Sunday, September 6, 2009

32/2009 - Mercury 100, Dream 82

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is honored at the game. (Thanks to @atlantadream.)

WNBA Live Access seems to be a 50-50 proposition - at least for me. Last night, it was was up for about 30 percent - I got the entire first quarter, but only small pieces of the subsequent quarters. I hung in as best as I could, watching the box score update. What there is, there is.

1) The audio began with a bleed-through - there were two different sound feeds coming out on audio. One sounded like Kevin Ray, the announcer for the Mercury. The other seemed to be two guys talking about college football. This might be the "emergency back up" announcer that every WNBA is required by law to have - actually, I'm just kidding. In the event that the announcer passes out or is otherwise incapacitated, the mike is probably passed to a random passer-by.

2) Atlanta's starters: Lyttle, McCoughtry, de Souza, Castro Marques and Lehning.
Phoenix's starters: when Phoenix announces its starters, they have a theme. Britney Spears's "Circus" plays overhead and each of the players on the Jumbotron is announced, with a circus-like poster next to each player:

"The Greatest Coe on Earth" - Le'coe Willingham
"Tan-Tastic" - Tangela Smith
"The Mique Show" - Temeka Johnson
"The Ring Leader" - Cappie Pondexter
"The Amazing Taurasi" - Diana Taurasi

3) Attendance: looked pretty good. Seeing as how there is now all kinds of competition - college football, school, etc, any attendance is good attendance.

4) WNBA Live Access announced the "X-Factor" - namely, that no one in Phoenix sits until the Mercury scores. If you're a Mercury fan (or Dream fan), this is actually not unique - the Seattle Storm does the same thing, and I don't know who came up with it first. If we had had this in Atlanta last year, we would all have suffered deep vein thrombosis.

5) Warm ups: I thought I caught Angel McCoughtry doing something akin to Soulja Boy's "Bird Walk" while warming up - although she might have just been trying to warm up her tendons.

6) Iziane started the game with a drive to the basket that ended up with her point-blank at the basket...and missing. However, Atlanta started out well. We scored the first four points. We took an 8-6 lead and hope was high that this would be a game where the Dream could be competitive.

7) Then, our lead disappeared. Phoenix, knowing that Atlanta was playing a back-to-back, came up with the world's simplest strategy: run. The Mercury went on a 10-0 run, marked by all sorts of Atlanta miscuues. Sancho Lyttle couldn't cash in on a point-blank layup as the ball literally rolled off the rim. Shalee Lehning, finding no one to pass to, drove to the basket only to find Cappie Pondexter waiting for her.

Iziane Castro Marques threw the ball right into the hands of Tangela Smith. Lyttle, looking for someone near the basket, threw the ball over everyone's head and into the seats.

It was clear that the Dream were pretty tired. These were the stupid mistakes that come from fatigue.

8) Another part of Phoenix's strategy - double-team McCoughtry whenever possible. It worked, rendering McCoughtry ineffective in the first quarter. In the first six minutes, McCoughtry got off exactly one shot, and missed it. Within 6 1/2 minutes of McCoughtry taking the court, Marynell Meadors switched out McCoughtry for...Coco Miller.

All this would do is make the Mercury very happy. Phoenix followed with a 10-3 run that made me believe that Atlanta had decided to fold their tent and just go through the motions for the rest of the game. Meadors took the hand she was dealt and put Armintie Price in for Erika de Souza (no one will confuse those two players). With 4.7 seconds left on the clock, Price got to the line for two free throws. "Half" Price (because she shoots 50 percent at the line) lived up to the nickname I just gave her, hitting one out of two to leave Phoenix ahead 26-13 after the first quarter.

9) Looking at the first quarter stats, the Dream were only shooting 30 percent. Phoenix was 12-for-22 from the court and had four offensive rebounds to the Dream's two. It must have heartened any one watching.

10) And then...Live Access went out. Non compos mentis. This left me to watch the box score update for most of the second quarter.

I heard Kevin Ray say something about a "fever pitch" (in the brief clip of sound before the constant rebuffering) and if there was a fever, it came with a dallop of Snow. Michelle Snow. Of the first five shots that Atlanta took in the second quarter, she downed four of them. We got it down to less than 10 again, 30-21.

11) Phoenix fought back to take a 37-23 lead, increasing the Mercury lead to 14 points - the largest lead of the game of that time. However, Atlanta answered with an 11-0 run to close the game to within five points with 2:28 left in the quarter. Castro Marques crossed the 10 points border at the end of the first half with a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the second to close the game to 39-35. However, in the last 90 seconds the Mercury answered with a couple of baskets to take a 43-35 lead into halftime.

The Dream managed to increase its shooting percentage to 37.5 percent (15-for-40), but Phoenix was shooting 52.7 percent (19-for-36). Phoenix's shooting edge was enough to keep the lead.

12) I was distracted a litte bit by dishwasher duty - I have to contribute to keeping the place clean while our friends are in for the weekend. When I got back, the Phoenix front office was busy giving an award to Jackie Joyner-Kersee during "Women of Inspiration" Night. I've written about the basketball career of Jackie Joyner-Kersee before, so they clearly weren't honoring her for her pro basketball career.

It's a pity, because all Live Access would give me was still images of Jackie Joyner-Kersee and the occasional awarding of a plaque. I hope the honorees got more honor from the Phoenix crowd than they did from Live Access.

13) In the third, the Dream were committed to fight. Maybe they could give Phoenix a surprise. Phoenix started with a 7-0 run, but Atlanta answered with an 8-0 run of its own, capped with Iziane being fouled by Temeka Johnson while making a 3-pointer. Castro Marques would make all three free throws, and Phoenix led 50-45.

14) Then, Live Access came back again. It was 50-47 Phoenix and the tide of the Dream was about to breach the walls of the Mercury. Down 52-47, Castro Marques hit a 3-pointer that closed the gap to 52-50 - Phoenix's lead had been whittled down to one possession....

15) ...but it was not to last. Live Access went out again, and with it, any hope that the Dream could keep it close. Phoenix went on an 18-4 run. Meadors got rid of Shalee Lehning at put Ivory Latta in. Price was taken out and McCoughtry was brought in. The team took a timeout. Nothing helped.

By the end of the third quarter, Phoenix laid off of McCoughtry enough for her to take her obligatory 3-pointer. It went in. After 29 minutes of the game, Angel McCoughtry was finally on the score board. However, Phoenix carried a 74-61 lead into the fourth quarter.

Atlanta broke into the 40 percent range in shooting, but the Dream had 13 turnovers to the Mercury's seven. Phoenix was offensive rebounding just as well as Atlanta was. The shooting game had gone Phoenix's way.

16) What to say about the fourth quarter? I still wasn't getting Live Access (and when it did come in, I got about 30 seconds worth of game). The Mercury would keep its double-digit lead for the rest of the game. The Mercury's goal was simply to get the ball to Dewanna Bonner as much as possible. With Bonner and McCoughtry in a battle for Rookie of the Year, the goal of Phoenix was to help Bonner in the stats category.

The problem was that Atlanta was in no shape to put up a fight - either that, or Bonner is just that good. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the final outcome of the game had sank in. The biggest topics of discussion among fans in the fourth quarter:

a) Cappie Pondexter's hair, and
b) The fact that Shalee Lehning blocked a Temeka Johnson shot with 3:33 to go in the game. Temeka must have been shooting that shot from knee level.

17) With 2:31 to go, the Mercury got the lead back up to 16 points again. With 54 seconds to go, they had a 20 point lead off Dewanna Bonner's second free throw. Castro Marques hit a lay-up for Atlanta's final points. Each team exchanged 3-point attempts, and that was the end of the ball game.

As I had written earlier, I didn't expect us to win. I was expecting us to stay within 10 points, so I'm disappointed. But at least, it wasn't a 30-point blowout.

Okay. This one is in the books. The statistical post-mortem comes later.


Pusser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pusser said...

Shalee's block from knee-level? Please. Perhaps you don't pay attention to her play, but she's routinely down low, going for rebounds, and she's not a dwarf! I watched her in college, and she blocked shots from behind, in front, and from the side. Usually she stole the ball, too, but this time, was credited with only a block. Please. Give her her due, especially if you haven't watched it.

Rebecca said...

You mean the 5'2" Temeka Johnson, who's shorter than every player in the league except Shannon Bobbitt, and shorter than even most of the coaches? I think Fluffy Little Bunny blocked her once, and Bunny's officially 5'5".

Cathy said...

LiveAcess drives me nuts, too. I am in Seattle. Got so frustrated I posted to Twitter. The WNBA responded that it's a Seattle problem. Sounds like it's not. LiveAccess could create a HUGE fan base so should be a WNBA priority.

afoundingfan said...

This was only the Cardiac Kids' third double-digit loss this season. :)

pilight said...

What this game tells me is that we need The Claw on the court if we're going to make a run in the playoffs.