Just the Facts, Ma'am: Double-doubles from Sancho Lyttle and Erika deSouza powered the Atlanta Dream to a Game 1 victory over the New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference Finals, 81-75. Angel McCoughtry's 21 points led the Dream, while Lyttle posted 18 points and 13 boards. deSouza came off the bench to add 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cappie Pondexter's 24 points for the Liberty led all scorers, buttressed by 18 points from Plenette Pierson.
For seething rage, long braids, lots of Knicks, intense frustration, and random acts of St. John's, join your intrepid and disconsolately sober blogger after the jump.
What in the... world... was that... dreck... masquerading as quality officiating? Those... incompetent buffoons... in the oatmeal and orange uniforms should be ashamed of themselves for the job they did tonight. Not that the Liberty necessarily did enough to win properly, but there was no reason for the officiating to be so oblivious at the end. It was shameful.
Things started out nicely, too. (Well, except for the chocolate fondue. Dear Dave and Buster's, it should not take you the entire fourth quarter of Seattle-Phoenix to set that up. Also, please don't turn off the game we're watching, okay?) The Usual Suspects were all in place. The leis were distributed. The noisemakers were tested and approved. Kiabear and Maddie did their stretches while Kia and Maddie did their stretches in the real world. The seats were filled. The anthem was beautiful. And then we discovered that Clarke Stevens, Michael Price, and Cameron Inouye were our officials for the evening. Joy.
Érika deSouza needs to learn how to get out of the paint. The folks in front of us were screaming about three-second calls pretty much every time she was in the paint, and they were only passionately wrong half the time. I mean, I know we had no chance against her size without someone of equal girth to bang with her, and Kia doesn't have the experience to bang with her, but still. I think Shalee Lehning's shoulder is still bothering her slightly. I know she's never been a shooter, but her shots were unusually flat, rolling up the rim to go in, or falling off the underside. That makes me think that she can't get her proper motion going. She ran a fairly solid and smart game for Atlanta. Alison Bales was mostly tall and passive about being tall. Plenette did a nice job of sealing her off despite giving up five inches to her. Yelena Leuchanka- who I will confess to taunting as Basketball Barbie when she came into the game, because of her comments about the league embracing the more feminine players- relieved Bales, and was moderately annoying on the boards. I was amused when Leilani boxed her out on a play. Brittaney Raven, just shut up, okay? Your team won on the road, but you didn't play. Don't act like you hit the game-winning shot.
I don't know if this is obvious or anything, but Sancho Lyttle has absolutely amazing vertical. And what frightens me as a Liberty fan is that Meadors is now willing to draw up plays for her, when she seemed reticent to do that before, treating her as basically just a garbage collector. I think she's really going to go off next year- she probably would have this year if she hadn't made acquaintance with the deadly elbows of Sylvia Fowles. Angel McCoughtry and her whiny attitude can take a long walk off a short pier, as far as I'm concerned. I understand the role of dramatizing and diving in the game, but simulating a knee injury to get the referee's sympathy is sickening. She started getting calls later in the game and padding her stats at the line, but I don't think she imposed her will on this game as much as I would want if I were an Atlanta fan, and that scares me as a New York fan. Iziane Castro Marques were more out of control than usual. I think our PA announcer likes saying her name more than is healthy, though. Mike, she's not on our team, you know. Armintie Price has found some of the nerve that abandoned her in Chicago when she got to see Chasity Melvin's eye scream trick, and that's not necessarily a good idea. Open field tackles are generally not conducive to playing clean defense. I honestly don't remember Coco Miller doing anything except being in on a play that went out of bounds, where she was called for the foul and we taunted her that she shouldn't start crying.
Paging Kalana Greene. Would the Kalana Greene who was named to the All-Rookie team please kindly come to the scorer's table and make at least a cameo appearance in the limited minutes she's getting? Seriously, she looks like her confidence and her game have been seriously shattered. Unfortunately, Essence Carson's game fell off the cliff. As for the rap... Essence, don't quit your day job. Flow's decent enough, but you don't have the strength of voice to carry it. Please don't kill me. Kia Vaughn reverted back to being the Kia Vaughn who made me shriek in rage far too often over her years at Rutgers, last WNBA season, and publicly during the 2009 draft. She hit a couple of pretty jumpers, but her focus wasn't as much on the ball as I would have liked. Stop dropping the ball, all right? Sidney Spencer actually saw time, because of Powell's foul trouble and because we were getting nothing out of Essence and Kalana, and she wasn't completely awful. Slow as molasses in January, but she at least tried to make plays on the ball, and right now that's more than a couple of our regulars are doing on defense.
Once again, Janel was in street clothes. I regret to inform Janel that she doesn't look as cool in an argyle sweater vest as she thought she did. She's limping less, so knock on wood...
Plenette Pierson, please stop shooting thee-pointers. Yes, you hit one, and I approve that message. But clearly Cathrine Kraayeveld is exerting some kind of mental influence on you through numerology. Please go inside and hit people while collecting rebounds. And stop making with the hooking of the arms, you'll give yourself another dislocated shoulder. We needed her to be the player she was in Detroit, and she almost managed it. Leilani Mitchell's back is clearly bothering her. We saw her get treatment between halves, and she was passing up looks that she would have taken a month ago. She's far too timid for my liking right now, and we need her to be available so Pondexter doesn't have to play point and limit her shots. Taj McWilliams-Franklin was as fierce on the boards as ever, but the length of the season is catching up to her age, and the awful way Donovan used her posts tonight didn't help matters. She should have had a double-double with the shots she missed. Nicole Powell's offense accepted the graceful invitation that went out via Reb's, but her defense declined to attend. Her threes were clutch, but every time I saw one, I kept thinking about plays where she backed off on defense or watched loose balls go by her. Whatever she scored, I think she gave up more on the other end. Cappie Pondexter had the most passive 20 shots I've ever seen in my life. We were talking after the game about how it looked like she was giving up the ball more- now, that had to do with her playing extended minutes at the point because Coach Donovan was experimenting with the lineup and working around Leilani's bad back, but she didn't comport herself like a go-to, star player. Maybe something was going on in her head, maybe she tried to get everyone else involved, but Cappie, this is a really bad time to choke.
I'm really not thrilled with Anne Donovan's player management in this game. If you only have three posts, you don't run them into the ground by playing them until they collapse. You have to give them quick shifts. You don't leave Taj or Plenette in for a quarter at a time. You know how I know this? Because for the last two years, I've been a fan of a college team that only has a three-post rotation. I've watched Kim Barnes Arico juggle Da'Shena Stevens, Joy McCorvey, and gods help us all, Coco Hart. I've watched her work around their foul trouble and their exhaustion. If a coach who's working with twentysomethings knows this, why doesn't a coach who's working with older players know it? Especially when she's juggling her backcourt to pick up the slack from an injury? You'd think she'd understand the principle at that point.
Of course, I would be remiss if I neglected to go into specifics about the officiating. We knew it was gong to be a long night on a disputed block/charge call. Clarke Stevens called the offensive foul on Atlanta, Michael Price called the block on Plenette. Okay, no big deal, referees disagree all the time. They went to center court for a jump ball, which is the proper procedure. And then Michael Price decided to call a double foul in addition to the jump ball. I just. WHAT? And it was all downhill from there. Bad enough that officials don't know how to call travels anymore. This crew just gave up on the last two minutes of the game. Let me make myself perfectly clear. I don't object to fouls being called on my team that they actually commit. That's part of the game. I understand that. What I object to is when all the calls seem to be at one end of the floor. What I object to is when Angel McCoughtry gets more free throws than MY ENTIRE TEAM. Hey, guys? You wanna make superstar calls so you can go play with the big boys in the NBA? Okay, fine, whatever. We have a superstar too, you know.
I applaud my fellow fans' enthusiasm, but I didn't have the heart to tell them that the MVP was already given out.
Many Knicks were at the game: Wilson Chandler, Ronny Turiaf, and Danilo Gallinari. And Toney Douglas! No, seriously, that was pretty much how they announced it, like they'd forgotten that Douglas was there. I nearly died when I came home and saw that a friend in Seattle had re-Tweeted something from Turiaf, who was in turn relaying a Tweet from Chandler, wondering if he could get fined for saying that these WNBA refs were horrible. It's nice to see the guys getting into it. Allan Houston was there too, repping the men's side.
C. Vivian Stringer was there, as she was last time. Apparently this time she scared the daylights out of her former players.
For me, by the end of the night, the high point was, "oh, hey, that's Eugeneia McPherson!" on the E platform. (One of my favorite current Johnnies. Eugeneia, if you're reading this, take a lesson from this game. Be more worried about getting a good shot than getting into position to be fouled, because they won't call it.)
I still have some faith left in this team. We've beaten them in Atlanta this year. Anything can happen in a single game. It would be nice if we could get even half of Janel back, though...