Season Ticket Review – Comeback!
Here we are. Sioux Falls Arena, sitting in the HenkinSchultz seats just below the bar, the back row of the good seats. We’re right on the aisle, ready for an easy escape. After all, this is Sierra’s first Skyforce game, and we’re not quite sure how she’ll take it. We’re sitting alongside Amy, our season ticket partner for last season. A new guest. A returning guest. And two die-hard fans, ready for the match-up.
Game 2: December 7th, 2007
Idaho Stampede (5-1) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (0-4)
Wait. Something’s going wrong here. We’re down by 15. Already.
No joke. For the first three quarters, this game was horrible. Absolutely horrible. Excruciatingly dull. A lesson in how not to play, and a reminder that Nate Tibbetts – while quite possibly a great coach and quite possibly completely able to lead the Skyforce to a win – hadn’t actually won yet.
The Skyforce couldn’t pull down a rebound. They managed to foul at a 2 to 1 pace. I couldn’t tell if the refs were out to screw us (naturally, when the Skyforce are losing, it’s the refs’ faults) or if the team was really playing this bad.
I shouldn’t have been surprised – the Skyforce were up against a team that had won five in a row, the 5-1 Stampede. Or, as it looked to us, the 5-1 Seattle Supersonics. It was Minnesota Timberwolves affiliate night, and both teams celebrated by wearing big league uniforms – Idaho went with their affiliate Seattle, while the Skyforce sported real-life Timberwolves jerseys. Considering the records of both teams in the NBA, the Sioux Falls Arena was probably a bigger attraction than any Seattle/Minnesota game would be. And both teams would sport about the same number of recognizable players.
The highlight of the Timberwolves affiliate night is that we get to experience the services of Crunch – a big league mascot, one that does all of the things our Thunder doesn’t; messing with refs, interacting with the fans, entertaining half-time shows. It was fun. In fact, I’ve never laughed so hard at a Skyforce game before in my life.
The game was laughable as well. Damone Brown returned to us from wherever he was, and managed to be both a floor leader with tons of energy and a complete waste of space throwing up brick after brick. He didn’t see a shot he didn’t like, I think, and that added to a 6 for 15 shooting night. Nic Caner-Medley had been ineffective, Tibbetts had seemingly flipped out, slamming a basketball into the ground and nearly hitting a ref with it, and the team looked lost.
And then, like the clouds breaking to reveal a blazing sun, the Skyforce flipped the switch and turned into a championship level team. Thanks to the aforementioned Damone Brown’s defense (four blocked shots, three steals, and a million pardons from me for making fun of his slow first half). And thanks to a sudden take-over by my new favorite Skyforce player, last year’s bench star Elton Nesbitt.
The Skyforce were down by 15 going into the 4th, and hadn’t gained much ground after the first 7 minutes of the quarter. Nesbitt took the ball and drove for an easy lay-up. We cheered, though reservedly, and waited for the Stampede to match on the other end.
They didn’t. A defensive stop – the first of a series of great stops, and the moment when the calls began to start going our way – gave us the ball back. Back in Nesbitt’s hands. Back to the paint, and back in for another lay-up.
I looked up at the clock, the Skyforce only down by 9, and thought, “Damn, if Elton keeps going like this, we could do this.” This just a few minutes after asking Kerrie why Nesbitt wasn’t the starter. He has the energy, he has the leadership, and while I love David Bailey to death, he’s not the kind of point guard I’d want starting the game.
Regardless, the idea of Nesbitt as Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, the spark plug off of the bench, sits okay with me. Nesbitt played the rest of the game and the Arena crowd was on its feet like it hadn’t seen since a close loss to the Wizards in the middle of last season. I was contesting every call, yelling at the refs and jumping from my seat like it was electrified. Sierra probably wondered what was wrong with her father – a normally reserved man turned into a screaming lunatic. But it didn’t matter – the Skyforce were going to overtime.
From there, it was over. The Skyforce outscored the Stampede by 9. Sierra had seen enough and was ready to go home. So had the Stampede, their five game winning streak snapped, with two 30+ point games (former Skyforce star Randy Livingston and Cory Violette) wasted and a 15 point lead squandered.
Last year, the Skyforce would have been the team giving up the lead. This year, we fought back, like the scrappy batch of underachievers we can be. And the best part? Sierra had a great time watching the crowd and the players. There wasn’t a peep from her all night.
Too bad you couldn’t say the same for mom and dad.