Sunday, 29 May 2011
SESSIONS ON COURT: ATLANTA DREAM 82-51 GREAT BRITAIN @ M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, England
It Was All A Dream.
By Tim David Harvey
A women's worth was on full display this evening as the WNBA travelled to England to show the nation what you should expect from this league; great. In what looked like a tune-up game on paper the United Kingdom's Team GB took on the second best team and the reigning Eastern Conference Champions the Atlanta Dream (they where 2010 finalist runners up to the thunderous Seattle Storm) but for who? The WNBA in it's 15th anniversary made it's first live appearance in England and Europe playing the best of a talented country in this hot warm-up to the 2012 Olympics next year in the the capital city London. With a lot of exclamation points this game promised a lot and with cheerleaders, dribbling experts and an excitement and exuberance outside the 'Worlds Best' M.E.N. Arena it looked to deliver on it's expectations.
Before the game there was a fitting tribute and moments silence for Margo Dydeck (1974-2011) one of the best and nicest WNBA professionals ever ("to know her was to know love" fellow players said) who we lost at the young age of 37 last week. People began to stand in respect for this wonderful woman. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Margo and the Dydeck family.
After the two teams exchanged some gifts we received some great basketball as club and country shared the floor. Team Great Britain drew first blood as their big Kim Butler scored off an impressive turn of the playbook. Then, however it was Miller time as Coco and her ATL team looked to give the Brits a nightmare evening. As Coco popped for another basket, it was clear that her hot streak was about to make it a real long night of burn for the British side. Still the first period started a little scrappy with some airballs, but that didn't take the atmosphere out of the half full, but all in it crowd, who remained electrified all game. This quarter was defined by the back and forth between Atlanta's Miller (21 points) and GB's Butler (12). After Kim beat the shot clock, Coco beat the break at the other end of the floor. Great Britain had to watch their assignments as the Dream where writing a basketball dissertation. After an easy Miller lay-up on another break Britain called time, 22-8 down. Harding hit right before the buzzer as the Dream continued to clock up the points.
Some 'Crazy' French dunkers really ignited the crowd with a one-of-a-kind spectacle which ATL mascot Star could not match physically, but he sure brought the entertainment in many other ways. Still, not that there wasn't any of this on the floor. Atlanta's Lemming hit a nice lefty layup as Britain fell behind further. Then a nice steal from Atlanta's number '0' (Brittainey Raven) stopped G.B's tempo but came up with nothing but a charge charged on the Dream team. Then a swooping three from Raven-who was knocked on the play-still saw the twine and a 33-17 lead. Great Britain then hit back as Erving hit a 2 off the roll. Then however some excellent defensive pressure by the American side spoiled G.B.'s offensive cooking. The score was 37-19 and as Nas said 'it's halftime'.
Following a nice performance from Irish girl-group Wonderland it was back to the Dreams world. Great Britain turned their signs of life into signs of promise in the second half as they tried to steal the ball and opening moments off Atlanta. Coco Miller cleaned up the mess however, but then some British intelligence lead to a bucket for the home team. As the U.K. came back Butler ushered in some sweet spins for the lay in to show that Britain were not lying down, taking it and thinking of England. Still they had nothing for Coco Miller who cocked her number nine and gunned down the host teams onslaught. G.B. couldn't contain the Dreams rapid movements as Price broke away for a costly lay-up. Then another break-away lead to a hay maker, deep two from Bales. Britain tried to hit back by slowing the game down, but it was clear that Atlanta where controlling the game with their own pace as they hit 50. This game was still competitive despite the scoreline and that's what made it so enjoyable. With a timeout called over half-way in the third, there wasn't long left in a brilliant night that seemed to go all too quickly. All sort of music is playing in the arena from hits by Prince to songs from 'Uncle Buck'. Still it was Miller who rung out, unbreakable with every smash in the basket. She couldn't miss. Coco was automatic like Folgers in the morning, heating up in an instant.
As we fast-forward to the fourth quarter fast play began this last period. Great Britain played a little erratic but still the passion and buckets where still there. Butler was still in it and even though the Dream where running away with the lead like the Harlem Globetrotters where still in town, G.B. Where not playing like the New York Rens. Despite the sleeve on her knee the Dreams Raven looked quick starting and finishing the break with speed and style putting G.B. in the black. The home-firm tried to strong-arm their way back with some skillful passing but it didn't result in a set of offence. Still at least Britain put on a show as time was about to be called. As the game came to a close the Dream lulled the British team to rest with a goodnight of 82-51.
Despite their loss to the Atlanta Dream you shouldn't sleep on this Great Britain team. They just gained some valuable experience and a tune up against an accomplished American side. Despite the blowout the home side did their country proud with heart and resilience in the face of immeasurable, certain defeat. This thrashing still showed hope for Great Britain, they look ready for the Olympics. As for Atlanta now that was one hell of a road win. What a way to start their season putting on an exhibition. The dream are real. It's time we all woke-up to women's basketball.