No, I won't make the expected "Nightmare" joke... but only because I have willpower.
Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way. The Atlanta Dream are 0-7. They are at or near the bottom of the league in points, opponent points, point differential, field goal percentage, opponent's field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists, opponent's assists, and assist differential. This doesn't even get into their defense, which is equally abysmal. Everybody knew that the Dream were going to be facing a lot of growing pains this season (as every expansion team not in the NFL does).
There are some bright spots for the team, however. They control steals by their opponents well (MUCH better than Sun or Monarchs), which is one of the Lib's keys to winning. Also, since their first game, the Dream have not failed to produce seventy points an all save one occasion. So, they can score, no matter who the opponent, and have made for tough opponents for the Lynx (85-81) and Mystics (80-74). That might be damning with faint praise, but it's the best I could muster.
Really, our gals shouldn't have a problem with the Dream. But these are the Libs, after all, and if any team (besides the Mystics) can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, its the Belles.
We'll need help from this fella.
So, what are the Libs to do? Rebounds. The Liberty have failed to make a great impression all year, but they are positively Herculean when compared to the Dream. If the gals can control the ball, put it in the air, and be there if it drops, then we can cycle endlessly until whoever has decided to show up tonight awakens. Or we could rest some of the usual starters and see how the younger crowd takes it into the second half. They'll be desperate for action and Atlanta is really the only opponent at this point where they might see some extended playtime.
I'm not going to go into the usual offense-defense-pass-the-ball garbage, because everybody knows it. What I will say is that the Liberty absolutely CANNOT allow themselves to get behind in this game. The Dream need a win, and they are at home. I'm sure the front office is pushing them to do SOMETHING for the crowd. If Atlanta jumps ahead and grabs the lead, they'll hold onto it like a bulldog in a pit. If there's one thing that a rock-bottom team knows, its desperation. With nowhere to go but up, they'll throw everything they have at the Libs and hope it'll stick. Don't be afraid. Just be cautious.
- Betty Lennox. She leads the Dream with 18.6 ppg (the next highest total is Ericka DeSouza with 11), but those mostly come from beyond the arc. She's only .390 in the field overall. Control the outside, Libs. Control it. CONTROL IT! That goes double for you, Dutch.
- Pass the ball. The Dream aren't good at rebounds and they aren't good blocking shots, but they are... decent at one-on-one battles. Force them to move and they'll crumble.
- Middlegame. It seems like every 2nd and 3rd quarter, the Libs shut off the "Win" gear in their brains. That'll be the point when the Dream jump into the game. If Atlanta can ratchet up their game before the Libs realize what has happened, the Libs will have to battle back before their usual wakeup time in the 4th.
Connecticut 75, Minnesota 66
All Connecticut needed was four players. And when your ladies - Jones (20), Turner (18), Whitmore (14), and Whalen (14) - manage that kind of output, that's all you need. To be fair, their bench came in and did a bang-up job controlling the hitherto unflinching Lynx offense (though Candice Wiggins did manage 22 points for Minnesota). The Sun also outrebounded the Lynx by a large margin, while shooting pver 40% from the field and 90% from the line (compared to Minnesota's 33% and 65%, respectively).
Indiana @ San Antonio
Phoenix @ Seattle
Detroit @ Los Angeles
Washington, after starting the season 2-2, has dropped to sixth in the conference with four straight losses. They are playing tonight at home against the Monarchs, and they're going to need the win. The Monarchs, despite winning two of their last three (loss to Detroit, wins against Houston and the Libs), are paper tigers. They're fourth in the conference, but have to establish some kind of momentum. Their defense is a hodge-podge, their offense is limited, and no one is stepping up to lead the team. I'd hesitate to pick them, but Washington hasn't scored more than 70 points 5 times this season (3 at 60 or less). If you can't put points on the board, you can't win games. Monarchs by 6.
Both Indiana and San Antonio are flailing a bit. Sure, the Stars are in much deeper trouble; despite the play of Young and Hammon, they are routinely outhustled on a regular basis. But Indiana, despite its wins, still feels incohesive. It'll be a test for them tonight to see if they can beat the currently undefeated-at-home Silver Stars. San Antonio needs this win a lot more - they travel to Indiana on Sunday and could wind up 3-6 if they can't manage a split. I'll back the Stars by 4 for now, but this is anyone's game.
So, Phoenix has won two games and now suddenly everybody thinks that they can take on the Storm? Yeah, the Storm slipped a bit recently, but they are still killer at the Key (5-0) and you know the Mercs aren't going to try to contain Cash, Bird, or Swoops, let alone Jackson. The Storm are the more disciplined team by far, and that goes a long way. Storm by 6.
Tonight will be only the second time that the Sparks have played at home this season (the first being a loss to the Phoenix last Friday). Being such, there isn't a big enough of a sample to understand the home court advantage. Detroit is no slouch, but is considerably more vulnerable while on the road. The course of the game will be determined, once again, by how well Parker plays. If she manhandles the Shock's defense, expect a win for the Sparks. I think that Detroit is too disciplined to let that happen, however. Shock by 7.
I added a couple links to the site, as you might be able to tell. First up is Pleasant Dreams, an Atlanta Dreams blog. The blogger is still in the wild-eyed days of youthful blogging - multiple posts a day, in-depth analysis, happiness with life.
That will change.
The second is DC BasketCases, a Mystics blog that's been around for a while. They've got good coverage and a regular posting schedule, so (unlike me) you can trust them to have your team's fix on a scheduled basis.
You're all like junkies. LIBERTY JUNKIES!!!
Essay to come sometime tomorrow or Friday. Still working on locating the ex-Libs (Weber, Bowen, etc.). If anybody has any leads, please let me know.
See ya, Space Cowboy...