Friday, August 21, 2009
"I'm taller than you! I'm taller than you!"
We've now won 7 out of 8 games, but not everything is happy in Atlanta Dream fandom, with the Lehning/Latta wars still turned up to "11" on a scale from 1-to-10. ("You young whippersnappers! I would have let Marynell Meadors send five kindergarteners out if they could have won five games in a season!")
While the fans were arguing, the Dream was going on about its business. The victory over the Silver Stars marked the first time that the Dream have swept a team during the season - ever. The win put us at 14-11 and still clearly in second place. Furthermore, the Dream still have two games left in our homestand before the brutal part of our schedule where we finish the regular season with 6 out of 7 road games.
Here's what you missed last night:
1) As I was walking to my seat, I actually passed a Silver Stars player walking up the stairs. I didn't greet her, she didn't greet me because I didn't recognize her by sight. She was a white player with a stern-looking look on her face. It wasn't Ruth Riley or Becky Hammon; I would have recognized them.
2) Ross continues to work with players before the game: this time with Lyttle, Erika de Souza, and Lacy. Even Fred Williams was out there. And Sue Panek! This is a big difference from last year, when it seemed that no body really got out there and worked on anything before gametime except for Betty Lennox. Meadors was out there, but she took a seat on the opposite side of the court from practice, drinking everything in.
3) The Dream were wearing orange T-shirts that read "BUZZKILL". I have no idea what "Buzzkill" stood for. Is it a sponsor? Is it a charity? Or did one of the coaches decide to create a motivational T-shirt. If so, I like the idea - the Dream might not be the best WNBA team, but we'll be the "buzzkill" for a lot of teams this year.
4) I saw an older woman wearing a #25 Hammon jersey. She looked old enough to be a season ticket holder; our STH's tend towards gray. A few minutes later, I saw a couple of young women wearing Hammon #25s as well. Clearly, the Hammonite base extends to the ATL.
5) Becky Hammon. Then, Hammon started to warm up. I counted the number of consecutive 3-pointers she hit. She hit 17 straight. I swore, "if we leave Hammon open, we'll pay for it."
6) On the other hand, I saw a fan wearing the pink Shalee Lehning #5 jersey from the previous game. That jersey was signed by Lehning, but it didn't end up in a glass case - the fan that won it was wearing it.
You go, girl.
7) The national anthem singer tonight was Audra Martin. There was a friend from out-of-town who attended the game, and I spent a lot of time chatting with him. Not much random observation. I don't know how well Audra Martin.
He said that he had heard that the Dream had a 5-year contract with Philips Arena. Hopefully, that means that the Dream will be there for five years. However, the Arena at Gwinnett Center had lost the Georgia Force with the folding of the Arena Football League and supposedly, the Arena wanted a tenant to replace the Force. Interesting.
8) The Dream starters: Lehning, Castro Marques, Lyttle, de Souza, Holdsclaw
The Silver Stars starters: Johnson, Young, Wauters, Lawson-Wade, Hammon
9) The Dream brought out what I call the "running lights". I like the running lights; it looks like they're going to be a permanent thing. If we could afford extra smoke, I'd like that too.
10) Noting that Lehning followed Bird around everywhere in the last game, she stayed away from Becky Hammon. Clearly, the Dream were going to start the game in the zone defense, where everyone guards a certain area of the court. Lehning's first shot was what I like to call a "high school miss" - where you shoot and the ball hits the rim from below.
We got off to a 8-4 lead. Then, San Antonio put in what I like to call the "Twin Towers", Ann Wauters and Ruth Riley.
11) This was enough to spark a 10-0 Silver Stars run. Riley was left wide open by the Dream defense and Lehning was forced to foul her. Holdsclaw didn't look all that great, missing her first three shots. Iziane Castro Marques's shot bounced inside the rim and went right back out again.
12) We then put in Angel McCoughtry. Or rather, Meadors did. McCoughtry's first score was a steal from Becky Hammon that led to her scoring all by her lonesome. Less than a minute later, Lehning found McCoughtry and she scored again. We were on a 6-0 run (really an 8-0 run as we scored first in the second). The score was 14-14 at the end of the first, and Meadors must have said, "I think I'll try this Angel McCoughtry person. See if she works out or not."
12a) Minor note. We might have scored again at the end of the first if Iziane Castro Marques didn't hang onto the ball with 2.5 seconds left, and then get the call for traveling.
13) The start of the second was tough. We still led, but could never get more than two possessions in front of the Silver Stars. Snow put a nasty block on an Ann Wauters (!) jump shot, and Snow looked like she was going to roar like a lioness.
However, San Antonio tied it 23-23 and a layup by Lawson-Wade put the Silver Stars in the lead again, 25-23.
14) Now it was a one possession game. Becky Hammon woke up and scored her first basket in the second quarter.
I turned to my friend. "We must be doing something right to keep Becky Hammon from scoring."
"Mark my words," he said, "she'll have 20 points by the time the night is over."
15) Hammon is known as a great shooter, but what makes her so effective is that she's a great ball handler like Chamique Holdsclaw. She can come off either hand, and she has this bizarre reverse spin move layup that my friend called a "cobra". Probably because by the time that you learn that you've just got bitten, you're dead.
16) The Dream brought Armintie Price into the game in the second quarter. Looks like the Dream plan to use her.
17) McCoughtry, meanwhile, was laying into San Antonio like a pinball to bumpers. If there was even a six-inch gap in a lane, McCoughtry said, "I'm going to hit that". She worked her way through San Antonio's defenders time after time after time. In order to stop McCoughtry, they would have needed three extra players, and the refs weren't going to cooperate.
Atlanta took off on a 7-0 run that broke the logjam and put us up 38-31. San Antonio had hit a rough patch. Megan Frazee was left wide open but it didn't matter because Frazee missed the three. Hammon drove to the basket on a fantastic dribble but the ball wouldn't fall in from four feet away.
18) Latta was now in the game. The last 1:22 of the second half pretty much characterize Latta's 2009 season and her relationship with Meadors.
Latta moved up the ball and worked the clock down to its last seconds. We were getting really antsy. The ball ended up in Latta's hands outside the arc and just as time expired, she shot - one of those "shoot or we have a 24-second violation" shots. It went in, out of 1/2 practice and 1/2 luck.
The next time the Dream got the ball, Latta uncorked too early - she had about 7 seconds left on the clock, the ball clanged off the rim and went into the hands of Vickie Johnson. Johnson raced down the court with Atlanta's defense behind her and only Ivory Latta in front of her. Latta was forced to foul. Instead of having an eight point lead at halftime (assuming we set up the shot), Johnson hits two free throws on Latta's foul and we lead 41-37 at the half.
That was when Meadors should have just told Latta, "Just go take a shower, because I won't put you back in for the rest of the game." It would have been a lot nicer than leaving Latta on the bench. Not a good sequence from Latta, but a harsh punishment.
19) The Silver Stars were only shooting 37 percent in the first half. Furthermore, San Antonio only hit 1 out of 10 3-pointers in the first half. The Dream shot 44 percent.
Angel McCoughtry scored 13 points in the second quarter and led all scorers with 17 first-half points. Ann Wauters led San Antonio with 11 points and Hammon had been held to six points. Sancho Lyttle had eight points and six rebonds, and Erika de Souza had 6 points and 9 rebounds. I figured one of the two of them would have a double-double before the game is over.
20) The 2009 Power of Girls Mentoring program was honored. It was a great idea for a program - a program to teach self-image, communication, confidence and community service. I hope that the DFO decides to do it again next year; I think that the Dream's community service efforts this year have been laudable.
21) Guess who was at the game? Katie Feenstra Mattera. Trust me, no one can miss Katie Mattera. She was with her husband, wearing a maroon top, jeans, and a brown leather purse. She looked styling, and very happy.
Supposedly, Art Eckman's play-by-play demeanor perked up considerably. He had learned that his Katie was in the house.
22) At the beginning of the second half, Holdsclaw didn't come out. Some of the fans were puzzled. You notice that.
It was still a two-possession game, but at least we led it. Iziane hit her first basket of the game in the third quarter, but we were still wide open in some cases. Hammon hit a wide open jumper on us.
23) However, McCoughtry was still out there on us. She was getting fouled, hitting free throws, and scoring baskets. As we were mid-third quarter McCoughtry had 22 points.
24) There was some sort of weird free throw shooting contest from a native Brazilian who was found in the audience. He missed every shot but his last one.
The Dream announcer thanked him for playing. He had to get the last word in. "Hi, Erika!" Clearly, he was a very happy man.
25) Something much have happened and Iziane heard there was another Brazilian in the building. THe Dream went on an 8-0 run. Iziane basket. Then Iziane 1-on-3 for a basket. Then another Iziane basket. Then Angel scored her 24th point on a basket. The Dream were now up 59-49.
We really should invite more Brazilians to see the Dream.
26) The attendance was announced at 5,848. My friend and I were so shocked our mouths were hanging open. If there were 5,848 people in that crowd then half of them were at the concession stands, 'cause we didn't see 'em.
27) The Dream kept on roll-roll-rolling along. Angel McCoughtry blocked a Becky Hammon 3-point attempt. Both teams went over the limit in fouls and from there on it was the Great March to the Foul Line which is seen in such situation. The Silver Stars were getting dinged with offensive foul calls and at one point, the Dream led 69-51.
An 18 point lead! No WNBA team has ever lost an 18 point lead this year! Surely, this game was in the bank! We finished the 3rd quarter 71-57 and had every reason to feel confident.
28) Now, it was time for the San Antonio comeback. They had Hammon and Frazee out there, and you know they can shoot threes. Even Ann Wauters, under the right circumstances, can hit a 3-pointer. Michelle Snow got a basket on a roll and a prayer, but Frazee followed with a 3-pointer and cut our lead to 10, 73-63 with over nine minutes to go.
29) The iPod Challenger singer last night was Shalee Lehning. She sang something by Britney Spears that ended, "I'm not that innocent!" Suuuuurrrrrrrre.
30) From then on, it was a fight. Sophia Young, Ann Wauters and Becky Hammon were determined to pour it on. Hammon, in particular, was on fire in the final quarter, scoring 13 points.
Angel McCoughtry was back in though, and the fans were going to get their money's worth.
31) Angel had 32 points and the Dream lead 86-74. My friend asked, "Is she going to get her number?" Her number being #35, or 35 points.
The frustration was showing from the women in the black jerseys. Becky Hammon grappled Armintie Price despite the fact that Atlanta was not over the limit yet. Price shoots about 52 percent from the free throw line; it might have been worth something if Atlanta was over the limit. But we weren't.
32) A loose ball foul by Shalee Lehning put Atlanta over the limit in fouls at 3:18 to go. It was now time for the Dream to hold their breath.
33) We sent Hammon to the line for two: she hit both of them.
We sent Young to the line for two: she hit both of them. It was an 88-78 game with 2:39 to go.
34) Armintie Price finally got a chance to go to the line with 2:22 go.
The first free throw was an airball. The second one hit the backboard, but not the basket. Coming to Atlanta has not improved Price's free throw shooting skill. She needs to be taught how to shoot granny-style, which is a more accurate way of shooting that no one - man or woman - will use because it looks too wimpy.
35) The Brazilian fans started waving the Brazilian flag. I should have started singing: "Ouviram do Ipiranga as margens plácidas/De um povo heróico o brado retumbante...!"
36) With less than two minutes left, McCoughtry was starting to look gassed for the first time in the game. She missed a couple of free throws - either would have given her her "number" and followed it up with her fifth personal foul on a Hammon layup.
Hammon hit the free throw. It was now an 89-84 game with 1:24 remaining.
37) What followed was nothing short of amazing. McCoughtry tried the shot with 1:05 remaining - and she missed it. It was her final shot of the night....
...but Castro Marques got the rebound. (That Brazilian flag working its magic.) She let the clock wind down...slowly...slowly...down to 39.9 seconds before she shoots....
...and she misses. But she gets the rebound! Now, San Antonio has to foul.
38) Lehning hits both free throws. (She's only shooting 77 percent from the field.) It's a three possession game, 91-84, and San Antonio takes a time out.
39) On the next play, they get the ball to Megan Frazee, who tries a 3-pointer. Nada. Lehning gets the rebound this time, and San Antonio fouls her.
Both shots go in with 22.4 seconds in the game. 93-84 Dream. This game is essentially over. Ann Wauters finally finds the 3-point shot, but there's only 11.3 seconds left the game. The ball is dribbled down, time expires...and the Dream win another won.
Coming up soon, tomorrow, whenever - the statistical post-mortem.