I mean the Mystics. No, wait. I was right the first time.
(Rest of photos to come later. Internet is being a Drama Queen.)
Pat Coyle had this to say about Sunday's game against the Sun: "It was the home opener, I don't know how you can come out flat. We need to regroup in a hurry, that's what I expect from this group and that's what is going to happen." Unfortunately, Patty, it's YOUR job to motivate the gals. And if they won't play high-tempo ball in front of a hometown audience, then you need to sit them or make them do suicides at practice until they know who's boss.
The Libs' problems start with coaching, but I'm not letting the players off the hook at all. Let's admit it: the Libs looked sloppy on Sunday. Poor shots, no talking, and major lapses in basic defense combined with some ill-timed turnovers to create a horrible, horrible way to start out the 2008 season. But there's 33 games still left. We can all laugh about this game when we reach the post-season... IF the team wakes up. And that needs to start today, in our game against an opponent that is still reeling from their opening-night drubbing.
The Mystics and the Libs look very similar on paper. Both teams had 16-18 seasons last year, both had piss-poor openings, and both don't have a large enough data sample this season to make statistics worth using. Last year, Erin Thorn, Loree Moore, and Shameka Christon were the heroes of the D.C.-NY series, but these are new teams, with new mindsets. Each team is hellbent on not dropping to 0-2.
But there the similarities end. While McCarville might be the top player for New York (Shameka Christon is banging when she's hot), the Libs rely on strong teamwork from a half-dozen players to take the game. The Mystics, on the other hand, definitely rely on their big names to put them up, with the bench cleaning up the scraps and allowing the starters to rest. Coach Tree Rollins, since taking over coaching duties halfway through last year, has long preached a traditional basketball game, with role-players and superstars each fulfilling their duties. It's a good strategy, unless something goes wrong.
The good news for the Libs is that Alana Beard (2007 ppg: BLANK) is doubtful for the game. That takes a major weapon out of the Mystics arsenal. Washington isn't completely declawed, with Nakia Sanford, Monique Currie, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin all able to move the ball with strength and precision. Washington also has a decent bench that they can extend to, should Beard remain out. They are prone to hasty shots, but when they want to, the Mystics can steal and rebound like no other, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat.
Of course, that's all if they want to show up at all. Washington's Lassies are much different from the team that suited up last year, and it showed in their first game, with miscommunications galore in a beatdown at the hands of the Fever. The Mystics, though holding the Fever to 64 points, only managed 53 themselves. True, the Fever are good, but that is the lowest output from Washington since May 22nd of last year (52 against the then-defensive powerhouse Sacramento Monarchs). Desperation could set in if the Mystics start out slow, or they could get complacent should they move ahead. I really don't know with this team, but my guess is that they aren't going to be pushovers, even without Beard.
Last year, the Mystics started out the season 0-8 before going 16-10 over the course of the rest of the season. They didn't make the playoffs due to a technicality (which allowed our Belles to squeak past). Washington CAN'T start out poorly again this year, especially to a team that beat them by a nose to the post-season. Expect fire to rain from the heavens tonight.
History is on the Libs' side in this matchup. Washington is 14-23 overall against the Libs, including lossing seven straight in New York (stretching back to 2004). All of our ladies are capable of big numbers, and if there's a team that can pull us out of the despair of our season opener, its the Mystics. We have Detroit, Seattle, and the Sun again in the next three games. We could easily be 0-5 after all that.
- Defense. I like that the Libs are more agressively-defensive this year, but they have to pick and choose their battles. Watch out for the open woman, fight for loose balls, and - if things aren't going smoothly - shut down and regroup.
- Dutch. Cathrine Kraayeveld needs to rebound after last game. If she doesn't, Coach Coyle needs to sit her.
- Turnovers. Sunday's game was atrocious. The Mystics didn't have a great opener in that regard, either. The team that manages to cutdown and pick-up first is going to have a nigh-insurmountable advantage over the other.
Yeah, so my prediction went bust. Still, it was a tight game that started out as a blow-out for the Shock (22-10 after the 1st). Indiana held on and went up 63-58 with eight minutes left in the game, but couldn't maintain composure. Two stupid fouls let the Shock right back into the game, and then Nolan, Braxton, and Ford shut the door.
Seattle @ Phoenix
Sacramento is still reeling, trying to figure out its gameplan for the season, but Chicago doesn't have that problem. Much like last year, they look uncentered; they went up early in their first game, but an anemic second half prevented them from picking up the Dubya. Both teams played and lost to Seattle already, and that's about as much similarity as the two have; the Monarchs are beginning to break out of their defensive shell, while the Sky are pushing a shotgun attack that they lack the pieces to fully implement. If Chicago can last the whole 4 quarters, they might be able to pull a win out of their hats. But Sacramento's got the edge here. Monarchs by 6.
Phoenix is 0-2 after winning their championship last season, thanks to the stellar play of the Candace Parker-led Sparks and late-blooming Storm. They were in both games up until the end, however, and Seattle might be due for an upset. Their two victories both came against opponents that are still finding their wind. New Storm coach Brian Agler (no stranger to the women's game, having coached in the ABL, for the Lynx, and assisted on the Mercs and Silver Stars) has instituted a never-say-die attitude, however. Even if the Mercury go up, I wouldn't call this game until the final second has ticked off the clock. This is a toss-up... I'll say Mercs by 4.
Speaking of Parker, it’s the first week of the season and already people are talking about her as the MVP? Come on, lads and lassies. Not to take away from ehr 34 point performance (damn!), but it's only one game. If early success was all that mattered, Krispy Kreme would remain the best-selling fastfood joint on the planet.
On the same note of early season "highs and lows", attendance for the openers has been (so far) fantastic, while attendance for second games (so far) has been pitiful. True, this happens every season, but it blows to come off a season in which attendance increased for the first time in a number of years and then see this kind of drop-off.
The sad part about this article is that for a second, I almost believed it was real. Which shows three things. A.) I am not adverse to seeing some of these ladies in their undergarments. B.) I have become so numbed by the league's stupid decisions that this kind of stuff doesn't even set off my bullshit alarm anymore. C.) My departure from the blogging world has left me vulnerable to such tactics.
Apparently, the Sky can't afford to miss the playoffs. Well, they'd better stop playing like a group of D-League castoffs in the second half of games, then.
That's about it for me today. I'll try to update late-night tonight, but it may have to wait for tomorrow. Until then?
See ya, Space Cowboy...