Tuesday, May 4, 2010

E1/2010 - Sun 86, Dream 79

The Dream have played their first game of the 2010 season. They headed back to Connecticut, but fell short. The good news is that they took eleven players with them; the bad news is that among those eleven players, only 2 1/2 could be called "starters" if you were generous. So you have to take the loss with a grain of salt. No Lyttle, no de Souza, no Castro Marques, no Holdsclaw.

Here's the report from John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant.

Here's the report from Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register.

And here's the Guru himself, Mel Greenberg.

All right. Even SportsPageMagazine.com doesn't have any pictures yet. There were only 3,779 in attendance - no, wait a minute. For a Tuesday game at 11 am in the morning in the woods of Connecticut, that's great attendance! Still, there weren't many people present. There was no WNBA Live Access, and frankly, the boxscore didn't update automatically. If you were able to follow this game minute by minute, you were either in Uncasville or you have a very long neck.

So let's take a look at the post-mortem. The Dream got off to a very good start - an 11-0 start in the first quarter, but any Dream fan from 2008 knows that you can never depend on an 11-0 lead, and not particularly in a "game of runs" as this one was called on RebKell. The Dream held on to a 48-46 lead at halftime, and Fuller's article tells what happened next:

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault resisted the temptation to insert some of his more established players to get his squad back on course. Third-year forward Kerri Gardin, with 67 regular-season games to her credit, was joined by second-year guard Renee Montgomery and rookies Tina Charles, Kelsey Griffin and Allison Hightower.

What happened next was a surge propelling the Sun to an 86-79 win over Atlanta before 3,779 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles, the former UConn star who was the top pick in last month’s WNBA draft, began and ended a 19-2 game-altering run with baskets. But she had plenty of help from her fellow rookies.

So 19-2 beats 11-0 hands down when it comes to runs. Furthermore, Angel McCoughtry scored 17 points in the first half, but only two in the second half.
Only three players played for the Dream for more than 25 minutes - Montgomery, Shalee Lehning and Armintie Price. Whereas the Sun had three players who played for at least 29 minutes. Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery each played 31 minutes.

Let's examine the box score in detail. We'll go into an article by Dean Oliver and how he examines a box score:


Estimated possessions = {(72-11)+20+0.4*20)]+[(70-9)+19+0.4*22]/2 = ..approximately 89 for both teams.

The Dream's offensive rating was 79/89 = 88.8 and the Sun's offensive rating was 86/88 = 97.7. This sort of implies that neither team dominated offensively, and defensive skill made the difference.

Game flow: Quarter by Quarter, the game was decided in the middle, particulary in the third quarter when the Sun outscored the Dream 25-14. The Sun led 71-62 after three quarters. The Sun didn't blow out the Dream - if you look at the play-by-play results the Dream crawled to within seven points, 71-64 in the fourth quarter with 9:12 left - but after that, the Sun went on an 11-2 run to take a 16 point lead with about four minutes left. That run killed the Dream's chances of winning.

All of the big names: McCoughtry, Lehning, Charles, Montgomery - were on the bench in the fourth quarter, to return only briefly if ever. The only starter on the floor for significant time appears to have been Kerri Gardin. The 11-2 run was basically a testimony to the Sun's bench. No one particular Sun player dominated the fourth quarter.

Shooting percentage: Sun 47.1 percent (33-70), Dream 38.9 percent (28-72).
Effective shooting percentage: Sun 52.1 percent, Dream 43.1 percent. That pretty much did it. The Sun won because they could hit their shots, and the Dream (collectively) couldn't.

Turnovers: Sun 19, Dream 20. It was at best an average game for protecting the rock.
Offensive rebound percentage: Sun 25.7 percent, Dream 23.4 percent. No edge here, but the Dream definitely missed Lyttle and de Souza.
Free throw visits: Sun 22, Dream 20. However, the Dream hit 17 of their attempts, and the Sun shot a sad 59.1 percent from the stripe (13-for-22). I'd give the advantage to the Dream, but that wouldn't be enough to cool down the Sun's hot shooting hand.

And now, let's look at the Dream's individual perfomances:

Angel McCoughtry: Can you think of McCoughtry not coming to play? She led the team with 19 points. She had to take a lot of shots, but she hit 3 out of 4 3-point attempts. She kept personal fouls down, but unfortunately, it looks like Tina Charles's team beat Angel McCoughtry's team again. (See: 2009 NCAA Finals.) Even with the lost, McCoughtry brought her game to Connecticut and she was the Dreamer of the Game.

Armintie Price: A big question was whether or not Price or Shalee Lehning would be able to shake off the rust. Not only did Price have a 10-point game, but she hit four out of five free throws. Maybe she's been working on that in the off season. Price, furthermore, led the team in rebounds with seven total, and she picked up five assists as well. This whole Armintie Price thing might be working out, except for getting three of her shots blocked.

Shalee Lehning: Lehning must have heard me muttering "you have to shoot more" because she hit four out of five shots. However, she had two assists and four turnovers. I guess you can't do everything to please all people, but since Lehning's arm didn't fall off during the game, we can only count the result as a plus.

Britany Miller: For just 17 minutes played, the third Miller in Dream training camp - Britany Miller, a center who once played for the Detroit Shock - did an okay job. She had five rebounds and two blocked shots. However, her 1-for-5 shooting won't impress many people, but Britany Miller probably earned another day in training camp.

Chanel Mokango: The best you can say about Mokango's game was that it was average. Eight points on 3-for-7 shooting. However, in 15 minutes of play she picked up three personal fouls. Her -7 in raw plus/minus was the third worst on the Dream - the dream slid behind when Mokango was on the floor. But hey - it ain't easy playing in the W, not even in the preseason.

Erika White: Now, we're entering the realm of "meh". White played 20 minutes and had a grand total of four points. Negative plus/minus. Three assists, three turnovers. One rebound.

Brittainey Raven: Raven was the fourth member of the Dream that schored in double digits, but in 23 minutes she had four personal fouls. That led the team, and kept the Dream from making more effective use of her. No assists, one turnover. Raven will need to get herself in better control if she wants to make the Dream.

Shawn Goff: Goff only scored two points in 19 minutes of play. She did have four rebounds, which were counterbalanced with the four personal fouls she committed. She turned the ball over twice. This is the part of the list where the players will have to fight to stay alive in training camp. You might only get one shot at making an impression. However, Goff got to start and had a +7 in raw plus/minus, partially due to that 11-0 Dream run to start the game.

Coco Miller: EGAD. Coco Miller had a raw plus/minus of -15. Maybe she was playing with nothing but rookies on the court, but Coco only generated four points to go with her three assists. At least she only turned the ball over once, but that raw plus/minus is just horrible.

Alison Bales: She started, and in the Battle of the Centers, Bales scored four points - and Tina Charles scored 21. Bales went 1-for-5 in shooting but she did have six rebounds. I don't know; I'd hate to have to guard Tina Charles too.

Brigitte Ardossi: 20 minutes played. Only two points scored. 1-for-4 shooting. -11 plus/minutes. 3 personal fouls. I'm not going to call Brigitte Ardossi the Bad Dream of the game, as this is just an exhibition. But right now, given the limited statistical lines, Raven just moved ahead of Ardossi in terms of training camp security.

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