Nothing to write about from yesterday, five games today that’ll drive me crazy if I try to cover them all tomorrow, and the first camp day game of the year. You know what that means? It’s Pseudo-Live Game Diary time! I figure this’ll get one of the five out of the way, give us a closer look at the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream, and might even be mildly entertaining along the way. So I’ve got Wimbledon on mute on the TV, LiveAccess linked up to my gorgeous IPS monitor, and plenty of Diet Coke and snacks ready to go.
All we need now is for some actual basketball to replace this ‘Game has not started’ screen…
Phew, the feed’s actually started. I wasn’t looking forward to coming up with something else for the update today. Also a positive, this game’s on Fox SportSouth in the US, so we get some halfway decent production values for once. Our Atlanta broadcasters, Bob Rathbun and LaChina Robinson, focus on the Sylvia Fowles-Erika de Souza matchup in the introduction. That’s reasonable, considering the Dream perimeter went 0-a million in their last game and Sancho Lyttle is still somewhere in Poland. Expect LaChina to say something completely nonsensical at some point this afternoon, just to keep us entertained. Or possibly because she doesn’t know the rules of basketball.
Chicago stick with Cathrine Kraayeveld at the 3, despite the fact that Angel McCoughtry starts at that spot for Atlanta. Expect Zone. The Dream go back to Alison Bales as Lyttle’s replacement, after trying Sandora Irvin in the last game. Swapping from one to the other isn’t making either of them any better.
Disappointingly empty stands for a camp day game, when busfuls of screaming kids usually pack the stands. Hopefully the seats we can’t see are full to the brim.
10:00 – Alison Bales helps out Erika by digging down on a Big Syl post move and creating a turnover. Maybe Ali was the right pick after all.
9:25 – Angel McCoughtry actually turns down a shot, dumping down to Erika instead. Erika promptly airballs a hook shot thanks to the presence of Fowles, Big Syl runs the floor and receives a Vandersloot feed for an easy layup. Don’t expect Angel to turn down many more opportunities.
By the way, we’ll be calling my favourite young point guard Sloot from here on out. Way easier to type. Might become Sloooooooot if she does something especially good.
9:02 – Kraayeveld’s on Iziane Castro Marques (hereafter ‘Kraay’ and ‘Izi’), because the Sky are using Epiphanny Prince on McCoughtry. Izi promptly goes straight round Kraay for the layup. That matchup probably isn’t going to work for Chicago.
8:53 – Heh, Kraay immediately shows it might be a mismatch the other way too, as Izi gets caught double-teaming Sloot, leaving Kraay to drain a ridiculously wide open three. That’s all she does, Atlanta. Might want to close out on her.
8:42 – Kraay ridiculously open at the arc again. Blows this one.
8:41 – Clock stops. So does the game, as a result.
8:09 – Sloooooooot! Nice recovery block on Lindsey Harding, who’s been playing like a rookie herself so far this season. Sloot turns it into another transition assist to Big Syl back the other way.
8:05 – Angel drives and hits straight over Prince. Height difference helps McCoughtry out on that matchup.
7:30ish (the clock disappeared) – Prince misses contested jumper; again, Angel’s height and length helps.
7:17 – First foul on Big Syl, defending Erika on the block. Keep an eye on those, because foul trouble for Syl is the quickest way to kill this Sky team. Also the first piece of complete rubbish from LaChina, suggesting Erika was late to camp due to obligations with her team overseas. The Brazilian was done in Europe pretty early this year, but went back home to sort out some personal matters and have a bit of a rest. I know this because I actually follow the European leagues and Marynell Meadors told me the rest when she was in London. LaChina apparently preferred to just guess.
7:02 – Michelle Snow bricks her second straight midrange jumper of the day. This is a fairly common occurrence.
6:50 – Erika hits a nice little turnaround over Snow, LaChina criticises Big Syl for her defense on the play, because apparently she’s blind.
6:22 – Izi bricks a foul-line jumper over Kraay. Oh Izi, go round her for crying out loud.
5:57 – Angel goes the length of the court for an easy layup, straight through the ‘defense’. Nice picking up, Sky.
5:32 – Bales hits an open jumper. A 6-7 behemoth shouldn’t be at her most effective from 15 feet. It’s unnatural.
4:43 – Bales cranks a three, de Souza gets inside position on Fowles and has an easy putback. Come on Syl, you can do better than that. Atlanta scoring too easily inside, as our esteemed commentators have managed to pick up.
4:31 – TV timeout. Aww, we get a ‘gamebreak’ screen. It’s always fun when we get the random discussion from the commentators in the breaks where they forget we might be listening. And the cameramen start randomly zooming in on any mildly attractive female they can find in the crowd.
Atlanta go with Courtney Paris to replace Erika out of the timeout, showing Meadors and Ross may be tiring of Sandora Irvin’s lackadaisical brand of basketball. Tamera Young into the game for Chicago, and she goes straight round Angel for a layup and the foul. Wow, Tamera Young’s actually alive. Who knew?
4:10 – Sky go zone, Izi drops a three over Kraay. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…
3:50 – Snow midrange brick number three.
3:36 – Izi drives, Big Syl says not in her house and dumps it in the third row. That’s a reminder why Izi was sticking to jumpers, then.
3:15 – Angel goes past Young like she isn’t there. Not a surprise.
3:10 – Paris blows a 1-foot layup. Way to make an early impression, Court. Bob mentions that Atlanta are trying to replace Sandora Irvin. Um, Sandora’s on the court right in front of you Bob. Think you might mean Sancho Lyttle. LaChina glosses over it.
2:41 – Young clatters Harding from behind. Tamera’s in for her defense, in theory. 20-14, Atlanta.
2:15 – Dominique Canty drives and blows a contested layup without making a single pass on the possession. She was the starting Sky point guard the last three years. There’s a reason she isn’t any more.
1:45 – Angel goes right by the defense for a layup, again. McCoughtry looking like this might be one of her good days. Sky looking like they don’t have any answers.
1:30 – Dismal airball from Canty. More Sloot, please.
1:21 – Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton gets a smack in the face, medical timeout. Bob accuses her of faking. 23-16.
1:12 – Sloot gets crossed over by Shalee Lehning. Yeah, defense isn’t exactly the rook’s forté.
1:10 – Paris with her second made layup on a loose ball breakdown. That’s more like it. Really not expecting her to get cut when Lyttle comes back.
0:30 – Paris tries to make a turnaround spin move on Snow. Takes about three weeks for her to turn around, so it gets blocked. Probably not Courtney’s go-to move.
0:01 – Prince blows an open 2-footer to close the quarter, 25-16 Dream. Chicago kind of lacking in any offense that isn’t Fowles, unless you’re counting Prince misses.
9:37 – Ooh, Jelena Jankovic is out. Sorry, back to basketball.
9:17 – Lehning goes round Sloot again, draws the foul on the rookie. Need to work on that footspeed kid.
8:50 – Sloot draws a charging call on Armintie Price, Bob is incredulous, right along with the Dream coaching staff. Just for once, they might actually have had a point.
8:13 – Lehning gets picked up by Kraay in transition. Yeah, Shalee might not be quick, but that isn’t going to work. Pick and roll feed to Paris down low, who makes the layup in traffic and gets fouled. Dear Kelly Mazzante and Sandora Irvin, you might want to be checking with your agents about future employment, because one of you is going to be looking for a job in a couple of weeks.
7:55 – Prince clanks another 3. The Sky really struggle for perimeter offense when Piph is cold.
7:16 – Price gets fouled on a drive by Big Syl. Not smart; Price would’ve missed on her own, and that’s Fowles foul number two. Price, one of the worst shooters I’ve ever seen play professional basketball, goes 1-for-2 from the line. Timeout Chicago, down 31-17.
LaChina thinks Atlanta have done a great job on Prince. I’m less convinced. She’s been missing most of the same shots in the other Sky games, but picking up points on volume shooting and transition layups. Also, this crowd’s actually pretty thin from every camera angle.
6:37 – Paris blows the finish on a McCoughtry drive and feed. First noticeable pissed off handclap from Angel. Very unlikely to be the last.
6:23 – Kraay 3 right over Izi.
6:11 – Izi ghosts past Kraay for the layup. Ain’t ridiculous matchups grand?
5:25 – Bales blows a layup, showing why she usually stays 15 feet out. Paris gets fouled on the putback – Fowles’s third. Uh oh. 33-22 Atlanta, and that’s Big Syl done for the half.
3:24 – Caroline Swords tries to post up Alison Bales. Man was that ugly. Swords ends it quickly by dribbling the ball off her foot and out of bounds. A multitude of commentators seem to have taken to pronouncing the hard ‘w’ noise in Swords’s name. Seems odd to me, but hopefully that’s the way she likes it. Otherwise it’s just bizarre.
2:58 – Swords ‘jumper’ over Bales (didn’t actually leave the ground). Not even close. Yeah, Fowles in foul trouble really isn’t good for Chicago.
We’re now getting the TV adverts. This isn’t an upgrade on the gamebreak screen.
2:35 – Pressure on Sloot from Harding and McCoughtry after another bricked Price free throw. Not enough help for the youngster from her teammates, eight-second call. Come on Sky, wake up.
2:08 – Amazingly, Kraay’s first foul on an Izi drive. I guess she couldn’t get close enough to even hack her on the others.
2:00 – Sloot pass accidentally slams into rim. Bob and LaChina don’t realise that the refs stopped the game to re-set the shotclock. She doesn’t have to do it intentionally for it to re-set the clock, Bob.
1:48 – Canty drives and throws ball into Bales’s arm to pad her block stats.
0:57 – Prince finally hits a 3. Chicago desperately needed that.
0:04 – Harding drives past Sloot, draws the defense, and kicks to Angel in the corner for the three to top off the half.
0:01 – McCoughtry steal from Kraay, feeds Izi who can’t quite get the layup off fast enough to beat the buzzer. 43-31 at the break.
More adverts and a Harding interview I can’t bear to watch. I met Lindsey when the Dream were over here and she’s lovely, but these interviews are always excruciating. Some halftime numbers for you: McCoughtry has 12 points on 5-8 shooting and five rebounds, Paris has nine points, five boards, and a +10 in the plus/minus column. Big Syl has only six points and two boards, in just 11 minutes, which won’t lead to many Sky wins. Prince is 2-8 for five points, which doesn’t help either. Atlanta only have five turnovers, which has largely stopped Chicago’s transition game, hence the 12-point gap.
Bob tells us that Pokey Chatman gathered her players at halfcourt before letting them go back to the locker room at the half, wanting to make a point. Pokey was apparently not happy. You can’t really blame her.
10:00 – Harding still doing very little offensively, even facing Sloot’s defense. They need Lindsey to be more aggressive, otherwise they might as well send her back to Washington and go with Lehning again.
9:02 – Izi goes straight past Kraay for a layup, again.
8:45 – LaChina credits Harding for pressure on Sloot on a turnover. Didn’t really have much to do with Lindsey, considering the ball was thrown miles behind Sloot leaving had no chance of catching it. Gotta love home announcers.
7:52 – Snow finally hits an open elbow jumper. 45-35, Atlanta timeout.
Heh, apparently Alison Bales ‘took a year off from the WNBA’ in 2009. Does being cut and not being able to find anyone who’ll hire you really count as taking a year off, LaChina?
6:42 – Fowles foul number four, going over the back of Erika looking for an unreachable offensive board. Silly.
5:49 – LaChina thinks Angel is the most competitive player in the WNBA. Angel promptly airballs a three approximately two seconds later. But I bet it was a competitive airball!
5:34 – Young banks in a jumper over Angel. Tamera’s really been going back at McCoughtry whenever possible, which is nice to see. The Dream staff wanted a push-off call on that play, which is kind of comical considering Angel was the defender, and she pushes off on nearly every possession.
4:51 – Telling graphic: Chicago 4-9 from free throw line, Atlanta 15-22. The Sky don’t really drive much, so who’s going to get fouled except Fowles?
4:30 – Erika goes right round Swords for a hook shot that drops. Swords is either raw or just rubbish, and not really good enough to be in this league. I’m kind of leaning towards the latter, but it’s early. She is big though. 51-38, Dream.
3:27 – Vandersloot runs the break nicely, feeding Young for a layup, only to see Angel make the emphatic block from behind. That’s a competitive block!
2:41 – Swords realises McCoughtry is on her, and gets crazy-deep position underneath the hoop. Michelle Snow notices just barely soon enough to avoid the 3-second call, and feeds Swords for the layup. Lead down to six, 51-45, cue an Atlanta timeout to try to stem the tide.
2:20 – Shockingly, Bob and LaChina both thought Paris got fouled on a missed layup attempt.
2:00 – Canty again doesn’t pass even once on a possession, but this time goes right past Coco Miller for the layup and the foul when Miller and Paris both get caught on a screen. Coco’s not having a good day, 0-5 at this point.
1:42 – Ugly Miller leaning airball at the other end. Yeesh. Don’t expect Coco to play much in the fourth.
1:23 – Miller turnover becomes a Young transition layup, 51-49.
0:55 – Miller miss.
0:45 – Dumbass Snow 19-foot jumper kills Chicago momentum without any help from Atlanta, unsurprisingly clanking off the rim.
0:04 – Canty drives, and throws a pass to no one in particular. Maybe that’s why she usually shoots. Izi comes in for the final seconds but no one other than Lehning touches the ball anyway and nothing good happens. 51-49 to end quarter.
Apparently, Wendy’s introduced their new Berry Almond Chicken Salad in Berryville, Virginia. No, really. If you watched this game and didn’t know that, I applaud your selective hearing. I hate the way American sports broadcasts contain three adverts, repeated ad nauseam until you want to shoot yourself in the head.
Hmm, if I actually shot myself in the head and left a note explaining why, could my family sue Wendy’s and the WNBA? The things you think about between quarters, ladies and gentlemen.
9:45 – Canty ‘runs’ the offense on the opening possession: cue no passes, drive, missed layup. Come on Nique, surprise me, cough up the ball once or twice.
9:23 – Ooh, now that‘s Dream basketball. Izi with the board, 50-foot outlet to Lehning, straight into a pass to Price for the layup. Ball never touched the floor. That was pretty.
9:09 – Swords posts up on Paris. Footspeedapalooza. Not.
8:38 – Paris misses a layup, and Fowles beats both Courtney and Erika down the floor before Erika hacks her to prevent the score. Paris is trying to run the floor – which is more than you can often say about Sandora Irvin – but that’s a lot of bulk to carry back. 53-51, Dream.
8:13 – Good defense from Young on Angel, staying in front of her for once. Angel might be tiring a little after missing most of preseason and only having been back for a few games.
7:42 – Another McCoughtry brick over Young.
7:37 – Awful toss from the ref on a jump ball helps Chicago win it despite Sloot going against Izi. Sloot feeds Syl down low on the break with only Harding back defending her. Fowles blows the first try, then hits the putback with the bonus of a foul by Erika from behind – her fifth. Sky lead for first time in what feels like hours, 55-53 after the free throw.
7:24 – McCoughtry caught throwing her hip in while setting an illegal screen. Bitches about it, inevitably. That’s against the rules, Ange.
7:12 – Lazy Prince pass picked off by Angel for steal and layup. We need a name for that play, where you steal and it’s an immediate layup the other way. Like a ‘stayup’ or something. Guess in the men’s game that’d be a ‘stunk’. Tied ballgame, 55-55.
6:51 – Fowles with the spin move and finish on Bales, despite a McCoughtry double-team. Big Syl’s way too good for Ali.
6:09 – Crazy hook shot flip in the lane by Harding after getting trapped on a drive, putting Atlanta back in front. Is that her first bucket all freaking day? (*checks boxscore* Yes, yes it is. Nice of you to join us, Lindsey.)
5:45 – Harding and Lehning are out there together, with Angel at the 4 and Bales the 5. de Souza has to be back soon, right? Prince is resting too, presumably, for the final minutes. Angel airball from the lane.
5:05 – Harding gets in the lane again and gets a nice roll on a jumper over Sloot. Maybe Lindsey’s awake after all.
4:34 – Angel drives, throws herself into Fowles, misses the layup and it’s Chicago possession once the ball hits her on the head while she’s lying on the endline. Angel and LaChina whine in symphony about not getting the foul call. Bob joins in after a replay showing Fowles standing there while Angel jumps into her. Good call, ref. Shut up, commentators.
4:23 – More Fowles, Snow feed on a down-cut, layup. Bales has no chance. 61-60, Atlanta.
3:52 – McCoughtry turnover after picking her dribble up too early turns into an eventual Sloot layup. Doesn’t count as a stayup if there are passes involved inbetween.
3:26 – Harding breaks down Sloot off the dribble, kicks to Bales for a 10-footer, miss. Sloot pushes back the other way, knifes into the paint, throws a pretty little oop feed over Bales to Fowles for the lay-in. Chicago lead 64-61, timeout Atlanta. de Souza finally goes back in for Bales, Harding back to the point as Izi comes in for Lehning.
The Sky put Young on Harding while they try to hide Sloot on Price.
3:12 – Didn’t work. Price goes straight past Sloot for the layup.
2:54 – Prince jumper for two, followed by a Prince steal on an Izi drive at the other end. This kid could be special if that jump shot gets a bit more consistent. She hasn’t technically played for Russia yet, either. Anyone know if she’s got any recent British heritage?
2:15 – Snow/Fowles mix up leaves Erika completely alone, and she takes the feed from Harding for the layup. That’s one of the problems of playing two centers on your front line – sometimes they don’t know who’s defending whom. Chicago by a point.
1:55 – Fowles leaves a jump-hook short over de Souza.
1:40 – Angel jumper in the lane over Fowles is short again, just like everything she’s put up in the second half. An offensive board leads to Erika on the block again, and she hits a little hook over Snow in the post. LaChina probably thought that was Syl’s fault, but doesn’t mention it. 67-66 Atlanta.
1:20 – Izi tries to go under a Snow screen defending Prince, gets caught and Piph is left completely open for three. Wildly overshoots it, hits nothing but glass, Atlanta rebound.
1:03 – Harding, with Young on her, uses a couple of screens and wheels to the hoop on the right side. Hits the layup, gets the foul on Prince coming over to try to help, ends up lying on her back but with a three-point lead and a free throw to come. That’s what they acquired this girl for. Lindsey hits the extra, Dream by four. I’m left wondering why Sloot has even been in the game late on when they’ve been letting Prince run the offense, and Courtney’s presence requires defensive alterations.
0:46 – This time the ball actually is in Sloot’s hands, and Bob gets all excited when she picks up her dribble and has nowhere to go with Angel all over her, thinking it’ll be a five-second call. Rule doesn’t exist in the pros, Bob. Sloot eventually gets rid of it to Kraay, dump to Snow, interior feed to Fowles and we’re back to a two-point game.
0:23 – Harding penetrates again, drops it to Erika right underneath the backboard, who loses the ball under a little pressure from Prince. Chicago immediately go back the other way with Sloot, and she tries to make that over-the-top pass to Fowles yet again. Unfortunately for her, Armintie Price was the little guard dropping back to defend in transition this time, not Harding. Price uses her hops and long arms to reach up and intercept the pass, Dream ball. Also, Courtney didn’t throw it quite high enough. Kraayeveld has the court-sense to immediately foul Price, knowing that the Sky need to stop the clock. If Kraay was really thinking fast, it was also because Price is a piss-poor free throw shooter, but unfortunately for Chicago they had a foul to give.
0:15 – Price is still on the floor, but nowhere near the ball when Atlanta re-inbound. Harding gets fouled instead. However, Lindsey’s had repeated problems of her own with crunch-time free throws, dating back to college. Hence: clank. Just barely makes the second, and it’s 71-68 Atlanta with 13.8 seconds to play.
0:13 – Chicago make a complete hash of trying to tie the game, although you do have to credit some smart and athletic perimeter defense by the Dream. Sloot throws over to Kraayeveld on the right wing, Big Syl sets her a screen, and Angel rightfully traps Kraay while completely ignoring Fowles rolling towards the hoop (they needed three, remember – if Fowles got a layup, no big deal). Meanwhile, Prince was coming off a Snow screen on the weak side but Armintie Price switched onto Prince rather than chasing her man towards the sideline. Fowles tried to help out by setting another screen, and Prince did at least get a three off, but it was forced, off-balance and McCoughtry was right up in her face contesting it. Front-rim, no good, and the clock runs out on the rebound. Atlanta win, 71-68.
Cue ‘Game has ended’ screen, because neither Fox SportSouth nor LiveAccess has any interest in wasting their time with post-game interviews.
Big win for Atlanta, who needed to stop their slide. McCoughtry had a rough second half, and as a team they were only 35% from the floor, but it proved to be enough. Harding’s 11 points on 3-6 shooting and six assists don’t look too impressive in the boxscore, but she came up big down the stretch (ignoring that missed free throw). Maybe that’ll finally get her Dream career rolling. As for Chicago, they struggle for offense when Fowles isn’t completely dominant or Prince isn’t lighting it up. Fowles finished with 21, and Tamera Young chipped in an unexpected 14, but it wasn’t enough. They need more offense from somewhere – probably Vandersloot – to really push on in games. Otherwise the load on Fowles is going to prove too great on a lot of nights.
That’s your lot. Hope everyone enjoyed our first foray into WNBAlien Game Diaries. Back to the normal columns tomorrow.
In other news…
Today’s the 15th anniversary of the very first WNBA game between New York and LA, hence the double-header on ESPN2 finishing with a re-match of those two franchises. Expect lots of flashbacks and reminiscing on the broadcast tonight.
Today’s Other Games:
Indiana @ Washington, 7pm ET
Phoenix @ San Antonio, 8pm ET, live on ESPN2
Seattle @ Tulsa, 8pm ET
New York @ Los Angeles, 10pm ET, live on ESPN2