Sunday, August 9, 2009
The last time the Dream defeated the Sky was on July 5th, 2008. The Dream had started the season with 17 losses - a WNBA record - but got their first win at home against the Sky 91-84. Since then, we have been 0-and-4 against Chicago, which apparently harbors some sort of grudge. Come on, Chicago, just let it go. Unless we meet the Sky in the playoffs, we will not play the Sky again until 2010 - this was our last chance this year; they swept us in the 2009 regular season.
A few notes from the game:
1) Carol Ross continues working with the players, but tonight she wasn't doing much other than feeding them the ball. Next year, there can only be one WNBA head coach and one assistant coach per team. (On the bench, that is...there can be all sorts of unofficial assistant coaches but they won't be allowed to sit on the bench.)
Let's assume that Marynell Meadors moves to general manager and Carol Ross takes over as head coach in 2010. The other two Dream assistants are Fred Williams and Sue Panek. So who stays, and who goes?
2) School starts Monday in Atlanta. I don't know how this is going to affect attendance, but there you go.
3) A message board poster once said that Erika de Souza is very emotional, but she's always struck me as very cool on the court. However, this was the first time that I've seen de Souza frustrated. She was practicing her mid-range jumper and she just couldn't get it to fall. Angrily, she lept in the air and stomped her feet like a frustrated five-year-old.
4) Iziane Castro Marques, meanwhile, was working on her 3-pointers. She was a lot better from the left side of the basket than the right side. I don't know how she is from the top or the arc, but I saw Castro Marques nail 10 3-pointers in a row. On nine of them, it was "nothing but net". It was fascinating to watch.
Meanwhile, the only member of Sky who worked out for very long before the game was Brooke Wyckoff.
5) Maybe someone who has played ball or coached it can answer this question: why does it seem so hard to get players to do calisthenics? I've seen this for both home and visiting teams. Each player seems to take the warm up with different degrees of seriousness. I can understand why Chamique Holdsclaw didn't want to flex - her knees aren't great and after the game she said she had felt pain during the shoot-around. (Thankfully, her doctor said it was a false alarm.) Other players, however, seem to give flexibility perfunctory attention.
6) It appears that Tamera Young has abandoned the two-pigtail look. I think the era of Pigtail Power might be dead. Since she hadn't been playing, clearly something new was in order to change her luck, and she appeared in the pre-game workouts wearing straight hair.
7) Michael Brown from the Suwanee Sports Academy sang the National Anthem. He did a nice job.
8) Tonight was "Family Fun Night". Someone told me that tickets had been given to a lot of summer camp participants. You could identify them easily - they would all sit together in clumps, wearing multicolored T-shirts.
9) Starters for the Sky: Canty, Dupree, Perkins, Wyckoff, Fowles.
Startes for the Dream: Lehning, Castro Marques, Lyttle, de Souza, Holdsclaw.
10) Before the game, Angel McCoughtry was awarded the WNBA Rookie of the Month award by Marynell Meadors. You can't say that McCoughtry hasn't been doing good things for the Dream, and the award proves it.
11) For the announcements, they didn't bother to lower the house lights, but they brought out the running lights. Every time Angel McCoughtry is announced, Chamique Holdsclaw pretends to push her and McCoughtry flops to the floor. I don't quite get it; it must be an in-joke. Either that, or The Claw is teaching McCoughtry how to fine-tune the methods of a flop.
12) With just 1:22 into the first quarter, Shalee Lehning picked up her second personal foul. The first one was off a Jia Perkins rebound, the second one was on a Dominique Canty shooting attempt. Marynell Meadors was forced to bring Coco Miller in off the bench.
13) Atlanta had a lot of foul trouble early on. By 6:27 in the first quarter, they had already picked up their fourth team foul. Both teams were struggling, but the score was virtually tied. Part of the problem was Chicago's slow start shooting - they started the game 3-for-10 in field goal shooting.
However, Atlanta managed to keep from fouling for the next three minutes or so. Jia Perkins hit a pair of free throws that tied the score 10-10 with 3:38 to go. It looked like Erika de Souza and Sylvia Fowles were having a real battle under the basket.
14) The Sky were caught napping in the first when Erin Thorn made a jump shot and missed it. I'm sure that the Sky were so sure that the shot would go in that all five players headed back to the defensive end, giving Erika de Souza an easy rebound. De Souza would have eight first-quarter rebounds.
15) One could see both Marynell Meadors and Carol Ross yelling out instructions to the Dream. Candice Dupree tied the score 16-16 with 13.4 seconds left, giving Ivory Latta a chance for a quarter-ending 3-pointer. But she missed, and the score was tied.
16) Interesting first-quarter stat: Chicago committed no personal fouls in the first quarter. Despite Atlanta hitting 40 percent of their field goal attempts, the Sky were at the free throw line 7 times in the first quarter. The Dream would not visit the free throw line until 10:27 into the game.
17) Iziane Castro Marques started the second quarter with two baskets in the second quarter to put the Dream on top 21-16. Chen Nan of the Sky lost the ball to Ivory Latta (it would be easy for Chen Nan to lose Ivory Latta), and Latta stole the ball and made the running lay in. The Dream were up 24-18.
18) Then, disaster struck, and the name of that disaster was Erin Thorn. Chicago started an 11-0 run, with nine of those 11 points being scored by Erin Thorn. It was an incredible display by one player.
How was Erin Thorn able to score 9 out of 11 points in three minutes? Part of it was that Thorn had simply entered "the Zone", where no shot you take can miss. Part of it was that Iziane Castro Marques was supposed to be guarding Thorn, and defense has never been Castro Marques's strong suit.
Our lead disappeared. Formerly up 24-18 we found ourselves down 29-26. Thorn now had 13 points.
19) McCoughtry only hits 22.2 percent of the 3-point shots she makes. So why does she keep shooting them?
20) I saw a couple of signs in the audience: "Go #9 Coco Miller" - okay, that tells me who the people were who wanted to give Miller the lion's share of point guard minutes. The other sign simply read "Let's Go Dream". I can't disagree.
21) This left the Dream and the Sky the right to fight it out for the halftime lead. The Sky slowly began to put distance between themselves and Atlanta. Down 31-30, the Sky's defense forced four Atlanta turnovers. Those led to at least 5 points, and the Sky were up 42-36 going into halftime.
22) Halftime: Chicago had recovered their shooting touch. They were now shooting better than the Dream. (16-33 vs. 15-33). They were winning the battle of the rebounds, and Erin Thorn had 15 points. Erika de Souza had 9 points and 9 rebounds.
23) I was busy chatting during halftime, so I didn't see the dancers. There appeared to be some male dancers in pink shirts; I wasn't paying attention. A friend said, "I'd like to call myself a progressive sister, but I wouldn't let my son do that for a living." Maybe it was just the color of the shirts. It wouldn't bother me if my son were a dancer; at least he'd be around beautiful women for a living.
The other halftime performance was by the Flight Velocity Crew, a trampoline-and-basketball act. I've seen them once, and they're certainly good, but they don't bear much repeat viewing. After you've seen a guy bounce off a trampoline and dunk a basket, there are only so many times you can watch it before you are no longer surprised.
My suggestion: let spectators volunteer to try it. Just make sure they sign the medical waiver first.
24) Chicago occasionally had problems getting their offense going - they were called for what was at least the second 24-second violation of the game in the third. (A 24-second violation is where a team does not make a shot in the 24 seconds allotted. Failure to do so is to turn over the ball.)
25) In the third quarter, the Dream's problems had not yet ended. Down 47-40, the Sky sparked another 9-0 run on us. The Sky had managed to force the Dream to play their game and had managed to stop both the Dream's interior game and the ability of Dream guards to slash to the basket. I believe Steven Key said somewhere that the goal for the game was to force the Dream's guards into the perimeter and keep them there.
It looked about as bad for the Dream as it could look. Miller's second personal foul with 5:23 remaining already put the Dream over the limit. The Dream were already down 53-40 and the Dream managed to fall behind by sixteen points, 56-40. McCoughtry was still trying the magic 3-pointer that wouldn't fall. Brooke Wyckoff stole the ball out of Ivory Latta's hands. The Dream just looked punch less.
At that time, the attendance was announced: 5,474 in attendance. I believe - but can't prove - that that was the lowest announced attendance ever for a Dream game.
Maybe the Sky isn't a draw. Maybe it's the roadwork on Southbound I-85 that is scaring people off. Maybe it was those misleading articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that implied that the Dream was two seconds away from being turned into an off-Broadway musical. Maybe it's the fact that school starts on Monday and parents went elsewhere with their kids. "At least," I muttered, "the people not watching the game in person can't see this." Then I remember the 6,000 or so that were watching it on WNBA Live Access.
26) The Dream struggled in the bottom of the third. Erika de Souza picked up her fourth personal foul to the sound of loud booing from the crowd - at least they were still in the game. The Dream woke up from its languor and started to play some ball. Ivory Latta shot a 3-pointer. Jennifer Lacy hit a basket and Ivory Latta capped a couple of free throws at the end to bring Chicago's lead down to a single digits again, 62-54 going into the final frame. (And Angel McCoughtry had picked up her 4th personal foul.)
27) With 1:05 to go in the third quarter, Tamera Young finally made a reappearance. Her last appearance in a Dream game was during garbage time in our blowout of the Phoenix Mercury. Meadors had run out of options and was forced to take Young out of the doghouse.
27b) Some Atlanta Dream fans have a new name for Philips Arena - "the Doghouse", because so many Dream players end up there at one time or another.
28) In the fourth quarter, the Sky managed to get the lead back into double-digits. For the third and the fourth quarters, it seemed like the Sky had simply nailed the basket shut on Sancho Lyttle. With 6:47 to go, the Sky led 73-62 and I'm sure that Sylvia Fowles and company were thinking about getting a nice hamburger after the game.
29) And then, the Dream simply decided "we ain't going out like that" - as Cypress Hill might put it. The Dream went on a 11-0 run of their own, which was sparked by two things:
a) The fact that the Sky had just hit the four foul limit and any infractions were going to send the Atlanta Dream to the free throw line, and
b) Tamera Young's appearance on the iPod Challenge. Little Smooth sang "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. Her attempt to hit notes in a register so low it would have made Barry White envious must have struck fear into the Sky. "Anything! We'll give back the lead, just make her stop singing!"
30) During the run, the crowd was on its feet, screaming "DEFENSE! DEFENSE!" Defense wasn't just a word either. For four minutes, the Sky were held scoreless, despite some questionable calls by the referees, such as
a) Fowles absolutely clobbering Lyttle under the basket. And of course, with Lyttle lying on the floor in agony....Lyttle is the one charged with the personal foul.
b) With the breakup of a play, the ball rolled into Chicago's back court. Both Young and a Chicago player chased after the ball, but the ball rolled out of bounds past the end line before either could get to it. So guess who was charged with touching the ball? You got it.
31) With 2:52 left in the fourth, Young found McCoughtry with a killer pass to end the run and tie the score 73-73. The crowd was on its feet. Maybe the faithful fans of the Powder Blues would see an astonishing comeback...and this time, it would belong to the Dream.
32) However, the Dream could just not get the ball to fall into the basket. Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza found the basket nailed shut by the Sky. The Sky creaked out to a 78-75 lead with 35.4 second left. However, Tamera Young found Angel McCoughtry again to close the score to 78-77 with 26.1 seconds left.
33) The Sky were just horrible at free throws in the last could of minutes. The Dream needed to foul the Sky to get the ball back, and we sent Jia Perkins to the line. Perkins only hit one of her two free throws to make it a 79-77 Sky game and a basket would send the game into overtime.
However, Perkins got her revenge. She stole the ball from Ivory Latta with 14 seconds left and the only way for us to get it back was to foul Chicago again. Angel McCoughtry would have to steal the ball - which she attempted - or at least commit a foul while doing so. It was her sixth foul of the game. McCoughtry had fouled out and we no longer had her defense.
34) With 11.3 seconds left, Perkins hit both of her free throws. It was an 81-77 game and we needed something magic to happen. The goal was to give the ball to a 3-pointer shooter, and this time, Iziane Castro Marques found Ivory Latta, who made an attempt...
...and it went in! 81-80 with 3.7 seconds left! But the ball would go back to Chicago. We would be forced to send them to the free throw line, and pray for at least one miss.
35) Candice Dupree was send to the charity stripe. The first shot...a miss. The second shot...another miss! But it would be Jia Perkins who got the critical rebound, and a quick foul by Tamera Young sent Perkins to the line again.
36) Perkins's first free throw? A hit. The score was 82-80 Chicago. Perkins missed the second free throw. The ball was rebounded by Erika de Souza, but with less than 0.7 seconds left there was simply no time to get the shot off in time....
...we had lost again. Our last two losses to Chicago were decided by a grand total of three points. But as they say, "almost doesn't cut it in horseshoes and hand grenades". We could hold our heads up high during the comeback, but a loss is a loss is a loss.
The post-mortem for the game will probably be tomorrow.