Saturday, September 19, 2009
"All right, who is to blame?"
I'm going to try to rush through this without much thought. I just want to wrap the season up as quickly as I can and not feel compelled to write very much about it. You gotta keep your head up, look straight ahead, and move on.
1) Sound carries very well in The Arena at Gwinnett Center. I got a chance to see Ivory Latta practicing, and as she heaved up 3-point attempts from various areas of the court, I could hear every grunt and occasionally, an "Oh Lord!"
2) I saw Kelly Miller in the audience with two people who looked like her Mom and her Dad. Kelly Miller, a guard for the Minnesota Lynx, was undoubtedly there to see her identical twin sister Coco Miller play. Kelly's season is over, so she had no other obligations. Soon, neither would Coco.
2a) She was talking with someone wearing a "Georgia Lady Dogs" T-shirt. I wonder how many Georgia Bulldogs womens' basketball team fans live in Duluth.
3) The Dream were practicing in WNBA Playoffs T-shirts. Yes, WNBA, I know that it's important to get the logo on everything, but a WNBA Conference Semi-Finals? I'd wait at least until the Conference Finals for such things.
4) I got to see Kara Braxton close up and personal. Looking at the jersey numbers on the Shock's practice sweats, it seems like the #45 is an ironed-on patch...which is starting to fade over time.
5) Working out with the Shock was Rick Mahorn (I was seated near the Shock's section.) Mahorn was wearing an old pair of grey shorts with his gut hanging out over them. I noticed that he has some sort of tattoo on his lateral left calf, but I couldn't make it out. If any tattoo experts or other taxidermists care to enlighten me on the meaning of Mahorn's tattoos, I'd be grateful.
6) More on sound carrying well in The Arena at Gwinnett Center - the 24-second buzzer will split your ears in half. The advantage, however, is that it's nice and cool in The Arena.
7) Katie Smith was all dressed up. Obviously, she wasn't playing. Let me be the first to say that Ms. Smith cleans up verrrrrry nicely. However, I'm married, so Ms. Smith is safe.
8) The Shock seemed to be taking its warmups very seriously. Usually, most teams will make a half-assed show of stretching, but the Shock were really into it. I couldn't see what was going on on the Dream's side of the court, but Carol Ross was working with the players again for the pre-game. I thought I also saw Sue Panek out there.
8b) If Williams or Panek disappears in the off-season, we'll know which one of the two shouted out "Kelly" to take those free-throws in Game One. There will only be one assistant coach for all WNBA teams in 2009; someone has to go to the back of the bus.
9) The Dream are still wearing their #5s. Once again, I saw #5 written on Sancho Lyttle's upper arm.
10) Someone named Sheena Brown sung the National Anthem. My prognosis was that she was okay. I give her a "C". Didn't embarrass herself, but nothing spectacular.
11) The Arena went pitch black for the player introductions. One thing that The Arena at Gwinnett Center doesn't have that makes a big difference is the Jumbotron. The Arena have two television screens at the opposite ends of the arena that are too small to really gather the crowd's attention.
The Dream played their intro music and clip - Beyonce's "Diva". In the dark - their section of the court wasn't lit during the intros - the Shock were jamming to the music and trying out their club moves.
12) Atlanta starters: Latta, Castro Marques, de Souza, Lyttle, McCoughtry
Detroit starters: Hornbuckle, Teasley, McWilliams, Ford and...
...Nolan. Yep, after suffering a concussion in Game One, either Nolan or her trainer decided she was all right to play in Game Two. Nolan was the last person to take the practice court, getting a very brief warm-up before the start of the game.
13) The first quarter seemed to start well for the Dream. We got off to a 4-0 lead. Our passing, however, wasn't that great. Alexis Hornbuckle hit a 3-pointer to put the Shock up for the first time 9-8. From there on it was back and forth until the Shock made a little run at the end of the first quarter to finish the quarter 23-19.
14) I counted no more that three bad calls against the Dream in that first quarter alone. A bad call against McCoughtry than sent Shavonte Zellous to the foul line, a foul against Michelle Snow on a legitimate block of a Kara Braxton shot attempt that sent Braxton to the line (where she missed both shots) and a foul against McCoughtry for what I felt was incidental contact.
Those bad calls gave Detroit four points. (4-for-6 from the free throw line.) Before Shock fans accuse me of whining, let me write that refereeing was not what lost Atlanta the game. However, the foul calling was...it was horrible. I feel really sad for the NBA that these guys are going to be allowed to call games.
15) At the end of the first quarter, McCoughtry had 10 of Atlanta's 19 points. Detroit was shooting 50 percent and the Dream was shooting under 40 percent. Deanna Nolan had eight points of her own.
16) In the second, Marynell Meadors had this (partial) lineup on the floor:
With all due respect to Ivory Latta's accomplishments in this game, that's not the lineup that strikes fear in anybody. On the other hand, this was when I first learned that Chamique Holdsclaw wasn't even dressed. We had nine active players, the Shock had nine active players and this was what it had come to.
17) McCoughtry picked up her third personal foul of the game with 7:17 left in the second quarters. That would bring in Miller for McCoughtry and partially contribute to the lineup you saw in #16, above.
The first part of the game slogged as no fewer seven free throw attempts took place before the McCoughtry foul. After the foul, Nolan sank two free throws for a 30-26 Detroit lead.
18) With the Latta-Price-Miller-De Souza lineup on the floor and the Shock up 33-26, the Dream went on an 11-4 run that saw Latta hit a 3-pointer and Coco Miller hit a long 2-point shot. The only player on Detroit's team to score during that run? Nolan. (Nolan played 37 minutes of the game.)
Even so, Atlanta's play still looked sloppy and unfocused. During one sequence, with the ball almost going out of bounds, Detroit managed to save the ball. Atlanta was caught unawares, and only a 24-second violation kept Detroit from adding two points.
19) Rick Mahorn was having a nice long chat with Referee Kevin Sparrock, riding him like a rented mule. Mahorn never shut up. Detroit learned this from Big Bill Laimbeer - ride the referees all game and play as hard as possible. Make the referees fear for their jobs if they call a bevy of (deserved) calls against Detroit, and force the officials to give you the benefit of the doubt lest the game degenerate into an endless march to the free-throw line.
As DTP at RebKell would say, "That's just hard-nosed basketball." It sure works for Detroit.
20) There was more questionable foul calling against Atlanta in the back half of the second quarter, but a lot of those were real judgment calls. Coco Miller hit a basket putting the Dream back in the lead, 39-37. With Atlanta back over the limit in fouls, Detroit caught up with Atlanta and took the lead 43-41 on a driving lay-up with 49 seconds left. Lyttle answered back with a basket five seconds later, and picked up the foul....
...but missed the free throw. Atlanta was having a horrible night at the free throw line. By now both teams were over the limit, and a pair of Crystal Kelly free throws put the Shock up 45-43. However, with eight seconds left Ivory Latta hit a 3-pointer to put the Dream up 46-45. Zellous got the ball back and attempted two shots, but could get neither to fall. Atlanta would carry its 46-45 lead into halftime.
21) So how did we look? In the score going into halftime, we looked fine. However, the score hid a lot of problems.
First, our rebounding:
Erika de Souza: 8 points, 1 rebound
Sancho Lyttle: 6 points, 1 rebound
Detroit had a 21-11 first half rebounding advantage. They were getting the defensive boards and overall getting the ball. The only reason were were in the game at all is that we were 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Second, free throw shooting. We had only hit 53 percent of our free throws.
We weren't concentrating. Our "system" - PG moves the ball up, hands to McCoughtry or Castro Marques and Lyttle/de Souza gets the rebound - was broken. We weren't getting rebounds. McCoughtry and Castro Marques had three personal fouls. Lyttle and de Souza didn't hit the boards. If it werne't for Ivory Latta's shooting and McCoughtry's big first quarter we'd be down and not up in the second.
22) Halftime entertainment was Star - the hardest working mascot in the WNBA - with two other unidentified mascots - performing at the Jonas Brothers. They were lip-synching to some nameless and tuneless Jonas Brothers song. I didn't think it was much of a show....
...until a group of about 15 young ladies rushed the court and the mascots fled from their screaming fans. Great punchline that we didn't see coming. A friend told me that the young ladies - many of whom wore headscarves - were members of a mostly Muslim basketball team in Atlanta.
The other part of the entertainment was the Super Dunk Team. Trampolines, basketball, dunking. A great show, but you can only see it once, and this was the third time I've seen it in two years. Maybe they should set the basketball on fire....
23) As the third quarter started, Detroit came out strong and we faltered. The went on a 10-0 run at one time, sparked by Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan. The Dream were called twice for traveling. Angel McCoughtry missed a comple of jumpers and De Souza missed from point-blank range.
During the run, Erika de Souza picked up her fourth personal foul. For three minutes, the Dream didn't score and it looked like shades of Game One. Meadors was forced to call a full time out. Also during the run, the opening strains of Green Day's "Brain Stew" were used as the Dream moved the ball up the court.
My mind is set on overdrive
The clock is laughing in my face
A crooked spin
My sense is dulled
Passed the point of delirium
24) Louis Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers was in the crowd. No one even knew who he was. Is he the dude that Armintie Price is going to be marrying?
25) During the run, however, McCoughtry picked up her first steal of the night - halfway through the third quarter. Another foul was called on Armintie Price - another dubious call which finally broke the back of the audience, which started booing loudly.
26) However, Detroit went over the limit with 3 1/2 minutes to go. Price, amazingly, hit both of her free throws. Latta drove to the basket...and then thirty seconds later, she was at the basket for an amazing drive and foul!
...and Latta missed the free throw. Michelle Snow, however would drive to the basket and pick up a foul. She hit both of her shots, the second putting Atlanta up 58-57.
27) Indeed, the most amazing thing about those last three minutes of the third quarter was Ivory Latta. Down 61-58, she hit a 23 foot 3-pointer with 51 seconds left to tie the Dream at 61-61.
28) What we didn't know was this would be the high water mark of Atlanta's 2009 season. (Our motto in 2008 - "Expect Great for Thirty Minutes.") Armintie Price had one smart move left - she fouled Detroit with 15 seconds left, knowing that the Dream had a free foul to give. However, Detroit scored the last five points of the third quarter and led 66-61 going into the final ten minutes.
29) Detroit was still outshooting the Dream 48 percent-43 percent after 30 minutes. Erika de Souza finally got some rebounds; Sancho Lyttle didn't. Iziane Castro Marques played seven minutes without scoring a point. Hell, without taking a shot. What the hell?
30) In the fourth quarter...
...well, what can you say about that fourth quarter? Detroit went 12-for-18. Atlanta went 6-for-18. Nothing but a bunch of missed shots.
31) In the crowd: Georgia Bulldogs head coach Andy Landers. Obviously there to say hello to the Miller sisters, and others.
32) Detroit continued its third quarter run to extend the lead to 70-61. The final game of iPod Karaoke for the 2009 season was played. It was Ivory Latta, making a wretched attempt at a song called "Knock Me Down". If there was anything the Dream got right, it was that the Shock couldn't Knock Ivory Down. But one player does not a team make.
33) The announced attendance was 4,780. Sounds about right (suitably inflated). Friday night game in a foreign arena when high school football is being played all over Georgia. At least The Arena at Gwinnett Center can make a small crowd look big.
The 4,780 attendance was the lowest attendance in Dream history. Maybe after Game One, the fans had seen enough. I heard that both WNBA Live Access and NBA-TV were glitch-filled all night. If true, consider yourselves lucky.
34) With 6:34 to go in the final quarter and Detroit up 72-63, Shavonte Zellous blocked an Angel McCoughtry jump shot. I guess Zellous said her piece about the potential Rookie of the Year.
35) With 5:31 left, Zellous would steal the ball from McCoughtry. The running layup made the score 79-65 in favor of Detroit. My friend looked at me and said, "That's the game, right there."
Atlanta looked listless, as if they just wanted to get this beating over with and go home. The winner of a Grand Hotel Promotion was announced on one of the screens at the far ends of the arena. He only looked mildly amused. Great.
36) McCoughtry hit an amazing 3-pointer in the corner as time expired to close the score to 79-68. Zellous answered with a 2-pointer just before a 24-second violation, and got the free throw to reset the score to 82-68.
37) The Shock drove forward. They led by 17 points on an Olayinka Sanni drive with about two minutes to go.
38) It was time for the Jam Cam. But the Jam Cam only looks good when you have a big screen. It just looked like a half-assed Jam Cam. And who wanted to Jam when you were down by 15+ in your final game of the season. Maybe the overhead should have played a funeral requiem.
39) The final moment of amusement left to be squeezed out of the 2009 Atlanta Dream season announced, "In for the Dream...Nikki Teasley."
I understand his confusion. At least he corrected himself.
40) The final points of the 2009 season for the Dream were scored by Jennifer Lacy. At the free throw line, she hit her first shot...but missed the second. Of course.
94-79 Shock. Teasley dribbled the final seconds of the game away and Atlanta's dream of a WNBA championship was finished.
Okay. I'm done. The final game writeup of the 2009 season is over. Thanks to everyone who read them.