Friday, September 4, 2009

Atlanta vs. Sacramento, Friday September 4

The Dream practice in Sacramento yesterday.

Who: The Atlanta Dream (16-14) take on the Sacramento Monarchs (11-20).

The Dream have a cast including Rookie of the Month Angel McCoughtry (12/2) and Sancho Lyttle (13.2 ppg, 7.7 prg). Iziane Castro Marques (14.3 ppg) leads the team in scoring. Nicole Powell (16.1 ppg) leads the Monarchs in scoring and Rebekkah Brunson (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) leads Sacramento in rebounding.

What: The final of two games this year against the Monarchs. The Dream defeated the Monarchs 103-83 in Atlanta on August 25th.

Where: ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California.

When: Tipoff is 10 pm Eastern on Friday, September 4th. The game is available on WNBA Live Access.

Why: What a difference just a couple of weeks makes. John Whisenant, coach of the Sacramento Monarchs, was just dusting off his resume when Sacramento rolled into Atlanta and got thumped by twenty points. This was a man who supposedly camped out for a month in a hotel in Maryland when trying to recruit Moses Malone for the University of New Mexico. (He failed.) You can't say that Whisenant isn't dedicated, and it shows with the Monarchs - the Monarchs are 6-4 in their last 10 games, 5-16 in their first 21. Monarch is playing like a team that doesn't care that it's at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Atlanta's last four games are a pair of back-to-backs - and after tonight, they fly into Phoenix tomorrow to take on the Mercury, a team they beat 106-76 at Philips and might be itching for revenge. In which case, a win here for the Dream would be fantastic. If Atlanta triumphs, it's the Dream's 17th win of the year, which guarantees at least a .500 finish for the season and virtually assures a playoff spot. Not bad for a team that finished 4-30 in 2008.

Furthermore, Chamique Holdsclaw, the Dream's leader, recently had arthroscopic surgery. If the Dream can beat Sacramento, it makes it less likely that Holdsclaw will be needed to play on the 11th or 12th and she can rest until a possible post-season.

Iziane Castro Marques has jumped into the role of the Dream's leading scorer since Chamique Holdsclaw is day-to-day with a knee injury. Castro Marques has quite literally shot her way into this position - last year she shot 35 percent from the field; this year she's shooting 42 percent. She's racked up 26, 30, 19, 12, and 27 points in her last five games and if the pattern continues expect another 20 point game from Iziane.

Sacramento backup guard Kara Lawson is out for the season. In the end, who finishes where might depend on injuries over the final four games of the season.

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