Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 14th, 2016: Red Storm Tip Off

College season is coming! For loud music, trampolines, burritos, questionable time management, new jerseys, old jerseys, and brief glimpses of basketball, join your intrepid and regretful blogger after the jump.

Hello, again and once more! Y'all either thought it was way too soon for this or not soon enough. Okay, let's be honest, most of y'all were probably like 'oh, here she goes again'.

It's the second Friday in October, and that means it's Red Storm Tip-Off time! Due to an unfortunate bout of abdominal pain back in January (don't worry, it was just gas) I ended up with a stray half-day of personal time lingering, so I took it to make sure I could get tickets without having to pull strings. The line was bad at first, but eased up after a while, so I'm not going to say I'm not doing it that way again, but I'd really rather pull strings. (I also took the opportunity to go shopping. You know, the usuals. Decals, pins for Moooose, mini-Sharpies, Selina's home jersey. The staples.)

So because I had time to kill, I had lunch at the Popeye's near St. John's. The place was packed. I finally had to ask a young man in a St. John's jersey and appropriately colored hat if I could share his two-top. He turned out to be a Johnny in multiple senses of the word, but I'm sworn to secrecy about at least one of them. He was in Chicago too, as it turns out, and we chattered about the team for a while. He doesn't get why more students don't show up, either. I guess Thunderbirds of a feather really do flock together, as it were.

It's really a beautiful day. A bit cool if you're not wearing long sleeves, but if you've got a sweatshirt, it's perfect. Not a cloud to be seen, but just a trace of haze- just enough to make sure it's not too perfect. On those perfect sky days, terrible things tend to happen.

Look, y'all, I'm not trying to be a jerk by sitting horizontally on the bench. It's just that if I don't support Jocelyn in just the right place, the circuit breaks and she goes to sleep. That's not exactly conducive to doing typing. The DJ is more conducive to that. It helps that I'm not sitting right next to him, though. I get the feeling it's going to be less pleasant inside, since we usually end up near the speakers.

Buses are stupid. Moving right along.

The guy in front of us is hilariously enthusiastic, and it was briefly rewarded by a selection to the dance contest. And then he fled in terror of the Nae Nae, and I don't mean Danaejah Grant. Otherwise so far it's been the usual endless screaming at loud music. Save some energy for the actual event, y'all.

Shoutout to the enthusiastic dancer in the rainbow jacket. She got moves. I keep thinking she's with Imani, but the person I thought was Imani is wearing Nike, and we're an Under Armour school.

Well, that's helpful. Jade's mom has followed in the footsteps of many a Johnny parent and labeled herself with name and number.

To the dude in the old school Red Storm jacket with Thunder on the back: your jacket is awesome and your ideas intrigue me.

Aw, yesssss, here comes the band. That's better. Less deafening. We'll be over by you next month.

Moment of silence delicately walking the tightrope of decrying gun violence and violence in the community without actually blaming anyone in particular for it. I didn't realize how rough a year it had been for the STJ community.

Well, that was disappointing. I really wish they'd make the Tip-Off more about basketball and less about noisy spectacle. Somehow, they managed to put even less basketball content into it than last year.

It started off really well, too. Both teams were introduced (though I hated the cutesy "sneak in among a group of cheerleaders" entrances). The guys had shades, and those were fun. Everyone showed off their dance moves, and I think Jade Walker might take Sky Lindsay's crown as the best dancer in team history. Shirts and hats were thrown into the crowd. Joe Tartamella gave a speech, and they showed a highlight reel from the Big East tournament (I saw us in the background real quick during the first part). The year was added to the Big East championship banner. Chris Mullin dropped a shoutout to the title into his speech, which was nice of him. They were really putting emphasis on the title.

And then there was the horrifically awkward group dance routine that the women do every year and the men never do, and I think Imani Littleton might be becoming one of my favorites for her utter lack of nonsense toleration. Guys. Staaaaaaahp. Y'all could have just had Jade and Aaliyah do a dance-off, and it would have been awesome.

Then both teams did some basic drills. Nothing terribly exciting, nothing really impressive, nothing out of the ordinary. Well, except for the fact that it was the last time we saw the defending Big East champions doing basketball things. After the drills, the men did a scrimmage. And it was a fun scrimmage, and Shamorie Ponds is going to be very fun to watch for the next however many years he gives St. John's, and if I followed men's basketball I'd spend a lot of time screaming at Marcus Clark to move his ass on defense.

But, y'know, I might have wanted to see a women's scrimmage too. Or even the co-ed shootout they used to have. Or even the men's dunk contest that the women judged. Make it more about St. John's instead of about the spectacle.

Instead, we got dunkers on trampolines, who were all right, though they blew a couple of their routines. I left before the musical artist started, so I have no idea how he was.

Time management failure to the max: there is no way on God's green earth anyone who isn't a competitive eater is going to finish three dinner-size burritos in the span of a scrimmage halftime, let alone eat three burritos and hit three shots from various parts of the floor. They eventually cut it down to one burrito and one lay-up, and I'm a little sad for the dudes that they didn't get to take the other two burritos with them. (I mean, I feel less bad for the guy who won free dinner for him and twenty friends, but still. Why waste the burritos?)

I'm amused that the Chevy Camaro everyone's shooting for is the exact shade of blue that Coach Bozzella would look for in case he was buying a midlife crisis-mobile. At least the one in the ad was St. John's red.

I'm just curious what a woman has to do at St. John's to get herself a banner on the wall like so many men have. There are lots of retired and honored numbers for the men. It would kill them to hold Aliyyah Handford's 3 out of commission for a year? I know this is the worst year to bring that up because of the guy who took Chris Mullin's number, but the point remains that the only number the women have retired is for a player who died young. We have history, but so little of it is honored, and that makes me sad.

I love my Johnnies. I really do. But every time I go to a big St. John's event, I am reminded that no matter how much we do, how much we achieve, we'll always be second fiddle. I'm reminded that even when we're given equal billing, we're not given equal treatment. I'm reminded that men's basketball is to St. John's what football is to BCS schools. So I love them, but it's love mixed with frustration.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

September 24th, 2014: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: New York fought back from behind, but couldn't get over the hump in Phoenix's 101-94 win. Diana Taurasi's 30 points led four Mercury players in double figures. Tanisha Wright had 21 to lead the Liberty.

For farewells, baroque rants, girls who love baskets, the DeWanna Bonner brand pogo stick, rivers and rivers of denial, and the grim urge to finish the damn thing already, join your intrepid and ever so slightly melancholy blogger after the jump.
So here we are. A team I once dubbed the Maalox Moments gets to play a team rightly called the Mercury in a do or die game. If there isn't a heart attack somewhere by the end of this, I'll be surprised.

Shout out to Jay Parry for the accidental assist on DeWanna Bonner- she was about ready to run off the court without acknowledging any of the fans, but then Parry called her back because Bonner had forgotten to hug her, and when she attempted to leave the second time she was a bit slower.

We have towels! Three different colors of them, one color per section, to create a striped effect. Ours are white; my father-in-law's was green, and there are also orange ones. People have been snatching them off seat backs like they were made out of diamonds. One woman ran over here from section 108 and snatched up something like two rows' worth. Lady, the first quarter was barely half over, you can wait.

Stirring anthem by a firefighter. The Liberty linked arms; so did the Mercury, with Bone and Bass kneeling.

At halftime, Phoenix is up 52-41 in a game that has not exactly featured huge amounts of defense. This is not okay. I would like defense now, especially from the Liberty.

The seat poacher in front of us is rooting for buckets, no matter which team hits them, and it's very annoying. (I know she's a poacher because the seats in front of us are owned by a season subscriber, the Cowboys fan we had a run-in with some months ago.)

The guest DJ is pretty good. I'll take that.

Shavonte Zellous has learned how to incorporate the fiery torch into her pregame dance routine. Bit late in the year for it, but at least no one's on fire.

I think I may have expressed in some part of the Internet at some point that I am not a fan of the WNBA's new playoff format. In case I did not do so in any place where my faithful readers may have encountered it: I think the playoff format, with two single-elimination rounds, is incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid, and now that it has brought an untimely end to my team's season, it's safe to say that I loathe it with the power of a thousand fiery suns. It is a terrible idea that punishes both good teams and bad teams. It is a solution in search of a problem, creating such problems along its merry way. It is an invention of a power-mad network, controlling and demanding, pulling the strings where the money is. It is a travesty of a system, two-tiered and hypocritical.

And that's just the polite way to word how I feel.

The problem I have in writing this is how to properly channel my rage. After a frustrating loss like this, frustrating simply by what it means, there's usually an easy target. But I can't say we played badly, or that the officials jobbed us out of a game, or that the other team didn't deserve to win. I can point at turnovers and missed free throws, as I'm sure any coach will. By these small things are games won and lost. I could, should I want to, complain about missed screens, but I should be used to such things. So should I not be angry, when we did all that we could, and fell short against a talented team that underachieved for most of the year?

Damn right I'm angry. Damn right I wanted another round to cheer my team on. Damn right I don't think it's fair that we get one shot against a team that basically fell into the playoffs because someone had to, and is now getting hot because they got a player who actually knows how to play defense.

But I suppose you want to hear about the game, because it was a good game, and for the most part a game the league should be proud of. (Which I fear will be part of the problem- ESPN and the WNBA will say that putting all the pressure into a single game makes it a good game, much like MLB took the heart-pounding excitement of a single-game tiebreaker and turned it into the second wild card.)

Phoenix mostly played a six-man rotation. Lindsey Harding played briefly in the first half and reminded everyone why she wanders from team to team like a door-to-door salesman. The one shot she took was short, and bad, and a reminder why she doesn't shoot. Mistie Bass also played briefly, and she seemed to find position more than her teammates seemed to find her, but I guess that wasn't the play. DeWanna Bonner subbed for pretty much everyone at some point or another, and her height and length made a big difference for the Mercury. She defended guards for much of the night, and that meant that trying to get a pass to Sugar Rodgers meant trying to get it through a player seven inches taller, with a longer wingspan than that. She created mismatches on both sides of the floor, and that left a lot of matchup situations that heavily favored the Mercury.

Actually, now that I think about it, I understand how people forget Candice Dupree. She's quiet, which is a real rarity with the Mercury. She gets fired up when her teammates do things, but she doesn't seem to run her mouth, or strut up and down the floor, or complain to officials every single time a whistle is blown. So her teammates get doubled, and she gets open, and she either hits the midrange jumper or she cuts backdoor. She's the silkiest player I ever did see. Brittney Griner needs to build up her strength a little bit- she's got the height and the reach, and she knows how to use them, but if she gets bodied up, she doesn't know how to power through. Carolyn Swords knocked her out of position more than once, enough to disrupt her shot. But she was solid when the Liberty came to drive the lane. Penny Taylor pretty much broke Swin Cash's ankles, and possibly her spine in the same metaphorical sense, whenever she made that cut from the weak side to drive to the basket. Two or three times, Taylor made that move and Swin buckled. She was deadly beyond the arc, to the irritating glee of some of the people sitting in front of us. (One girl was just rooting for buckets, no matter who took them, but one dude decided to go all in for the Mercury around the third quarter.)

Diana Taurasi has the kind of grin that makes you want to punch it off her face, but she backs up her cockiness. She came up big in the fourth quarter, and the three at the shot clock buzzer was probably the psychological game-winner, even if it wasn't the actual-facts margin of victory shot. She's clutch, and she's tough, and even if she can't defend for beans, sometimes it's not necessary. Marta Xargay's defense was critical in this one. She erased Sugar Rodgers. It's strange to see a modern-day Mercury player playing defense on a regular basis, but she stuck close to Sugar and made sure she couldn't get open. I don't like her soccer-style flopping and dramatics at the barest hint of a whisper that someone might be thinking about considering coming close to her, but she's exactly what Phoenix needed.

They adjusted. That's unusual enough for them that I have to give Brondello credit. They played defense, which is also unusual for them. They stepped up.

I don't know if Brittany Boyd's head was entirely in the game. She committed some stupid fouls, and I think Taurasi might have gotten into her head a little (which Taurasi is good at doing). Her vision wasn't where it needed to be. Shavonte Zellous was energetic, and she provided a spark off the bench. We needed a lot from her, because she was subbing for Swin, and Swin was in some kind of bad way. Epiphanny Prince showed that she might just be ready to get back to her old self, coming up with a big shot to end the second half for the Liberty. She's why I'm not as pessimistic about next year as some people are.

Amanda Zahui B played briefly, for those end-of-quarter moments when Tina Charles needed some rest, and she showed that she wasn't ready for the big stage. There's one play she made, or rather didn't make, that seemed to highlight the problem- she was in perfect rebounding position, but the rebound fell just off her fingertips, and Griner seized it like it was the last bottle of water in the desert. You can't play sloppy and lackadaisical in the playoffs, and you can't play lackadaisical if you want to be part of the team's future plans. Kiah Stokes made defensive plays and brought physicality, but it was clear that she was still limited from whatever hip injury ended her regular season run. Her mobility was not where it normally was.

Tanisha Wright stepped up big in the fourth quarter. I think near the end the Mercury were more than happy to let her finish long possessions with two-point drives, since she was doing as much to wind down the game as they were. She was clutch, and she was pretty much willing the Liberty back into the game in the second half. She had no fear, and with Griner in the middle, she was one of the few players who wasn't afraid to penetrate and keep penetrating. (And dear Lord, that sentence came out so many different flavors of wrong.) Sugar Rodgers had no space to get a shot off in the first half. In the second, the team made adjustments and she was able to use screens to get open. The most positive thing I've seen in the last few games is her increased willingness to drive the lane and put up the floater, though she seemed to be taking it from further out thanks to the Griner effect. (Should that be capitalized?)

Swin Cash looked done. She couldn't keep up with Penny Taylor on the drive. Taylor would drive, and Swin would buckle like she had a hinge at the waist. She gave it all she had, but there wasn't very much left to give. Carolyn Swords gave me flashbacks to her Boston College days, but in a good way. She moved Griner and found space down below, and the Phoenix defense forgot about her for long stretches. I love to see a player have to step up and do so when she's called upon. Methinks the big girl wants to stay around a little longer. Tina Charles was solid, and she rebounded strongly, but I got the sense that she wasn't being as aggressive as she should have been in an elimination game. Mercury defense definitely helped, but we saw more of the long-range Tina and less of the paint destroyer Tina, and I really prefer the paint destroyer Tina.

I would also really prefer if officials would call moving screens where players leave their feet, but that was really the only major problem I had with the officiating. Sort of a refreshing change, that.

It was a good game. We left way too many points at the foul line, and we didn't adjust to the Mercury's abrupt decision that defense would be a lovely idea. We showed our resiliency, comin back over and over again. I hate this format very much, and I think in a three-game series we would have come out on top because the dynamic would have been different. But it is what is.

We'll be back. We still have one of the best players in the league to build around. It's taken me a while to compile these notes, because I'm not happy about things being over, and I don't know what to say or how to say it. The usual thank yous seem trite, especially ith Swin riding off into the sunset.

I think I feel like we've been cheated out of a meaningful postseason. This new format- but I've already ranted about that. The one-and-done format is not suitable for the professional level.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 13th, 2016: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Washington Mystics finished off a lackluster Liberty team, 75-62. Stefanie Dolson had 23 points and seven rebounds to lead the Mystics. Tina Charles had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Liberty.

For ennui, free stuff, failed auditions, t-shirts, evil rims, and playing out the string, join your intrepid and uninspired blogger after the jump.
Good evening! It's Fan Appreciation Night at Madison Square Garden, as the New York Liberty host the Washington Mystics.

It's been a disaster of a day. Let's hope the Liberty make it better.

We received an unexpected olive branch today. I thought Pirates took things, not gave them. I'll accept the booty, though.

Please, please let them run that episode of "Car Karaoke" with the team singing the chorus on "Gotta Get Up" during the actual game, and not just half an hour before tip. (They didn't. I wonder if it was dress rehearsal for the playoffs.)

Lots of swag today- very nice black t-shirts and "Tina For MVP" posters. What do you think, GNoD readers? Put it over the Sun version, or put it next to the Sun version?

I am perfectly okay with Kiah Stokes wearing halter tops whenever she wants. Oh, my. I'm also okay with her covering halter tops with stylish red jackets. Shoni Schimmel, on the other hand, needs to do something about the baggy t-shirts, though honestly, that one's bigger issue is the unhemmed sleeves. Cutoffs work on shorts, not shirts, and definitely not on hoodies. You're not Bill Belichick.

Red does not suit Leilani Mitchell's coloring. Strangely enough, this actually matters to me.

There's a Bollywood dance group in dance outfits next to us. This bodes well for halftime.

Columbia Lions are in the house. Add a free towel to the swag bag.

"God Bless America" choir didn't have to repeat phrases. And as usual, Kym Hampton sang the national anthem for Fan Appreciation, and as usual, her breath control was non-existent and she was all over the scale.

If this is what a future coached by Katie Smith looks like, I'm perfectly okay with it happening elsewhere. We're down by 12 at the half, in a game that's been badly called, badly executed, badly coached, and extremely frustrating. Tina Charles has 12 points and six rebounds for New York, and that's really everything worth mentioning for the Libs. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has 13 for Washington.

Argh. AAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGH. You know what I did not need today? I did not need the rim deciding that we weren't going to get rolls, and I didn't need the officials ignoring blatant travels and trips, and I didn't need Rebecca Allen to be a shame upon the name Rebecca, and I generally didn't need the team to look like they were running in mud. I know this game meant nothing in the long run, and I know that we were short-handed beyond belief, but I'd like to have something that vaguely resembles momentum going into a single-elimination game.

Ally Malott shoots well. She also had a monstrous rejection of Rebecca Allen. It was brutal. I don't know how developed her game is inside the arc, but I like her shot. Kia Vaughn has good energy, but she couldn't buy a basket- and they were good looks. She's strong, but sometimes I feel like she doesn't use that strength effectively. (Also, as an aside, when did her tattoo start growing? I only remember the big script of her name.)

Kahleah Copper brings raw speed and slashing ability to the floor. She's physical and a little handsy, but she's got the solid Rutgers base to her defense; in time, she'll learn how to play more with her feet and less with her hands. I think she'll make more of those drives to the hoop as well. Leilani Mitchell has adapted well to the Australian style of defense, low and hands-on and relentless. Most of the shots she was taking were long threes near the end of the shot clock. I don't know if Washington is looking for her to be more of a distributor or more of a defender, but she's not there to score, just to spread the floor and change the pace.

(Okay, look, J train, I cannot be dealing with multiple drunks on this train. I can't. Go be drunk somewhere else. Go puke somewhere else.)

Stefanie Dolson is starting to annoy me. It's not the versatility of her game, the way she kills us from outside and then goes inside for the little hook. It's the constant kvetching whenever a call doesn't go her way. Her hair is nifty, though not as much as it used to be, and her personality is great off the court, and I appreciate her advocacy. But her complaining is unbecoming, and it ill suits a Husky. Emma Meesseman had a quiet game- she was active, but not involved. She got looks, but they were mostly contested. I suppose at least one of our defensive plans worked. She did a good job on the boards, though, bodying up and using her length well. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has acquired a new nickname- Tierra Effing-Pratt, because that's what was coming out of my mouth whenever she got open for a corner three, or flicked her hand into the passing lanes to disrupt the offense, or was generally one of the best players on the floor for either team. When someone finds out how she went undrafted, could you explain the logic of it to me? She brings such a great dynamic to this team- one of the great undrafted finds.

I almost forgot about the Mystic guards, which tells you something about their effect on the game. I don't think Natasha Cloud is a WNBA-level point guard. She brings an interesting skill set (which seems like the primary rule for a Mike Thibault draft pick), but not necessarily one that fits the role she's being called upon to play. Tayler Hill likes to shoot and has an annoying habit of getting calls. I suppose she's finally turned into a WNBA-level player, but she'll have to have a far better game than that to pry any praise out of me. (Skeptic is not the word. Bitter and salty might be closer.)

I don't like that Washington made the game chippy with illegal screens and unnecessary drama. I expect better out of a Thibault team than that. Win on your own merits. (And on whatever the officiating gives you. More on that later.)

Amanda Zahui B is starting to show her hockey side a little bit (and let's face it, Sweden and Minnesota both have pretty good hockey backgrounds). I understand the urge to dish out payback for hits that weren't called by the officials, but she hasn't learned the subtlety necessary to wreak revenge- her fouls were both offensive and both seemed to be payback for hard Mystic hits. I think that left her out of her element on offense- I really thought she would have looked to shoot more on the inside. But maybe that's Katie. Swin Cash showed signs of life, with a great defensive play that led to a steal by Tina, and some good looks at the basket. She's still being unusually tentative, and that worries me.

Rebecca Allen was such a hot mess tonight I'm actually hesitant to call her a Rebecca. The foul on the Malott three was a spectacularly stupid play that didn't need to happen. She just didn't have her A game tonight, or even her D game. Katie had no faith in her, and for good reason. She hit a three near the end, and that was nice, but overall she was a hot mess. Tanisha Wright is a very welcome return. Her timing isn't completely back, which I chalk up to sitting out, but her instincts are still sharp. She provided a good spurt on both sides of the floor, and maybe the starting lineup just got a little more confused.

Sugar Rodgers left the game early in the third quarter- she was scrambling on the baseline for a loose ball, the ball landed between her feet and went out of bounds off her, and Katie pulled her. We thought Katie was overreacting to a play she thought Sugar should have made, but then I noticed her coming back from the locker room and hobbling slightly. We found out afterwards she was injured. She showed more ability with her cuts than she did with her shot, and whether it was by choice or by defensive will,most of her threes were from somewhere in the vicinity of Jersey City. Brittany Boyd got frustrated, but didn't let it get to her until the end of the game, which is a major step in her maturity. Her shots were just not going down- it might be time for her to work with a shooting coach, whether Spoon, Katie, or someone outside the organization, and get that extra English out of her shot. She was a little cavalier with her passing, which suggests maybe she didn't prepare for the Mystics defense as much as she should have- or that Washington changed up their defense, I suppose, but TRP has always been a solid defensive player. You can't throw casual passes around her.

Shavonte Zellous got the start at three, and while she wasn't terrible, I don't know if she fits into the lineup. Part of me likes her aggressiveness going to the basket, and the energy she brings. Part of me wants to scream at her to stop taking stupid shots for the sole and express purpose of attempting to draw fouls. She took over more of the offense when Sugar left the game, and while it was out of necessity, it wasn't a good look. Carolyn Swords never really found her groove, and when she did start to get there, she committed a couple of rapid-fire offensive fouls that took her out of the game and out of her rhythm. Tina Charles was the focus of the defense all night, with three or four red jerseys collapsing on her whenever she got the ball. It was abundantly clear that the primary goal of this game was to get her to 23 points and 10 rebounds, then sit her down. I really would like for her to either take the step back and shoot a three, or take a few steps in. The two-and-seven-eighths Essence Carson special is not my favorite shot in the world.

I feel like when Sugar went out of the game, then that was it, the switch went off. We stood no realistic chance of winning as short-handed as we were, and it seemed more important to be cautious for the playoffs. But it was a disappointing finish to the home schedule, especially on Fan Appreciation Night.

And to be honest, for Fan Appreciation Night, it was really low-key. Yes, there were shirts, and yes, a few fans were showered with MSG gift certificates, but other than that there wasn't a lot of the effusiveness we'd become used to. I suppose it makes sense, in a way; the game didn't mean much, and it was a mid-week game against a team with very limited drawing ability. It's hard to get enthusiastic about that.

The game, in a nutshell: in the last two minutes, the Liberty are down ten and Tanisha Wright has a picture-perfect fast break that can bring it down to eight and breathe life back into the team. Off the iron and out, and Washington pulls down the rebound. I don't think I've ever literally seen someone gnash their teeth before, but Tanisha did.

All I ask for out of officials is consistency, and if y'all aren't calling defensive three seconds on both sides of the court, we're going to have a problem.

I pity Chicago fans. This next game is gonna suck.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 9th, 2016: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles showed why she remains one of the top candidates for 2016 MVP in the short-handed Liberty's 89-82 win over the Connecticut Sun, leading the way with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Sugar Rodgers added 18 for New York. The Sun got 20 points each from Chiney Ogwumike and Courtney Williams.

For fashion tips, motherly love, Disney pop, questionable calls, speed, moxie, and too many passes, join your intrepid and sticky blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! Live (well, not so live), it's the Game Notes of Doom at Madison Square Garden, writing up the Connecticut Sun's visit to the New York Liberty.

No pregame notes- arrived shortly before tip because I spent the afternoon with my mom. Happy mumble-mumbleth birthday to the Queen Mother, she who brought me into the world and introduced me to all the sports. This is all her fault.

Beautiful "God Bless America" performance- she needs to come back and do an anthem. The girls doing the anthem weren't as good- trying too hard to harmonize with each other and not being sure who was in the lead.

At halftime, the ridiculously short-handed Liberty are up 44-38 on the Sun. Tina Charles is in MVP form with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and a bunch of steals. Courtney Williams has 14 off the bench for Connecticut. I'm worried about our offense, though; way too much passing, way too many shot clock violations and forced shots.

Fashion report! Tanisha Wright: black top, appears to be partially pleather, black bike shorts that do not complement her figure. Kiah Stokes: dark beige tank top, navy blue pants (yoga pants?), shoulders to die for. Shoni Schimmel: short-sleeved black tee a touch too long, maroon jeans. Shavonte Zellous: navy blue button-down shirt, distressed jeans. Morgan Tuck: light maroon blouse, black pants. Rachel Banham: unremarkable black. In related news, there are too many injured players on these two rosters.

Note to self- check Kelly Faris's game logs for home/road splits. She was DNP today, and I feel like this might not be the first time on the road. I'm getting a Shay Doron vibe off the way she's being treated, and I don't mean questionable medical diagnoses.

I normally split everything up into posts and guards, but since each team only played three reserves tonight, that would necessitate one player on each team getting her own paragraph. I'm not that impressed with Courtney Williams, nor am I that annoyed at Amanda Zahui B., so we're gonna switch it up a little.

Curt Miller really seems to be going with the youth movement late in the season. Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones got a lot of run. I saw Williams at South Florida, so I know she can fill it up, and we did not game plan for her. She showed midrange and paint game, though I don't know if her three-point shot is ready for the big time yet. What I wasn't expecting was her energy and pursuit on defense, and that's the kind of thing that keeps players who were volume scorers in college employed in the WNBA. Jonquel Jones uses her length well and seems to be becoming more comfortable in her body. She had a brutal rejection of Amanda Zahui B in the second half that could have been a game-changer. I feel like she might need to work more on her face-up game? It looked like she was trying too hard to calculate complicated shots instead of taking better shots. Shekinna Stricklen got her name mispronounced all night, unless she's gone and changed the pronunciation, and I feel like she could have been used more than she was. Her size is a huge advantage, and we are not good at defending the three. We didn't get out on her.

Alex Bentley was a negative for her team, and part of why Williams got so much time. She took bad shots, and she seemed to get frustrated very quickly as the game went on. She's feast or famine, and tonight was not her night. Jasmine Thomas isn't brilliant, but she's solid, and she does a lot on both ends of the floor. Her offense seems to rely very heavily on luck. Probably not the point guard of the future, but she gets the job done for now. She really got screwed on a play where Brittany Boyd should have been called for a dead ball foul- and she couldn’t argue too much because she already had a technical.

Chiney Ogwumike came like she was trying to prove that her sister wasn't the only one who can ball out like a boss. She was beasting on the boards, cleaning up all of her teammates' missed shots. She was physical defensively on Tina Charles, making Tina's life as miserable as possible. I think she got frustrated by the end of the game with the officiating, and with some of the bad passing from her teammates. But I think she's back from the knee surgery! Camille Little really seemed to be emphasizing her perimeter game, which makes sense with our defense. She's just really solid, and she's a good influence on that team. She works hard and it shows. Alyssa Thomas was very physical, but got frustrated with our defense. It looked like she was wearing the shoulder brace in the first half, but downgraded to just tape in the second half, possibly after accidentally smacking Rebecca Allen in the face with it. (There was a rather reddened line on Bec's forehead after Thomas attempted to put her at a right angle.) I'm not sure she's learned how to create offense by doing anything other than imitating a bull in a china shop.

Curt Miller, do stop yelling at the ref during the review. That's certainly not going to encourage them to decide things in your favor. Tiffany Bird did her best impression of an irritated Valkyrie at him. That being said, I like the energy and speed they play with. Lots of promise there.

Swin Cash came on stronger in the second half, with a couple of nice defensive plays and strong post moves. She was really hesitant in the first half, to the detriment of the offense- if you have the ball with two seconds left on the clock, shoot it! Amanda Zahui B was strong in the post, but has got to learn to play defense with something more than just her hands. She reaches way too much. She had trouble with her passing, too, something she's usually stronger at. Epiphanny Prince looked like she still had rust to shake off- there was one freaky moment in the second quarter where it looked like she jammed her knee and had to come out of the game. She came back, and she came back stronger, going to the basket and hitting threes with equal aplomb.

Rebecca Allen is equal to the task offensively, but her defense needs work. This was not a night when she covered herself in glory. Carolyn Swords was solid on the inside, making herself available when the defense somehow managed to misplace a stocky 6'6" blonde. Tina Charles started off hot, and kept up on the boards. We thought she had more steals than the box score shows- she's really been showing her defensive range lately. I don't like plans where she's guarding point guards, but she hasn't been terrible at it. Her dad brought the MVP sign that Connecticut gave out a few years ago and was egging on the crowd for the "M-V-P!" chant a few times in the fourth quarter. (We've got one of those signs on the wall at home!) (Along with an LJ one and an EDD one.)

Brittany Boyd continues in her quest to slow the game down for herself, and this time she went too far. To be fair, it wasn't completely her. Learning to harness speed and the changing pace of the game is hard for a player whose game has so heavily been predicated on go-go-go. She fell back into that habit in the second half, when things got ragged. But I love to death her grit, her tenacity, and her hustle. She ran straight on into the boards early in the game after a loose ball, and that's the kind of thing that makes people cheer for her. Sugar Rodgers showed spark in the passing lanes as well as from beyond the arc. She's showing her toughness off the court in her play. I propose that if she can get that floater in the lane to fall consistently, a la Mark Jackson, we dub it the Sugar Drop.

Too many extra passes worry me- I lost track of the shot clock violations, but I think there were four or five possessions that either ended in shot clock violations, hurried shots to avoid shot clock violations, or fumbles on extra passes that were rapidly leading to shot clock violations. This is where we miss Tanisha- while Brittany can run the point, no one else seems truly comfortable in the role of ballhandler, and no one seems certain of their role in the offense, other than Tina. Everything is going to Tina, and other teams are noticing.

Players do stupid things when they're tired. Players do lazy things when they're tired. It was a sloppy, physical game even before players started getting tired, so you can imagine that the fourth quarter was even worse.

That was a gritty win for the Liberty. Four players out is no laughing matter, even if most of them are reserves. We showed our moxie in this one, but we also showed the things we need to fix if we're going to escape a single-elimination game.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

September 7th, 2016: Seattle at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A special night for the New York Liberty turned out to be a big win for the Seattle Storm, as they came on strong in the second half to beat the home team 102-78. Jewell Loyd had 25 to lead the Storm, who also got 23 points and 9 rebounds from Breanna Stewart and 21 points and 9 rebounds from Crystal Langhorne. Tina Charles filled the stat sheet for the Liberty with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists.

For quotes, roasting, lapses, oh God I am so tired, and Swedish puns, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
Today is a day of much honoring- the Liberty's BHA night has been forced to share space with Swin Cash's retirement ceremony. I'm okay with this.

I've mentioned before that I hate the Q59. Today is no exception. Didn't even get on the train before 6, which is when the gates open.

I'm extremely glad the ceremony is after the game. I wonder if they picked today so that they could get Sue Bird to say a few words. That would be cool. I'm curious about the poster, too. Will it just have her Liberty and Olympic photos on it, or will it also include her time elsewhere? Because that's a lot of pictures.

Seattle continues to be the best autograph team. This I heard second-hand tonight, but I believe it.

Operatic God Bless America. Solid anthem until the last high note, which was a bridge too far.

At halftime, Seattle is up 48-46, but it feels like it could be a five to seven point swing in either direction. Seattle's getting open jumpers, but I don't know enough about them to know whether this is a defensive choice or a disaster in the making.

Tanisha Wright's family is in the house, trolling UConn fans with a dark green Storm #30 jersey. I like it.

Tanisha rocking that black tank top with the spaghetti straps. I had no idea how much ink she had on her back! On most people the multitude of necklaces might be much of a muchness, but she makes it work. She's got the pink heels for BHA. Kiah Stokes is wearing a striped dress that includes pink in its layers. Those shoulders… insert heart-eyes emoji here. She's not even my type! We didn't see Shoni Schimmel and her denim jacket until Swin's ceremony, so I'm not sure whether she's hiding in one of the suites or behind the bench or what.

Gonna need more from the bench tonight. Aaaaand we didn't get it.

That. That could have been better. That could have been a lot better. I don't think it could have been very much worse.

Jenny Boucek remembered her last three players with something like two minutes to go. Calling timeout to advance the ball at the same time was a bit classless, but Boucek doesn't seem to go with the codes I've always heard. Then again, Bill was never one for the code either. You can't leave Jenna O'Hea open. I mean, really. Why would you do such a thing? (Because we can't cover anyone beyond the arc.) Abby Bishop is tall and seems to like to be near the basket. Krystal Thomas was actually surprisingly effective creating space for her teammates. She set a really nice screen to get Stewart free for a basket in the second quarter. Ramu Tokashiki couldn't buy a basket, but she more than made up for any lack of offense with her energy on the offensive glass. There was a possession where she made a rebound happen by sheer hustle and a lot of slapping of the basketball.

I don't know if Monica Wright is back. I don't know if she'll ever really be back to what she was when she was the super sub for Minnesota. Something looks off about her. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis shoots threes very well. This is a thing she is good at. I realize, of course, that we are not good at defending the thing she is good at, but perhaps attempting to defend the thing would make sense. On the flip side, watching her play defense is kind of funny. It's sort of like watching a bad chase scene. Noelle Quinn can occasionally hit an open shot, and her size is useful, but she's not a long-term solution at guard.

I consider it a partial triumph today that Breanna Stewart was mostly just good until the fourth quarter. And it says something about Breanna Stewart that 17 and 7 (through the first three quarters or so) is "just good", or that 23 and 9 is quiet. She fits into that team like an older and wiser player. She does everything, and she does it well. Alysha Clark may make her living these days on her defense, but it's good to remember that she led the nation in scoring once upon a time, and that she can hit if she's left open. Admittedly, I wasn't expecting her to can a three, but she's still got the midrange game and the game at the basket that she had back in her college days. Her passing decisions were not the best- there was a sequence early in the game where our commentary was, "And that's why Sue's the point guard, not you." Crystal Langhorne makes such a difference for this team when she's playing well. I don't think there's been a player who does as much off offensive rebounds and junkyard dog plays as she does since Yolanda Griffith. I don't even know if they run a lot of plays for her. But when she's open, she gets things done. And then sometimes she has the little midrange jumper, which is just unfair.

Jewell Loyd does ridiculous things. They haven't yet perfected the Jewelly-oop, but you can tell they're working on it. I think using her to initiate offense as a passer instead of a creator is a huge mistake. She's way too explosive to use that way. On the ridiculous things end of the spectrum, she was in on a big block on Amanda Zahui B. Sue Bird seemed ot be relying more on the long ball than usual, which makes sense given the Liberty's defense against the three. (i.e. "what defense?") She makes her team go, and she does so with a bit of style, which is the most you can ask of a point guard.

Amanda Zahui B was good on offense, though missing chippies is one of my pet peeves. She was not so good on defense, and her passing game was off. Just because it says "Swedish" on their uniforms does not mean they have ever been your teammates, Amanda. Swin Cash had probably the worst game of her long and illustrious career. No offense, no defense, no "veteran leadership", no clock awareness (she messed up the end of the first quarter), nothing of any use to her team. I respect everything she's done, but if this game said anything about her, it said that she chose the right time to retire.

Shavonte Zellous still isn't a point guard, but she did a better job of pretending to be one tonight. She still has that tendency to turn into a quantum singularity when the ball gets into her hands, and either she needs to work on her three-point shot, or she needs to take a couple of steps forward and let the midrange game come to her. I like the energy she brings and her willingness to take a pass foul for the team. Epiphanny Prince's jumper still isn't back, or at least her range isn't. Too many short shots. I'm already hearing muttering from the stands about whether she'll ever be all right.

Rebecca Allen still gets deked a lot on defense, which is a problem, but I like what she brings on offense. She needs to speed up a little, somehow. I'm not a fan of the play where she's set up on the left corner by the opposing bench, though. By the second or third time through, Seattle was reading it really well and pressuring her defensively. Keep hitting shots, Bec! Anything that lets us hear "Land Downunder" is a good thing. Carolyn Swords was solid- really, getting production from her is a bonus (though a bonus we sort of need right now), and I'll take what I can get. Tina Charles had her passing game on point, setting up the bigs on the inside. I think she was trying too hard at times, but we had no other really consistent options to work with. Even when she was tripled, what else was she going to do? No one was really hitting.

Sugar Rodgers shoots so prettily. She didn't contribute much else, and sometimes she shot more quickly than she should- there was one attempt after a couple of early makes that was clearly a heat check. I know she's been working with Spoon, and that's great, but I don't know if Spoon is the person who can help her learn to create her own shot and vary up her offense. Brittany Boyd had a really nice game. She's found multiple speeds and learned to pick her spots. Someone, either Spoon or Katie, has to get the weird spin out of her shot- she's putting too much on it somewhere, and the bounces are really funky. She made things happen on defense. She was one of the few bright spots.

There's only so much you can do with nine players and no real way to move up or down the standings. Two top defensive players out doesn't help either, and I think the team ran out of gas in the third quarter and out of give-a-damn in the fourth.

I thought officials who called a more physical game would favor our style, but perhaps not.

BHA was really underplayed, and I'm okay with that. Pink jerseys, yes, but no real accessories, and no accessories on the opponent. The auction wsn't hyped, and there wasn't a lot of stuff with survivors. It was sort of refreshing.

Could have been better. You take what you can get, and it's on to the next one.

Heh. KML and Stewart are greeting Rosemary (for those who don't know, she's the former UConn trainer of long standing- she suffered through Swin).

Both teams staying on the floor for the retirement ceremony. I'm sure Seattle is thrilled about this. There appears to be something about bananas. We're starting with a speech from RosGo. Now we've got a video tribute from kids (from her foundation?). Next are the video clips- Ruth Riley, Brian Agler, Camille Little, Kiah (uh, Kiah, you're here, aren't you?), Tamika Catchings, Brittany Boyd (I know you're here, Boyd, you're one of the only ones who showed up), and Geno Auriemma.

Video montage time! I miss the Detroit Shock. I see we're throwing the Chicago run and those three days in Atlanta down the memory hole.

"Swin! You said you weren't going to do it! You said you weren't going to cry!"

Madam President to the mic. Fifteen years. My God; Swin's been in the league for three-quarters of the league's existence, and Madam President just said that. "You have left fingerprints, and footprints, all over this league." Yes, and a fair few claw marks, too. Swin's a Bad Girl, after all.

Next up, Sue Bird, who is apparently the jelly to Swin's peanut butter. This gon' be good; I saw her speech/roast of Lauren Jackson. "I don't know about that peanut butter thing." Mwah-hahaha. "I've got many stories- but like I said, I'm going to be nice." She's really emphasizing Swin's work ethic and passion. "It was a joy to play with you. I don't know if it was a joy to room with you, per se." I want to hear the flat iron story now. Oh, so that's where all those terrible hashtags from the All-Star campaign came from! Swin does that. Also, Sue Bird doing Wu-Tang is worth the price of admission. "Hashtag go make some babies." I think Sue wants to be someone's auntie.

Next up, Tina Thompson, who has to follow that roast. And apparently traveled a long way to do so. Oh, come on, more stories that no one's sharing? Why are you torturing us like this, Tina T? Haven't you tortured Liberty fans enough? The emphasis here seems to be camaraderie. "If you have questions, I'll have answers, and if I don't have answers, I'll find them." New friendship goal.

"Shoutout... Pittsburgh?" RosGo seems confused by Tanisha's family. Tanisha gave Tina Charles the "oh God, my family is embarrassing me" face, and I swear she tried to get them to lower the volume. Tanisha at the mic now. "I've known Swin since I was 14 years old. I don't know if she's known me, but I've known her." D'awww. Veteran Swin taking bb Tanisha aside in chapel for conversation. Also sort of d'awww is Tanisha not quite getting the motto of Swin's foundation in the right order. The emphasis here is on Swin as WNBA leader and inspiration to fellow players. (Also, Spoon must be a kick to sit next to. Boyd almost ROFL'd out of her chair.)

Tina Charles up next. Oh, Tina. You just accidentally confessed to Swin committing a recruiting violation. This is kinda disjointed. I know Tina's a Husky and star of the show, but I don't know if I would have asked her to speak. But she's hitting her stride when talking about her charitable work and how Swin helped her shape that. And now she's all choked up. I didn't realize how much of a role model Swin was to bb Tina.

I think we're about to have a bit of mood whiplash. Bill Laimbeer's up next. RosGo seems scared of him. "We're going to draft Swin Cash, because we can't draft Sue Bird." I like Bill's incredulity at the Shock front office. "They asked me what else did I need, and I said I needed Swin Cash." Oh, hey, Chicago and Atlanta did happen! But we're going to gloss over the Crackhead era, huh? There's a lot you could build on from that and still be flattering. He's now talking about her preparation and her pride in the quality of her play. (This might not be the best night to bring that up, Bill.) He thinks she still has a lot to contribute to women's basketball off the court.

Thomas next. I don't respect him or Dolan enough to record his remarks.

Now Swin's on the mic. And she's got her notes on her phone to make sure she remembers who to think. Huh. They say you look more like your mother when you get older, but Swin and her mom seem to be going the opposite path. She's being frank that she doesn't like losing and she doesn't like big things happening after she loses- then again, her husband proposed after the Indiana loss last year. (My husband would not have taken that kind of risk.) Lots of people-thanking. Oh, hey- is her agent the dude who married Jae Kingi? "As Tina said, I ask a lot of questions." Now I imagine Swin leading her rookie teammates Socratically. This really comes off like an awards speech. "Lastly- sorry, I'm getting to the point." Nice touch to thank all the little people- the staff and such.

(That's someone I'm surprised didn't speak! Rosemary Ragle used to have a cutout of Swin on her door at UConn, after all...)

Stealth Storm! I thought I recognized people! "I played against Ticha! She dropped some dimes on me." Le'Coe Willingham, Ashley Robinson, and a couple of other ex-players are in the house too.

Ahahaha, Swin just shouted out Spoon, and Spoon had what I can only describe as a shit-eating grin on her face.

Swin's definition of "brief" is... not mine.

On the other hand, she just got a huge hand for shouting out her mom.

OH HELL YES. And Swin just turned her speech into a rallying call for the WNBA using their voices. Says her proudest moment was when the players spoke up for the #BlackLivesMatter protests. That finish was worth the wait. (Unfortunately, the "shut up, I have to pee" mark was right around the start of the speech getting good.)


Sunday, September 4, 2016

September 3rd, 2016: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: New York started strong and kept the pressure on Phoenix to win 92-70 at the Garden. Tina Charles led the Liberty with 23 points and 15 rebounds, while Sugar Rodgers and Brittany Boyd each had 19. Marta Xargay led the Mercury with 16 points off the bench.

For retro jerseys, long legs, secret superheroes, resounding blocks, team work, lacking teamwork, shiny objects, and martial arts, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Hey, y'all! I'm back, far later than I anticipated. (I went to the double-header at the Garden that featured the US versus Australia and France versus Canada, and I even wrote GNoD for USA-Australia, but I got bogged down in France-Canada and nothing ever got posted. Maybe someday they'll sneak into the backposts.)

We're at the Garden for Phoenix at New York, and it's good to be home. Right now there is a martial arts exhibition going on to a strange mash-up involving Delirium and Mortal Kombat. There are swords. This could be awesome. I'm a little weirded out that the one girl in the group has a different uniform and is the only one strictly doing moves instead of showing off weaponry, but there might be a reason. Oh, never mind, she has a hand scythe now and I'm a little terrified of her. And there are other girls in the younger group. I'm relieved. They need to do some work on their stagecraft.

Today I learned I'm not the only person who refers to that "everyone off the court at once now!" thing as a Zerg rush. Hi there, Seattle and Chicago fan with the Fordham bag!

Brittney Griner draws a crowd whenever she comes on and off the court. She does stick out in a crowd. I think this is the first long, up-close look I've gotten at her, and I never realized how strong her legs are for her height- usually with tall players (who aren't complete tanks like Carolyn) you worry about their legs.

I don't know if Sandy Brondello and Katie Smith were ever teammates anywhere, but the two former Shock guards shared a hug before Brondello went off to join her team.

At halftime, we have Latin dancers and a 48-34 Liberty lead, neither of which I really expected. Tina Charles has been fantastic, with 19 points at the break. The hustle is very much present for both teams, but especially the Liberty. Penny Taylor has been the boss for Phoenix.

There were flowers before the game and an acknowledgement of Penny Taylor's retirement. PFT will be very much missed. She's a class act and a brilliant talent, always in the shadow of another star, whether it was being the "other" Aussie coming up with Lauren Jackson or being the support to Diana Taurasi. But there's no doubt- Penny's a ledge.

Solid "God Bless America", overly operatic anthem.

It is my entirely subjective opinion that whoever did Kym Hampton's hair doesn't like her very much.

Rolling nine deep, I don't know if we can keep up this hustle and this pace. As long as we have enough of a lead, we should be fine.

Nice acknowledgement of all the Olympians before the game, though I think the acknowledgement of the international players was part of a new W ad. I'd like to see more emphasis on the non-American players, though I know that'll never happen.

That was a deeply satisfying win, and one I wasn't coming close to expecting without two linchpins of our defense. I used to have a lot more respect for Phoenix, but it's become abundantly clear that they have no discipline and are not encouraged to have discipline. I don't object to passion, but I object to off-court emotions seeping as much into on-court behavior as they seem to do with the Mercury. I feel like the phrase "a little less talk and a lot more action" might be applicable to Phoenix at times.

Alex Harden came in near the end of the game, and that was when we knew that Phoenix was throwing the white flag. I'm surprised Brondello didn't throw her into the fray during the first half, just to see if she could contribute anything. Lindsey Harding gave Marta Xargay some relief when she was in foul trouble. The game seemed to become a little more measured when she was in, though I'm not sure how much that had to do with her and how much that had to do with the rest of the personnel. She's definitely lost a step on defense. Sonja Petrovic has a strange hitch to her free throw routine. She's not the only player who takes one dribble off to the side before straightening up and shooting, but it's still pretty weird-looking. I feel like Phoenix could have used her a little more, or at least tried to get more out of her. Marta Xargay had herself a very good game, hitting from outside and driving to get to the line. She was the one bright spot off the bench for the Mercury. I like what she brings.

Kelsey Bone showed everyone why two teams were so very happy to trade her. She had good looks that she missed badly, her defense was sorely lacking, and she didn't look like she was ready to pick up the slack when Griner got in foul trouble. It's no wonder that Brondello went to Mistie Bass the next few times she needed to sub a post. Bass is starting to remind me of a Tammy Jackson or a Sue Wicks- been there, done that, read the book of tricks and added a couple of notes. She wasn't good offensively, but she makes room for her teammates and she plays hard defense. Isabelle Harrison showed some potential in her late minutes. She has a lot of energy and strength both at the basket and from distance.

Thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus that Diana Taurasi has misplaced her shot. She had some beautiful looks that she normally hits because she's Diana Taurasi that she was way off on. I don't know if I've ever seen her shoot an airball before. It just doesn't seem right. She showed flashes of her old self, but more when she was going to the basket, not when she was shooting. There was far less of the usual magic from her. Penny Taylor hustled after every loose ball in the first half. She slowed her pace in the second somewhat, but still. You do not leave Penny Taylor open, because in case y'all didn't notice, Penny's a ledge. She's just so much fun to watch play. I think her time has, alas, just about run out- there was a defensive play she tried to make that she probably would have been able to make a few years ago- but she plays the game so brilliantly.

(Seriously, Australia? Whatever you did in August of 1980 to help people conceive, for the love of God do it again.)

Does DeWanna Bonner ever stop talking? Honest question. She was talking to the ref after every play. Whistle against Phoenix? Talking. No whistle? Talking. Whistle against New York? Still talking! YOU GOT THE CALL! Maybe take fewer threes from the general range of Santa Fe and use that ridiculous fluidity to go to the basket more often. There was one play where she missed a... maybe eight-footer? And then I blinked and she was putting in the putback at the basket. And I was like, "She wasn't there before! How did she get there?" It was some Reed Richards flexibility. Candice Dupree was pretty quiet- she showed up a bit in the third quarter, and she was setting screens, but I would have thought Phoenix would have used her more. I don't think the Liberty's defense was the reason for it. Brittney Griner could be a much more potent weapon for Phoenix if they were more willing to go to her. I think I only saw one lob pass thrown to her all night. She's got a height advantage over everyone in the league except maybe Liz Cambage when she feels like showing up. Our defense swarmed Griner, but there was still space for the lob pass, and I don't think it was on the Mercury's minds at all. She got position sometimes, but she's got to be more assertive.

So I think Swin Cash is hurt and the team doesn't want to let on. She didn't start, she didn't play much, she spent her time off the court riding the bike to nowhere, and she looked even more pained than usual on the floor. It looked like they were feeding her for shots near the end of the game, when things were pretty much decided, which is a sweet touch, and she did have a nice defensive move near the end. But short-handed as we are, I have to worry about any kind of injury to anyone on the team. We need her to not make stupid decisions. On the other hand, she was all right as point forward- she might not have a point guard's court vision, but she knows the game. Amanda Zahui B was solid, but more in the first half in the second- I think she started to tire as the game went on, and that meant stupid fouls. Griner's a challenge, so I can't completely blame her. Her passing was really on show in this one. She's really blossomed in New York. I love it.

Shavonte Zellous is not a point guard, though she did a better job hanging on to the ball in this one than she did in that hot mess against Indiana. She was disruptive defensively. Her energy is relentless. Epiphanny Prince still needs to get the rust off- I'm wondering if she might be better off making herself more of a driving guard until her shot rounds back into form, but that might be a behavior she can't learn before she has to unlearn it. I'm glad she's back, though. So was the crowd. She got a bing hand when she came into the game.

I like what Rebecca Allen brings to the floor- she has a different look and a different style from Swin, and I think she fits in better with the future. She had a bit of a rough game in this one, getting a bit grabby on defense. She's going to need to step up more quickly if she's going to start for Swin. Tina Charles started off red hot- she had as much in the first quarter as Phoenix did, and her rebounding game was on point for the whole night. As the night went on, she seemed to drift more towards the outside, and I think that made her less effective, more susceptible to shot blocks. (That seems counter-intuitive, but there was more room for shot blockers to deflect her shots when she wasn't at the basket. Exchange comfort for space.) Carolyn Swords was solid- she did a lot of work on Griner, hit shots at the basket, and made it abundantly clear that she didn't approve of Taurasi hitting Boyd in the face. As a hockey fan, I appreciate a good enforcer. She's solid.

Brittany Boyd played just enough under control to be super-effective. She kept the game fast-paced, and despite us being short-handed, that worked out. It kept Phoenix off-balance. I know she's not going to have nights like this every night, where her jumpers are going in and she gets the rolls on those insane drives. But we saw what she's capable of, and it's glorious. Sugar Rodgers, of course, knows no fear, whether it's taking three-pointers with just a step and a bounce back, or smacking the daylights out of a shot by Mistie Bass. She's fun to watch when she's on her game.

Whatever Bill said to the team after that debacle in Indiana, it worked. They were playing with heart, with hustle, and with passion. I didn't think we could keep up the fast pace, and it seemed ot settle down in the fourth, but I'm not sure how much of that was fatigue and how much fo it was clock management.

Fashion report: I like Tanisha Wright's sharp black jacket, and I'm intrigued by the printed shirt, but I don't know if they went together. Kiah Stokes looks like a superhero in street clothes.

Shoutout to the woman in the Dawn Staley Sting jersey and the girl in the Jennifer Azzi Lasers jersey.

Most impressive moment of the night was the block by Xargay. We heard it on the other side of the arena. SMACK!

I'm not sure I believe the attendance numbers, but it felt like a good crowd.

I don't know what the Mercury assistant said or did to get tech'd- my attention was on the players on the floor, assuming Taurasi or Griner or Bonner had done something to irritate an official.

So this was an immensely satisfying game. Washed most of the taste of the ref show from June out of my mouth. We've got a lot of home games to finish out with, and a bye to solidify.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31st, 2016: Australia at USA

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Team USA broke open a close game in the second quarter and beat Australia 104-89. Diana Taurasi led the US with 20 points, 16 in the third quarter; she was one of five American players in double figures. Liz Cambage of Australia led all scorers with 22 points, adding eight rebounds, but she and Leilani Mitchell (18 points) were the only Opals to hit double digits.

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And this second game is going to be the most frustrating jingo-fest in the world, I can already tell. I know we're technically on the USA's home turf, but really, doing the t-shirt toss while Australia's on the court? Really?

I'm really tempted to root for Australia, just to be contrary. I'm not okay with treating three teams neutrally and then going all out for the US. This is not okay with me. I mean, literally, they had the USA come out to the Liberty's entrance music. I'm okay with patriotism, but in small amounts.

At halftime, the US is up 54-48. Elena Delle Donne has been perfect, with 17 points. Leilani Mitchell has 16 to lead the Opals.

Maybe it's a stupid petty thing to take the organizers to task for- but why was the US anthem the only one introduced by title? Either introduce all four anthems in the event as "La Marseillaise", "O Canada", "Advance Australia Fair", and "The Star-Spangled Banner", or introduce them as "the national anthem of insert-country-here".

This was a faster and somewhat more interesting game than the first one, although the first one was more competitive for longer. Sometimes it can be fun to see the best players in the world, even when they're outclassing everyone by a country mile.

Is Laura Hodges the artist formerly known as Laura Summerton? She looked vaguely familiar. She was physical, but not always efficiently so. Marianna Tolo didn't have an easy job- congratulations, you're the backup center, so you get to take on Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles. Have fun. I thought she had a pretty good handle on the little things for her team- screens, boxing out, that kind of thing. Rachel Jarry mixed it up inside defensively, but I'm drawing a blank on her offense. Cayla George only played very briefly in each half. I don't envy her the expectations that come from being a forward wearing #15 for the Opals.

Tessa Lavey came on a little stronger near the end of the game, though whether that's an improved sense of how the game flowed or a decrease in general defensive attention, I don't know. She had some nice back and forth with Natalie Burton. She shoots very quickly, possibly too quickly. There's such a thing as overthinking things for a shooter, but there's also such a thing as shooting without getting properly set. For a player who did a lot of shooting from the outside, Katie Rae Ebzery got to the line a fair amount (though those might have been for over the limit fouls). Stephanie Talbot is promising. There's something about her that reminds me of Penny Taylor. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something.

Liz Cambage has a huge amount of talent, and if someone could talk her into harnessing it, she'd be unstoppable. But she can't keep her head in the game- she misses a couple of shots, and she starts getting frustrated. She also seems too dependent on her dominant hand- she didn't seem comfortable shooting from the opposite side, and it cost her. When she puts her mind to it and uses her build to her favor, she's amazing. Natalie Burton was solid, if unremarkable. I'm not sure she's long-term starter material, though. Penny Taylor started off decently enough, but tapered off. I think the USA keyed on her and forced her into some really bad shots. She was more focused on the perimeter than I'm used to, and I don't think that's a coincidence.

Erin Phillips remains feisty on both ends of the floor. You already knew she was going to be tough on defense, but she found ways to get her shots off on offense, too. Again, she seemed more reliant on the jumper than she is in the W, which makes me think the US defense was focusing on preventing the drive. Somehow, though, they managed to overlook Leilani Mitchell, who had herself a fine game. Mitchell found the few lanes that opened up and took full advantage of them, and she had a nice game from the outside too. She wasn't really able to keep the US guards in front of her, but they had just as much trouble with her.

(Someone needs to really drill the words to "Advance Australia Fair" into her, though. It's super obvious when she's the only one not singing along. {Especially when Cambage is really animated about it.})

So, uh, in case you didn't know this, Elena Delle Donne shoots real pretty. You give her an inch of space and you might as well just put two points on the board and hand over the ball, just to save time. She was phenomenal in the first half. Angel McCoughtry set things on fire- metaphorically, not literally- in the second quarter. She was fired up and ready to go. Brittney Griner lost the first round against Cambage, when she got two quick fouls and had to sit down, but she definitely won the second round. And then Cambage got the fourth foul, and Tolo and Burton drew the unenviable task of trying to guard her. Sylvia Fowles was strong defensively, but not so much offensively, and her court vision needs work. (Do not pass the ball to Geno. For a myriad of reasons, this is not an effective strategy. She came out of the game right after that.)

Breanna Stewart played briefly, but she left no real impact on me except that she's still a ways off from being the next Delle Donne (I seem to recall Geno subbing her for Delle Donne and vice versa). Lindsay Whalen drove pell-mell, almost recklessly, into the teeth of the Australian defense. She missed her calling in hockey, she really did. (And yes, I know, women's hockey doesn't allow checking, it's a travesty and a sham and a mockery.) Seimone Augustus flashed crossover moves and faked defenders out, but it took a while for her to find her groove.

Tina Charles did not deal well with the size of Liz Cambage, and I think the mask may also have been affecting her vision- her shot looked off when she took it. I think she got the start because of the home crowd (Geno seems to have played to the arena for his starting lineups), but she wasn't on top of her game. Tamika Catchings brought her usual brand of ferocity to the floor, especially on the defensive end. Maya Moore started the game on fire, automatic on the jumper. She started forcing things more as the defense tightened on her. She's really scary when she puts her mind to it, though. Switch in Whalen and Fowles for Bird and Charles, and this starting five might be All-"Team-I-Don't-Want-To-Meet-In-A-Dark-Alley".

Diana Taurasi was the star of the third quarter. Four points at the half, twenty points ten minutes of game time later. That's what Taurasi does. She was bombing threes like nobody's business in the third. Sue Bird wasn't looking to score, which was almost disappointing by the end, when she was the only member of Team USA that hadn't scored a point. She found her teammates well and she controlled the pace of the game. But I think in real competition, as opposed to a friendly, we're going to need her to be more of a threat, either offensively or defensively.

If Team USA has a weakness, it's at point guard. Our guards are capable, but they're not up to the same par as the rest of the squad.

How in the nine circles of Dante's classical inferno did Tiara Cruse get FIBA certification? I mean, the officiating wasn't terrible, but it got very physical, very quickly- there was a back and forth where you had a player basically be allowed a free revenge shot. (I think it was Talbot and Delle Donne, but don't quote me on that.)

I was surprised I didn't hear as much of the Aussies as I expected, though they were likely on the other side of the arena.

This was the kind of game both teams needed- they showed enough of their strengths to feel confident, but recognized enough of their weaknesses to know what needs to be shored up before Rio.

See you on the other side of the break, boys and girls!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21st, 2016: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Indiana Fever started strong and finished stronger in a 80-68 Camp Day win at the New York Liberty. Lynetta Kizer had 21 points on 10-14 shooting to pace the Fever. Tina Charles of New York had game highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds, but no other Liberty player had more than 10 points.

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I hate Camp Days. I hate Camp Days. I hate Camp Days.

I'm saying it three times, because we're on our third camp day of the season, and this one has been a hot mess. I'm not even talking about the basketball. I do not appreciate security checking my ticket, but not the ill-behaved camp counselors' tickets. So far, the kids are fine- the counselors are being jerks.

Shoutout the kid in the Shenise Johnson Miami jersey. You're pretty awesome.

Fantastic Broadway anthem, but the kid didn't even need the mic.

After the debacle with the fines, the Liberty are back to the regular warm-up shirts, and Tina Charles, in an act of most awesome rebellion, has turned hers inside out.

At halftime, the Fever are up 45-38, because Lynetta Kizer is having the game of her life with 15 points. Tina Charles already has 15 points and five boards for the Liberty. We're getting whooped by the Indiana support players. That’s usually what we end up allowing, but it seems more prevalent today because our bench mob isn't stepping up like they did yesterday.

Some mornings you have it, and some mornings you don't. This was one of those days where we just didn't have it. I don't think the bench mob was recharged after the big game yesterday, and the starters weren't ready to resume being the stars of the show. Meanwhile, Indiana exploited all our weaknesses. They're almost built to destroy us.

Marissa Coleman destroyed us with corner threes in the fourth quarter, as if she had telepathically discerned that we were considering the possibility of a comeback and was going to nip it in the bud before we got started. Her length was a huge bonus on defense. You can't leave Shenise Johnson open for jumpers. You'd think we'd have figured that out by now, but we haven't. She created space for herself and used it effectively. Indiana didn't roll very deep, so the minutes she gave subbing for Catchings were huge. Tiffany Mitchell was instant offense- she gets a moment of space, especially beyond the arc, and there she goes. She still has work to do on defense, but she's a rookie and it's not the first thing on her task list, so if I'm Indiana, I'm perfectly okay with that.

Briann January makes things happen. She hustles, she defends like crazy, and somehow she so often ends up being the beneficiary of her teammates' work. I didn't think she had studied at the Cobra Kai dojo- there was a play where she pretty much literally swept the leg on Shavonte Zellous. Her jumper was off today, but she made up for it in the lane. Erica Wheeler got off to a hot start, hitting the first two baskets for the Fever, but her streakiness started to show later in the game- she was playing faster than her body could catch up to. She seems to have a good handle on that backdoor cut (I think we taught her that).

Tamika Catchings hit a couple of shits, and she really seemed to be forcing things near the end to try to get into double figures, but while Catch can score, that's not what she's known for. She's known for her defense- reading passes, getting steals. She's known for her motor, for never giving up on a play, for her physical play and her rebounding and the thousand things a team needs. That's what she did today. There was one sequence where she poked the ball away, chased it down, saved it, poked it away again, and saved it again to January for the lay-up. If that ball was a pinball, Catch was the flipper, except the flipper doesn't literally chase the ball across the table. I'm not going to miss her getting the benefit of the doubt from the officials, though. Erlana Larkins is slick, especially with the screens, and she's not afraid to sacrifice her body (which we already knew). She's got more range than the scouting report apparently gave her credit for, because our defense was backing off her in the midrange. I'm starting to think New York has never credited passing and facilitating centers enough. Lynetta Kizer had probably the best game of her career, which seems to be a pattern when she plays the Liberty. She was scoring at will with pull-ups, elbow jumpers, backdoor cuts- the entire repertoire of a mostly-power forward. She got physical on defense, and we were hoping that she'd get deeper into foul trouble in the second half, but no such luck.

It's strange watching an Indiana team that doesn't depend completely on Catchings on both ends of the floor. I think their defense will be shakier once she retires, but their offense seems to be be rolling along pretty solidly.

Shavonte Zellous. Oh, dear. I love Z as a person, and overall I think she's been a positive to the organization, but dear heavens was she awful today. Stupid fouls. Slacking on defense. Terrible shot selection- she was pressing way too hard and seemed to think she was the best option on the floor at all times. Careless with the ball. The only facet of her game today that was anywhere near being on point was her dance game. Brittany Boyd brought speed, and probably should have brought more of it, to be honest. I love that she's learning to control her speed instead of playing at breakneck speed every single moment, but I think she might have been taking it a little too far in the final few minutes she played. Her passing was on point and I love it. Shoni Schimmel played, but if you're expecting detailed analysis of fifty-five stat-less seconds, you won't find it here. I just find it ironic that the people next to us who yell, "Put Shoni in the game!" left right before Bill put her in.

I know Rebecca Allen technically subs for Sugar and Shavonte technically subs for Swin, but Bec comes off as way more of a forward than Z does, so I reshuffle the lineups the way I see fit. That's how I roll. I like Rebecca's offense, and when she gets into the passing lane she's good on defense, but she's not quick. Seeing her, I understand the difference between being fast and being quick. And she's fast, but she's not quick, and that killed her on defense. If her shot's not falling, against a team like Indiana she's a liability. Kiah Stokes was finishing at the rim when she got her hands on the ball- there were some passes that were out of her reach or were perhaps not the best pass to throw to that particular player at that particular time. Fumbling is not a good look. She got beat on defense more than I like, too. Amanda Zahui B. was aggressive, but sometimes doesn't realize that just because she wants the ball, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to pass it to her. Her one basket came when the game was pretty much over, and to be honest, I think she traveled.

Would whoever stole Sugar Rodgers's shot please return it? It's a very nice shot, and I think we all want it, but it's hers and it needs to not be stolen. She had open looks and that instant release she's so good with, and it just wasn't falling. She rebounded well, but we need her to shoot better. And I'm harping on the shooting because she and Tanisha Wright had a brilliant connection going, with Tanisha consistently finding her across the court with the skip pass, and having those passes wasted is quite distressing. Tanisha wasn't spectacular, and her decision-making still needs work, but she wasn't too awful today. In a game like this, where there was some really bad play, you take "not too awful" and you like it.

Swin Cash wasn't hitting her shots, but she was strong in the paint, and she drew the unenviable task of guarding Catch. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I don't usually say this, but I think she should have played more today than Z did. Carolyn Swords doesn't have the sure hands that her teammates seem to think she does- too many passes went off those hands, so it might be back to the drawing board on those passing drills they've been working on with her. She had a monster block on Catch that was very satisfying. She could have used a few more touches today, if she was able to keep her hands on the ball- Indiana's posts are feisty but undersized. Tina Charles was on a mission today, and it was glorious. Her shots weren't falling short off the front iron- if anything, she was shooting it too strong, with the misses coming off the back iron. She looked like MVP Tina again, which is good, because we need MVP Tina if we want a shot at the double bye. Which, hey, maybe we don't. Maybe this team won't play as well with an extra round of rest. But what I liked most about Tina today was her choice to speak out with her shirt turned inside out. We'll see if the league tries to Photoshop in the appropriate logo for her Player of the Month picture, because she wore plain black for that.

Other than the usual biased opinion that we don't get calls and Tamika Catchings does, no real complaints about the officiating. It was a very physical game, and one that was allowed to be very physical. I'm okay with that, as long as it's called both ways, and for the most part it was.

Of course, there may have been plays I didn't see, because the camp group around us couldn't figure out what row their seats were in, and they were parading in and out of the aisle like it was going out of style. It didn't seem to occur to them that people might actually want to watch the game. This is not okay. For the most part, the kids themselves were pretty well behaved (but if your thunderstick falls in my lap, I get to keep it, it's the spoils of war). The counselors were far more obnoxious. And then the usher goes and asks for my ticket- not theirs, mine. My season ticket. Melissa- our long-suffering, painfully-educated, former ticket rep- picked these seats out for us at the border of the price change. These are our seats. We're here every game.

(Painfully-educated = survived getting her head bitten off because she wanted to make small talk while Nadirah McKenith was in the "oh God what have I done to my knee" position during the Maggie Dixon game against Baylor. Thank all the gods it wasn't an ACL, but we sure thought it was at the time, and no, if my point guard appears to have a torn ACL I do not want to talk about Christmas plans. Melissa at least learned from that. But as usual, I digress.)

This isn't the feeling I wanted to go into the break with, but we need to recharge. We'll be okay. For now, I'll take a firmly entrenched third and growth from the bench. I'll take the ups and downs.

Most importantly, we go into the break knowing who we are and what we stand for. In the end, basketball is a game- and it's a platform. I stand with the Liberty. Their lives matter. Their voices matter. So does yours.


Monday, July 18, 2016

July 17th, 2016: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Down by seven after giving up a nine-point lead, the New York Liberty came back to beat the Connecticut Sun 83-76. Swin Cash led the way for New York with 16 points, while Tina Charles notched another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Chiney Ogwumike led Connecticut with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench; the Sun also got 16 points from Jasmine Thomas.

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Good afternoon, fellow fans! It's game day at the Garden, where the Liberty host the Connecticut Sun.

You didn't get pregame notes because I am an unabashed Pokemon Go player and mama wasn't letting that Fearow go without a fight. The dance group looked rather uninspired, though. (Go Team Mystic. Also, my seat is above a Pokestop, and I am extremely pleased with that.)

Gorgeous, gorgeous anthem. If someone wants to make her our permanent anthem singer, I'd be okay with that.

Jonquel Jones is a sweetheart, even when she's looking for the bathroom.

I didn't watch the halftime entertainment. I wasn't impressed with what I saw, though.

I have a lot of problems with this crew. You can't miss a very blatant timeout signal. You can't let play continue with blood on the floor. Mount Laimbeer is going to erupt in the third quarter, I know it.

To my pleasant surprise, Mount Laimbeer did not fully erupt, though there were definitely some seismic readings in the third quarter. We gutted it out in the fourth quarter. It was a total team effort, and that's when I love this team the most.

Kelly Faris got a couple of minutes in the first quarter, but she really didn't do much- she was feisty on defense and got called for a foul, and at the other end she completely lost clock awareness, leading to a shot clock violation. She didn't play again in the second half. Shekinna Stricklen brought the deep ball in the fourth quarter. I'm always surprised that someone of her build doesn't do more than just set up outside for threes, but then, I'm sure Curt Miller isn't exactly in any hurry to have her do anything that isn't taking a three. Courtney Williams isn't afraid to shoot from anywhere on the floor- the shot she hit was a very pretty finger roll, but you can already see that she's high usage. I don't know if that's what Connecticut needs.

Morgan Tuck was unremarkable. I think she might have been in a little over her head in this one. Fortunately for Connecticut, they retain the services of the truly remarkable and surprisingly unpronounceable (no matter how many times you throw the pronunciation guide at people) Chiney Ogwumike. She was in beast mode for this one, ripping down every rebound she got anywhere near and putting up hook shots so pretty you could almost see the formulae swirling over her head in the moment before she released the shot. She was very physical at both ends of the floor, and got almost as good as she gave. I think she wants to start again, and if Little continues to struggle, I can see it happening.

Alex Bentley got off a couple of quick ones in the first quarter, and one in the fourth when Connecticut looked like they were revving up for tone last comeback. She got a lot of defensive attention and a lot of contested looks. There was also one possession where she appeared somewhat confused as to what sport she was playing, as she tucked the ball under her arm and ran down the lane like a running back, a maneuver that- as per my understanding of the rules of basketball- would be considered a travel. It was not called as such, so perhaps my understanding of the rules of basketball is incomplete. Our defensive attention to Bentley and to the frontcourt left Jasmine Thomas with a lot of room to operate, and she took full advantage of it. She drove well, finishing with sweet finger rolls, and wasn't afraid to let loose from deep. She was aggressive defensively as well. Really great game for her, and since we won, I can afford to be happy for her; she's one of those players who isn't a superstar but can be so crucial to a team's success.

Alyssa Thomas played ferociously today. She was hobbled early on by two quick fouls, but she was relentless in following shots- I'm pretty sure most of her stats came on the same early play whers she was rebounding like nobody's business. She still needs a little polishing, but she's going to be a star. I just don't think it can be with Connecticut. Jonquel Jones still needs to work on her shooting. Most of her shots were horribly awkward-looking. She looks like a woman who's still trying to adjust to her body. Camille Little stretches the defense admirably, and she is ferocious defensively herself. She couldn't get her long-range shot to fall for most of the day, and she had good looks. She always seems to find ways of doing something good for her team.

Oh, Amanda. Amanda Zahui B. came into the game and committed a foul after fourteen seconds. She got better after that, energetic and involved on the glass. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and I love that about her. Kiah Stokes was solid defensively, and she finished at the rim, which has been a bugaboo for her in recent times. She cleaned up on the offensive glass- I think most of her makes were off putbacks. (The team also put out "7th Avenue Block Party" shirts for her, and they're pretty cool.) Rebecca Allen brought hustle on defense, but she got popped in the face fairly early on, and it got to everyone because of how the refs reacted to it. (That turnover in the box score? So many flavors of bullshit, and you know I don't swear lightly in the GNoD.)

Brittany Boyd was the energizer- she controlled the pace of the game, especially in the second half. I think the Golden Bear took great pleasure in stripping the Cardinal player. I've also concluded that she needs a degree of difficulty to hit her shots- when she's wide open, she misses, but when she's fighting through contact, they go down. She's not logical, but I think that's one of her more endearing qualities. Shavonte Zellous has to understand that sometimes she commits fouls. Her reaction is hilarious, but it wears on you after a while, and I'm sure that opposing fans find it even more annoying. She brought hustle and defense. She brings the leadership for the bench that Swin Cash brings for the starters.

Speaking of Swin Cash, she had probably the best game she's played in a Liberty uniform. (You know the joke that's been going around- "Clinton is running for office, Pokémon is big, and Blink-182 just released a new album- what year is this?" Maybe you can extend that to Swin's play. :D) When no one else seemed to have the fire, she had it. She went to the basket, she hit jumpers, she tore down rebounds. I like this Swin. We needed her, because Tina Charles has not been herself. Of course, Tina Charles playing at half-capacity still puts up a double-double, so what does that tell you? But her jumpers were consistently missing off the front rim. Her shot's always been flat-footed and high-arcing, so it's going to be inconsistent, but I never realized just how dependent it was on her energy level. She had better luck going to the basket. Carolyn Swords falls down a lot, and her teammates seem to think she can handle passes both high and low that she wasn't able to. She didn't play very much, and I'm okay with that.

I know I've talked about ball security and Tanisha Wright before. Bill has to have talked to Tanisha about ball security before. I'm starting to feel like a broken record, and I don't like it. She brings solid defense, and today she was hitting jumpers, but sometimes I think I might be more comfortable with Boyd down the stretch. Sugar Rodgers found her groove in the third quarter to spur the comeback, but her shot was off most of the day. I think the dependency on her is starting to wear- for the most part, we know what we're going to get out of Tina, but as Sugar goes, so do we go most of the time. It's only been the last couple of wins where that hasn't been the case, and I like that it hasn't been.

This was really a game about energy- when we didn't have it, or when it was disrupted, Connecticut had the advantage. When we had it, we had the advantage, and it powered our defense, which powered our offense.

I've grown accustomed to questionable calls from officials. I've mostly learned to ignore inconsistency. But when you're talking about health and safety issues, then I have a problem. In the second quarter, Rebecca got hit in the face and was bleeding from the nose. No real problem, Rosemary stuffed some gauze in her nostril and she went back out there, because she's an Aussie and that's how they roll. At some point, the gauze came out and she started bleeding again. She went to the sideline and attempted to call time. The officials ignored the timeout request. They ignored the blood on the floor. They sure didn't ignore the foul Boyd had to commit to stop the clock, though. Then, in the fourth, Amanda got her contact knocked out. She was trying her best to get it in, and the officials forced the Liberty to use a timeout. I find the latter darkly funny because Amanda needed less time to get the contact in than Curt Miller had spent arguing in the first half.

I lost a lot of respect for Miller in this game. You don't call for the steal when a player is literally bleeding in front of you. (And if he didn't, I lost a lot of respect for Stricklen.) He should have gotten a delay of game warning at best for the extensive discussion he had with the officials in the first half. A coach's discussion with the officials should not be measurable in multiple minutes without a whistle being blown. Wooten gave him way too much rope.

We won, and I'm happy we won, and I'm happy that we won without superhuman games from Tina or Sugar. But Connecticut's demeanor bothered me, and so did the officials.

I'm going to leave you with a happy mental image, though: the fan tunnel for this game was a Native American group in dance regalia. For the most part, they took their job very seriously, waiting patiently for the team to come out... except for one woman who was gleefully shaking her booty to the music.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13th, 2016: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty found their footing in the second quarter and never looked back in a 86-62 win over the Atlanta Dream. Tina Charles led all scorers with 18 points, adding nine rebounds; the Liberty also got double-figure scoring from Sugar Rodgers (13), Rebecca Allen (11), and Shavonte Zellous. Tiffany Hayes led Atlanta with 12 points.

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Grunt. Grunt. Snarl. CAFFEINE. Seethe.

In other words, it's Camp Day at the Garden; for the second time this season, the Atlanta Dream bring an unwanted wake-up call to the New York Liberty.

Have I mentioned how much I don't like Camp Days? Because I could tell you again. I could tell you in detail, if you want. There's lots of detail I could give you.

Atlanta Zerg rushes off, which is annoying, or at least it would be if I were autograph hunting today. (Except for Meighan Simmons, who I guess started shooting late, so she has to do detention or something.)

It's 40 minutes before the game and I think I only see three or four groups. They better be coming soon, or I'm going to be very annoyed.

Ooooh, I like how that dress looks on Gold-Onwude.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 39-29. Strong performance from Rebecca Allen off the bench, and Tina Charles is being the MVP we know she can be. Atlanta's thrown pretty much everyone out there.

Beautiful bilingual anthem- English and ASL simultaneously.

Okay, whoever sold this enormous group tickets in our section did not think their cunning plan through. I think they've got kids clear down from row 16 to row 7, and whoever distributed their tickets forgot to sort them by row. It is very confusing.

To the kid behind me on the left: if your thundersticks go in my seat, they go in my backpack. Spoils of war.

I wasn't watching the rhythmic gymnastics at halftime. Sorry not sorry.

The Liberty are not wearing their #BlackLivesMatter shirts, but neither are they wearing the regular Liberty warm-up shirts. They're wearing plain black Adidas shirts. My guess would be that they wanted to wear them again, but got blocked for some reason. Speak out, Libs! Your voices matter as much as your lives!

Amanda's mom was here, with a couple of Gopher fans, cheering loudly with their thundersticks. She sat a section over from us and a few rows down.

So I'm not actually sure how much Michael Cooper cared about winning this game; it seemed like whenever Atlanta had acquired a little momentum, he'd make a sub and they'd lose some of it. It was strange. I also don't understand the long stretches without McCoughtry.

I love some Cal Bears, because underappreciated nerds need to be appreciated, but Reshanda Gray is not one of my favorite people right now. I was glad Cooper finally gave her a chance in the second half, but it very quickly turned into seething rage after she pulled down Amanda Zahui B. and put a foot in her face (and only because I respect Cal and Gray, and because I didn't see a specific motion, am I not calling it a kick). That earned her a flagrant 2 and a very quick removal from the site of play. Markeisha Gatling is a lot of woman- not very mobile and not necessarily skilled, but if she gets in position, she's going to get the rebound, and there's pretty much no way she's being moved. Rachel Hollivay plays very physical, and today it wasn't terribly effective, and then she lost her temper a bit near the end of the game.

I do not like Matee Ajavon. I have never liked Matee Ajavon. So when Ajavon came into the game and immediately fouled Tanisha Wright by putting her hands... uh, somewhere where an invitation is normally required for hands to be... I wasn't terribly surprised and I'm pretty sure it was a little bit of a mind game. She has an eminently punchable smirk. It's probably not a good sign for the Dream that Meighan Simmons took more shots than anyone else. She got most of those looks in the fourth quarter, though (one of her makes and a couple of open misses were very late, when Shoni Schimmel was on the case). Bria Holmes also likes to shoot, and she gives Atlanta a threat from beyond the arc. Carla Cortijo brings speed and aggression. She had a pretty finish in the second (I think) quarter where all you could do was shake your head and give her her props.

Elizabeth Williams is a rock down low, though her midrange game needs some work. She's a solid rim protector- she had one wicked one on Sugar Rodgers. She's developing beautifully. Angel McCoughtry didn't play all that much, and I'm not sure it was actually in the game plan for her to play all that much- it looked like they were force-feeding her somewhat in the first quarter, which seems to imply that she was trying to get her stats before she sat down. We thought she might get hot in the first, but she forced the issue too much. Sancho Lyttle had moments, but her strength was more defensive than offensive- her shot was all over the place, but she got her hands on a lot of balls (oh, dear Lord, that came out wrong).

Tiffany Hayes fell down a couple of times, and one time she even got the call. She likes that deep three rather more than most teams I think would find healthy. She's reckless and dangerous. Layshia Clarendon played with a lot of energy and speed. She was looking for her shot early, then they switched to force-feeding McCoughtry. I'm not sure how much of that was called and how much of it was desperation.

I feel like Atlanta might have had some idea of what our weaknesses were before the game, when they were shooting from deep, and then they completely forgot about it and went about what they normally do.

Shoni Schimmel sighting! (As an aside, a month too late, we've figured out what her Cheesy Musical Hook needs to be: the opening to any good subway breakdance routine. "What time is it?" "SHOWTIME!") She needs to hit free throws when she has them, and she really needs to be able to hang with her defensive assignment- she's lousy at the switches our system requires. Brittany Boyd brought speed, hustle, and strong disapproval off the bench (she let Gray know how much she did not approve of knocking Amanda over). She's so much fun to watch, and I'd love to see a backcourt of her and Shoni in a game where we're actually trying to score. That would be a lot of fun. Shavonte Zellous is occasionally where offense goes to die, and she really needs to stop begging for calls. But she brings it on both ends of the floor- there was one play where she leaped on a ball that Lyttle was holding and forced a jump ball pretty emphatically, sort of with the enthusiasm one sees from piranhas when they see meat.

Adut Bulgak sighting! They were so adorably happy for her. She needs to work on her handle, which is a problem because so do most of her teammates, so it's not like anyone on the team can give her good tips and tricks. There are a lot of things for her to learn, but I think she has the capability to learn how to get in position and how to scramble for those balls that she can get. I love her flexibility- she needs to maintain that while getting a little bit stronger and adding a little bit of bulk (otherwise she will get very broken and that will give us all a sad). Amanda Zahui B. wasn't as spectacular as she was against San Antonio, but she seemed to get stronger as the game went on, and she recovered well from being taken down. I like that her more successful plays were at the basket, not from the outside- I love to see post players do work in the post. Kiah Stokes hit her shots at the rim and protected our rim. She did some kind of work on the glass. Rebecca Allen had one of the best games she's played in a Liberty uniform. She was hitting from the outside, plus she had a sweet little finger roll down the lane (I believe the usual colloquialism is "like buttah"). She jumped the passing lanes really well- it'd be like, oh, hey, there's suddenly an Australian in the path of this pass.

(Everyone should have an Aussie. Canadians and Swedes are cool too, but we've got the only Swede, neener neener neener.)

Tanisha Wright brought the defensive hustle and ferocity, as well as the veteran leadership (she was talking to the ref after a bad call on Boyd). She's going to be a brilliant coach someday if she wants to be. Sugar Rodgers did the levitation thing again, which was pretty cool. (Off-guardium Leviosa?) She hit the quick shots, which was exactly what we needed from her. She almost seemed disappointed that she wasn't playing more, but honestly, we're going to need her more on Friday than we did today, and I'd rather she save a few of those threes for the Lynx.

Swin Cash appears to have misplaced her shot, so if she could find it again, that would be great. She brings scrappiness and defensive length, which is useful. I just wish she could be more consistent in something other than missing shots. Tina Charles's shot continues to be astonishingly flat-footed and high-arcing, and yet it works. It defies logic- but I'm a Mets fan, so I should be used to athletes doing the impossible. ('sup Bartolo) She did solid work in short minutes. It's good to be able to have her rested. Carolyn Swords was beasting on the boards, which is a good and wonderful thing. Having big games down low from the posts really takes the heat off of Tina.

The officiating was very light for most of the game, then things got a little unglued in the fourth quarter. I don't know whether it was that the officials realized they'd been letting a lot of contact go, or whether Atlanta got chippier as the lead got bigger, or what, but people lost their minds in the fourth. You had Hollivay getting the T, you had the questionable review on Boyd's foul, you had that nonsense with Gray- we were one moving screen away from something really bad happening, IMO.

The problem with doing three camp/school days in the same season is that the place doesn't get properly packed. Camp Days are supposed to be sellouts- 11317 is nice, but c'mon, man. And I bet it'll be the same next week instead of doing one big 17000 and a good 9000 night game. Worse, the kids never really seemed to get into it.

They're off to Minnesota now. Let's see if they can keep the momentum going.