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Respect Is Due The Dream Girls

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Hopefully you watched at least some of the Dream's bid for a championship because they really did put on a show.  Despite having been swept in three games, they absolutely made Seattle fight to the very end, pushing the experienced Storm team to the limit. On Thursday night, you really should have been watching with the very sparse sports schedule for the evening: No baseball, no SEC football, nothing really going on except for NC State and Cincinnati to compete against this game.

They made it worth watching. The Hawks really could take a few cues from the Dream, who really push an up and down pace.  The shot clock rarely hits single digits -- even when it does, there's a ton of activity --and they play an aggressive, gambling defense that creates a lot of turnovers and forces the other team to play at their pace.  They utilize a lot of long passes and ball movement, and there's almost zero isolation basketball -- you simply don't see these women standing and pounding away while the clock ticks

I'll admit, prior to the Finals, I was reluctant to watch this Dream team; women's basketball has never held much interest for me.  The Dream are just extremely watch-able. Angel McCoughtry is a true star who is willing to take any shot at any time, and she's got the athletic ability to create her own looks in most circumstances. She's like the WNBA's version of Carmelo Anthony.

Thursday night, the Dream came out and immediately took a punch in the mouth, as Seattle took a very quick 9-0 lead and stretched it out to 10 points when they went up 16-6. As they have this whole series, they rallied back when things have looked difficult.  McCoughtry had just an outstanding first half, shooting 7-11 for 19 points, including the three to put Atlanta ahead 44-43 at halftime. They even minimized the impact of MVP Lauren Jackson, keeping her to just four points (though six rebounds).

The Dream would extend their lead through most of the third quarter, getting ahead by as much as six when they led 59-53 following a lay-up by McCoughtry. At that point, though, the Storm defense really tightened down on them, and the Dream experienced a very poorly timed stretch of poor shooting, as they would go 1 for the next 13 from the field.  Their ability to reach the foul stripe was all that kept them in the game, with nine points coming from the line in that stretch.  Still, down by 10 with only 2:42 left, it was hard to picture the Dream mounting another comeback.

Far from laying down, these women displayed their resolve with one last battle, with McCoughtry leading the charge by outscoring the Storm 9-2 over the next two minutes, cutting the lead to just three points with 31.7 seconds remaining. Another missed shot by Seattle gave the ball back to Atlanta with 11 seconds, and Iziane Castro Marques took the ball on the fast break and scored with 6.9 left. Atlanta's frantic comeback bid came down to one possession, down three, with six seconds left.

Needing a three to send the game into overtime, everyone knew exactly who Atlanta wanted to get the ball in to.  McCoughtry caught the ball wide open on the inbounds play and launched a very deep three that only just rimmed out of the basket. The rebound was tipped out to Coco Miller, whose desperation three at the buzzer missed wide right, and the final score was a repeat of Tuesday's, with Seattle winning 87-84.

The missed bid for a championship simply can't be viewed as a failure by the Atlanta Dream. They went from miserably bad last season to losing three Finals games this year by a total margin of eight points. They demonstrated a resiliency in the face of adversity that we all want to see from our sports teams.  They never looked rattled even when trailing an experienced team, either on the road or at home. And with a chance to impress on Atlanta that women's basketball is worth watching, they came through in a huge way.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.