Saturday, June 12, 2010

10/2010 - Liberty 91, Dream 79: Doghouses and their Construction

The Dream came up short in New York, 91-79. Well, come up short is probably the wrong word as the Dream never led at any time during that game. After winning six straight to start the season, the Dream have lost three of their last four. For some fans, that means that its time for panic to set in. The Dream play again at home on Sunday against the Silver Stars on a game scheduled for NBA-TV and no one knows if they should look forward to it with expectation or dread.

Once again, WNBA Live Access delivered a dud. I might try to catch this game if it's archived, but it seems that me (and my computers) and Live Access are simply never going to get along. I watched a short of a halting version of the game for the first half before frustration set in. Most of the time, I could hear the audio, but the New York announcer got so many elementary facts wrong - who knew that Alison Bales was a rookie? - and even had trouble providing an accurate score. It was just damned frustrating, although I did see Leilani Mitchell - all 5-5 of her, soaking wet - block a shot from Shalee Lehning. (Hint: It's not a good idea to begin your shot from somewhere below your knees.) In 76 career games Mitchell only has six blocked shots.

So let's look at the box score and see if we can learn anything:

Box score quarters: The Liberty won the first three quarters of the game. Unlike the previous matchup, the Liberty avoided a Dream comeback in the second half. The Dream got close in the third quarter, when an Angel McCoughtry layup with 6:56 left closed the gap to 46-44. The only quarter the Dream won was the fourth, and by that time the Liberty's lead was in double-digits.

Dean Oliver's Four Factors

Field goal percentage: The Liberty were the better shooters - they hit 47.1 percent of their attempted shots (32-for-68) compared to the Dream's 44.0 percent (33-for-75). But if the Dream were a better rebounding team, then why didn't they make up the 2.9 percent gap?

The answer is that the Liberty were far more effective with the 3-pointer than the Dream were. Atlanta was 2-for-13 from 3-point land. The effective field goal percentage for Atlanta was 45.3 percent. However, the Liberty went 9-for-20 from 3-point range. Leilani Mitchell hit all three of her 3-point attempts. So did Sidney Spencer. New York's effective field goal percentage was 56.3 percent, so if you're looking for a key to New York's victory, it was that their long-range bombing knocked us off the court.

Turnovers: New York 14, Atlanta 15. However, Atlanta had two more team possessions than New York, so New York's turnover percentage is just a sliver higher.

Offensive rebound percentage: Atlanta whipped up on the Liberty on the glass, with a 34.1 percent-15.6 percent advantage in offensive rebounding. Lyttle and de Souza both had double-doubles, but without scoring from everyone else it was wasted.

Free throws: A clear advantage to New York. New York was the best free throw shooting team in the W coming into this game, and Atlanta was the worst. The results tell the story:

Atlanta: 11-for-21, 52.4 percent
New York: 18-for-19, 94.7 percent

In a high-fouling game - the Dream had 21 personal fouls, the Liberty had 19 - every trip to the free throw line was another nail in Atlanta's coffin on both sides of the court.

And now, let's look at the individual players.

Erika de Souza: She had 21 points and 10 rebounds overall, shooting 9-for-13. However, she had four personal fouls and went 3-for-8 at the free throw line. Ugh. Even so, Erika's shooting accuracy made it a good game for her and she was the Dreamer of the Game.

Sancho Lyttle: 15 points, 14 rebounds. And three steals! However, she had four personal fouls and three turnovers. As it turned out, Lyttle only played 28 minutes and De Souza played 30. Without watching the game, I assume that fouls kept them on the bench more than they should have been. Still, good game for Lyttle as well.

Angel McCoughtry: 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists. McCoughtry only played 19 1/2 minutes of the game.

Given the Chicago-Atlanta game where the Dream fell by double-digits because McCoughtry ended up in Coach Meadors's doghouse. McCoughtry's 19 minutes for the game was the fewest minutes McCoughtry has played in a game since the preseason. This has led some fans to ask if McCoughtry has ended up back in the doghouse. Yes, McCoughtry's 6-for-12 shooting was more than decent but her -14 in raw plus/minus meant that the team slid backwards when she was on the court. She had three dimes, so I can't believe it was a case of selfishness.

We do know that McCoughtry ended up in the doghouse last year, if only briefly. Frankly, it's just too damned early in the seson to make catastrophic predictions, and professional athletes are great at looking ahead and not looking back.

Kelly Miller: 0-for-4, including 0-for-2 from the 3-point line. However, Kelly had six assists in the game. Whether Kelly Miller was being asked to perform Lehning's duties of push and get out of the way, I don't know. Besides, four shots taken are sometimes more than Lehning takes in a game.

Armintie Price: 4 points, 5 rebounds. Played 16 minutes, but she had five personal fouls.

Yelena Leuchanka: We're now getting into the realm of mediocre play. Four points, and she hit both of her shots. However, two personal fouls and a turnover in only 12 minutes played. Leuchanka had only two rebounds. One plus: Leuchanka's raw plus/minus was +0 in her 12 minutes on the court - her presence there neither hurt nor helped the team.

Iziane Castro Marques: Iziane should have done better at wiping the popcorn grease from her hands. Yes, her 17 points were second overall for the Dream. However, five of those points came from free throws. Outside of that, she was 5-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-7 from three point range. It was another night of Iziane taking crazy shots that didn't go in.

Alison Bales: Two points. 2-for-4 from the line in 10 minutes played. Two rebounds. -1 in raw plus/minus. Meh.

Coco Miller: The other Miller had 4 points in 2-for-4 shooting, only playing eight minutes.

Shalee Lehning: Okay, now we've reached the "bad game level". In the 14 1/2 minutes that Lehning played, she took two shots, and missed both of them. She had only one assist. Leilani Mitchell blocked one of her shots. She was pretty much negated when she was on the court. The last time Lehning played this poorly in 2010 it was when the Seattle Storm took her to school.

Lehning has to move her game a step up to stay in the WNBA. It didn't happen during this game.

Brittainey Raven: You can't blame Raven - at least she tried. Played 2 1/2 minutes, took a shot and missed it. When you're only getting a handful of minutes a game, you gotta make those shots.

As a result, both Shalee Lehning and Brittainey Raven both were both Bad Dreams - and Lehning's hogging up most of the bed space.

Okay. File it and forget it. The San Antonio Silver Stars come to Atlanta on Sunday. Let's be there to cheer on the Dream and sweep the Silver Stars for the season.

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