Monday, May 17, 2010

1/2010 - Dream 75, Silver Stars 70

The secret of Izi's success? Blow on your opponent's hair.

(By the way, that picture above came from a cool gallery from which you can find here.)

Before I start, I have to say that Fox Sports South rules. They broadcast the Atlanta-San Antonio game from San Antonio, so I didn’t get to miss a moment of high-definition Atlanta Dream goodness. There’s a major difference between watching a game on WNBA Live Access and watching it on a broadcast network. When watching it on WNBA Live Access (at least last year) the graphics were…well, let’s just call them primitive. They usually reminded me of junior high AV graphics…and I went to junior high a lonnnnnnng time ago.

So let’s jump in as if the last seven months never happened…..

1) The announcers for the game were Andrew Monaco and Tai Dillard. I suspect that this was a San Antonio feed of Fox Sports sent directly to Atlanta, unless they have a lot of Aaron’s Inc. commercials in San Antonio.

Yes, it looks like the Dream’s partnership with Aaron’s Inc. is paying dividends, particularly if you like watching the Dream on TV. Aaron’s – in case you didn’t know – leases furniture. Way back when Hector was a pup, I was in Germany and I found out how convenient renting-to-own was – I wasn’t going to be in Germany for the rest of my life and I wanted creature comforts without the hassle of owning furniture. So if you’re going to Aaron’s, tell me how it’s working out for you.

2) The announcers listed that Becky Hammon was fifth in MVP voting. I don’t want to take anything away from Hammon, but fifth-place finishers in MVP voting are usually trailing farrrr behind the leader. So I probably wouldn’t have mentioned that. That’s like saying that Joe Shlabotnik is the American League Leader in Wednesday night triples.

3) The Silver Stars have an interesting coaching situation, with Associate Coach Olaf Lange as the acting coach. Lange looks….well, he looks as if he’d be carded if he tried to buy a beer.

4) Starting lineups:

Silver Stars: Hodges, Hammon, Young, Riley, Lawson-Wade.
Dream: De Souza, McCoughtry, Lehning, Castro Marques, Lyttle.

5) Once again, we’ve been treated with various pronunciations of Erika de Souza name. I thought it was “de-SOZA”, with the “soza” sounding a lot like “sofa”. But Monaco pronounces the name “de-SOWZA”, with the “sow” part sounding like “cow”.

You know what? To hell with it. I give up. I’m going to do what the Brazilians do and just call her “Erika”... all of their athletes seem to go by their first names like “Pele”.

6) And now, the 2010 Atlanta Dream regular season gets off to a start. The Silver Stars take a 4-0 lead, but it’s a momentary blip. The Dream look very strong in the first quarter, and even Erika looks good despite getting off the plane on Thursday.

Sancho Lyttle suffers two quick personal fouls, so she sits down. Alison Bales appears on a WNBA court in the regular season for the first time since 2008. Down 5-2, Iziane Castro Marques makes a jumper and Erika follows with a smooth fade away to put the Dream up 6-5. The score seesaws, with Erika getting her hands on a block.

I’m surprised that Bales is playing relatively well, despite her disappointing pre-season outings.

7) After about four minutes, the Silver Stars bring in Michelle Snow. I’m worried that she’ll try to seek revenge against her former team. But the person I should be worried about is Becky Hammon, one of the greatest players ever.

Falling to the floor, she heaves up the ball and makes an impossible basket. But if you’ve watched Hammon for any period of time, her impossible baskets are routine.

8) Down 13-12, Atlanta responds with an 11-1 run. San Antonio can’t get into the groove, turning the ball over six times. (After the game, Hammon’s excuse was that the team hadn’t jelled enough. In pre-season, McCoughtry swore not to make that an excuse because every team in the league has players coming in late.)

Seven of those points on that run belonged to Angel McCoughtry. McCoughtry is stepping up in a big way.

9) While San Antonio was getting knocked around the court, the camera focused on two matters of interest:

a) A couple of what appeared to be superannuated hippies watching. (Peace out, baby!) and
b) Sandy Brondello in all of her nine-months-going-to-give-birth-any-minute-now glory. So if Lange is the coach, what is Brondello doing on the bench? Why not let Lange do his own coaching? Will the players listen to Brondello or Lange?

10) During this time, the Dream have both Kelly Miller and Coco Miller on the court. They seem to play very well together. You know, some identical twins can’t bear to be separated, so maybe this is what both their careers needed.

(BTW: The play-by-play for the game simply has “Miller” listed as a player. Talk about identical twins being close.)

11) The first quarter ends 25-16 in favor of Atlanta. San Antonio is shooting 43.8 percent, but the Dream are shooting 57.1 percent – 12-for-21. Sometimes, all it takes to win a game is a hot hand…for four quarters.

12) At the game: Tony Parker. I have no idea who Tony Parker is, but I suspect he’s an NBA player. (Helpful Wikipedia helps me. He’s a player for the San Antonio Spurs, and from France. I suppose no one told him that all red-blooded he-men of America are supposed to hate the WNBA.)

13) With Atlanta hanging on to its lead in the second quarter, we see Jayne Appel in street clothes sitting on the bench. Frisco del Rosario commented on a post at Pleasant Dreams about why Appel’s draft stock fell enough for the Silver Stars to pick her – it was because of Appel’s history of injuries. Sure enough, there’s an injured Appel sitting on the bench.

14) Atlanta seems to be falling into a pattern of turnovers. Shalee Lehning isn’t helping. Lehning is matched up against Edwige Lawson-Wade, and Lawson-Wade gets the better of Lehning…twice. An eight-point Dream lead is whittled down to four points on at least one teal by Lawson-Wade against Lehning.

15) Atlanta has scored only two points in the first five minutes of the second quarter. Things are looking tight. At some point, the Dream pulls out Lehning because Edwige Lawson-Wade is taking Lehning to school.

Something I don’t like – Lehning standing around in the backcourt, waiting for a play to finish, NBA style. As someone new to basketball, this might simply be what point guards are asked to do – “stand over there and keep out of everyone’s way”. Compare this to, say, Kelly Miller, whose eyes dart back and forth like a cat after a mouse or to Angel McCoughtry who loves picking off passes from unwary opponents.

16) An illustration of San Antonio’s problems. With just over two minutes left in the half, the Dream attempt a shot and miss it. So they rebound it. And miss it. And rebound….

…Atlanta must have gotten five or six second chance opportunities and San Antonio was only saved by the Dream not able to sink the ball. That, and the fact that the Dream committed at least 13 turnovers in the half. De Souza picked up three of her rebounds for the night on that sequence.

17) The Dream begin to stretch the lead back to what it was. McCoughtry hits a pair of free throws. Bales hits a free throw. McCoughtry scores again – her 13th point of the game – and Iziane beats a double team to extend the lead to 40-29. Only Megan Frazee’s last shot of the half – a 3-pointer – kept the Dream from taking a double-digit lead into halftime.

18) The Dream are leading about 48 percent to 40 percent in this game. That’s enough to explain their 40-32 halftime lead. McCoughtry has 13 points, Iziane Castro Marques has 11 and Erika de Souza has 8 points and 10 rebounds.

19) Both teams’ combined free throw shooting at the half – 8 for 20. Atlanta 5-10, San Antonio 3-10.

20) The same starters come in for the second half, and it looks like Iziane Castro Marques must have thought Paulo Bassul was wearing a Silver Stars uniform. She gets a steal and drive, and follows it up with a steal and drive. The Dream are now leading 44-32.

Three minutes in, the Dream look solid. Mid-range spin shot by Lyttle. McCoughtry spin jumper and foul. McCoughtry hits the free throw, Iziane is fouled and hits one of her two free throws and suddenly the Dream have a 52-36 lead, the biggest lead of the game.

21) Sophia Young is looking just a little tired out there. Sancho Lyttle lays it up over Young who makes a weak effort to stop her. With the Dream up by double-digits, San Antonio’s announcers are talking about Michelle Snow. As they tell it, Snow was busy reporting to her new team about all the things that Atlanta would do and the best ways to stop the Dream. If that’s the case, then Snow needs her coaching pass revoked….

22)…or maybe not. As the third quarter passes its halfway point, the Silver Stars go on a 10-3 run. They manage to close the gap down to 10 points again, and a loose ball 3-pointer by Becky Hammon closes the gap to 57-50. After Erika de Souza hits a free throw, Hammon scores the final points of the quarter to bring the Silver Stars within two baskets again, 58-52.

San Antonio was clearly shooting better in the last part of the third quarter, or we were defending worse.

23) In the fourth quarter, Lyttle picked up her fourth personal foul. We got to see Iziane Castro Marques use some smarts. Ahead 62-54, Iziane thought to call a time out before falling out of bounds, retaining possession of the ball for Atlanta.

24) Michelle Snow has a couple of nice early fourth quarter baskets but a pair of free throws from Iziane gives the Dream a 68-56 lead. The two free throws are Iziane’s 20th and 21st points of the game.

The Dream manage to keep a double digit lead as they go into the final five minutes of the quarter. Lehning has four assists so far in the game and will pick up another two in the final quarter.

25) Down to the final two minutes. The Dream lead 73-63. All the Dream has to do is, in the words of the philosopher RuPaul, to earnestly strive to avoid error. (*) This combined effort has a wrench thrown into it by a R. Hammon who hits a 3 pointer and, after Lehning misses on the other end, picks up a couple of free throws on a foul by McCoughtry. The Dream’s lead is now cut to 73-68 with about a minute left.

26) Sophia Young has some smarts of her own. She throws the ball off Angel McCoughtry’s leg to retain a San Antonio possession, but the follow-up 3 point attempt by Megan Frazee is too strong. Sancho Lyttle rebounds, and the Dream have a 73-68 lead with 37.8 seconds left.

27) …and this is the part of the game were it gets thrilling.

With 37.2 on the clock, Lehning is fouled on the inbounds play. Clearly, San Antonio is willing to give fouls in order to get the ball back. Lehning steps up for two free throws. The first one misses. The second one hits…but Sancho Lyttle steps into the lane. Lane violation, free throw negated, and the ball is back in San Antonio’s hands again.

28) Another three-point play is drawn up by San Antonio’s Lange/Brondello crew. This time, Roneeka Hodges hurls the three but it rolls off the rim. Lyttle picks up the rebound again, and the Dream have the ball with 22.3 seconds left.

29) This time, Lyttle is fouled. She hits the second of her two shots and the score is 74-68 Atlanta. Hammon tries the three pointer but misses, but Snow gets the rebound and the quick put-back and it’s now 74-70 in favor of Atlanta.

Lyttle sees Iziane Castro Marques on her way to San Antonio’s undefended basket. Lyttle…overthrows. There’s no way that Iziane could catch that pass, and San Antonio gets the ball back again.

30) So who will make this attempt at a San Antonio three pointer? Big Shot Becky is given the task…and fails. Sancho Lyttle is there for the rebound yet again, and the Silver Stars have no choice but to foul her.

31) With 12.9 seconds on the clock, Lyttle hits the second of her two free throws. 75-70, Atlanta. Hammon makes a running jump shot, but misses. Shalee Lehning gets the rebounds, and Edwige Lawson-Wade is forced to foul Lehning. There are 1.6 seconds left on the clock, and if Lehning can sink two free throws this game is over.

32) Lehning misses the first free throw…and she misses the second! It’s time to hang a goat horn on Lehning…

32b) …but wait! Lehning gets the offensive rebound on the second missed free throw! (It’s her only offensive rebound of the game.) The game is over, and my heart can start beating again!

(* * *)

That’s it. The inevitable post-mortem follows. Which Atlanta Dream players are “dreams”…and which ones are “duds”, at least for this game? Read on!

(*) Or as Ru puts it, “Don’t f**k it up.”

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