Thursday, September 17, 2009

P1/2009 - Shock 94, Dream 89

Marynell Meadors, Iziane Castro Marques: Meet the Press.

We only write about this one because we are compelled to. On the other hand, I have HDTV so it was almost as good as having a seat at courtside.

If you want the photos, here they are from Lynn Gregg of I would burn these photos, myself, just to put the awful memories behind me.

1) HDTV is definitely not flattering: you can see every blemish on a player's skin, and trust me, some of them have a lot of blemishes. People with acne problems don't come off well. People over sixty don't come off well. HDTV is going to force us to reevaluate our idea of human beauty.

2) We learned that Katie Smith was out, we gave us hope that if all else failed, we could simply "outendure" Detroit's thin bench. Furthermore, Chamique Holdsclaw would finally return to the court "for five to ten minute stretches".

3) Atlanta starters: Latta, Castro Marques, McCoughtry, Lyttle, De Souza. Ivory Latta was going to be at the helm of the ship.
Detroit starters: Nolan, Hornbuckle, McWilliams, Ford, Teasley. Detroit would be starting Nikki Teasley at point guard. Basically, we had two Atlanta point guards on the court.

4) Atlanta started the fireworks off with an 11-2 run in the first quarter. We were doing very well. Latta picked up a steal for the breakway and got fouled by Teasley. McCoughtry hit a 3-point running layup. De Souza was making that sweet bank shot work. Granted, Atlanta was making some bad passes, but they were shrugged off by the announcers as a sign that Atlanta was being aggressive - Detroit couldn't rest because they didn't know where the ball would be coming from. The word used was "attacked".

5) As Atlanta was running up a 19-8 lead, I noticed that Erika's tattoo of a basketball on her right shoulder had something on it. Earlier in the game, Sancho Lyttle had a "5" scrawled in black magic marker ink on her shoulder. Erika's tattoo was partially obliterated by the #5.

Then it occurred to me. #5. Shalee Lehning. The two players were wearing highly visible tributes to Lehning, who was out for the season after shoulder surgery. Supposedly, all of the other players were wearing a #5 somewhere, but Lyttle and de Souza's #5s were the most obvious....

6) We continued to builud to build up that lead. Iziane sank two free throws to give the Dream a 30-12 lead, an 18 point lead. Things were looking good. Only two leads of that size in the entire season had been overcome by an enemy team. One was an 18-point lead by the Sparks, overcome by Phoenix on August 27th. The other was a 19-point lead by Chicago four days earlier....overcome by the team that owned the home court the Dream were standing on.

7) Interesting stat: Deanna Nolan's field goal percentage against the Dream in games preceding this one for 2009? 27 percent.

8) Late in the first quarter, Chamique Holdsclaw returned. She could still handle the ball as well, but her acceleration looked a little suspect.

9) By teh end of the first quarter, we were outshooting the Shock 58 percent to 38 percent. We had outrebounded the Shock 15 to two. Angel McCoughtry had 11 poitns. Iziane Castro Marques had six.

The Palace of Auburn Hills looked virtually empty. If the Dream could keep this up, we could theoretically waltz into Atlanta on Friday. But they had to keep it up.

10) And then I heard those words that chilled me. "...and Michael Price is our third official...."

11) A lot of Shock fans are crowing about the Shock's toughness and how they "got into Atlanta's heads". Maybe they can explain that first quarter, then. Or about why, as the announcers claimed, a fan shouted, "Somebody knock somebody down!" after the first quarter.

Detroit "badness" is not a fait accompli.

12) Early in the second, Iziane drove to the basket against three dispassionate Shock defenders. They were strangely passive, as if they were saying, "Oh, there goes Castro Marques for a basket. Interesting."

13) Meanwhile, Cheryl Ford was beating the living daylights out of Angel McCoughtry. Not complaining or whining, just pointing out the Detroit Shock's overall strategy - play ball so tough that referees will only call the worst fouls against you.

Never let it be said that women's basketball isn't a contact sport.

14) With Atlanta up 36-19, Detroit went on its first big run - a 15-5 run that saw Detroit close to seven points, 41-34.

Despite the big run, Detroit didn't get its first offensive rebound of the game until 4:23 to go of the second quarter. Shavonte Zellous got the rebound, Hornbuck missed the layup, and then then just 13 seconds after their first offensive board, Ford made the shot off her own rebound.

15) Ford was really going wild out there. Iziane Castro Marques fell to the floor when she was hit in the face by Cheryl Ford. It was accidental - Ford was swinging her arms and didn't see Iziane coming in behind her.

16) We finally ended Detroit's run, but we weren't looking great anymore. Arminitie Price, now in the game, took a jumper that went in and out, angular momentum bouncing the ball around inside the rim and force carrying the ball back out again. McCoughtry dribbled the ball off her foot for an out of bounds.

We had survived though. Latta sank a couple of free throws to end the second quarter with the Dream up 45-36.

17) Rebecca Lobo chatted with Angel McCoughtry at halftime. After McCoughtry played dutiful daughter and wished her Mom a happy birthday, she was ready to address the Detroit run. McCoughtry has said before that basketball is a game of runs and that she wasn't concerned. Detroit had its run, the Dream would answer with a run and that Atlanta just needed to play its own game and be confident.

18) The Dream were still outshooting Detroit 46.7 percent to 39 percent. We still had an advantage in rebounding and were 15-for-16 from the free throw line. However, we had turned the ball over 12 times in the first half.

Angel McCoughtry had 15 points and 7 rebounds in the first half. Iziane had 10 points. For Detroit, Deanna Nolan had 10 points, Nikki Teasley had 7 points and Cheryl Ford had picked up 6 rebounds.

19) We got a look inside Atlanta's locker room at halftime. Actually, looking in the locker room is never as exciting as they make it out to be. Marynell Meadors condensed Atlanta's second half strategy:

a) Play better defense.
b) Talk and communicate.
c) Rebound and run.

20) In the third quarter, Iziane kept the Dream alive: her shots were the only shots that were falling. She would score the first nine points of the quarter for the Dream and crossed the 20 point barrier. We were back to our double-digit lead again.

21) The announcers felt free to joke about the Dream losing Philips Arena temporarily during the playoffs due to Sesame Street. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution should take note - it shows how the issue was treated by those who were actually in the role of dispassionate reporters instead of middle-aged men missing their fraternity days.

The joking wasn't the least bit offensive. One of the announcers stated that she'd probably take Grover over Elmo in a game. I agree. Elmo has the moves but Grover is a wild man who can dominate the paint.

22) ...

Then it all went to hell.

With the score up in Atlanta's favor 61-48, the Dream didn't score for the remainder of the quarter - a span of time which was five minutes and two seconds long.

Detroit, however, had no such problem. Some claim that the Shock woke up when Deanna Nolan was charged with a technical just before the Detroit run. I don't know if that was true, but the SHock were really turning it on. They were playing the game they wanted to play and we were playing no game at all.

I've been trying to grapple with what happened. We took six shots, and missed all of them. We turned over the ball three times during the run. That was nine turnovers. But the enemy can only make points off of turnovers if they can get the ball back off the misses, or get offensive rebounds, or....

...and that was what happened. Detroit had 10 rebounds during that five minute span, including two team rebounds. Atlanta had only one rebound, a team rebound. Detroit had simply cleaned us off the boards and reduced the Dream to spectators.

Meadors was left floundering around, trying to find some combination of players that could spark something. Castro Marques was removed after she missed a couple of shots, and was substituted for by Holdslaw, a move which went nowhere. (Why would you get rid of your hottest shooter in the third quarter?) Angel McCoughtry was replaced with Armintie Price in the final minute. Nothing worked.

An announcer said that Atlanta gave up 14 points on 16 turnovers.

Kara Braxton's layup with 1:14 left in the third gave Detroit its first lead since early in the first quarter. The Shock led 62-61, and Zellous hit a 3-pointer to put the Shock up 65-61 at the end of the quarter. The Shock had gone on a 17-0 run...which wasn't over yet.

23) Braxton hit a layup to start the fourth quarter with Detroit's 19th straight point. The Shock led 67-61. Finally, Erika made a shot that broke the 19-0 streak and brought us up to 67-63 Detroit. Atlanta had been held scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes.

24) Whle Meadors was still substituting like crazy - four substitutions in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth - the Dream were hanging on and trying to stay within a couple of posessions of the Shock. Detroit had been revitalized by its run.

Nolan was heating up and only getting hotter. She nailed a 3-pointer to put the Shock up 74-66. Iziane answered with another 3-pointer but Zellous answered with a bucket of her own. 76-69 Detroit. Zellous got the offensive rebound, and found Hornbuckle.

It was a replay of early in the Atlanta season, where several times the enemy could find a player wide open outside the 3-point arc, just standing there. Hornbuckle sank the shot for three points. Detroit was now up by double-digits for the first time, 79-69.

25) Atlanta attempted to dig itself out of the hole it was in. The question was whether or not they could get to within two possessions. Detroit kept Atlanta at arms length but Castro Marques was hot again, scoring again with a Detroit 83-75 lead and 5:01 to go.

Detroit kept sending the Dream to the free throw line. Latta hit a pair of free throws to close us to 87-80. McCoughtry would hit a jump shot with 2:09 left to bring the score at 89-82. (McCoughtry had scored 15 points in the first half, but this was only her fourth second-half point.)

26) Nolan answered with a jumper but 10 seconds later, Iziane found Erika and Erika made the layup. Kara Braxton sent Erika to the line agani and the free throw closed the gap to four points, 89-85 with 1:40 to go. When Braxton missed on the other end, Lyttle got the reboudn and found McCoughtry who scored on the runner.

It was a one possession game, 89-87, with 1:19 left. Critical decisions would have to be made because now the game was wide open again.

27) In the final minute, Atlanta got lucky. Nolan went to the free throw line and missed one of two. Cheryl Ford committed two fouls - or "maybe" committed two fouls because both of those fouls were manufactured by Michael Price, who now wanted to shove himself into the game so that the game could rely on his refereeing "skills" and so he could show the NBA what a great referee he was.

Both Erika and Sancho Lyttle went to the free throw line. Each missed one of their shots...but the score was now 90-89, and Detroit held on to a one-point lead with 51 seconds left.

28) We almost had the lead. Angel McCoughtry stole the ball with 29 seconds left and took a good mid-range jumper. In most circumstances, that ball would have sailed in but it went out and in. Nolan came down hard, and I mean hard to the floor. I don't remember if it was on the McCoughtry miss or on the rebound, but Nolan was clearly dizzy and was leaning up against the goal support.

If it were an acting job, Nolan would have been the next Meryl Streep. Nolan was clearly in tears. She didn't want out of this game, but she knew something was wrong. I didn't want her out of this game either. If Atlanta wins, I want it to be pure fair, and not contingent upon some last-minute injuries. Championship runs should not have asterisks.

29) The decision was made. Nolan would have to come out of the game. The problem was that Nolan had earned a trip to the free throw line - was Lyttle called for the personal? I don't think it was really Lyttle's fault - so who would take those shots? The WNBA rules stated that in the event that the person fouled doesn't take the free throws, the opposing coach gets to choose the foul shooter.

This game the Dream a great opportunity. All they had to do was pick someone who could be counted on to tank one of the two free throws. They could pick the worst foul shooter who was still eligible to be picked. This included Olayinka Sanni who had not played (but was dressed, I believe) with a 69.4 percent free throw percentage, or Kara Braxton with a 64.5 percent percentage.

Instead, the Dream brain trust picks...Crystal Kelly, who is an 84.7 percent career free throw shooter. Kelly hasn't played in the game - but at the free throw line, she sinks both of them. 92-89 Shock, and the Dream have the ball with 16.2 seconds left.

29b) And there begins the controversy. The press reported that Meadors chose Kelly because Kelly was theoretically cold, having not played. However, some posters at RebKell claim that they could hear on the game audio that there was some confusion among the Atlanta coaching staff as to whether or not which Detroit players were good shooters and which were poor ones.

A Detroit reporter claims that "One of her [Meadors's] assistants yelled Kelly's name to her when the officials asked, but I didn't see who it was." Did an assistant coach pull the trigger.

Supposedly, video link gives Meadors's expression when she was asked about sending Kelly to the line. I've not seen it, I can't download it at work and I can't vouch that it isn't spyware laden or some sort of RickRoll.

29c) Monique Currie chimes in from Twitter:

@Mocurrie25 Why would you choose a 84 percent free throw shooter on the line? Doesn't matter if she's cold, its goin down! I'd pick one of those bigs

Another RebKell poster stated that if an NBA coach made that move, he would have been crucified by the fanbase.

30) We have one last chance for a 3-pointer to send the game into OT. Seven seconds after the ball is on the court, Iziane heaves up an off-balance three. It doesn't go down. Alexis Hornbuckle gets the rebound with eight seconds left.

The Dream are forced to foul. Nikki Teasley is sent to the line. She hits both of the free throws. 94-89 Shock. We get the ball back, Sancho Lyttle fires it up, and it's missed. It was a last-second buzzer shot anyway.

That's it. I'm tired of writing about it. Maybe some more later.


Z. Green said...

It could be true that coach Meadors relied on the assistants to make the call (which is totally possible in that situation). Talk about putting the ass in assistant. I would like to see that part of the game again. I'm pissed that I deleted it from my dvr today. If I were Meadors, I would be reconsidering who will be sitting next to me in 2010.

Ethan said...

Three things:

1. I felt very badly for you/Atlanta. They were the better team, mostly.

2. My key to the game: Not letting Detroit go on a what, 17-0 run? Buzzer shots and who has what free throw % take a back seat to this one. As I frequently yell at my Wii soccer game, re: the other team, "they're not! That! Good!" 17-0 runs make geniuses of us all.

3. Good thing this isn't the NBA, or Izi would have been saying (in the photo at top), "I'm supposed to be a franchise player, and we in here talking about practice."

Anonymous said...

Crunch Time when coaching gets exposed

Ethan said...

Come back, Marynell Meadors... all is forgiven after that Phoenix/San An game last night. Take your pick: Facepalm, or headdesk?