Saturday, June 5, 2010
"Arthur, we're not always this bad."
"I believe you. I'm still waiting for MY ring."
All right. I'm going to have to revisit this one, but God knows what I'll write about it. It's just one of those memories that you don't want to return to, when you were at some teen function and someone insulted you to uproarious laughter and you came up with the perfect comeback - two years later. In this case, it was the Sky that insulted the Dream and the Dream had no comeback, just shriveling away.
My observations, again:
1) Tonight was "Green Night" for the Dream. The last time we had a Green Night at Philips Arena we beat the holy heck out of the Phoenix Mercury 106-76. Maybe we needed the exact same color of green, but hey, we were 1-0 during our attempts to improve environmental awareness, and we were 1-6 all time against the Sky. If the Green Mojo was going to work, it would be for this game.
2) My first concern was Iziane Castro Marques. Usually, the Dream do some sort of shootaround before the game, one of those weaves where a player shoots, then runs over to a forming line of players on the opposite side of the court to make her next shot. Most players jog through these drills, trying to get some pep going.
Iziane was walking through drill. (This will not be a "practice" rant that most NBA fans have used regarding Allen Iverson.) I thought, "wow, if Iziane can't get into this game who else can't?"
3) The National Anthem was sung by Dream season ticket holder (called STHs in WNBA parlance) and Dream ambassador Emile Worthy. He did a servicable job, singing most of it in a low baritone. He wasn't a professional singer, but at least I should give him credit for not trying (and failing) to stretch the song into a two-octave range: the man knew his limitations.
4) Looked for Dream fan pilight. I never saw him in the crowd. Later, I learned that he arrived late due to traffic. He didn't miss anything.
5) Dream starters: Lehning, McCoughtry, Lyttle, Iziane, Erika.
Sky starters: Canty, Perkins, Christon, Kraayeveld, Fowles
6) There's usually a Dream ceremonial ball exchange, where the Dream come storming out of the tunnel, get a basketball and hand it off to some deserving fans. This time, the ball exchange invitees were from Williams Sullivan High School. When the name of the school was announced, there was a roar from the crowd. Williams Sullivan High School has their own entourage! Represent, Williams Sullivan!!
7) The announcer made note of two celebrities in the crowd. I believe they were here for the "Celebrity Dads and Daughters" promotion.
The first one was owner of the Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank. I was glad to see him here, helping out the Dream just by showing up even though he didn't have to. The other one was Mike Smith, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. As he was announced, he got a scattering of applause, except for one man who waited until the applause died and screamed "BOO!!"
Maybe Mike Smith needed to bring his own entourage, or at least give Williams Sullivan High School a call.
8) The first sign this was going to be a bad game for Angel McCoughtry was very early in, about two minutes in. Jia Perkins of the Sky and Angel McCoughtry were going at it and McCoughtry just shoves Perkins out of her position. It was an offensive foul, McCoughtry's fault on the touch, and yet McCoughtry had some words for the officials. Two shots for Perkins, and it's later 6-2 Chicago.
9) Someone sent me some mail recently asking a question so I rewatched the part of the first quarter up until the 5:34 mark. This is when the Sky had a 12-6 lead and McCoughtry was suddenly yanked. McCoughtry had made a grand total of one shot, and the Dream failed to get the ball to her when she was open on at least one occasion.
Looking again, the matchup was clearly McCoughtry vs. Perkins. McCoughtry looked very tired, sort of jogging rather than sprinting. I don't know if it was lack of effort or just exhaustion but Perkins clearly knew that McCoughtry wasn't going to give her any problems. During the time McCoughtry was on the court, Perkins was 3-for-3, contributing six points of the Sky's twelve.
10) When McCoughtry was yanked for Price, it seemed to wak up Atlanta. A pair of drives to the hoop by Price and then by Iziane, and Atlanta was just down 10-12. A 3-pointer from Kelly Miller gave the DReam their first lead of the game, 15-12.
11) Mike Smith learned the perils of sitting courtside - Armintie Price knocked a ball into Mike Smith's direction, and the coach of the Falcons almost had a souvenir.
12) The lead didn't last long. An Epipphany Prince jumper was followed by a layup by Sylvia Fowles, who got fouled and picked up the free throw. The Dream were down 16-15.
Both teams were beginning to bring their second units in. Tamera Young - remember her, Dream fans? - attempted a drive to the basket and Sancho Lyttle just hacked Young. Lyttle had her second personal foul, seemingly always starting the second quarter with two personal fouls. Young got one of two free throws to make it an 18-15 game.
13) With the first quarter winding down and Sylvia Fowles off the court, it seemed that the Dream couldn't catch a break. With no time on the shot clock, Erin Thorn uncorked a basket as the 24-second buzzer sounded to give the Sky a 22-15 lead. Armintie Price was fouled while shooting for two shots with 22.9 seconds left.
Price hit the first shot. She usually only hits one of two. Every time the announcer says, "Armintie Price shooting two," I mutter back, "and hitting one."
She got the first shot but the second was wiped away when Yelena Leuchanka stepped into the lane too soon.
Thorn's final shot missed, and the Sky led 22-16 at the end of one. Both Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza were scoreless, and the Dream had eight turnovers.
14) McCoughtry came back out at the beginning of the second quarter but she was still having a few problems. Tamera Young came out to guard McCoughtry.
McCoughtry went right. Young went right.
McCoughtry went left. Young went left.
McCoughtry went right. Young went right.
McCoughtry's initial drive was negated. She ended up missing her first shot, but she helped with a mini-rally. Down 25-18 after a 3-pointer from Erin Thorn, McCoughtry found Yelena Leuchanka who scored and then hit a 3-pointer of her own to close the gap to 25-23.
15) However, Shameka Christon fired a long three of her own and the Sky were further away again. It seemed that the Dream were going to stay within about 6-7 points of the Sky - never getting a run long enough to close the gap but never allowing the Sky to sprint away. And so it went.
16) The Dream are still wearing their "Armed With a Dream" tattoos. This is a promotion with Aaron's Inc. and the Children's Hospital of Atlanta where Dream players will wear a stick-on tattoo of a patient's name during the game. On the name of the upper arm of every Dream player was "Catrina", this game's honoree.
Someone told me that McCoughtry had hers on upside-down. I have no graphic evidence, not yet anyway.
17) We had another celebrity in the house: Vivica Fox. I thought she was known as "Vivica A. Fox", myself. Don't try to visit her website unless you have a computer that can handle Matrix-level graphics.
Hmm. I wonder if she's here in Atlanta to film a show. "Kill Bill Part Three?" "Tyler Perry's Vivica A. Fox?"
18) I happened to catch Kathy Betty (owner of the Dream) hobnobbing in the front row with Arthur Blank (owner of the Falcons). It would be interesting to know what they were chatting about, even if it were only small talk. Maybe Blank is telling Betty that what the Dream needs is a brand new stadium somewhere in Doraville.
19) I always seem to be of three minds regarding Iziane Castro Marques. When both she and Angel are on fire, the Dream can't be stopped. I'm perplexed, however, at her sometimes indifferent defense and her attempts to shoot in front of three defenders.
However, Izi can amaze you. She hit a 3-pointer to close the game to 33-28 and when she got the ball back she executed a beautiful behind-the-back dribble in motion that left me amazed. Clearly, Iziane Castro Marques is a skilled player, but how do you get the best out of her?
20) Dominique Canty got the ball from Sylvia Fowles on a drive to the basket to put the Sky up 35-28. When Canty got the ball back again, Angel committed a shooting foul that sent Canty back to the free throw line, where she hit one of two.
36-28 Sky. 4:22 left. Meadors yanked McCoughtry once again, and we didn't see her for the rest of the first half.
21) With the second quarter winding down, the Dream tried to provide at least some defensive intensity. It was the offense that the Dream couldn't get right - they just couldn't move the ball in the halfcourt. All in all, the Dream committed 13 first-half turnovers.
The only thing that saved the last few minutes of the second half was Coco Miller. Not Kelly Miller, Coco Miller although it's hard to tell because each player has the name "MILLER" on her jersey with no initial. (They might simply be wearing the same jersey, with one Miller hidden in the wings for the hand-off while the other claims the need of a bathroom break.) Coco Miller hit a sweet 3-pointer and then saved an Erika de Souza miss on a putback with 11 seconds left after the offensive rebound to close the Dream within five points, 40-35 at halftime.
22) At least the halftime show was interesting. Human bowling. At the end of the lane an ersatz bowling alley was set up with gigantic plastic pins. Contestants pushed their partners down the court while they rode a platform with wheels on it - one person was the bowler and the other sitting on the platform was the ball. I think one of the contestants lost her slipper.
The Dream was outshooting the Sky, 44.4 percent to 41 percent. However, the Sky had taken 12 more shots than the Dream had. Furthermore, the Sky were leading the offensive rebounding battle which is unheard of. Atlanta's rebound game had disappeared. Erika had six rebounds, but Sancho Lyttle only had two. The Dream had been held to just two offensive rebounds in the first half...and Coco Miller had one of those.
23) Other announcements. Brian Finnerman was announced as being in attendance late in the second quarter. I had no idea who Brian Finnerman was. He's a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons.
24) There was more halftime joy from the High Velocity Super Dunking Crew. This was the third or fourth time I've seen the Crew, and let me tell you, they can put on a shot. However, the Dream's bad luck seemed to rub off on them, as they missed two point-blank dunks. The Super Dunking Crew is usually more sure-handed.
25) Recieving the handoff in the beginning of the second half - some kids from Walker High School. They didn't seem to have the entourage that the Williams Sullivan High School kids had.
26) Angel started again in the third quarter. Her line from the first half: 1-for-4, 5 points, 10 minutes played. She spent ten seconds on the dribble against Jia Perkins and couldn't move the ball against her. Perkins was on McCoughtry like Teflon on a non-stick griddle.
As it turned out, no one else was going to move the ball either. The Dream looked like they were sleepwalking - always a half-step off, never in rhythm. They lacked fluidity, the sign of a well-running team. When a team is in the zone, it seems that every pass is crisp and every rebound decisive. Every opportunity falls into their hands. None of those descriptions characterized the Dream.
The Sky went on a 16-6 run to start the third quarter. Sancho Lyttle picked up a blocking foul, her third. Erika de Souza picked up a blocking foul. De Souza still hadn't scored. The Dream simply couldn't find her on the court, and when you can't find Erika de Souza on a court, you know that you're going to have problems.
The run ate up almost five minutes of the third quarter. If it weren't for Sancho Lyttle - who scored all six points for the Dream in the first five minutes of the third - it would have been a 16-0 Chicago run. All the Dream had to show for it was two turnovers, two personal fouls and three missed shots.
The Dream only took four shots in that five minute Chicago run. You can't win games that way. The Dream's lack of activity just killed the crowd.
27) To keep the crowd interested, Mike Smith and Brian Finnerman faced off with a 3-point challenge. Finnerman proved to be the winner, hitting a single 3-pointer in the alotted time.
28) Tonight's Karaoke singer was Brittainey Raven, who sang Keri Hilson's "Knock Me Down". I didn't recognize the song, and definitely not due to Raven's singing. Raven's vocal range is two notes.
So why wasn't Raven in the game with the Dream down 56-43 and 4:13 left on the clock? That's the life of a third-round draft pick that makes the team - the only time you're going to get is when you're up - or down - by twenty points.
29) What I didn't like: on a possession both Alison Bales and Shalee Lehning passed up shots that I thought either of them could have made. Ladies, you're down by double-digits, what on earth are you waiting for?
30) The officiating: not good. I'm not going to whine too much about it, but it was clearly substandard. It's not to blame for our loss, though.
31) For a few moments, there was a raw of hope. Down 58-46 and with about 2 1/2 minutes left, Iziane hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Shalee Lehning. Thirty seconds later Price found Iziane all alone and Iziane downed another three.
58-52 Chicago! There was still hope!
32) And then, twenty seconds later, hope disappeared. Alison Bales was called for a phantom foul - Shameka Christon tripped without any contact from Bales and the ref from the other side of the court called an illegal screen. The ball went back into the Sky's hands, and Bales was called for a foul trying to defend Sylvia Fowles. The Sky had the momentum again.
Fowles would get one of two free throws. Lehning would get a couple of free throws and Prince would score under the basket. The Sky had a 61-54 lead at the end of the third quarter.
33) The Dream were still outshooting the sky. Even without the help of Angel McCoughtry or Erika de Souza, the Dream were shooting 46.3 percent from the field - but the Sky were shooting 44.4 percent and had taken 13 more shots. The Dream put together a 13-5 run to end the third quarter, which is why they were only down by seven. The Sky was still winning the battle of the glass.
34) As the fourth quarter started, the hope was that the Dream could stir from their doldrums. McCoughtry was sitting on the bench as the fourth quarter started. Lyttle scored the first points of the fourth with a layup that closed us within five points - but Shameka Christon fired a rainbow 3-pointer that put the Sky up 64-58.
It was time for another Sky run. The Dream would go cold to start the fourth as the Sky took a 10-4 run over the first four minutes to take a 73-61 lead. The Dream was back down by double digits again. The hope was that either Cathrine Kraayeveld or Shameka Christon - each with four personal fouls - would hit foul trouble and that Chicago would need more of their second unit.
The crowd certainly wanted to jump in. They screamed when Kelly Miller hit a 3-pointer for the Dream's 61st point. But it seemed that the Sky would stay up by double-digits for a little while. The Sky only had five minutes left in the fourth quarter and Chicago was entering RuPaul territory - the man who advises his aspiring drag queens to "Don't f**k it up." If the Sky didn't screw up, they'd have the win. Who knows, this was the Chicago Sky...the Sky might indeed f**k it up. We could only hope.
35) With 3:48 left in the fourth, McCoughtry had been back on the court for around three minutes. She hit a 3-pointer, her ninth point, to bring Atlanta back up to 76-66.
Steven Key, the Chicago coach, has a new nickname from me: "Pope". It's because when he complains to the referees, he has both arms outstreched as if he's giving an imaginary benediction.
36) A pair of free throws by Atlanta closed it back to 76-68. With 2:15 left, McCoughtry committed foul #4 of the game.
37) Over the final three minutes of the game, only six points were scored. I suspected that both teams wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. The Sky wanted another win. The Dream players just wanted to forget.
The crowd was starting to head for the exits at Philips Arena. They weren't leaving. They were fleeing. Fleeced once again by Chicago. Beaten by Steven Friggin Key.
38) With 13 seconds left, McCoughtry broke into double digits in scoring. A layup closed the Dream to 80-70. But we needed a lot more than 13 seconds. The game was over.
Thank goodness! Let's hope for a win tonight against the Mystics!