My comments follow below. Long, laborious, etc., but they follow:

1) I think this is the first time I actually saw an away coach working with the players in warmup. Anne Donovan, now the new head coach of the Liberty, was working with the players before the game. Carol Ross continues to work with the Dream players before the game.

I think that Erika de Souza must have read that post about the fact that she can't hit midrange jumpers. That was the shot she was working on with Carol Ross. Erika always seems interested in improving all facets of her game.

Ross's drills were sort of specific drills, while Donovan didn't seem to be directing the players to do anything specific - but at least Donovan was out there.

2) One again, we had the "upside down" Dream logo, where the logo faces the benches. NBA TV was broadcasting last night's game and the logo will always look like that for TV games.

3) I saw two red-haired kids wearing T-shirts that read, "I Attended the Red Head Reunion" - July 2007. This should have given fans a hint of what they might see at halftime.

4) Donovan worked with her players, and then she sat down with Marynell Meadors for the longest time. The two must have talked for about fifteen minutes or so, leading one to wonder what coaches talk about when they have informal chats.

Donovan: Well, Coyle is gone, and Blaze is next, Marynell. Looks like I'll be GM and head coach too.
Meadors: It's a sweet deal when you can get it.

5) Tamera Young might not be playing regularly, but she seems to be in good spirits. She tried a cartwheel on the court. I don't think she has the flexibility for it; you have to be a gymnast to do crap like that.

6) It was great to see the upper boxes being used again. Hmm...I wonder if Ron Terwilliger and family were at the game last night?

7) Performing pre-game was the New Macedonia Baptist Church Step Team. It's a pity that they let these guys start at 6:30 or so, because Atlanta fans are notoriously late in arriving at games. As a result, they performed in front of a virtually empty (at the time) arena.

I'm sure they did a good job, but I'm not sure. Every step performance seems pretty much like the same thing to me - synchronized hand clapping. I'm just not watched it enough to know a good performance from a bad one.

8) One of the referees was Michael Price. Price, in addition to being a referee, is a professional comedian. Furthermore, he combines both the job of WNBA referee and comedian at the same time. He's not that funny, though - he's the Carrot Top of WNBA referees.

9) New Macedonia represented again with their Youth Praise choir, which got to perform the National Anthem. They did a good job, and what I really liked about their Anthem performance was when they got to "...and the rockets' red glare" part instead of trying to crack the upper octaves they simply brought in other singers to sing at a higher pitch.

It's the rockets' red glare that destroys a lot of solo Anthem performances. They start too high and then they have to jump up and can't reach those high notes.

10) New York starters: Moore, Carson, Jackson, Christon, and McCarville.
Atlanta starters: Lehning, Castro Marques, Holdsclaw, Lyttle, and de Souza

10a) I learned that Christon's last name is actually pronounced "Christian", as in "one who practices Christianity".
10b) It looks like that Ivory Latta is going to perpetually come off the bench.

11) They brought out the "runway lights" and lowered the house lights for the intros. Angel McCoughtry does this weird thing where she falls on the floor. I have no idea what that's about.

12) The game started with "clock FAIL". The whistle blew immediately after the jump ball and when everyone looked up at the Jumbotron the clock read 10:00. The clock was reset to 9:57. Play resumed.

13) Atlanta had problems immediately hanging on to the ball. Lehning didn't throw the ball high enough and threw it straight into Loree Moore's hands for the first Atlanta turnover.

14) However, the Libs started the game 1-for-5 and Atlanta took a 9-8 lead. Atlanta was really hustling in the first quarter, but their timing was way off. They just weren't in sync the way they were at the Phoenix game. This gave the Liberty a chance to hang in the game.

Example: Chamique Holdsclaw tries a 21 footer that ends up an airball, which ends up in New York's hands. Carson gets the rebound, and Moore uncorks a 3-pointer to put New York up for the first time in the game, 15-13.

15) One of the games that was up was "guess the player from their childhood pictures". A young girl with awful-looking bangs was the first quarter and I heard mutters of "Coco Miller". Nope. That was Shalee Lehning. The next two pics were of Tamera Young and Chamique Holdsclaw, and the audience was right on the money.

16) Atlanta, however, remained determined to beat the Liberty with "one shot" as Meadors put it after the game. Holdsclaw tried to find someone in the interior and the ball sailed over the heads of everyone gathered under the Atlanta basket and out of bounds.

By now, they put in Angel McCoughtry who started her game with a 3-pointer. Cathrine Kraayeveld answered with the 3-pointer on the other end.

17) I saw an amazing sight under the Dream basket. Michellee Snow tried a lay-up which was rejected by Ashley Battle. Then Snow got her own rebound, tried again and was rejected again, this time by Janel McCarville.

Latta and Kraayeveld swapped airballs at the end of the first quarter. The game was tied 20-20.

18) In the second, New York got off to the better start and took the lead. Leilani Mitchell was in for the Liberty and Lehning couldn't handle her defensively. Mitchell would score five second-quarter points with Lehning as her defender and New York led 30-26 at one time.

How bad was it for the Dream? We blew the in-bounds with a 5-second violation. We were definitely tense out there.

19) The Jumbotron showed a lot of fans holding signs. I like that; it individualizes the game.

One fan had a sign that read, "St. Louis Loves the Dream". We appreciate the patronage of St. Louis, definitely. Another fan had a sign that read, "Marry Me Ivory Latta". Good luck on that, buddy.

20) McCoughtry was having uncharacteristic trouble, with an overthrow and an airball. Sancho Lyttle tried a lay-up and McCarville blocked her. (McCarville was on her way to an amazing four-block night.) New York went on an 8-0 run for a 38-31 lead, their largest in the game. New York's passing game was working, McCarville was setting great screens and it seemed that the Liberty could do no wrong.

21) However, the night was not done with amazing sights - remember, Michael Price was there to treat the NBA TV viewing audience to hilarity. He unloaded a double technical foul on Shameka Christon and Coco Miller.

For new fans, a technical foul is a major violation. If you get two of those, you're out of the game. My understanding is that Shameka Christon and Jennifer Lacy were mixing it up a little, but nothing so bad as to call a technical. So Eagle Eyes decides to call the T on Miller, who is behind Christon. I don't think Coco Miller has gotten a technical foul since grade school, if ever.

New York fans have complained that the Dream had been beating up Christon all night. Hey, if there was a player on the other team who dropped 30 plus points on you the previous games, you might not want to treat that player with kid gloves. Just sayin'.

22) Maybe it was Price's humor, but the Dream snapped out of it and went on a mini 6-0 run to close back within one, 38-37. Atlanta's defense began to tighten up. McCoughtry was making good passes and we were looking a lot sharper. The half ended with the Liberty up by one, 40-39.

23) Interesting halftime stats: we were being outshot (48.5 percent to 39.5 percent) and were losing the overall battle in rebounds (20-19) but had 8 offensive rebounds to New York's 5. The Liberty had 11 turnovers, and the Dream just had five.

24) Halftime. We finally got a chance to see the All American Red Heads. The clip which I've posted on the Pleasant Dreams blog was shown in its entirety, there was much applause, and the Red Heads took center court for individual applauce. One of the Red Heads (Hart?) was wearing her Red Heads game jersey.

Afterwards, the Dream honored the winners of the tournament that had been held at Philips Arena. I would also honor those winners in this blog, but unfortunately, I had to go to the bathroom.

25) It seemed that the Dream's quest in finding their rhythm would be an unending one. Iziane Castro Marques would miss a shot despite having Erika de Souza throw a nice screen for her. The Star of Brazil's next shot would be an airball - even Iziane had caught airball fever. Janel McCarville found her way outside the Dream defense and hit a 17 footer to put the game up 48-45 for the Liberty.

26) That was okay. We had the comedy of Michael Price to keep us in stitches. Chamique Holdsclaw was charged for something called an "interrupted dribble" and the ball was turned over to New York.

Fans around me asked themselves "what is an interrupted dribble?" One hypothesized that it was a carry. Another said that it was probably in the back of the rulebook under the "etc." section. We all concluded that "interrupted dribble" was the call when you wanted to establish your importance as a referee - hey, who is going to prove that the dribble wasn't interrupted?

27) 5:45 in, things looked dim for the Dream. Atlanta had gone over the limit in fouls. The Liberty had a seven point lead, 54-47.

So, to distract the crowd, the Dream played the famous "iPod Karaoke" game. Two Dream players - Jennifer Lacy and Tamera Young - sang a song, or tried to, and some fan was asked to answer what the song was.

The song was Soulja Boy Tell 'Em's "Turn My Swag On". It was a give-away, as the song appears to be Tamera Young's favorite song.

27b) Speaking of Tamera Young - iPod Karaoke would be her only appearance in the game.

28) At 2:59, Erika de Souza was charged with an offensive foul - he third - and with the Liberty up 57-55, the crowd began letting their displeasure known with the state of refereeing in this matchup.

29) And then - it all came together.

Suddenly, the defensive switch was switched to full throttle, and the Dream began playing as complete a defensive game as you can imagine, sparked by Angel McCoughtry who had two steals. McCoughtry scored a lay-up with 44 seconds left in the third quarter to finally give the Dream back the lead, 61-59. With 22 seconds left, Erika de Souza would hit one of two free throws, and with 0.9 seconds left, McCoughtry would steal the ball from Ashley Battle to preserve a 62-61 lead for the Dream at the end of the third quarter.

30) The Liberty had turned the ball over 8 times in the third quarter for 10 points. Atlanta, however, wasn't going to let New York off the mat, not just yet.

Literally - in the space of one minute of play - Angel McCoughtry stole the ball four times from Liberty players. Three times, the victim was poor Essence Carson.

Those four steals accounted for six Dream points. By the end of Angel Mccoughtry's Magic Minute, the Dream had a 74-64 lead over the Liberty and the crowd was in ecstacy.

31) Up 74-68, Marynell Meadors made an inexplicable substitution - Chamique Holdsclaw, who was doing really well, was substituted for Coco Miller. That one left us scratching our heads.

Miller, however, would score the next Dream basket and Sancho Lyttle - who had four personal fouls - scored a couple of free throws to give the Dream a 79-68 lead with 4:54 left.

32) New York, however, was determined to fight their way out of that hole. They wanted that season sweep, and they wanted it bad. They went on a 6-0 run to close the game to 79-74 with 3:22 left. During the run, Lyttle picked up her fifth personal foul.

One of the most egregious sins - a 3-point attempt by Iziane Castro Marques with three New York defenders in front of her and no Dream player under the basket.

33) With 2:25 again, Michael Price came out for his final bow of the night. After some colliding under the New York basket, Sancho Lyttle stepped over a fallen New York player. It was what you call a "slow step over" - not trying to step on her, but just trying to get out of the fallen player's way to get to the other end of the floor.

Price hit Lyttle with her sixth personal foul. Lyttle was out of the game. (Price will be at the Hah Hah Hut when he's not refereeing WNBA games. Two-drink minimum.)

34) The Dream, however, were not to be denied. McCoughtry's lay up with 1:31 to go put the score 86-76. However, Shameka Christon rolled off five straight points - basket + free throw + basket. With slightly under a minute, the score was 86-81 Atlanta. Twenty seconds later, Christon would drive to the basket and the Liberty cut Atlanta's lead to two possessions, 87-83 with 38.5 seconds to go.

35) New York wanted the ball back, and fouled McCoughtry on the in-bounds play. The Dream - which has been having trouble with its free throws recently - hit both shots to take an 89-83 lead.

36) Thirty-one seconds left. The Libery have the ball, and need to score.

You'd need to hit freeze-frame on your DVD to determine what happened next.

Christon attempts jump shot from 20 plus feet.
Janel McCarville gets the rebound. She tries to hit the bucket from point blank range.
Then, McCarville gets her own rebound. Once again, point blank range against a swarm of Dream bodies.
McCarville rebounds it, sees that the Dream are in full control of the point, and passes it out to Christon on the perimeter.
Christon misses.
Loree Moore gets the rebound. She kicks it out to Essence Carson who is also on the perimeter.
Carson misses.

This time, Chamique Holdsclaw gets the rebound.

The clock has gone from 29.9 seconds to 0.9 seconds. There's nothing left to the game. The Claw hangs on, and the Dream have their first victory - every - against the Liberty.

The Liberty turned the ball over 26 times. The Dream defense and Angel McCoughtry were a major part of that. And that Dream defense in the final thirty seconds was nothing short of astonishing.

Great game. I don't know if I'll do a statistical post-mortem today, though. Maybe tomorrow.


Q McCall said...

McCoughtry has been putting up some nice stat lines recently, though I have not watched her games...

What do you think is happening for her? Playing with different combinations? Finally figuring out the system? More consistent time? Or are the stats deceiving me?

pt said...

There's a blog post that I found at the APBR message board called Braess's Paradox and the Ewing Theory that states that a player will be more efficient the less they're used.

I think part of why McCoughtry is so good is:

a) she's not being used a lot, so teams don't actively plan against her - this increases her efficiency on the court
b) she's a rookie and the WNBA hasn't figured her out yet, and
c) she has an implacable will to win and is a great defender.