Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 28th, 2015: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Epiphanny Prince (22 points) and Tina Charles (18 points, 11 rebounds) were the stars, but a team effort powered the New York Liberty to a playoff-clinching win over the Minnesota Lynx, 81-68.

For dodgy officiating, unmitigated glee, dysfunctional cats, questionable dancing, gymnastics, green hair, and the general admission shuffle, join your intrepid and sweaty blogger after the jump.

So, as we all expected, the best of the West come to visit the beasts of the East tonight. It's a showdown at the Garden, and best record in the league is on the line for the New York Liberty and the Minnesota Lynx. I am hyped like you wouldn't believe.

Public transit does not have good omens today, given that it took half an hour just for a bus to arrive, whereupon three of them arrived at once, and now we're being held because of trains ahead of us somewhere west of Union Square. I cannot be having with this today, MTA.

Preliminary reports indicate a lot of tickets sold just on pregame word of mouth. Looks like it's going to be another big crowd. I love it. We're not yet back to the golden days where even the upper bowl was occupied on a regular basis, but we're getting there.

It's going to be interesting how seriously New York takes a potential Finals opponent and best record, as opposed to how seriously they take tomorrow's road game at Connecticut; after all, we have a rivalry with Connecticut, built on the roll of the dice and the whims of a Husky, and games in conference are more important than cross-conference games. On the other hand, tonight could be clinch night.

Seimone Augustus will not be playing this evening. She looks very well put together, but that medical boot just ruins the whole look. :P

Pregame entertainment this evening has been a young gymnastics group and a dance group with glittery dresses (but at least they're over the age of consent).

Got the chance to chat with a couple of simply darling Lynx fans who were in town on vacation from Minnesota and decided to check out the game while they were here. Sweet folks. Lynx-green hair is a bonus.

At halftime, the Liberty are up on the Lynx 43-38. The general admission shuffle continues to be a bit of an issue. It's been punch-counterpunch. The D clamps down at the right times. I also highly disapprove of the calls against Essence Carson.

This team. This beautiful clutch team. This team that comes together and communicates and has two stars to light the way and a whole beautiful constellation around them. My team, y'all. My team.

I don't know what's wrong with the Lynx, but from my one-game-in-opposing-stands view, it does not look good. I don't see communication. I see Cheryl Reeve blowing through her timeouts like Chestnutt at a hot-dog eating contest. I don't see a consistently flowing offense. I see a team with deep-seated trust issues. I don't think Reeve trusts the bench. I don't think the starters trust Reeve. I see a team with the two playbooks Reeve talked about when she talked about the trade, except that they are two disparate playbooks and they're trying to use both of them at the same tim, instead of putting some pages from one into the other.

Renee Montgomery played in the first half, but not in the second. She had a little shake-and-bake, but she was otherwise unremarkable. Tricia Liston played the entire fourth quarter. She used her build well defensively against smaller players, but she seems scared to shoot anything that isn't either wide open or a three-pointer. She passed off a couple of good midrange looks.

Devereaux Peters, who I really need to get to know just so I can call her Dev and not have to spell her full name, played a lot of minutes, especially in the second half. She boxed out well. She's still foul-prone, though. Asjha Jones was unafraid to shoot, and to shoot jumpers. She showed moments of the All-Star she once was, but she settled too easily for offense on the perimeter.

The maestra Lindsay Whalen didn't look as in command as she usually does. There were moments where the passing was crisp and the ball was moving, but there was a lot of stagnancy and a lot of one-on-one play. Whalen seemed to be taking on a lot of offensive responsibility early, but she was bottled up pretty much after the first quarter. Anna Cruz had drives that should have been made, yet weren't, which I'm okay with as a Liberty fan. I feel like she might have wanted to assert herself as a point guard more, yet took a step back because of Whalen.

Rebekkah Brunson barely played. She had a couple of nice plays on the glass, but I wonder if she tweaked something, and that was why Reeve leaned so heavily on Peters. (If that's the case, then playing the big lineup with Moore at the 2 was a riskier move than I thought at first glance.) Sylvia Fowles was competent down low, but got outclassed by Tina Charles. She's great at what she does, at both ends of the floor, but she feels like a square peg that is somehow not fitting the square hole created by the aging of the Lynx rotation. I don't get it. Maya Moore did Maya Moore things, but her shot looked really off. She had a couple of bad misses, and seemed to be relying more on her athleticism to make plays on off-balance shots than she was her talent. The second quarter was her time, as much on free throws as on shots from the field.

Sugar Rodgers provided a couple of big threes to really break Minnesota's collective back. She's still streaky, but oh, when she's on. Candice Wiggins was pesky on defense and came up with a couple of shots late. Brittany Boyd was way too hyped up for this game- she played about two speeds too fast, her shots going too long, her passes a little too far ahead. But that drive at the end of the first quarter was a momentum swinger.

Essence Carson brought some defense, but Maya Moore outclassed her. And she knew it. She doesn't have the step she needs to keep up with a superstar like Moore, but as soon as she was beaten, she called for help. Avery Warley-Talbert is a sweet person, but she has no business in a game that's still competitive, which includes pretty much the first half of any game. Kiah Stokes was a beast on the boards, and she changed a couple of shots- didn't get credit for the blocks, but you can't always get what you want.

Epiphanny Prince came up with a couple of big shots to beat the shot clock, and played solid defense. Much was asked of her, and much was received. Tanisha Wright locked down on defense and got the team started on the right foot, no pun intended.

Tina Charles was fantastic down low. She took more long jumpers than I would have liked, but they went in, for the most part, especially in the second half. I can't complain when they go in. Swin Cash was gritty and gluey and set the tone early. I tend to underestimate what she brings to the table, but tonight, she showed why she's still starting. So did Carolyn Swords. One would think she'd be outmatched against Fowles. One would forget that she spent some time as Fowles's practice buddy in Chicago, and she knows more than just about anyone in the league about Big Syl's tendencies. She started the game on fire, and for the first time in a few games, I objected to Kiah coming in for her on the usual rotation. (Which is nothing against Kiah. But you ride the hot hand until it cools.)

What doesn't come through in the player-by-player notes is the sheer amount of communication amongst the team. Essence gets beat by Maya Moore? Maya's still in that first step when Essence calls for the switch. Tina's being held? She calls for Essence to leave her assignment and crash the boards.

Piph was involved in both plays of the game. The first to mention, of course, is the four-point play, taking "three the hard way" to a whole new level. The other was a hustle play. Kiah gets the rebound, saves it on the baseline, hurling it wildly towards the sideline by the scorer's table. Tanisha makes an equally fantastic save on the sideline, out to Piph, and the crowd goes wild. That kind of hard work is what wins a New York crowd.

I don't even know what to say about those officials, only that I find it very strange that a team that relied more on midrange jumpers took twice as many free throws as the team that primarily took the ball into the paint. I don't necessarily ask for competency; I ask for consistency, and especially after a second quarter with an 8-2 differential, I question the consistency.

Really big crowd tonight, and it looks like MSG is starting to get the message tht 9K is the new normal. More food stands were open, more ushers were around, and more security was available at the gates. Made the experience a lot easier for people. The general admission shuffle is still a problem, but one that's sort of inevitable for the concept. I do think the sections need to be more clearly articulated, but if people are coming through the door, and they're enjoying the game, and they're planning to come back, I can't really protest too much.

A couple of baby Knicks showed up, as did Allan Houston and one of the Property Brothers. This is one of the other things I like: we're starting to see a sort of Celebrity Row. Liberty games are a place to be seen.

The problem with loving this team this much is that it's hard to put squee and warm fuzzy feelings into words. I just want to hug them and squish them and tell them all how wonderful they are, how much fun they are to watch as basketball players and how great it is to see them be teammates to each other.

Playoffs, baby!


Friday, August 21, 2015

August 21st, 2015: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: New York shook off a slow start to take off in the fourth quarter for a 78-67 win over the Atlanta Dream. Tina Charles had a game-high 25 points, with Epiphanny Prince adding 18. Tiffany Hayes led Atlanta with 17.

For school supplies, bugg waggling, so many dancers, questions about officiating, flashlights, random cricket noises, and bringing the noise, join your intrepid and bleary blogger after the jump.

Good evening! It's game day at the Garden, where the league-leading Liberty take on the Atlanta Dream.

School supplies have been donated, and tiny bright flashlights have been received in exchange.

Atlanta, it's hard to be sympathetic to your plight when y'all don't sign. Okay, except for Angel McCoughtry. McCoughtry also provided amusement for wandering off the court. There's an aisle directly behind the court, where she was stretching out her legs by kicking out. Unfortunately, said aisle is also a pedestrian area. That's not how you're supposed to kick butt, Angel. Security gently suggested to her that her stretches might better be performed on the court.

Looks like it's going to be a pretty good crowd. Cheap seats are already filling up pretty solidly. The general admission policy is not working out as smoothly as security might like- too many people think it means any seat in the house, when it's restricted to certain sections. We're seeing a lot of seat jumpers and idiots standing in the aisle.

At halftime, the Liberty are up one, in a game that hasn't been very pretty. It's Garden of Dreams night, so we're seeing a lot of talent from the Garden of Dreams talent show. I'm not terribly impressed, but I've seen far, far worse.

There's a dude a couple of rows in front of us (or possibly was- haven't seen him since the middle of the second) who's kind of a ridiculous Sugar Rodgers [url=]stan[/url]. Bill will put Sugar in when he's good and ready to do so, sir.

From an uninspired first half rose a much more competitive second half, and a fired-up Liberty team that decided they weren't going to lose to Atlanta. They drew the crowd into the game in a way I haven't seen in a long time. That energy is so crucial. That's the energy that becomes homecourt advantage.

Roneeka Hodges rocking the preppy look today. It's a good look for her.

Sydney Carter played briefly in the third quarter. She's got a strange three-point shot. She spent most of the pregame with a giant pad wrapped around most of her back, so I'm not surprised she didn't play a lot. She was vocal during stretches before the game. Matee Ajavon annoys people on the floor (someday someone will put a mic over her matchups with Candice Wiggins and I think it will be glorious and profane). She cooled down in the second half drastically.

DeLisha Milton-Jones still has a little bit of that pretty jumper, but her greatest asset on the court is still her immense length, those long arms that get in the way of everything opponents try to do. Reshanda Gray showed a little bit of offense and a lot of defensive intensity, if not necessarily full execution of said defense. She'll have time to work through her mistakes in Atlanta, but I'm not sure she has the coaching she'll need to learn from those mistakes. Aneika Henry seems to have lost many of her minutes to Gray- she always seemed to be around the basket, but not necessarily making plays at the basket.

Shoni Schimmel is starting to look like a point guard again. She didn't look like an All-Star point guard yet, but she looked like a point guard. She showed a propensity for taking too many unnecessary shots, whether they were threes with the intent to break the Liberty's will or crazy drives with the intent to get fouled. Tiffany Hayes falls down a lot. Her diving irks me. I appreciate the hustle, but get up, woman. She kind of sneaks up on you. Angel McCoughtry... early in the game it looked like she was all for playing within the team dynamic and trying to keep her teammates involved. But when the pressure's on and the ship starts to flounder, Lori Ann comes out to play, and she gets rough, and she gets so easily frustrated. I think McCoughtry is trying to be the person she wants to be, and the person her fiancée wants her to be, and the person her team needs her to be, but she falls too easily back into her old habits.

Damiris Dantas is a nice addition for this team. She's not the answer at center, if only because of her size and style of play, but if they can pair her with a more traditional center, the Dream should be in pretty good shape. She has nice flexibility to her game. Sancho Lyttle did a lot of complaining and melodramatic gesturing to the referees, which is pretty hilarious given how bad they were to the Liberty tonight. I don't remember her being that much of a whiner, but she did a lot of it. She's sneaky on the offensive rebounds.

Atlanta seems like a team with a lot of pieces but not enough edges to the puzzle, so that they don't know where all the pieces should go. But I don't think they can keep trying to build around McCoughtry unless she has a complete personality transplant.

Avery Warley-Talbert played briefly and reminded us all why she doesn't play more. She's a sweet kid, and she's definitely not your stereotypical alumna of an evangelical college, but she's a deep reserve at best. Kiah Stokes needed a little push to get started on offense, but she locked down the defense, and had a really nice punchout of a rebound to Tina Charles for the putback. Essence Carson drew the difficult task of guarding Angel McCoughtry, and helped at least keep her from shooting.

Brittany Boyd is an energizer, a firestarter, the person who initiates the great and glorious feedback loop that powers the homecourt advantage. The three she hit to beat the buzzer was phenomenal. Candice Wiggins was a disruptive presence on offense, and managed to get into Atlanta's heads enough that she was getting thrown around by the end of the game. Sugar Rodgers played briefly, showing hustle but nothing for it except rebounds.

Tanisha Wright got hammered in the lane with no call, repeatedly, and her jumpers weren't falling. But she was a defensive stopper and a fantastic distributor. I kind of like the idea of her nd Boyd in the backcourt together. Epiphanny Prince hit a cold streak in the second quarter or so, but got hot again right in time. I like her play on the ball defensively as well. Even with the super scorers, you can tell the Rutgers pedigree.

Tina Charles leaned heavily on her outside jumper, which is really the only complaint it's possible to register about her play this evening. She looked rock solid. Swin Cash got going early, but we went to smaller lineups with a three-guard set, so she didn't see as much time. Carolyn Swords looked like she was finding her groove once more, though she's still having a little trouble handling some passes. She and Swin had some beautiful two-man game stuff going on.

Both teams came to play, and for the first half, Atlanta dominated stylistically and on the scoreboard. But New York punched back, and once we found our groove, we took over in the fourth.

Refs who allow blatant wrestling moves and don't blow their whistles can take a long walk off a short pier. Honestly, I don't know what Candice does to get so many non-calls against her, but she got a couple of brutal ones today. Everything seemed to be going against the Liberty for most of the game. It was frustrating to see what appeared to be a one-sided officiating job. In the fourth, at least the inconsistency was inconsistent and both sides saw calls they had reason to disagree with.

The only reason for the Liberty not to continue on this hot streak is because MSG staff doesn't seem prepared for a sudden attendance spike. Security is slow, too many stands are closed, and facilities staff doesn't seem inclined to do their jobs. The folks in front of us had an accident and spilled their sodas and nacho cheese. Right at the start of the second half, I attempted to get the attention of someone who could handle it. The shift supervisor led me to the usher of the next section over, who spoke to security, who said they'd radio for a mop. No mop ever came. C'mon, man. And while I'm venting at ushers, can they please urge people not to stand in the aisles, especially during play?

I love my team. I think it might be their time. Maybe.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

August 15th, 2015: Tulsa at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tulsa was up by as much as 20 in their 81-76 win over the Liberty at Madison Square Garden, though New York put up a spirited fight in the fourth quarter behind 13 of Brittany Boyd's 22 points. Odyssey Sims had 27 to pace the Shock.

For shirts, no shoes, no soap radio, distressing injuries, a distaste for night games, so many tourists, and being unable to see straight, join your intrepid and dehydrated blogger after the jump.

A quick turnaround, and here we are again back in New York, as the Tulsa Shock come to town. Today may be shopping day. We'll see what's on sale. Mama needs a new pair of shoes. (No, literally. My sneakers have holes in their soles.)

No shoes to be found, but I did buy a new shirt at the MSG team store, and determined that the rest of my shopping will be done when my 20% coupon kicks in on the 11th. It looked like we're going to get a lot of walk-up ticket sales for this game, and a lot of groups.

We're going to have to like the halftime entertainment- they're sitting two rows in front of us, just in front of the lovely Australian tourists. (One of them went to school with LJ!) (Also, Aussies tend to be cool in general. Come back next year, Bec!)

Entertainment continues to actually wear clothes- pregame was a hip-hop troop whose routines reminded me a little of St. John's, only not as expertly rendered, and halftime is a Bollywood dance group whose photographer is an utter jackass, followed by another hip-hop troop,

Tulsa's been shooting the lights out, and we're panicking in response by taking too many threes. We're not a three-point shooting team. That's not our offense. Our offense is strongest in the interior and crisply passing to the open man.

Epiphanny Prince's dumb foul on Odyssey Sims behind the arc really messed up the momentum and took the crowd out of the game. We just have to hope that we can outlast them and their lack of depth.

We almost did. Brittany Boyd took the bit in her teeth and decided that we weren't going down this easily. But you can't complete a comeback if you get a golden opportunity like a foul on a three-pointer and miss the free throws. Tulsa freaks out in the fourth quarter, and we had a chance to at least close to within one possession.

Amanda Zahui B. looked solid, but I'm hedging my bets only because her counterpart was just that bad tonight. She used her size well to box out, and I'm not completely sure she doesn't use the hair to cloud her opponents' vision, like an octopus squirting ink. Tiffany Jackson-Jones has that familiar footwork shuffle that used to drive us nuts in New York. She seems to be moving well, and has put on muscle. I'm happy for her. Vicky Baugh got a little help with the rim, but I like that little jumper she has. Jordan Hooper was spectacularly unremarkable.

Brianna Kiesel powered through the lane for one nice drive, but overall seemed to be trying too hard on offense. Her strength is not scoring, and she can't be Sims or Williams. Also, I have just noticed that Kiesel was the only guard who came off the bench.

Courtney Paris is a very large woman. Yes, I know, instant grasp of the obvious, but when there is that much movement under the jersey, I feel sympathy pains in my chest. She positions herself well under the basket for rebounds and uses her bulk to clear people out of the way. Plenette Pierson's perimeter game is inconsistent and strange. She defended well on interior passes, deflecting with her fingertips. Karima Christmas did a little bit of everything. She's not spectacular, but she's surprisingly versatile and seems to be very useful.

For most of the game, it didn't seem like Odyssey Sims could miss a shot, whether it was from the field or the line. Puck luck and fearlessness helped, as did a sweet long-range shot. I'm not as good at seeing assists, but she seems to have her team firmly in hand (one play comes to mind immediately- Hooper moved and immediately Sims started yelling "no, no!"). I think the loss of Diggins has forced Sims to develop more as a point guard, and it'll be interesting to see the dynamic next year with Diggins back, both of them true combo guards that can make the offense very fluid. Riquna Williams has such a pretty shot, but absolutely no common sense on the other side of the floor. She committed a couple of stupid fouls near the end of the game that gave the Liberty a chance to make the game competitive again. Tula will be much better off once she can go back to being the super sub.

Brittany Boyd decided that if we were going to lose this game, it wasn't going to be because of anything she did. In the fourth quarter, she took the bull by the horns, the bit between her teeth, and the clichés to the max, and drove the lane repeatedly. Three straight possessions, three times she drew contact. She brought energy and fire, and reminded the Garden crowd how she won our hearts in the beginning of the season. Sugar Rodgers came up with some big shots and a ton of defensive hustle. Candice Wiggins was pesky defensively- Tulsa seemed to take pleasure in running her into screens over and over again- but all the good she did was overshadowed by her simple inability to hit a free throw at the end of the game. (Something that got to her too, given that she was practicing free throws after the exhibition post-game.)

I don't know what happened to Kiah Stokes, but I don't like it. At least last game she still had the blocks, but this time she didn't have the strength on the inside that we so sorely needed from her. More worrisome, she couldn't hang on to the ball. There were at least two rebounds that she should have had cleanly that fell out of her hands and into the hands of a Shock player. I think both of those resulted in Tulsa baskets (and as a demonstration of how scrambled my brains are, I almost typed "Detroit baskets" there). If she's hit the rookie wall, we might have a problem. Avery Warley-Talbert was stronger today than yesterday, but still not an acceptable alternative in the post. Essence Carson was all right defensively, and brought a little bit of offense, but she, like many of her teammates, had a problem finishing at the rim.

Epiphanny Prince's shot wasn't falling tonight. Part of the problem was that she was taking threes that weren't in the flow of the offense. She and Sugar were both trying to answer Tulsa's long-range assault, and that isn't this team's strength. It's something that we have in our arsenal, sure, but it's not something we should be attempting to rely on. Tanisha Wright got into foul trouble very early in the game, sitting after two minutes with two fouls. Then she picked up an early one in the third quarter, and between that and Boyd coming on like a house on fire, she spent most of the game on the bench.

Swin Cash barely played, and I don't remember much of what she did. Because Tulsa was often going with a smaller lineup, we often went with a three-guard set, or with Essence at forward. Carolyn Swords continues to take steps backwards. She overran the basket an awful lot tonight, and was very stiff. I'm worried about her, and I really don't think starting is agreeing with her- but with Kiah regressing in the last couple of games, our options are becoming limited. Tina Charles was tightly defended all night, and she was forced into a lot of bad shots by Tulsa shutting down her passing lanes. She rebounded well, but she was taking the shots that drive us nuts- but because she couldn't get the better shots, not because she thought it was a good idea.

There were a couple of points during the game where it looked like Bill had given up on the game, was already planning ahead for San Antonio and Atlanta- but the team wasn't ready to give up. I like that fight. We dug too deep a hole for ourselves with Tulsa's outside shooting, and though we had the fire to come back, we ran out of time.

The Pierson injury: everyone's saying it looked like a knee, but I'm not so sure. I didn't see how she went down, but while she was down, she was holding first her shoulder, then her knee. She was very ginger to get up, but she seemed to be putting weight on both legs. The trainers put a couple of towels over her head when she finally got up, and when she came off, her steps were very small and unsteady. I think there might be a concussion in play here. (As an aside, I was impressed with Laura Ramus. She was on the scene pretty fast, and Plenette's not even one of her players anymore.) Lots of love from the New York fans for PP, both during intros and when she came off the court.

Charlottesville was honored during one of the timeouts, though we didn't stay for the exhibition game after the Liberty game. If we'd won, I might have, but I was too cranky to stick around. Part of me likes the "Girls DON'T Sit on the Bench" t-shirt concept, part of me thinks wait, doesn't that imply that no one should be on the bench at all, even if you need to have reserves? I get the message, but I question the phrasing.

Officiating was the usual inconsistent mess, but you take it and you deal with it.

Do I want to know why Amanda Zahui B. was smacking one of the guards on the butt with a folded up piece of paper as they came onto the floor? Probably not.

Turns out that Swin and Tina both lip-sync pretty well.

We almost needed a game like this, to be honest. Better to be tested, and to rise to the challenge and almost meet it, than to not be tested until it really, really matters. Like Indiana or Washington. Better to be reminded of what we have to do when we play the West.


August 14th, 2015: New York at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles matched her jersey number with 31 points, and Epiphanny Prince filled all the statistical columns as the Liberty fended off repeated runs from Connecticut to win 90-78.

For car accidents, wandering notes, sharing a Coke, indigestion, ridiculous shots, knee concerns, traveling fans, identifying autographs, duels, and too many geek references, join your intrepid and easily distracted blogger after the jump.

Hello once again, faithful and loyal readers! (And, I suppose, to the dabblers and dilettantes out there.) Your intrepid blogger comes to you from the aftermath of the New York Liberty's visit to Connecticut to take on the much-injured Sun. (Seriously, what eldritch abomination did Anne Donovan offend?)

As usual, you will not be getting detailed notes from the inside of the arena, since the Sun have a thing against backpacks and laptops for some reason.

School supplies drive at Mohegan; if I get to Flushing early enough, I'm bringing pencils. Also the night that Katie Douglas will be honored by the Sun. If it weren't a Liberty game, I'd have brought my Miracle jersey, but well, it's a Liberty game, so my Essence Carson jersey is tucked in my backpack. Next week, I'm sure someone will give me grief about being late to the party.

I brought pencils, and a few other things too, because that's how I roll. The trip to the bus wasn't the hard part; the hard part came after a car flipped over at the exit 15 on-ramp and halted traffic for half an hour. A two-and-a-half, maybe three, hour trip turned into just over four hours.

Connecticut is doing the #shareacoke thing with their beverage cups, which I find utterly adorable. I currently have the Connecticut Sun generic in my backpack, along with "Share a Coke with Kelsey". I really want a "Share a Coke with Chiney" cup one of these days.

Tiny anthem singer who wandered all over the map, but with style, where did you even put all that voice? So much power in such a small frame.

Plenty of Liberty fans in the house- a pleasant surprise for a Friday night, and a good omen for the 29th.

When will Connecticut learn that Bill Laimbeer gets a kick out of being the villain? Yes, play the Imperial March for him, your hate only makes him stronger. Boo him with all your power, he will only rise again more powerful than before.

I was not comfortable with Avery Warley-Talbert coming into the game as early as she did. She seemed very passive- if a loose ball is directly at your feet, Avery, perhaps you should make some effort to retrieve it? Kiah Stokes had some trouble keeping up with Kelsey Bone's spin moves- the first defensive effort was often there, but then Bone would change direction and away she went. But Kiah also came up with a couple of massive blocks in the fourth quarter when we needed them. Essence Carson's vision seemed off- a couple of really bad misses, her usual foot-on-the-line long jumper that kind of thing. She was moving well on D, though.

I never thought I'd see the day when Sugar Rodgers was afraid to shoot, but two possessions she received the ball with the shot clock running down, and both times she hesitated. That's very un-Sugar-like. The one shot she hit was big, though, extending the lead at a crucial moment. Candice Wiggins seems to be becoming more comfortable in her roles, and Bill seems to be trusting her more. She played more off the ball tonight, sharing the backcourt with Brittany Boyd. She's remarkably pesky on defense. I'm starting to wonder if she's one of those players like DeLisha Milton-Jones or Plenette Pierson who is a complete jerk on the court, but a total sweetheart off it, because she always seems to get knocked around by opposing players. Boyd was the last player off the bench, which might be messing with her confidence a little bit. She blasted Connecticut's defense at the end of the third quarter on a high-speed fast break lay-up. I'm not a fan of playing the three of them together, no matter how awesomely brilliant their conversations could be.

Carolyn Swords grows less effective as a starter by the game. I really think the bad knee has started barking at her, much as happened to Plenette Pierson as the season wore on last year. She's super slow to react and move, and she doesn't seem to be as well-integrated into the offense as she was earlier this year. If it weren't for the need to conserve Kiah's fouls, I'd say move Carolyn back to the bench where she was producing, and bring Kiah back as the starter. Tina Charles had a few moments today where were were yelling, "no, no, don't take the long jumper!" But she had many more moments where it was abundantly clear that she's an All-Star center, and that she's fluid in the paint. She just seems to find an extra step once she's down low. Swin Cash had a scary moment in the second half where she went down hard and was holding her knee, but she came back- she was stiff for a while, but came up with a basket late. I'm still worried about her for tomorrow.

Tanisha Wright was quietly, calmly, and mostly intelligently consistent. How's that for adverb abuse? She and Alex Bentley went hard at each other. You've got to love those point of pride rivalries. She provided the veteran leadership we needed to stabilize us whenever Connecticut made a run. Epiphanny Prince was on fire. She had a cold stretch in the second quarter, but even then, she made up for it with aggressive on-ball defense and good hustle. She set the tone early and finished up late.

The resiliency of the Liberty has been fantastic. Even on nights where the defense isn't there, they find ways to win. In this case, the superstars became superstars. I was actually worried that Tina was going to keep scoring- I'd run out of room on my scoresheet for two-point baskets for her!

Kayla Pedersen set one nice strong pick and hit a perimeter jumper, but those were the only impressions she left. Nikki Greene got a fair amount of time, more than I'm used to for a seven-day temp getting in her first game with a team. She was very physical- hard hits seemed to happen when she was in the game whether she was delivering them or just happened to be in the vicinity of them.

Shekinna Stricklen sure has a pretty shot. It didn't go down today, but it's still pretty. I've always been rough on Kelly Faris, since I believed- and still believe- that she only gets her chances because she's a pedigreed Husky, but her defense has improved markedly since the last time I saw her, and that was her one calling card as a professional. With roster expansion, that one strong skill might be enough to keep her employed. I like Chelsea Gray at the point more than Jasmine Thomas; she brings offensive firepower that Thomas doesn't necessarily have consistently. I'm waiting for the day when Donovan decides to try to run Gray with the starters. I do not want that day to happen against the Liberty. She's powerful and she's flashy, and she's got excellent vision.

That is not to say anything against Jasmine Thomas. She has her advantages- she's a very sticky and determined defender. And she hit shots tonight, which seemed uncharacteristic but was surely a pleasant surprise to Sun fans. Her offense seems to rely on "puck luck"- the luck of the draw, the friendly or the unfriendly roll off the iron. It's probably for the best that Alex Bentley plays for the Sun and thus is not allowed to gamble at Mohegan, because I think she uses up all her luck with those one-handed runners that always seem to fall, or with those crazy fadeaway threes. She seemed to let things get into her head by the end of the game, when she fouled Tanisha hard once or twice. Kicking people is inappropriate behavior on a basketball court. When she's not being stupid, I like her defense.

The Jennifer Lacy start worked out a lot better than one would think from the final score. She forced the defense to extend out beyond where it was comfortable, and she set screens for her teammates. That's pretty much what has been expected of her for something like ten years. I didn't realize Camille Little had been practicing her threes, but she seems comfortable out there. I think it takes away from her strength down low, but I could be wrong. Kelsey Bone looked like she wanted to show up her former team and the player she was traded for. I'm really impressed by her spin move- that's something she's polished and honed. She needs to watch those elbows, though.

Connecticut didn't have the firepower to compete tonight, but the pieces are starting to come together. I'm not sure that Donovan's the person who can put them into place, though.

Officiating was inconsistent tonight, but inconsistent both ways (Sun fans were righteously furious at a blocking call on a wild Tanisha Wright drive). Fortunately, the game ended before anyone could seriously lose their temper.

I don't think the "throw the socks at the clothesline" contest is going to come back next week. Or the "shoot free throws while wearing a foam finger" one.

It still bothers me when Faris gets more applause than All-Stars.

Katie Douglas is really doubling down on that "signing with the Fever was a lapse in sanity" thing. It plays well in Connecticut, but I hope she isn't planning on ever doing anything in the state of Indiana again.

I'm looking forward to the Tulsa game- it'll be a quick turnaround, but I think we can survive.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11th, 2015: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Epiphanny Prince had 22 points to spearhead a balanced Liberty attack in a 84-63 win over Chicago. Cappie Pondexter had 23 points in her return to the Garden, but she and Jessica Breland (11) were the only Sky players in double figures.

For bright pink, outdated checks, jumping for joy, friendly wanderers, tasteful entertainment, teamwork, disappointed Delawareans, the Scrabble look, small children, increased security, and adroit use of timeouts, join your intrepid and content blogger after the jump.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and those who prefer not to be constrained by outdated manners or the gender binary! Your intrepid blogger comes to you on her usual tape delay from Madison Square Garden, The World's Most Famous Arena (or so I'm told), as the New York Liberty host the Chicago Sky in a game with heavy playoff implications. New York looks to put more separation between themselves and the rest of the pack, while Chicago seeks to escape the peloton.

So far I'm feeling good about today, despite the rain-soaked streets transferring their water to my shoes. Free lunch, two smooth transfers (we'll see about the last change at 8th Avenue)- what's not to like.

No word the last I saw about Elena Delle Donne and her ankle- she played through it magnificently on Sunday, as anyone watching on ESPN could have told you, but those things stiffen up and twinge at the slightest excuse, especially in damp weather. (Source: my right ankle.)

I'm looking forward to seeing how Cappie Pondexter's return is taken by the fans, and how Pondexter chooses to react to them in turn. Epiphanny Prince put on a show in her return to Chicago- is Pondexter going to feel obligated to do the same in New York? And if she does, does that take away touches from Delle Donne, to the Sky's detriment?

It's BHA night at the Garden, which means the Liberty will be wearing the pink jerseys. I'm not looking forward to it, and not just because of my long-held antipathy towards pinkwashing- the cut of the new jerseys bothers me a lot, and I don't like the lack of a number on the back. (Plus, I fear that with her coloring, Carolyn Swords is going to look like six and a half feet of pink glowstick, especially once she's been in the game for a few minutes.)

New at the Garden: metal detectors! I blame whichever idiot called in the bomb threat at Wrigley Field. I'm used to them from St. John's, but it's still disconcerting to have things get changed all of a sudden.

Chicago does the Zerg rush that so many teams do nowadays. No sign of Delle Donne so far, but she's listed as a probable starter. Surprisingly little Delaware/Sky blue so far, though one poor girl in a Delle Donne jersey got tickets behind the wrong bench.

Normally I get cranky about tourists asking me to play photographer, but ma'am, you're wearing lots of pink and have no visible hair left, so in this case, I'm honored to help you out.

(I am not wearing pink. I'm wearing a Rebecca Lobo jersey. My husband's wearing an Edna Campbell jersey, with a Shay Doron jersey to change into for gametime. This is how we do BHA. Well, that, and we donate $ at every BHA game we end up at.)

Today's giveaway is a strange bandana sort of thing. It's not going over well. Small child, please do not put the bandana over your face, security has enough of a headache today trying to enforce the general admission policies. (Personally, so long as you're not in my seat, I don't care where you sit. Just don't be a jerk, and try to sit by the opposing bench if you're a road fan.)

No Delle Donne as the teams come out onto the court to warm up, and she's in street clothes, wearing a shirt that's poised between Liberty green and Sky blue. She looks good, but she usually does. She's awfully pretty.

At halftime, it's 45-36 in favor of the Liberty, and it could honestly be more; my math suggests that rimouts have been 10-4 against the Liberty.

Our halftime entertainment has been a nifty martial arts exhibition, followed by a dance exhibition, thankfully by adults.

Jimmy Smits in the house! So is C. Vivian Stringer, sitting on the sideline by the Liberty bench (strange to me, given that her goddaughter is on the Sky).

The defense has been a bit looser than I'd like for the Liberty, but the offense looks sharp. Lots of fun to watch.

Chicago's been leaning on Cappie and the supporting cast. I don't know if we have an answer for Breland. We'll see if rotating more players early helps them later.

I don't think it worked. The Liberty were flat defensively for stretches in both the third and fourth quarters, but Bill Laimbeer used his timeouts really well to arrest the momentum. We got a lot of energy off the bench, and it resulted in points. This was one of those nights where this team was fun to watch, even through the flat moments.

I really think the Liberty should update their charity checks, unless John Whisenant got kicked all the way up to treasurer after he got fired as coach and GM. Still, raising $10,000 for breast cancer research is nothing to sneeze at.

I like Clarissa Dos Santos for Chicago. She reminds me of the role Jayne Appel plays for the Stars, or that Janel McCarville was famous for whenever she played in Minnesota. She's not an offensive threat, no matter how many long jumpers she takes, but I love her tenacity on the boards. She was surrounded by two, three, four Liberty players in the paint, and she still came away with rebounds. She set a nice pick to free up Pondexter for a jumper, and came up with a stylish block on Carolyn Swords. Cheyenne Parker threw her body around on the outside with screens that were perhaps not legal. I'm not quite sure if Betnijah Laney is considered inside or outside anymore; she seemed to be taking the jumper more towards the perimeter. I'm wondering if that's the tweener transition at work, or if the inside strength of Dos Santos has taken away the interior space where she expected to work.

Allie Quigley got her open looks, but they didn't go down. I have to look at the play-by-play to determine when she got them, because if they were in the second half, I'd be less surprised. The rim across from the Liberty bench did weird things all night. Jacki Gemelos showed hustle in the brief minutes she played. Jamierra Faulkner showed her speed and her moves in the brief minutes she played. If I'd been coaching Chicago, I might have given her more time; from where I was sitting, it felt like the Sky's offense ran more quickly with Faulkner at point.

Jessica Breland started off hot, but the defense came on her, and the offense moved away from her. She did what she could on the glass as well. Érika de Souza was solid to the point of immobility, or perhaps simple inability to be moved, down low. I'm surprised she didn't get more touches, or at least I would be if I didn't know the Chicago backcourt. Tamera Young got the start, but Chatman went to Dos Santos early and often; I don't think Young re-entered after she came out in both halves. Her shot was as technically unsound as ever, and the turnover she had was sheer stupidity- the ball fell through her hands on a lay-up attempt.

Courtney Vandersloot never seems to impress me when I see her, but then I look at the box score and see the assists, so I assume I'm missing something. She had some pretty dribbling moves, but I just remember a lot of ill-advised shots, including one that went in. Cappie Pondexter was prolific offensively, from the second quarter on, but the Liberty were ready for that and swarmed her whenever they could. I'll give her credit for creating space and hitting the shots she got, but I'm not sure if the margin would have been smaller if the shots had been more evenly spread around.

Chicago didn't look lost, per se, without Delle Donne, but they looked like they were simultaneously searching wildly for a second option and smothering any chance they had of developing one because they were so dependent on Pondexter.

I've been really impressed with how Candice Wiggins has come on, or perhaps come back, in the last few games. She's remarkably pesky on defense, she uses her head in possession situations, and she can even hit threes every once in a while. It's really nice to see her doing well- she seems so cool. Sugar Rodgers was not on her game defensively, but brought just enough offense to be a threat from deep. Brittany Boyd was reckless defensively, which got her in some foul trouble and got into her head a little, but when it came to the end of the game, she put on the afterburners and did her best imitation of her idol, hitting a three with the shot clock expiring, then coming up with the steal and the free throws on the fast break.

Essence Carson still seems to have trouble judging the length of her shots (her three was close enough to the line that Chatman tried to get a review). But she had the midrange game going. Kiah Stokes was strong in the middle defensively, though we had issues with her hands, both on being able to catch passes and holding on to rebounds. She wiped her hands shortly after the flurry of issues after halftime, and was solid thereafter. We were agitating for Avery Warley-Talbert to get into the game earlier than she did.

I don't think I've ever seen us survive this minimal a game from Tina Charles. She missed a lot of close-in shots (though I'd have to go to the videotape to determine how many were due to that rim). She was solid on the boards, but it's a good thing we didn't need her offense today. That being said, she was constantly swarmed defensively, and she passed out really well. Swin Cash opened the scoring- she seems to do that a lot, as if to say that she's still here, that Tina's not the only threat in the paint. Carolyn Swords has not adjusted well to starting. She looks a step slow and a step out of position.

Epiphanny Prince cut through the defense for lay-ups and made space for herself to get loose for jumpers. I think she's got something to prove to Chicago, and I'm okay with this. Tanisha Wright was tough defensively, aggressive almost to a fault, and just... well, tough. Messing with her is a bad idea: Vandersloot knocked her down with no call at one end, whereupon Tanisha came back down, crossed her off her feet, and then did something awesome, but I can't remember what it was. She also had a couple of nice steals on long passes. T, the Jets are looking for a corner, and you don't seem inclined to punch people in the face for owing you money, so...?

Funny of the day: Swin Cash is apparently afraid of dogs. Which, of course, is why she became a Husky.

Brittany Boyd continues to be endearing and adorable. Long-standing Liberty tradition is for Maddie to lead the "L-I-B-E-R-T-Y!" chant by leaping from letter to letter of the center court logo. Boyd jumped in time with Maddie. She didn't do the full arc the way Kara Braxton once did on the road, but still. I like when players are happy to be here. It makes us happy to have them.

I don't think this was our best basketball... but with no Delle Donne and no second option for Chicago, it didn't have to be.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

August 2nd, 2015: Seattle at New York

Just the Facts: Sue Bird hit the big 5K, Tina Charles dropped 29, and the Liberty clamped down on defense to beat Seattle 78-62.

For song lyrics, a perfect storm for an imperfect Storm, the island of misfit toys, big numbers, bling, CAROLYN SMASH, absconding with the beer, many fans, accomplished missions, cute kids, and contentment, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

As the song goes, today was a good day: a good game, milestones for two remarkable guards, then the company of good friends, good food, and missions accomplished.

I don't think MSG is prepared for larger-than-average crowds. I'm not sure if this is a product of miscommunication or if they've simply decided that there are only so many resources they'll allocate to a Liberty game no matter what. But on a day like today, with so many pieces falling into place for a big crowd- good weather, but enough heat to make air conditioning a pleasant notion; a good Liberty team; UConn fans coming to see Bird and Mosqueda-Lewis; foreign tourists coming for Bishop and O'Hea or for Tokashiki; of course, the Ring of Honor ceremony for Becky Hammon- more than half the security desks should have been manned and more than a scattering of concession stands should have been open. The upper deck was opened, for heaven's sake! Because of that, people were still getting to their seats in the second quarter, and concession lines were insanely long- there were people who went at or before halftime and didn't make it back until almost the end of the third.

Today's giveaway was a very cool ring with the names and numbers of the six players the Liberty have honored. A “Ring” of Honor, geddit? I'm not sure they should have used Bill's fingers to size it, though. My thumb's the only finger it doesn't fall off of, and I have fat fingers.

At last, pre-game entertainment that I can look at without feeling like a sicko! The first round was Camp Broadway, in camp-issue tees and shorts, doing a dance routine; the second round was some kind of dance fitness thing with middle-aged women looking vaguely like something out of the 80's. I'm okay with this. At least they're old enough to know better and old enough to decide they don't care.

I forgot how good Seattle could be with autographs. Most teams have adopted the zerg rush approach to leaving the court- everyone goes at once and you have to scramble for one or two. Atlanta's the worst at that. But the Storm leave pretty much one at a time, and they're friendly. Ramu Tokashiki left with her translator. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis got held up by a couple of elderly gentlemen on the sideline, and chatted with them for some time... and then got accosted for pics from a youth group. Were it not for security and common sense, she might still be down there taking pics with three or four at a time of a group of nearly thirty. I don't think she realized what she had gotten herself into.

Lovely rendition of the national anthem. We got “God Bless America” too. Yay.

Abby Bishop was first off the bench for the Storm. She showed some nice outside touch, going deep for threes and a long two. She seemed to pick up a lot of mis-matches on defense- I think Candice Wiggins was on her at least once. Markeisha Gatling cleared a lot of space down low with her size. She needs to work on her finishing with contact, but I see why Seattle claimed her off waivers. I just don't know if this is the right team for her to flourish (unless they call Lin Dunn in as a consultant or something). Quanitra Hollingsworth was the last player in, and her first action was to lay out Candice on an illegal screen with no discernible reason. Unresolved issues from the Lynx days?

Angel Goodrich got a lot of time off the bench, sometimes spelling Sue Bird, sometimes taking the point so Bird could swing to off-guard. She's got a lot of vertical for a little bitty guard, and plenty of speed. We overlooked her more than we should have, both literally and figuratively, and she got a lot of open looks. Jenna O'Hea converted her opportunities, but didn't take a lot of them. I think Boucek was looking for her as a change of pace, size-wise, but I'm not sure if the plan worked. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was actually set to check in near the end of the first half, but didn't make it onto the floor until the second half, whereupon she missed her one lay-up extremely short. She looks nowhere near ready to be a WNBA player, whether it's in terms of conditioning, vision, or skill set. She might get there, but I think she has to take a long look at herself and realize that all her three-point records and collegiate accolades mean in the WNBA is that she gets chances other players might not.

Crystal Langhorne did her thing, as she's done since the dawn of time, or at least 2008. She takes jumpers, and they go in. She converts lay-ups. She pulls down rebounds. She's not flashy, but she's got the soothing consistency of a metronome. Ramu Tokashiki seemed a little shot-happy, especially from the outside- it's one thing if they go in, it's another when they don't. She needs to work on her footwork if she wants to succeed steadily in the WNBA; she slides the pivot foot constantly, and someday crews will start calling her on it. I see why she's been a successful pro player, and I see why Seattle brought her over and kept her, but I don't know if she has a position. She seems like she should be, and could be, pulling down rebounds and doing more work in the paint; maybe she and/or Boucek changed up the game plan with the big dogs lurking own low. But then again, I didn't realize how young she was.

I admire Alysha Clark's defense- she's really made herself a tough defender and one not easily shaken. I'm not sure if she wasn't looking for her offense, or if that's been the trade-off for her improved defense. She's always been a tweener (which, actually, you could make that argument about with half her teammates, come to think of it). Jewell Loyd looked like the rookie that she is- a step slower than just about everyone, a moment behind the play, a foot out of place here and there. The athleticism is there and can be trained, but right now she still looks like she's trying to make the plays she made at Notre Dame, against a much higher class of opponent, and they're reading her far better than college kids can. Sue Bird was missing a lot of good looks. Her passing is still lovely and she finds great angles, but she doesn't seem to get to that second level of vision that she used to. Near the end of the first half and into the second, she really looked like she was forcing her offense just to get to 5000, and I don't think that's her game. (that all being said, congrats on the milestone, Sue!)

The bad news for Seattle is that their starters are not that much better than reserves, for the most part. The good news for Seattle is that means there's very little drop-off when they go to the bench. They're an oddball collection of parts, of players who are the wrong position for their skills or have the wrong skills for their position- but it works, in a strange, strange way. They're going to need their lottery picks, this year's and the next one or two, to develop quickly, though. They can't afford a bust. And I love their defense- very tenacious.

Monica Wright traveled with the team, wearing a lovely orange dress with a white top/jacket/thing.

Avery Warley-Talbert sighting! She did good work on the boards. It's always good to see her get some time; it usually means the win is secured. Kiah Stokes menaced people out of the paint. I'd like to see her finish better at the rim, but you take the defense and you take the rebounds. Essence Carson looks like she's found her offensive stroke, though she did take yet another loooooooong two. I don't know the numbers, but it feels like she takes more of those shots with a foot on the line than anyone else in the league.

Brittany Boyd brought speed and desperate energy, but none of it was harnessed effectively on offense. She was a wrecking ball defensively, but no matter how hard she attacked the rim, nothing went in, whether it should have gone in or whether it should have gone up at all. This was one of those frustrating nights where she looked like the rookie she was, and I think Bill recognized it too- she seemed to be on a very short leash. It helped the breaking of the maverick colt (to borrow a phrase) that Candice Wiggins had the best game I've seen from her in years, on both ends of the floor. She was on Bird like a burr, keeping pace with her on defense and even shaking her off once on offense (though then she wussed out on taking the shot). I don't think her confidence is entirely back, but I'd like to think that hitting the different kinds of shots she hit today, combined with her defense and with Bill's faith in her, will go a long way towards breaking down the block that seems to have plagued her since she injured her knee all those years ago.

Swin Cash brings tenacity and grit to the floor, but I'm not sure we wouldn't be better served bringing her off the bench with that. On the other hand, Bill has a tendency to reward players who've played well off the bench, and he does like to have that super sub (exhibit A: why someday Sixth Woman of the Year has a 33% chance of being named after Plenette Pierson). She started off the game hot, but tapered off quickly. The reverse happened with Carolyn Swords. Carolyn started the game slow, getting pulled quickly for Kiah, but she came on like gangbusters in the second half. She pulled down strong rebounds, pursued balls, and delivered a vicious block on Tokashiki. Tina Charles had herself a night. She's still a little too addicted to the long jumper for my liking, but she did a better job of attacking the rim than before. She had one pretty shot go high off the glass and in, but my favorite was the putback on Swin's waaaaay long and high shot.

Tanisha Wright brought the defense. That's really all I can remember on the court. Epiphanny Prince could get nothing to fall in the first half, then erupted in the third quarter, outscoring Seattle all by her lonesome for a long stretch, and for a moment, a great and wondrous vista opened before me of what the future could hold. Then Bird hit her three and got 5K, and it was back to life.

Michael Price is not good at getting out of the way of jump balls; perhaps the duty should be delegated to another official. They let a lot of things slide today, especially early on, but clamped down a little harder in the second quarter before really kicking back. At least it was balanced.

Loved the energy of the crowd. Saw a lot of old-school fans I hadn't seen in ages.

The first video tribute to Becky actually ran during one of the timeouts. I loved seeing the highlights. So many old friends in there. So many teams I miss- the Rockers, the Sting, the Comets, the Sol (oh, my Sol). And of course, tiny rookie Becky and her unfortunate bangs. SO YOUNG. I thought it was really sweet of Dan Hughes to record a message for the tribute. Loved the gifts she was given- doing the painting on site was a nice touch. I kind of felt like everything was hurried along, but overall it was classy and solid, and I do understand the time pressure. I recall either Sue Wicks or Rebecca Lobo saying she was going to be brief, and then going on until everyone was back out on the court.

The only thing that irked me: right before the half, a couple of the young ladies from the Torch Patrol came through our aisle and earnestly told us that Becky Hammon was getting an award, so they'd like for everyone to chant her name. Well, if you know me, you know I'm about as likely to do that as Donald Trump is to win the Democratic nomination for president, and you know if someone tells me to do it, it's as likely to happen as the aforementioned Trump taking a Mexican lesbian as his vice-presidential nominee. More to the point, you knew some kind of Becky chant would be forthcoming from the crowd without being prodded. In fact, I think trying to organize an official one wrecked any chance of an organic one happening. We're really not stupid. You don't come through a season subscriber-heavy section and condescendingly ask us to shill out for you.

(For the record: I admire what she's done as a player and especially as a coach, but I was off the bandwagon before most people were on it. I loved the trade and I almost wore my Davenport shirt under my jersey today. She absolutely deserves to be honored by both her franchises. Doesn't mean I have to like her. I've never been big on superstars- the hype backlash hits me hard.)

Also didn't mean that we didn't show up to the post-game season subscriber event at Liberty Bar. That was really nice, though it was stifling at first- the venue wasn't quite big enough for everyone who showed up, and it got hot in there. Becky was there briefly, leaving to catch a flight after about twenty minutes or so. I think some of the latest stragglers actually missed her. As people left, it eased up a little bit.

Plenty of the grande dames came through. Of course, Kym Hampton, Teresa Weatherspoon, and Sue Wicks were there to charm and dazzle the crowd. Barbara Farris put in an appearance too. There was a woman who looked like Kalana Greene perched on a stool near the door, but she looked shorter than Kalana (then again, she was sitting). I also thought I spotted Markeisha Gatling in a darling polka-dot number and a couple of friends wandering in and out. Mr. Thomas made an appearance, schmoozing and smarming his way through the crowd. I dared not speak to him, lest I be tempted to do my best Ronda Rousey imitation. Herb Williams had an adorable little girl with him. Kym's daughter A'riel looks like she's gotten her mother's height. I loved Candice's white dress with the gold seams, and Tina's red jacket. Tanisha looked really different with a hat on. There was lots of mingling, but I'm not good at mingling, so it mostly happened to other people. I finished off the hat as much as can be done in this hemisphere. Autographed Hammon jerseys were raffled. I didn't win, but that's okay. My head knows that Kristin took the cooler bowl of beer cans to the players and staff dinner, but I still prefer to imagine that she bogarted it all for herself for the purpose of shenanigans.

It's nice to have a piece of the olden days and the old ways, even if only for a night.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25th, 2015: All-Star Game

Just the Facts, Ma'am: All-Star MVP Maya Moore dropped 10 of her All-Star record 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the West pull away from the East 117-112. Moore added six rebounds and five assists. Brittney Griner just missed a double-double at 21 points and nine rebounds. Alex Bentley thrilled her home crowd with 23 points to lead the East.

For traveling fans, travesties of fashion, catching flying guards, small rants, the unofficial three-point shooting contest, a dubious Atlanta player, and transcendence, join your intrepid and inconvenienced blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow fans! Your intrepid blogger comes to you on even more of a delay than usual, due to technical difficulties. Alas, this past Thursday, I opened the lid of my once-trusty Jocelyn, heard a horrendous crunch like someone stepping on a piece of Chex, and discovered that her internal cooling fan was now broken. So now I have to borrow my husband's laptop, and it doesn't travel well either. This is the glamorous life, y'all.

The ride up was slow, the ride back super fast, and I wish I had known about the outlets before I ran my tablet battery all the way down.

No fan fest this year, as far as I could tell, but apparently the open practices were really awesome. Maybe next time.

Lots of UConn and Sun fans, as to be expected. The Liberty were also well represented. I saw fans of every team except San Antonio and Tulsa. Shoutout to the woman in the Cynthia Cooper jersey- rock that throwback! (We certainly did. I busted out my Debbie Black Sol jersey and my husband wore my Rhonda Mapp Sting jersey. If you can't wear a throwback to an ASG, when can you wear one?) Shoutout also goes to the woman with the “Dallas <3's WNBA” sign. I hate that Tulsa fans are losing their team, but there seem to be plenty of fans who'll take them in and love them in Dallas. Very cool dual color guard at Mohegan. I'm now crazy curious about the meaning of the tribal regalia. Excellent anthem as well. I really do not appreciate people who question Brittney Griner's biological sex. Yes, she's tall (but not the tallest player in league history, and no one outside the basest trolls questioned Margo Dydek's sex). Yes, she presents kinda butch (but she's not the only one, and I don't hear this nonsense about, say, Monique Currie). Yes, she has a deep voice (so does Kara Braxton and no one has ever questioned whether Kara was female). It's one thing when this nonsense is spewed from anti-WNBA trolls; it's another thing when people who claim to be fans of the game spew it. Steroid jokes aren't funny either, and I hope security confiscates the sign that one woman wants to bring to the Phoenix @ Connecticut game about roid rage.

Some of the intro skits were hilarious. I think Plenette Pierson versus Stefanie Dolson would have been a better match-up, but Pierson and Alex Bentley had enough fun with theirs. Kayla McBride and Emma Meesseman looked like they both thought this was a silly idea, which is probably why they were paired up.

For some time, we thought the delay at tip was because someone threw up. Don't spin your guards!

Oh, right, there was a game.

Kayla McBride came to play, not to have fun. She only really emoted once, during the quarter break entertainment, impressed to the point of 8-O at Russian Bar. She came to shoot the ball and hit her shots. Riquna Williams took threes all over the place and sometimes tried to defend Cappie Pondexter (and sometimes was like “nah”). Danielle Robinson had two good shots early that she missed, but after her second shift, she settled in and started hitting those driving lay-ups, along with finding her teammates with shovel passes and fast breaks.

Plenette Pierson looked like she was having the time of her life all night, whether it was drawing a line in the wood against Bentley, dancing at all possible opportunities, taking a selfie with a fan who wanted a picture, hauling Bentley back to the bench when Bentley was trying to fire up the crowd, shooting one-legged jumpers, or occasionally defending someone. So happy for her. Jantel Lavender was another reserve who showed up to get boards, play defense, and generally do all the boring things that most All-Stars are like, “nah” about. Unsurprisingly, she and Nneka Ogwumike had excellent chemistry together down low, recognizing each other's misses and cleaning up after one another. Ogwumike was solid and efficient- a performance worthy of an All-Star, if not an All-Star Game performance.

Sue Bird sort of erased herself from the play, but she made her teammates look better. DeWanna Bonner was unmemorable. I think Brondello wanted to save her for the regular season, or possibly just wanted the production she was getting on the boards from the Sparks' duo and the scoring from McBride.

The West didn't seem to look for Candice Dupree a lot, but when your frontcourt teammates are Maya Moore and Brittney Griner, it's kind of understandable. She hit the shots she got, and seemed appreciative of them. Griner woke up more in the second half, going on a tear down low. She even hit a three and looked good doing it (but the stroke is not yet strong enough for her to try it consistently). I thought the goaltending play was actually more impressive than the dunk, to be honest. If Maya Moore hadn't gone nuts in the fourth quarter, Griner would probably have been MVP. But Miss Maya went nuts in the fourth quarter. She started off hot, but she took over the game when there was a chance the East might still pull things out, and when Maya wants something, Maya gets what Maya wants. She was bombing threes, some of them from crazy deep. She drove. She got boards. She was generally awesome.

Stefanie Dolson was utterly adorable trying to get a “DE-FENSE!” chant started while she was on the bench, but it was a little hypocritical of her to slack off on defense when she finally got into the game. She got a couple of sweet feeds from Shoni Schimmel that bounced off her hands. Kelsey Bone was lackadaisical defensively (and I mean noticeably so, in a game where defense was not exactly a big thing), and I'm not sure who was the worse three-point shooter, her or Tina Charles. Emma Meesseman put on a nice little show in the first half, getting baskets and pulling down boards. I think the jig is up and she's not a surprise anymore.

Alex Bentley was not afraid to shoot, and she was feeling it from deep. The guy in front of us was wondering why she couldn't hit like that in the regular season, and I wanted to say, “Dude, this is an All-Star game, defense is optional.” Marissa Coleman was also taking a lot of deep shots, with somewhat less success. Cappie Pondexter ran a little bit of point guard off the bench, and also had fun with Riquna Williams. She seems happy. I'm happy for her.

The official starters didn't actually start the second half; Pokey went with Bentley, Pondexter, Coleman, Meesseman, and Bone.

Shoni Schimmel seems at her best in All-Star games. I'm not sure if that has more to do with the freeform play, the more fun atmosphere, or the lack of defense. Whatever it was, she seemed to be moving faster, playing more comfortably, finding her teammates, and generally looking like an All-Star. Elena Delle Donne almost had a “anything you can do, I can do better” vibe with Moore, answering almost every basket with a basket of her own. She's so smooth to watch.

Tina Charles, you are not a three-point shooter. Everyone in the universe knows it. Even Swin knows it. She was unstoppable down low and completely stoppable from beyond the arc. I think she was on a minute count, because otherwise she should have entered sometime in the third quarter. Angel McCoughtry was a hot mess today. She found a little bit of offense in the second half, but she spent a lot of time taking stupid, difficult shots, then pouting at the ref for calls. I don't know why she was in for so much of the fourth quarter, but the offense collapsed into her as if the ball had entered an event horizon. Tamika Catchings did her work around the basket, though I think she also had a jumper. She came to play at both ends of the floor, because she's Tamika Catchings, and if you're Tamika Catchings, you play hard. It's what you do.

I have to assume that Chatman was thinking ahead to the regular season down the stretch, and that's why Delle Donne, Charles, and Catchings were all on the bench while McCoughtry was jacking dumb shots.

We skipped the halftime entertainment, but we got to see the quarter-break entertainment, and the Russian Bar trio was amazing. Sure, I'll let two guys catapult me into the air on essentially a flexible balance beam, and I'll do flips and twists and spins in the air, and I'll land on my feet like a cat... that takes a special kind of talent and a special kind of crazy. By the end of the timeout, everyone on the West, including Coach Brondello, was watching.

Officials mostly stayed out of the way, at least until the fourth quarter.

The All-Star gear is bland at best and ugly at worst. And I didn't see any little things available. I would have bought a pin or something like that. And I hate the cut of the jerseys- they look like sports bras. Anyone with developed deltoids will probably break the straps. Anyone in less than stellar condition is going to bulge. (I do not want to see Danielle Adams in this jersey...)

We skipped the glowsticks during intros. They're in my bag.

Plenette provided most of the funny moments today, whether it was her skit with Bentley, her dance moves, or the rematch with Bentley. Bentley had gotten off the bench during a timeout and wandered towards center court to pump up the crowd. Yes, normally a technical, but on that day not a single damn was given. So Pierson came off the West bench, grabbed Bentley, and dragged her back to her place before scampering back to the West.

Games at Mohegan are convenient for me, but I'd like to see the All-Star game leave the eastern seaboard- I think it's causing fans to become jaded. They didn't even pretend this one was a sellout like they usually do.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 16th, 2015: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: All-Star once more, Tina Charles poured in 22 points and 12 rebounds to power the Liberty's 64-57 win over Connecticut. Kiah Stokes anchored the middle with seven points, eight rebounds, and a team-record eight blocks. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 15 points.

For flexing in a no flex zone, KIAH SMASH, genuflection, inappropriately dressed children, inaudible drums, defense, chess motifs, and MOAR KIAH SMASH, join your intrepid and unworthy blogger after the jump.

This is entirely too quick a turnaround when there are no other home games left in the month, but here we are at the Garden once more, as the Connecticut Sun pay their first visit to New York.

We all know I hate the Q59; your intrepid blogger arrived at the Garden just in time to see Connecticut finish their stretching and run off the court en masse. Props to Kelsey Bone for stopping for the one guy there.

Tonight's pregame entertainment was so wholly inappropriate that the words I would use to describe it would get this blog on an FBI watchlist. I'm tired of having to avert my eyes from these inappropriate gyrations.

There's a random security dude in the next aisle over.

Really, Connecticut? Did you have to come out at the exact same moment the Liberty did?

At halftime, we're down five, and one rim rattling half-court miss from being down eight. Worse, there are small children dressed highly inappropriately and popping body parts they should not be entirely aware they possess.

Connecticut's playing a tough zone that we have few ways of breaking, and shooting well from the outside- a deadly combination that plays right to our weaknesses. Alex Bentley is getting good screens and using them well.

No portion of our offense should involve Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright passing the ball to each other. That interval is where offense goes to die a suffocated, strangled death.

The only thing more adorable than Tina Charles bopping to timeout music is Avery Warley-Talbert bopping to timeout music. And the only thing more adorable than that is watching Brittany Boyd, Sugar Rodgers, and Candice Wiggins enjoy Kiah Stokes's block party, complete with what looked like the "we're not worthy" bow. (Book-smartest guard trio in the league?)

It wasn't always pretty. It didn't have to be. And the Liberty seemed to get stronger as the Sun got weaker.

Chelsea Gray is big for a point guard! And I don't mean that as an insult, or as a statement about her physical fitness. I mean that she has a build that looks more like a modern off guard, or a '90s small forward. That is not to say she shouldn't be playing point guard, either. Her passing is beautiful and fast. She had the prettiest play of the game, with a hot flip pass to Kelsey Bone for a basket. I don't know if she's in the right spot yet, or if Connecticut needs to revamp stuff around her. Kelly Faris gave defensive minutes in the second quarter, and that was the end of her for the night. Shekinna Stricklen set the world on fire in the second quarter, when she scored all 11 of her points. She took advantage of smaller defenders for her first two treys, added a trey and another fast break, then went cold.

I like the physicality that Elizabeth Williams can bring, but I think she was a little cowed by the level of competition she was facing down low. Kayla Pedersen was asked to do a lot on defense, and while she had moments where she stuck hard to her assignment, she often ended up fouling, especially on the boards. I might have gone to Williams more than her.

I'm not used to Camille Little shooting perimeter jumpers this much. I don't know that it's a good look for her. She did a lot more work on the boards than I realized, though I think part of it is that I still think of her as wearing 20 and my brain reboots when I see the 2 jersey. Kelsey Bone looked like she had something to prove to the team that gave her up, going hard to the basket for a lot of her shots. She needs to be careful with those elbows, which you'd think she'd have learned after getting suspended for one; she didn't make contact today, but they were swinging freely. Alyssa Thomas's length was distracting on the defensive end, but she didn't look for her shot all that often- one of her two makes was a clean backdoor cut where her assignment went AWOL, the kind of shot that gets players cut for not taking. (You think I'm exaggerating; I'm pretty sure that's why Shenneika Smith was last cut a couple of years ago.)

Any defense worth their salt will give up shots to Jasmine Thomas all day. I'll grant that she had some of the worst luck in the game- at least two of those shots were good shots that had a legitimate chance of going in. She runs the offense well, and keys the defense well- I think she was the one who came close to forcing an 8-second call on the Liberty. Alex Bentley was the offensive catalyst, but if I were a coach, I'd be a little annoyed that she either backpedals immediately or stares it down. Go at the glass, woman! Follow your shot! I understand that that's not her job- that, perhaps, she only has one job- but that's a pet peeve of mine.

No announcement was made that there would be a block party this evening; no one brought refreshments, nor were the streets blocked off. But Kiah Stokes, beyond a doubt, got the block party started. Jasmine Thomas came at her twice with weak sweeping lay-ups that were rejected with panache and authority. Kiah has no taste for weaksauce. I also like that she was willing to shoot and to score. She doesn't have to be a big scorer, but she needs to be an option. Avery Warley-Talbert got some unexpected run in the third quarter and made the most of it, hitting the boards and picking up a pair of free throws. I do like her rebounding. Essence Carson put in some work defensively, but was outmatched by bigger and faster opponents.

I have concluded that Candice Wiggins has two basketball-related jobs on this roster: to come in when the game is a fait accompli, and to come in when Brittany Boyd needs a teaching moment, because this is the second game in a row where she's subbed in for Boyd after Boyd has made mistakes. She wasn't awful, but I'd still rather have Boyd, mistakes and all. Boyd seemed to be trying to draw more contact than iron. She's still an energizer. Sugar Rodgers hesitated to shoot a couple of times, which is very odd for her. I like that she's rounded out her game more and really intensified her hustle on defense.

Tanisha Wright brings a lot of intangibles. The tangibles were not terribly present for much of the game, especially in the second half. But she leads. She took Boyd in hand after a bad possession even before the coaches got to her; she sweet-talked the refs after a dubious call. I like that about her. Epiphanny Prince has settled nicely into the offense, providing a perimeter threat and helping create for her teammates. The defense keyed on her often, and she took a lot of contested shots. Still fewer than Cappie would have in the same situation, so at least I know it could have been worse.

Swin Cash fought really hard on the boards. You could see the Bad Girl in her, and I'm okay with that- we could use a little more of that. I was surprised to see her step outside for threes, but if she's hitting them and if we need to bust a zone with them, I'm okay with that as well. Carolyn Swords's shot came up a little short, but she put in work defensively and boxed out strong. She got more time early rather than late, because, well, Kiah's block party got started. Tina Charles hit a few of the jumpers, missed a few of the jumpers, and generally was a one-woman wrecking crew on the inside. She just moves with so much more fluidity down there.

We bore down hard on defense late. The switches worked, instead of leaving odd situations like Kiah on a guard.

The officiating had some questionable moments. The most annoying part- not the worst part, because technically they were right- was when they realized they'd lost count of the fouls, and Little should have gotten free throws. Right call, but it took a long time to explain. The worst was when the ball went off Williams twice in a row and still ended up Connecticut ball.

This is going to be a season series that will not be pretty and will be very, very hotly contested. NY-CT is a rivalry, both because of the trade and as part of the Greater Noo Yawk-Bahstahn Hate-Off. I look forward to the rest of it.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 15th, 2015: San Antonio at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The short-handed San Antonio Stars rallied but never threatened, and the New York Liberty came away with the 84-68 win on Camp Day at the Garden. Essence Carson led New York with 16 points off the bench. Danielle Robinson of San Antonio led all scorers with 18 points.

For high decibels, high pitches, disturbing performances, boogie-oogie-oogieing, the spoils of war, companionable swats on the rear, weak wi-fi game, resting up, and a memetic mutation, join your intrepid and stuck blogger after the jump.

Good morning, for lack of a better salutation! Longtime readers of the GNoD know that your intrepid blogger is not a morning person and does not like children, and thus is most displeased when her team has Camp Day. It's even worse when it's a Western Conference team such as San Antonio, and thus my only chance to see them is to brave the t-shirted hordes.

I am not a fan of pre-pubescent girls doing rhythmic gymnastics to Queen. Somewhere Freddie Mercury is spinning in his grave. Those bodysuits are way too tight. (And congratulations, Forest Hills rhythmic gymnastics, you just managed to make the Beatles creepy. Tweens in skintight bodysuits performing to "Twist and Shout". That song is now TAINTED FOREVER.)

As it turns out, there was no point in coming early, since no one was out by the time we got in. Ink junkie is most displeased.

So I don't have to be annoyed at the kids who were already in the seats where the ink junkies usually hang out, which is good, because they brought a really nice Liberty banner.

Carolyn, aren't you dizzy jumping around in a circle?

At halftime, the Liberty are up 39-30, in a game that started out like a house on fire and got a little more ragged as time went on. Las Danielle lead the way for San Antonio; Adams has 9 and Robinson has 6. Tina Charles has 11 points and four boards for the Liberty.

Crowd arrived late, but it filled up nicely. The kids behind us and around us have a good sense of how to behave at a basketball game. I like that.

Our first group of halftime entertainment was a step group that did not prepare for the big stage. Our second group is a dance team that looks to be early to mid-twenties. Talented and far less creepy. Also, I think one of the dudes might have been one of the dudes for St. John's, which is awesome.

What is that on Danielle Robinson's head, and are we sure it's not from another planet?

Note to MSG: the wi-fi is not robust enough to deal with a sellout crowd.

That game ended up being more competitive than I would have liked- in the end, we ground San Antonio down with depth and exposed their lack of auxiliary firepower. The Stars bore down well on defense, and dear Lord Danielle Robinson is good. But down a quarter of their roster, there was only so much that they could do.

Kalana Greene came in in the first half for defense, and actually got the second-half start over Sydney Colson. She's not going to be an offensive option, and she didn't do much to make herself one, but she stuck close on defense and stayed active. Samantha Logic found herself at the off-guard for a couple of stretches, playing alongside Colson. She lit the tree for the Stars with an and-1 late in the second half. Kayla Alexander impressed me, slithering into small spaces to get to the basket or at least get to the line. Danielle Adams looks like she's put on weight, and I think it's affected her mobility a little bit. We only saw her try the flop once- she didn't seem to be moving into poition to take them as willingly as usual. Not sure if that's a day-game thing or an injury thing or if she's changing in style or what. She wasn't getting much of anything to fall, whether it was jumpers from the outside or shots in the lane. She did do a nice job of drawing contact, though.

Sydney Colson's kinda quick. She caused chaos defensively. Danielle Robinson is even quicker. She's so fast, and so good. She had all kinds of offense working today, whether it was the jumper, the fast break, or the cut to the basket. She's so fun to watch. Why are we not hearing about her more? Seriously, WNBA, get on this. Jayne Appel facilitated the Stars' offense, which would have been nice if she were a point guard, but is somewhat less effective when three of the nine active players on the roster are primarily point guards and thus need someone to give the ball to. She got grabby and frustrated near the end of the game. The rims were unkind to Sophia Young-Malcolm in the first half, which I am totally okay with (no, I don't like her; I have a thing against people who believe my family doesn't deserve equal protection under the law). She got better looks in the second half, and she also got to the line more. She didn't seem to like some of the more physical play that went on down low. Dearica Hamby shows a lot of potential- she didn't necessarily look good, per se, but she looked like a player who needs to have the raw edges filed off her, to have her shot more refined, to become more familiar with the physical nature of the WNBA, before she fully comes into her own.

San Antonio seemed to focus more on defense than offense, which makes sense given that two primary pieces of their offense were missing and two others were off their game. Danielle Robinson may be awesome, but she can't do it alone.

Avery Warley-Talbert, still rocking the red hair, came in at the very end of the game and demonstrated both why we keep her (boxing out hard on the glass) and why we don't play her (hands of stone). Candice Wiggins saw extended run in the fourth quarter and, dare I say, put the game on Ice with a three-pointer. *sunglasses pull* yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Brittany Boyd seems to have gotten over that nightmarish game from the free throw line, at least AT the free throw line. She was shaky today elsewhere, with some bad passes and throwing up shots that looked designed to draw fouls instead of iron. We need her energy, and we need her to stay energetic, but she has to be careful with that as well. Sugar Rodgers turned up the offense in the fourth quarter, right when we needed a spark. Kiah Stokes looked aggressive and ready for action on both ends of the floor. She ran one particularly nice fast break in the second half that got the crowd going. Essence Carson did not take her removal from the starting lineup lying down. She had the outside shot going (though she still has that issue with getting it behind the line) and was strong overall.

I like what Epiphanny Prince brings to this team. She's a perimeter threat, but she also brings penetration and passing to the table. She's not so hot on defense, but we brought her in for offense, so I'm okay with that for now. She also seems to discourage Tina Charles from that pernicious habit she has of jacking long perimeter jumpers. Tina did work down low today, and watching her do work down low is a thing of beauty. She's lithe and quick in the paint. It looks like her element. I feel like I'm harping, but really, she looked good in the post and bad from deep outside. During the game, I kept thinking Tanisha Wright is where offense goes to die, but the box score says she had four assists, so she must have done well in finding open players, but it seemed like everything slowed down much more with her in the game instead of Boyd or Sugar. Swin Cash rebounded well, but that was about it. Carolyn Swords was tough down low, getting just enough on her shots to get them down and boxing out with thast big body of hers.

I love the flexibility this team has- we have players whose skill sets overlap enough that we have options, but who all bring different things to the table that suit different situations.

I also love when Tina is happy and contentedly bopping along to the dance music during a timeout.

If you throw a thunderstick at me, it's mine and I'm keeping it. Spoils of war, brat.

Some questionable calls, as per usual, but none of them were earth-shattering or game-changing.

I'm glad the kids got a treat; I'm glad we got a win. I'm even happier that the usual suspects got a good long rest before facing down Connecticut tomorrow.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28th, 2015: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a game tight from start to finish, the New York Liberty came out on top of the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-70. Sugar Rodgers had 23 to lead the Liberty, while Tina Charles added 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Kristi Toliver of Los Angeles led all scorers with 30 points in the loss; Nneka Ogwumike notched a double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds.

For mispronunciations, cupcakes, unlocking achievements, electricity electricity, roster adjustments, the walking wounded, KIAH SMASH, and springboards, join your intrepid and sugar-hopped-up blogger after the jump.

Good, good afternoon, readers! It's a misty Sunday in New York City, as the eternal war between the coasts comes once more to life. It's a rematch of the first and original, as the Sparks come to New York.

Today is a good day to be a New Yorker. The East River Derby is lively- there were Red Bull fans doing cheers on the uptown E platform as we left the station. The Mets are home. And, of course, my fellow fans are at long last being treated equally in the eyes of the law.

Jasmine Lister is even more adorably tiny in person. She stayed out the longest to shoot.

We've got a biddy game before the real game. One of the girls is wearing a Northern Ireland jacket, so we're guessing they might be Irish. If so, hey, cool, welcome to New York, enjoy your stay! Also, if you can keep making defenders look silly in the paint, you can stay a while longer.

I have been informed that there will be cupcakes. If the cupcakes are a lie, I will not be amused.

There is also a rumor that Kristi Toliver is available, which is annoying not just because she's annoying, but because I wrote up my roster card assuming she wouldn't be playing and thus have no space to score her. Don't score points today, Kristi! (So I ended up using Andrea Hoover's spots, since Hoover is injured and not dressed.)

I hate Simon Sez so much. It is so annoying. Especially when everyone is bad at it.

Awesome anthem today, though.

At half, the Liberty are up 41-38. Sugar Rodgers has 13. That Slovakian guard has 11. Candice Wiggins is picking up cheap fouls like they were on sale.

The contrast between LA's posts and what's left of their guards is highly amusing.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude has returned to the Garden, much to the happiness of Nneka Ogwumike and the unmitigated glee of Candice Wiggins.

The cupcakes were not a lie. However, the red velvet was a little dry, which is pretty impressive for red velvet, as I thought the point was for it to be moist. Maddie, the Fidelis mascot, Kym Hampton, and Herb Williams are working the room. Tina Charles popped her head in for a moment, but turned back before anyone saw her, one hand on her phone and the other holding a bag of ice to her knee.

Kym Hampton, you are not Marilyn Monroe. Please do not ever claim to have Marilyn reincarnate in you. You're not fabulous enough for it.

So many injuries for Los Angeles. I'd feel bad for them, but they're the Sparks. It's against the fan code.

Jasmine Lister's got a nice shot. She leans into it a bit, as if she has to put every iota of her being into it, but it works for her. I like her speed, too. She was a great pickup for them; I don't know what they're going to do when they have to start making roster decisions.

(Avery, Kiah, and Tina just walked in. Let them get their cupcakes, people! Kiah and Tina deserve them! And Avery has delivered enough cupcakes in her time to earn some for herself. Swin and Tanisha are signing, but it looks like it's only for a specific group. Difficulty level: expert. And there's Brittany! She's harder to find because she's normal-sized, but she's already surrounded.)

Jennifer Hamson is ridiculously tall, which sounds like a statement of the obvious, but it means that she neutralized Carolyn Swords. Her volleyball background shows in the way she defends the interior- she has a phenomenal knack for deflecting the ball down to a fellow defender. You can almost see her concluding that the ball must not touch her palms. Marianna Tolo brings good height, but still needs a lot of work. She committed one of the stupidest plays I've ever seen in a basketball game, just a couple of rungs below the Coco Hart play: with the ball and a fairly clear space for a lay-up under the basket, she crossed the lane to take the shot from the other side and promptly lost the ball. It only avoids Coco Hart status because LA got the ball back, because it was a fumble instead of a travel, and because it wasn't a fast break. I'm not sure if the Sparks know what they want to do with Tolo yet; from this game, she looks like yet another tweener caught in the 3-4 logjam.

(Essence is working the crowd here. I wonder if she's learning that from Spoon, or if it comes naturally.)

(Achievement unlocked! Had to chase Tanisha halfway across the Delta Club, but I got her. Achievement in awkwardness unlocked! Swin had left the building, and we were talking about it, and one of the ticket reps corralled her for a signed roster card. Which is fabulous and sweet and super-helpful! But does nothing for hats.)

I don't like Kristi Toliver. Usually it's because of the pouting and the moping and the showboating. Today it was because she was hitting shots from all over the floor. She drew a lot of contact and took advantage of her free throws. Her passing was also very sharp. Hard to believe she hasn't played with this team yet. Jantel Lavender came on like a house on fire in the first quarter, going hard in the paint. She took her game outside more in the second half, with mixed results. Nneka Ogwumike, no matter how you pronounce it, had no easy shots. The defense collapsed on her like a ton of bricks every time out, and she was forced into more and more acrobatic looks at the basket. She was able to rebound pretty much everything in the universe, getting into position and springing upward with great single bounds. Jennifer Lacy set up outside a lot. I think the Sparks were expecting her to be the outside threat that Pierson was when we played Tulsa, dragging our bigs outside and giving their posts space to operate. Sometimes I get so caught up in how short Temeka Johnson is that I forget how solid she is. She laid out Sugar Rodgers on a tackle going for a loose ball that I'm sure would have made Les Miles proud. She drove fearlessly and dished well.

LA might be dangerous once they get some semblance of a full roster back. If nothing else, their rookies are being tested by fire, which might pay off down the line. If, of course, Brian Agler continues to play them.

Candice Wiggins is very enthusiastic! (And likes her cupcakes.) I thought most of the foul calls on her were super-cheap. Brittany Boyd brought the speed, but seemed to be trying too hard to get the call on her drives instead of going for the basket. She's already a super fan favorite, the likes of which I haven't seen since the phenomenon of Leilani Mitchell in her second year. It's not the same dynamic as Leilani or Becky Hammon. Maybe the 2007 team in general? Carolyn Swords seemed uncomfortable working against someone taller than she is, which I can't say is surprising, since that only happens once or twice a year. We did not know how to get her the ball when Hamson was in the game, and Hamson came into the game whenever she did. Kiah Stokes brought the thunder on a couple of blocks, especially when she stuffed Tolo and when she denied Ogwumike. She finished well around the basket, too, which we're going to need her to do- she had trouble with that before.

O HAI Tina Charles. How are you? It's good to see you back in All-Star post form. The hook was falling today, and she was making power moves in the paint. Love it. She looked much more energized and active today than she has the last couple of games, and I welcome it. Essence Carson still has trouble finding the three-point line sometimes, though today she took one from the vicinity of Central Park that there was no doubt about. She did hard work on the defensive end; I saw her on Ogwumike a few times, and every time that I thought it was a bad idea, she made a big play. Go, you brave be-goggled woman you! Tanisha Wright was solid at the point- she slows the game more down than Boyd, but sometimes we need that, especially with the vets in the game. She tried to work the officials before the game, and then promptly got called for a borderline foul as the first foul of the game. I don't think it worked, T. Swin Cash was a non-factor. I don't chart minutes, but I think Kiah got the bulk of the important minutes, especially in the second half. She looked out of it. Sugar Rodgers put on a show early and often. She showed no fear at both ends of the floor (and I think a couple of the fouls called on her were a load of hooey), hitting big shots and getting to the line. When Sugar is on, she's electric to watch, and she and Brittany together are dynamite. Today was a good day for Sugar to be on fiyah.

Yes, as a matter of fact, that was my husband being season subscriber of the game. Photobombing Morgan Freeman with a Liberty towel gets you that honor.

Unintentional funny of the day: Brittany Boyd attempting to haul Carolyn Swords off the floor. Don't throw out your back, Boyd. That's what Kiah is for.

I respectfully disagreed with many of the fouls called on our backcourt today, but the reversal on the out of bounds at the end of the game made up for most of those. Quite the plethora of defensive 3-second calls today, too, with three on LA and one on New York (despite what the box score on ESPN says, Essence did not draw a T).

Substitute PA announcer is not GNoD approved. It took him most of the first half to pronounce the syllables in Ogwumike correctly, and most of the game for him to emphasize them properly; it also took him three tries to pronounce Nneka. He also mixed up Tanisha Wright and Sugar Rodgers, which, if nothing else, look at their socks if you're not sure. Do your homework, or GTFO.

I'm looking forward to Maddie's birthday celebration in two years. When Maddie turns 21, erryone gets sh-sh-sh-shots-shots-shots! As it is, today there were cupcakes and coloring books.

My heart goes out to you, kid with the Parker jersey, even if your grasp of current events is somewhat lacking.

This should not have been as tough as it was, but I'll take it. The more important thing: Tina looks like she's back, Sugar showed us what happens when she's on... and Epiphanny Prince looms for the road trip, in the best of ways.

This team is fun to watch, plain and simple. I'm starting to think it's an eight-year cycle: every eight years, a team will seize me by the throat and make me love them for two seasons. It happened in 1999 and 2000, then again in 2007 and 2008. This year's squad reminds me of that 2007 team.

See you in two weeks, Libbies! Go forth and be awesome!