Courtside Blog - June 12 vs. Dream

Dave here, back at the scorers’ table again and getting ready for tonight’s home opener! Following their first game— and first loss — of the season last Saturday up in Minnesota, tonight the Sky are back on the floor looking for their first win of the season against the Atlanta Dream.

As the Sky establish their focus and tone for the 2009 season, it’s really important for the them to establish a home-court advantage right away and get this crowd behind them, that will push the Sky to many wins this year…and their first every playoff appearance!

I’ve been here for three pregame warm-ups now, and I have to say that I’m yet to see anyone work on their shot more than the Sky’s third overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Kristi Toliver! Every game she’s been the first one on the court and one of the last ones off, taking dozens of shots from everywhere on the floor. It’s great to see that kind of dedication from a young player!

One matchup to watch tonight will be Sky center Sylvia Fowles against Dream center Erika Desouza. It should prove to be an intense battle under the basket all night long. They have battled on the international stage (Erica being from Brazil) and I’m told that Syl knows what to expect…and she’s ready.

Pretty good crowd in the stands tonight, and after a rousing pre-game speech from Brooke Wyckoff, it is absolutely deafening inside the UIC Pavilion — a good sign for the rest of the night! Come on Sky fans; let’s help them get this win!

I have an early nominee for best sign of the season: “Welcome to the Chicago Sky Block Party!” with the numbers 34 (Fowles), 4 (Candice Dupree), and 15 (Chen Nan) on it. Well done! I still can’t get over the sheer size of Fowles and Nan…amazing!

After sitting at the scorers table for two preseason games and now for my first regular season game, it’s impressive to see the speed and intensity of the game has picked up to another level! — it looks like everyone is flying around the court early on, great to watch!

Now seriously folks; can someone tell me if there’s a better mascot out there than Sky Guy? I don’t think there is! Seriously – he was just jumping rope on his back in the middle of the court! Do you know any other mascot with that ability? WOW! This place is going nuts for him!

Fowles electrified the crowd with a brilliant drive to the basket in the 2nd quarter. After catching a pass at the top of the key, she quickly flew past two Dream defenders and banked in a layup — drawing a foul in the process — sending the Sky faithful into a frenzy…yet again!

Credit also needs to be given to Sky Head Coach Steven Key, who is styling on the sidelines in a pin-striped suit that even caught my eye!

Tonight’s game could be renamed the “Candice Dupree Show,” because she is currently dominating the game. She has 15 points halfway through the second quarter, and forced the Dream to take a timeout after sinking two straight 3-pointers.

I was just told a fantastic statistic by Mark Grossman, one of several statisticians here on the scorers’ table. Dupree began her career 0-for-16 from the 3-point line. So far this season including tonight, she’s hit five straight three pointers!

Dream guard Nikki Teasley made a great hustle play, diving into the front row to save a loose ball and landing on a few fans, but it looks like she injured a knee in the process. In fact, they aren’t even going to take Teasley back to the bench; she’s being helped into the locker room as I type this. That’s a tough way to lose a player, let’s hope it’s not serious.

Teasley is back on the sidelines for the Dream, and she’s heading backing into the game, great to see.

Fowles is getting a bit frustrated with Desouza now. After a missed shot by the Sky, Fowles had her arm hooked by Desouza, keeping her from the loose ball, and Fowles made sure the officials were aware that it happened.

The Dream bench is about ready to erupt. Dupree made a pass through a tight window to Fowles. The pass bounced off her hands and the court before she controlled it. When Fowles dribbled again on her way to the basket, the entire Atlanta sideline jumped up, demanding a double-dribble call. Apparently the ref didn’t agree…she signaled that the ball was deflected by a Dream player, ruling out the double dribble.

Then, in the next possession, a questionable reach-in foul on Teasley led her to angrily smack the scorers table right in front of me — a lot of frustration on the faces of the Dream right now. And as Toliver knocks down a shot from the corner — her first career points here at home at the UIC Pavilion! Atlanta takes a timeout with the Sky leading 56-42.

Toliver followed up her first career points with a great effort. After a Dream defender knocked the ball loose, she chased it down in the corner ahead of three Atlanta players, then fired a missle to a wide-open Shyra Ely under the basket for an easy basket — what a play!

What was once a 14-point Sky lead is down to five points, and the Dream bench is starting to feel it. They’ve been up cheering every single play, and you can feel the momentum start to swing a bit. Come on Sky fans!

But down the stretch, the Sky were simply too good from the floor to lose this one. It didn’t seem like Fowles or Dupree could miss a shot down the stretch as the Sky pulled away, winning 81-73!!!

The way the Sky played tonight, and the way the crowd erupted after every basket — this is going to be a fun season to take-in from the scorers’ table! But why just read about it? Come and experience the Sky for yourself. Call 866.SKY.WNBA, get some tickets and come join us in the crowd, you won’t be disappointed!

The Sky return to the court this Sunday at 5pm as they welcome Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm.

See you soon! Go Sky!