Season Ticket Review – The shot heard ’round the Arena

Kerrie and I looked at each other, completely flabbergasted. We had just joined the crowd of Skyforce well-wishers in a spontaneous display of excitement – each of us jumping to his or her feet, yelling, screaming, completely stunned and incredibly excited. We had just turned a 20-point deficit to just seven points in just a few minutes, and nothing could possibly stop us from taking this game and heading into a 6-game-in-9-nights stretch with a very favorable 11-7 record. This game was ours to win.


Game 9: January 6th, 2007

Tulsa 66ers (8-9) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (10-7)

It was Frank Williams, from three-quarters-court, who had ignited this feeling of accomplishment. His shot, launched from an area of the court usually reserved for Million Dollar Shots and vehicle giveaways, floated through the air before landing – resting – in the net. We all knew it was going in. We could just feel it. The thrill of watching Williams’ improbable successful shot brought the entire Sioux Falls arena to its feet and gave us a feeling of invincibility.

Not the case, we found out. Sioux Falls played nearly perfect basketball last night, but it was only for twelve minutes – the first eight of the first quarter and the last four of the third. The rest was painful – a little disorganized, a little unlucky, a little disappointing.

With roughly four minutes left in the first quarter, Sioux Falls had stretched the score to 34-17 – a seventeen-point lead. No shot was uncontested. The paint was wide open for the Skyforce’s consumption. We allowed nothing but jumpers, and Tulsa wasn’t hitting them. New (and former) Skyforce guard Corey Williams was directing traffic like a seasoned veteran and Frank Williams was creeping towards eight three-pointers for the night.

We were unstoppable – so much so that we nearly forgot that our best player, Andre Brown, had scored just eight points and five rebounds the night before. For the Seattle Supersonics. Thanks to the first of what should be two 10-day contracts, Andre Brown was playing in the big leagues, leaving us without our starting PF and leading NBA D-League MVP candidate.

The Skyforce tried to counteract Brown’s 10-day vacation with the signing of Corey Williams – a former Denver Nugget and last year’s CBA assist leader – and with a decidedly positive uptake in Jared Reiner’s role as big-man enforcer.

It helped. But not enough.

There was also a noticeable lack of foul calls. Last game was horrible, with eight more foul calls than the league average – an average that is already considerably higher than the NBA average. We could almost read the memo to NBA D-League refs ourselves: “Please call fewer fouls. You are making the games boring and taking over the momentum.”

Last night: 31 fouls. Total. The game before? 61. Sixty-one. We should all thank the refs for letting the players play. Thank you, refs. Thank you.

It also helped. But not enough.

We certainly weren’t helped by the halftime show – Rubber Boy; a horrific bendable man who spent ten minutes wrenching his body through tennis racquets and toilet bowl lids by dislocating his joints and bending in ungodly ways. It was horrible. We couldn’t look. After the fate of the last two half-time shows (one “lost luggage” and one “stuck in Denver”) we wondered why this guy couldn’t have been stranded in some other city as well.

At least he was quick. As a result, we got to hear all of D.J. Casper’s Cha Cha Slide – a Skyforce half-time tradition. Without fail, there will be one group that will dance to this song, regardless of crowd size or prior knowledge of the words. It’s that addicting. Even our company bowling party revealed three people (out of 27) who knew the moves, and no one refrained from clapping when directed.

No. Nothing really helped. Here’s the low down: after the 34-17 run, Tulsa came back with their own 10-3 run. It continued the next quarter, with the 66ers outscoring Sioux Falls 32-20. It took us one quarter to score our first 37 points. It took us nearly two quarters to score the next 37. And even after Frank’s late third-quarter heroics, we couldn’t get it together long enough to take advantage. The four point deficit we ended with was the closest we had gotten since losing the lead in the second quarter.

It was there. We were fighting hard and outshining the other team – a team we had beat just the night before on their court, in their home. But tonight, we blew it all at the beginning. It was all downhill from there.

But if you ask me what I remember from the game, it’s not that we blew an early 17-point lead, or that we were out-rebounded 58-32, or that we were out-shot at the line 26-15. It’s that for just a few minutes, the Skyforce seemed unbeatable. The crowd embraced them like they had never done, rising as one in an act of solidarity, all to celebrate one of the most improbable shots we’ve ever seen.

So really, who cares about the loss? It’s the shot we’ll all remember.

Skyforce 115, Tulsa 119

This was lovingly handwritten on January 7th, 2007