TRAIN WRECK. What the BasketCases witnessed Sunday night at the Phone Booth as the Mystics beat the Sting, 78-73, wasn't much of a basketball game --- more like a train wreck --- you know you shouldn't look, but in a perverse way you find it impossible to turn away.
The game started slowly --- an understatement if there ever was one. Both teams had played on Saturday and had to travel to DC; they were obviously tired. In a very sloppy first quarter, the Mystics had more turnovers than field goals. The period ended in a 15-15 tie and the BasketCases were beginning to think the Mystics had found a way to cure insomnia for fans all over the Comcast viewing area.
But after that, things got more "interesting." With 3:58 remaining in the first half, Alana Beard drove to the basket and was floored by a Sting player, only to be called for a charge. When AB picked herself up off the court and learned that she had been called for the foul, she began arguing with the ref, Michael Price, # 39. She said something to Price for which he immediately T'eed her up. While the BasketCases could not hear what it was, we were told by another fan that Alana suggested to Price that he'd had an inappropriate (and intimate) relationship with his mother.* Even after the technical, and despite Nakia Sanford's best efforts to drag Alana off the court, Alana was still complaining. Price immediately gave her another technical and ejected Alana from the game. The entire crowd erupted in boos and jeers. One fan sitting along the sideline was ejected -- something we've never seen before -- and another (in our row) was given a warning card by an official for suggesting that the refs were too "thin skinned." The card said that his next violation of the WNBA's rules of decorum would result in his own ejection. Wow! At the end of the half, the officials had to be escorted off the court by security guards as boos continued to rain down on them.
During the break, an enterprising fan (who must carry his own arts and crafts supplies to games . . . who knew?) made up a large sign with the number 39 inside an International "No" circle. He held this up during most of the second half --- to the crowd's delight --- and was featured on the Jumbotron, earning "Fan of the Game" honors and a $50 gift certificate. It's a good thing that Mystics owner Sheila Johnson is a billionaire, because the BasketCases suspect that the Mystics are going to be handing over some greenbacks to the league for that one!
Alana wasn't the only Mystics to earn the wrath of the refs tonight. Late in the fourth quarter, when Nakia Sanford picked up her sixth foul, she began arguing the call. As she walked to the bench, one of the refs gave her the International T-up sign. The BasketCases were extremely impressed that DeLisha Milton-Jones and Coach Adubato, both of whom have been known for being, shall we say, emotional at times, managed to keep their cool tonight. (Well, yes, Coach Richie did walk out onto the court after AB's ejection, but he didn't turn red in the face so we guess the refs gave him a free pass . . . either that, or they were so distracted by his sartorial choices --- uh huh, he was wearing his electric blue, white and pink combo again --- that the officials forgot to Tee him up.) But it was clear that, after the ejection incident, these refs would have tossed Dee or Richie in a heartbeat upon the slightest provocation. (Thank goodness, Tot remained firmly planted on the bench for all 40 minutes . . . or things might really have gotten interesting!) And speaking of DeLisha, she was AWESOME. She carried the team on her back, playing more than 38 minutes on her still sore knee. She led all scorers with 26 points (a career high), including 11 of 11 from the free throw line. She also had 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and only 2 fouls.
Oh by the way, the Mystics' win clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While the BasketCases are not surprised that the Mystics are going to the playoffs, since they typically do so in even numbered years, it's atypical for them to make it in through the front door, and to do so with so many games to spare. As Nakia Sanford said when apologizing to the crowd for the ugly game, "We're going to the playoffs!" Yeah, Baby!!!
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*Monday Morning Update: Folks close to Alana say she did not and would never use this language. The BasketCases certainly hope that's true. But whatever it was that Alana may have said, the fact remains that she must learn to control herself on the court and not get into a situation like this again. She's far too valuable to the Mystics to be tossed out of games!