Monday, July 28, 2014

July 27th, 2014: Minnesota at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Minnesota Lynx rode solid defense and spurts of athletic offense to a 76-65 win over the homestanding Connecticut Sun. Maya Moore led four Lynx in double figures with 17, while Rebekkah Brunson came up with 10 rebounds. Kelsey Bone led the short-handed Sun with 15 points, adding nine rebounds.

For missed chippies, Kelsey Griffin's adorable sundress, two kinds of football, bad travel plans, unnecessary scarves, dueling fundraisers, and possible sleep-deprived babbling, join your intrepid and non-rhythmic blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! Your intrepid blogger has safely returned from what will likely be her last basketball-related sojourn to Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Minnesota Lynx did pretty much what the Minnesota Lynx do, and the Connecticut Sun did pretty much what they've been doing most of the season.

Lots of people waiting for comp tickets when we got there. Big, big crowd. Lots of Husky fans around- Maya Moore got more pop from the crowd than pretty much any Sun player, even Douglas or Montgomery.

Dueling fundraisers: tonight was BHA, so the Sun had their auction going on, but there was a card sale at the next table over for the American Heart Association. Cards I haven't seen in years- didn't buy anything, since everything cheap I already had and the things I didn't have were a little too pricey for me.

We all know the real reason why I wanted to get to this game, and why I went through my voluminous collection of throwbacks until I found the bright green Kristin Folkl jersey in the box, and why I dug through another pile to come up with my St. John's scarf, and why my husband got kitted up the way he usually does for a Red Storm game. Our Girls Syndrome is insidious, but our case only really flares up once a year or so. We've only got one to claim, after all. So we counted heads as the Lynx came out and only came up with eleven... g'wan and guess who was missing. Go on and guess. Yep. So I flagged down Jim Petersen to see what had happened and make sure the interns just didn't skip a transaction while they were feeding the hamsters that run .com. Turns out the Lynx only booked space for eleven players, and they felt they needed Asia Taylor more than they needed Nadirah McKenith. Dear Minnesota Lynx: Nadirah is an adult, you probably could have trusted her to fly from Minneapolis to Connecticut by herself without getting lost or causing any international incidents. She does sort of know the area.

Yes, even hours later, I'm a wee bit cranky that we've managed to slingshot back to the 1970s in terms of being able to afford to bring the entire team on a road trip. And Taylor was a DNP-CD. Damnit, Nadirah could have sat there just as efficiently as Taylor.

Is Devereaux Peters supposed to be a rover in the Lynx defense, or has she just been inspired by DeWanna Bonner? She seemed to go wherever the ball went, no matter how bad an idea it was for her to try and guard Katie Douglas, thus leaving the inside open for Connecticut's posts (though they did tend to miss the shots they got from these opportunities). And then in the second half, when she got more extended minutes, it was as if the officials suddenly realized she was there and started calling fouls on her like mad. Not to say that she hadn't earned them, but they came in a flurry. Tricia Liston got her time in the first half- played decent defense, though I think she tried to run a rollout play on offense, and the recurring theme of this game is that people kept forgetting that it wasn't football. Damiris Dantas looked like she was in over her head- Chiney Ogwumike had her way with her. The coaching staff seemed to be working pretty heavily with her, and she had a very short leash, coming out pretty much every time she made a mistake or committed a foul. Monica Wright looks to have gotten her confidence back, which might be the last piece the Lynx need to make a deep run- they have four phenomenal starters and a center who complements them, but there's a lot of drop-off once you get to the reserves. If Wright can be a sparkplug at both guard slots, that bolsters them in ways I don't think I have to tell the average GNoD reader. Tan White brought a little bit of offense at opportune times, choosing her spots way more carefully than usual. Sort of refreshing.

Janel McCarville seemed somewhat out of sorts on the floor- missing passes, missing boards, floating around the perimeter on offense instead of going strong to the basket. Then again, she got glass on a three, so clearly she should have been playing the slots instead of me. (And maybe she did.) Lindsay Whalen is very tough, and occasionally does think she's playing hockey, and she makes the engine go for the Lynx. She picks her spots, and she is rarely dislodged. Rebekkah Brunson rebounded all the things. No, really. All the things. I can't believe I was forgetting how athletic she is, or how... savage has such unfortunate connotations... vicious, maybe? Tenacious. How tenacious she is on the boards. She really is Baby Yo. (And if you missed out on Mama Yo... well. Yolanda Griffith as a player was one tough mother-shut-yo-mouth.) She took a lot of off-balance shots and perhaps shots that were too quick off the boards. Seimone Augustus doesn't seem to be back to full speed, but watching a half-speed Seimone Augustus is still like watching a fine sports car in motion. Maya Moore showed more of her defensive toughness and willingness to be physical (ow, Renee Montgomery) than her offensive skill set, though she did some of the impossible- I will never know how she managed that tip-in.

(Speaking of things I will never understand the mystery of, Quick Change was the halftime show. I could see over and into some of the hoops, and I still have no idea how she changes dresses so fast, and the glitter trick is astonishing. If you ever have the chance to see them, do not take your eyes off them.)

Kelly Faris got some defensive minutes against the Lynx bench. Didn't look bad, and I will give props to any guard who's willing to body Rebekkah Brunson. Ebony Hoffman fired away from outside, unsuccessfully, but at least got good rebounds. She's infinitely more useful than Kelley Cain. (Kelley is sweet, but not terribly mobile.) Kayla Pedersen got most of the minutes that would go to Griffin, and she was about what we expected- screened hard, but mostly ineffective. Renee Montgomery gave the appearance of making the Sun offense do things, but my perception might be colored by her two quick threes in the fourth quarter, which was also when she hit her free throws. (Seven assists? Yeah, okay. If you say so.)

Somewhere, there is a parallel universe where women have been permitted to play all the professional sports, and in that universe there is a women's NFL, and in that women's NFL, Alyssa Thomas is a highly regarded wide receiver who people compare Larry Fitzgerald to. She does not quite catch all the things like Larry Fitzgerald does (seriously, the Arizona Cardinals come off pretty much as "Larry Fitzgerald catches things"... anyway.) but she ran some beautiful routes trying to get open. I didn't think she missed as many shots as the box score said, but it's possible that her athleticism blinded me, or that I thought she hit some of the good looks that she missed. Both teams missed a lot of good looks. Chiney Ogwumike found a lot of space to move around underneath, and took advantage of it. She was relentless on the boards, too. Not quite as search-and-destroy as Brunson, but willing to go toe-to-toe with her. Alex Bentley missed lots of shots. I think she's officially regressed past the mean. Katie Douglas felt like she was getting hot later in the game (which just sounds wrong)- if the game were played in sixths or eighths instead of quarters, she might have been able to pull Connecticut back into it.the game. Keley Bone missed entirely too many shots close to the basket (I may or may not have belted out "THAT'S WHY WE TRADED YOU!" after the second or third one). She needs to get more consistent on those shots.

Connecticut really has no idea who anyone on their team is, and I'm not sure there's any way to solve that, given that we're almost into August here.

It got very physical out there, and I'm disappointed in the officials in allowing that to happen. On the flip side, Montgomery should be grateful they missed her flops, because there was some serious yellow card for simulation going on there. Too much tripping and grabbing for my comfort.

The scary part is that Minnesota looked pretty bad... and still pretty much controlled the final three quarters of the game. When everyone's back on their groove? If the expected occurs, the Western Conference Finals will be epic.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16th, 2014: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A double-double from Tina Charles and a banked-in jumper from Cappie Pondexter sealed the deal in a physical win for the Liberty, 77-75, over Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta. Tina Charles led the Liberty with 18 points and 15 rebounds; Cappie Pondexter was held to eight points, but had seven assists. Angel McCoughtry led all scorers with 20 points, just missing a triple-double at nine rebounds and nine assists.

For surprises, shadow achievements, a lack of hair, so much snot, injuries, and futile waiting, join your intrepid and uncomfortable blogger after the jump.

Morning. I refuse to consider any morning where I have to be surrounded by thousands of screaming children while fighting off a sinus infection to be good, so I am not telling you good morning.

Apparently Michael Cooper is one of those "if you're not early, you're late" people, since pretty much everyone for Atlanta sprinted for the gate at 37 minutes to tip, and at 35 DeLisha was telling us they had a minute to get to the locker room, when usual clearout is at 30 minutes. Swung and missed today. I really don't like having to stake out after games, but if Natasha Lacy's only on a seven-day contract and she doesn't come out for warm-ups, what's a completionist to do? And if Atlanta doesn't stop for anyone, how am I supposed to get the newcomers? (I refuse to call Céline Dumerc a rookie, she's older than I am.)

Our usher said to us, "And here you are again! You're at every game!" Yes, that's sort of the point of having season tickets, hon.

The camp group in front of us is startlingly well behaved and seems into the game. I approve.

We're up at the half. Huh. Not what I was expecting, but the posts have really stepped their game up. We're still giving up too many open looks to the United Nations up front, but Avery has rebounded like a beast and Plenette came up huge in the second quarter.

This rhythmic gymnastics team is creepy. Like, I'm pretty sure there are states where you can't watch this performance on YouTube without troopers knocking on your door to ask uncomfortable questions.

Beautifully drawn dreamcatcher on a Schimmel fan's sign. I am sort of expecting Atlanta to sell those one of these days- it's too easy.

I think Dumerc actually used Lyttle's leg to deflect her dribble so she could regain control of it.

That was exhilarating at the end! I thought we were done for. I thought Atlanta was going to force the overtime and overwhelm us at the end with superior firepower. But today was the day where Cappie Pondexter saved up all her superheroics for one big shot, and one big shot was exactly what we needed. (I'm mildly annoyed that I'm late writing notes because my team is impossible to snag if you're an utograph collector, but it is what it is.)

I see what Michael Cooper sees in Nadia Colhado- she's a young post who can move a little and shoot a little from the outside. She's not quite as athletic as Sancho Lyttle is, even now, but she's a little bigger. Amanda Thompson actually got the second half start (I don't know why McCoughtry was late out of the locker room), but was unremarkable. She's got the right build, but I don't know if she has the skill for this level. Céline Dumerc seems to have a knack for big shots- she ended the quarter with a beautiful three. It's pretty obvious that Jasmine Thomas is being phased out, or at least primed to ease out of the starting lineup. I'm surprised Dumerc isn't starting already, to be honest. Aneika Henry gave tough minutes down low. Shoni Schimmel barely played, which is starting to surprise me. I know Cooper wants to bring her along slow, but there's slow and there's stuck in quicksand. Then again, she did not have her shot today, so maybe she's a situational sub. Matee Ajavon played! The schaudenfraude connoisseur in me approves of the fact that she looks lost, somewhat broken, and appears to have put on weight, but when it comes to Ajavon, I admit that I'm an utter cad. (Never liked her, even in my Rutgers days.)

Érika deSouza really staked out her spots in the paint, especially on defense. She and the rest of the United Nations front line made life miserable for Tina Charles. On the other hand, she didn't get that many touches, and got moved away from the basket on offense more than I would think Atlanta wanted. Sancho Lyttle had a little bit of the jumper going, and she was quick defensively, but I look at her and think of the match-up nightmare athletic freak she used to be, and I just wonder when she really lost so much of it. Tiffany Hayes annoys me, and not just because of the timing of her makes. I don't like her drama and I don't like her style and I don't like her flopping and I just wish she'd get over herself. Jasmine Thomas was pesky defensively, but it's hard to believe she had four field goals. She really seemed like a non-entity out there (which is part of why I think Dumerc should be starting- you need to have someone out there with a bit more oomph if they have to corral Angel McCoughtry). McCoughtry is phenomenally athletic, and she always, always, is a presence on the floor that you have to watch out for, but all things considered, except for one egregious lapse in the first half where she got open for a three, I thought we did all right on her. Yeah, I know. One assist and one rebound from a triple-double and I think we did all right on her. She had to work for a lot of what she got. I'll say this for her: she's not the immature, whiny, preening, Angel she once was. She seems to have grown into herself.

I do not think Essence Carson is a morning person. She looked like I do when I get up.

Swin Cash looked a lot more comfortable in the sets than she did last game, and she was excellent when she was defending McCoughtry- she has the right build and the skill set to make her life difficult. She hit a couple of nice shots in the second half, including one that was credited to Plenette because the scorer may have been slightly drunk or something. Sugar Rodgers got the offense going in the first half with long jumpers and a spectacularly tough drive down the lane for an and-1. She's grown on me. I feel like I should disapprove of that for some reason. Plenette Pierson was tough on the boards and came up big in the second quarter with a couple of back-to-back baskets. I would like to know what she said to the ref to get that T, though. I understand her frustration, but you have to keep your temper when you're in a game that's turning close.

I cannot say enough about the hard work of Avery Warley-Talbert down low. I think she knows that her starting spot is in jeopardy from Swin, and she played with such fire and such hustle that despite the lack of scoring, this might have been my favorite game of hers this year. She was going after every loose ball, fighting toe to toe with deSouza and the rest of the bigs. That, no pun intended, is Liberty basketball. Alex Montgomery was sharp defensively and came up with a big third quarter three. She wasn't hitting a lot of shots, but we didn't need her to. Anna Cruz drove hard- crossed over Jasmine Thomas with a pretty move that had the crowd roaring, though her jumpers were not as successful as her drives. She was pesky on defense, too. Cappie Pondexter wasn't getting elevation on her shots- something in her legs was not right, and her shots were short off the front iron. But instead of taking a lot of bad shots, she became more of a distributor. (I am not believing those fifteen shots attempts in the box score. Doesn't seem to fit.) There were a lot of plays going to her in the third and fourth quarters, despite her condition, which didn't make sense to me, but they don't pay me the big bucks (and the Garden doesn't pay me any bucks at all). She saved most of her superheroic strength for that one shot at the end, and you would have thought the roof was going to come off. Tina Charles was energized on the boards, but offensively, everyone knew she had to carry the bulk of the load, and that included Atlanta on defense. She took a lot of bad shots, forced away from the basket or in the teeth of two defenders. I'm not thrilled with them, but she kind of had to.

Play of the day: Cappie's little drop pass to Tina for the deuce. Pretty as a picture.

I still can't believe we won. I was there and I still can't believe we held on. Now, can we do anything with it when we get out on the road? (And will Natasha Lacy still be on the roster when they get back to New York? Mama has a cap to work on.)


Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13th, 2014: Los Angeles at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Sparks used power down low and defense all over the court to spur a big third quarter and a bigger road win at Connecticut, 90-64. Nneka Ogwumike led all scorers with 24 points, adding seven rebounds. Los Angeles got their top four posts into double figures, with Jantel Lavender notching 19, Candace Parker 15, and Sandrine Gruda 12. Connecticut got 18 points and six rebounds from Chiney Ogwumike in the loss.

For the potential of noogies, fashion choices, elbows, free throws, ballhawking, and the standards of evil, join your intrepid and in need of exfoliation blogger after the jump.

The gods of transit and time were not kind to your intrepid blogger, so these notes are coming from the comfort of my armchair instead of a narrow bus seat jouncing my way down I-95.

Lost twenty bucks. I regret nothing.

Fun anthem. Irish style. Is it some kind of Irish celebration weekend that I didn't know about or something?

My seat was broken. :( Fortunately, seats 1 and 2 didn't show up, so the three pairs of people in our row were all able to space ourselves properly and comfortably. (And then seats 7 and 8 and seats 3 and 4 left at the start of the fourth quarter. It was that kind of game.)

Nikki Greene is very tall, and seemed to be the target of many whistles in the fourth quarter, as the officials desperately tried to equalize the foul count in a futile attempt to seem competent. She does not have good hands. With all the shooting practice that Farhiya Abdi gets in before games, I would have liked to see her hit some shots, but she just could not find her groove. Candice Wiggins pretty much avoided shooting. The way she shot in New York, I can't blame her, but she had several open looks that she passed up, to the point where I thought she was under orders from the bench to be more of a distributor. Armintie Herrington was very active defensively and actually hit a clean jumper, so prepare for Ragnarok. She did a lot of signal-calling on the offensive side of the floor with the reserves, which surprised me a little, especially with Wiggins as distributor (then again, for all I know, they changed the signals while Wiggins was rehabbing, or Herrington was using sooper-sekrit signals from the Ole Miss days). Sandrine Gruda has a really weird wind-up at the free throw line- I swear, she is the only player I've ever seen fade away on a free throw, and the release almost looks like a throw-in from the sideline on a soccer pitch. They almost force-fed her in the fourth quarter. I don't know if she wanted to say "ferme ta bouche!" to her old team, or if there was some kind of challenge to get all the post players into doubles (okay, Greene was kind of a lost cause there), or if they were using her as a proxy for Parker to get the bench players used to running those plays, or what. But even at the point where teams usually start giving pity shots to the end of the bench, the ball was going to Gruda. Lindsey Harding had a pretty spin move that led to a missed shot down low, and seemed very comfortable running point for the squad, both with the reserves and in a three-guard set with Toliver and Beard.

I gotta tell you all, Candace Parker looks like the odd woman out for the Sparks, and that's a helluva thing to say about one of the league's great talents. I don't know if it's because LA doesn't have a strong offensive scheme, or if they were just going with the hot hands, but she looked... disinterested is perhaps too strong a word, but uninvolved in the offense and out of place in the defense. She was the one player who didn't fight for loose balls and who didn't board hard. A lot of her rebounds were long ones, the kinds that guards usually pick up. She seemed to be relying more on her athleticism than her skill, especially on the defensive side. Kristi Toliver started the game taking every shot in sight, as if her lack of effectiveness in New York was an offense against the nature of reality itself. She got away with a really blatant shove on one of the Sun guards that greatly irked me, but I think I've figured out that I don't like her attitude. Alana Beard started off looking really active on defense, but spent a long time on the sideline stretching out and didn't seem quite the same when she came back in- but then again, when she came back in, she was at the three with Toliver and Harding as the guards. Different needs. I do not know if you have noticed this, but Nneka Ogwumike is kind of awesome. She really needs to work on her footwork, because she's going to hurt someone someday otherwise, but other than that she is amazing and so tough. She facilitated a lot of offense for the Sparks, either by getting o-boards or by letting someone else grab the o-board. Jantel Lavender annoys me because of her excessive physicality, but she does have nice touch around the basket, I have to give her that. I could do without the elbows, but she's really blossomed this year as a player. Ugh. Why do I have to say nice things about a Buckeye? There are Michigan women who will do terrible things to me for that!

Kelley Cain is tall. She has really weird free throws. Look, they were not the most inspiring four minutes. They did not save the world. Kelly Faris got some time early after Gilbreath-Butler got the wind knocked out of her, then got pity minutes at the end of the game. She's scrappy, but she did little. Renee Montgomery had the one buzzer-beater that was pretty much an unprintable word in the direction of the officials, and that was it. I don't even remember her taking all the shots that were in the box score, but I suppose she must have. The minute distribution was odd for Kelsey Griffin- she fell all the way to the back of the rotation in the first quarter, then came in sporatically throughout the game. Our assumption was that she was late to practice or something, but it still seemed strange. Kayla Pedersen got a lot of the minutes that would normally fall to Griffin, and seemed more aggressive going to the basket than usual, with mixed results. (Perhaps she got inspired by the Battle of Nerd City and wished to be a worthy sidekick to Chiney. Well. Um. Yeah. About that.) Briana Gilbreath-Butler had a ncie rebound, but otherwise looked as lost as you would expect from a recently acquired injury replacement. She's awfully skinny- do they, like, fold her up and put her in a garment bag for road trips?

Kelsey Bone, missing chippies like that is the primary reason why Bill Laimbeer talked you down and shipped you off to Connecticut. She did not know how to handle the bigs for LA, and she kept missing lay-ups. It was very frustrating. Alex Bentley didn't find her shot until the fourth quarter, at which point she hit something like three straight. Yes, it's much easier when the other team is just playing a gentle man-to-man defense. I don't think I would have put Katie Douglas back in the game in the fourth quarter, not when she came to the scorer's table with the radiator strapped to her back, but I'm not Anne Donovan. I'm not nearly tall enough and my suits are nicer but more wrinkled. Chiney Ogwumike started the game hot, going shot for shot with big sis, but got worn down as the game went on. I think the pressure might have gotten to her a little, and LA adjusted their defense to cover her better, too. Alyssa Thomas had some outside shots going, but seemed to shy away from contact on the inside. I think they were thinking she could be a counter to Parker in terms of being a mismatch, but she has to hit shots for that plan to work.

That third quarter three-guard set going headlong into the teeth of LA's three bigs was a hot mess and led to LA's big run, which never really ended. If the shots had been falling, it might have been a different story, but there was no offense from the trio of Bentley-Montgomery-Douglas, and that left Douglas defending Candace Parker, or occasionally Renee Montgomery defending Jantel Lavender, and I think we can all agree that this is a plan that will not end well for the defending team. LA seems to do a lot of weird stuff with switches, and I don't know if that's intentional to mess up the defense or unintentional because there's no clear offensive set.

I get very annoyed when officials repeatedly miss elbows. And then there was that hot mess at the end of the first quarter. At 1.3 a foul was called on Armintie Herrington for making like the first domino in a domino effect, and Chiney Ogwumike took two free throws, hitting one. After the original end of the quarter, the officials decided that this had not been a shot attempt, and as it was only the Sparks' third foul of the quarter (which, by the way, if the zebras had done their job, it wouldn't have been), the free throws would be negated. The crowd was wrathful... right up until Montgomery hit a long three. Of course, then the refs had to review the three, and I'm pretty sure a few people were checking to see if they could get torches and pitchforks out of bag check just in case the officials decided that the shot that was clearly before the horn was after the horn. I still can't believe they missed the shot by Gruda to Gilbreath-Butler. I was worried something might be broken there!

Crowd started leaving in the third quarter. I think they delayed the t-shirt toss to get people to stay.

We drew the autograph section and were rewarded with Kelsey Bone and Kelley Cain. Since I was wearing my Miracle jersey, not my Lobo jersey, it was not as awkward as it could have been. Yes, for games where the Sun are not playing a team I have interest in, I wear a Miracle jersey, and because I'm always true in my fashion, it's a Tari Phillips Miracle jersey. (For the Lynx game, I'm rocking the Kristin Folkl. Did I mention that I collect throwbacks off eBay?)

I can't even articulate what Connecticut didn't have today, only that they didn't have it. I think LA's defense, combined with the lack of offensive punch from their opponents, can do a lot to disguise their offensive woes on the perimeter. Having a couple of anchors down low helps too.


Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11th, 2014: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Nneka Ogwumike's 15 points and nine rebounds led a solid Sparks effort on the road as LA came out with a 68-54 win over New York. Candace Parker and Jantel Lavender each had 14 for Los Angeles. Tina Charles led all scorers with 20 for the Liberty.

For jacked-up jumpers, the potential of bad blood, inappropriate physical exams, forcing the issue, Irish, purple, and panic, join your intrepid and over-LeBroned blogger after the jump.

Hey, gang! We're coming to you, hopefully on a minimum of tape and technical delay, from Madison Square Garden, the World's Most Famous Arena, for the Liberty's match-up with the Los Angeles Sparks.

There is too much purple in this place for my liking, including the gentleman sitting behind me. (He's only in it for Candace Parker, though. I guess there are worse things.)

Swin Cash did not make a good first impression when she blew several of us off looking for her autograph. Maybe she was just super focused on getting reacquainted with Bill and the gang, but when you're contrasting her with Sunshine, she doesn't come off well there.

Adorable moment at the Gatorade cooler, where it would appear that Anna Cruz got shanghaied into the rookie duty of handing out Gatorade by Sugar Rodgers, and Alex Montgomery took full advantage.

We're approaching 30 minutes before game time, and the last Spark has just cleared the floor. I think that's Farhiya Abdi, but I'm not sure. She spent a lot of time shooting.

We have Irish step dancers, with band and singers, to entertain us. The dancers are good, the singers not so much. I think I've spent too much time listening to my BFF's Celtic collection, since I recognize all the music. I think they need to fix the mics, too.

It's 42-33 Los Angeles at the half, and I am deeply disturbed. We're playing like this is our first time running the offense. Too many extra passes, and Los Angeles is taking advantage by doubling and going aggressively after the ball. It looks like they're force-feeding Swin Cash when she's in the game, which makes no sense. Something is deeply, badly off. Los Angeles is playing well in the post- we're utterly lost on defense, and a fair amount of that has come down to Swin too.

With all the Irish tonight with the dancing and the music, and with the amount of Detroit on the bench, I expect Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast to spontaneously materialize at any moment.

The performances have gone on a bit long. Everyone is attempting to dodge small dancing people in frilly skirts.

That could have gone a lot better. To put it mildly. Credit to Los Angeles: they attacked every vulnerability and penetrated the paint very well. Carol Ross's defensive mindset was definitely top of mind for them.

At this point, I'm just going to assume Essence Carson is either injured or waiting for a trade to be finalized. Second time in a row she hasn't even been thrown garbage time pity minutes. Bill, if you're not going to play her, make it official so she can come in street clothes- she has a bit of style to her.

Chucky Jeffery should not be running the point when Anna Cruz is in the game- her handle is not secure enough and she doesn't seem to have a strong grasp of the offense. I love her on-ball defense and determination, and at least she has slightly better shot selection than Sugar Rodgers did tonight. Then again, I have seen random guys at pick-up games demonstrating slightly better shot selection than Sugar Rodgers did tonight. Sugar seemed to think she was back at Georgetown and had carte blanche to take whatever stupid shot idea wandered into her head at any given moment. There is no excuse for a guard as tiny as Sugar to be putting up hook shots like she thinks she's Tina Charles. She was consistently taking shots designed to draw contact instead of score the basket, and given the state of the officiating tonight, this was not a successful plan. She was okay defensively, which is a refreshing change from the aforementioned Georgetown era, though. Chardé Houston gave us nothing tonight, except nightmares of just how bad an idea it is to have her attempting to guard Candace Parker. Even her shot was off, and for Chardé, that's a really bad sign. I don't even know what to make of Swin Cash, or why she was getting more touches off the bench than pretty much anyone else on the team, but she looks like the player who was barely playing in Atlanta and marked no statistics worth mentioning there. I know it's only her first game with the team, but that is in and of itself worrisome- why did Bill put so much faith in a player who was a Dreamgirl a day and a half ago? Chardé was a DNP-CD her first game; pretty sure Shanece McKinney was too, and Nece went through training camp with the team. Shanece got a few minutes in the first half and a little time in the fourth quarter- she was physical, but inaccurate. Plenette Pierson was the only bench player who really contributed anything, which makes sense, because Plenette is essentially a starter who doesn't start. I know that doesn't sound logical, but I actually agree with Bill's thinking here: save the early fouls by having Avery commit them, give Plenette extra rest, let her watch the flow of the game, and put her in to get things re-started. She at least was willing to go to the hoop with some common sense (which is more than I can say for Sugar, and yes, I know I'm harping).

Avery Warley-Talbert did try on the boards, but she was sorely outclassed there, and in all other aspects of the game, by the big front line of LA. And that's the gamble you take when you have Plenette as the supersub. Cappie Pondexter was a little off all night, and it became clear early in the second half that she was injured, when she came out of the game and never came back. She was limping whenever she got off the bench during timeouts, and Laura Ramus was investigating something in her left thigh area (and let me tell you, the way Ramus was feeling all up in her shorts did NOT look right, but I assume it was strictly professional). I really hope she gets better, because we need her, and this game made that obvious. Anna Cruz was good defensively and made a lot of the right passes, but also made a lot of the wrong passes. A lot of people were making the wrong passes tonight, though. I love her hustle and her willingness to hit the deck, and she showed more of that than anyone else tonight (though it was still below her season average). Alex Montgomery brought it on defense, and she drew Candace Parker fairly often, but that left her no energy to do anything that made sense offensively. She was more passive than usual. She had a couple of good shots early, but I don't think she had anything left in the tank late. Tina Charles was left to pick up the slack, and while she did MVP work on the offensive end, she bailed frequently and often defensively and on the boards. I understand that much was asked of her tonight with no Cappie and no consistent help from anyone else, but we needed her at both ends of the floor.

Too many extra passes. Too many players under the basket throwing the ball away. Too many needless hook shots from Sugar (Sugar, you are not Tina, even if Tina had the hook working tonight). Too much Swin in her first game. Too much desperation. Not enough gotdamn common sense. Y'all are not Helen Darling, stop running around like headless chickens out there.

Nikki Greene played briefly at the very end of the game and could not hit a jump shot. Armintie Herrington also demonstrated that she still does not have a jump shot- but she's still fast and she still closes relentlessly on defense. Candice Wiggins still has a bit of rust on her (and this is according to the Parker fan I got stuck in front of), but showed flashes of her old form. She couldn't finish, but she could start. Lindsey Harding cut to the basket with style and pizzazz, though she had a little too much pizzazz at times. She might have been coming off the bench, but much like Plenette, she looked comfortable in that role. I know plus/minus is pretty much a big fat lie, but her +15 as compared to the rest of her unit stands out (Wiggins at +1, Herrington at +3, Gruda at +6- and they played pretty much as a unit). Sandrine Gruda needs to stop shooting if I'm the Sparks or in any way affiliated with the Sparks. Just... no, Sandrine. Non. N'est bon idée. (Or is that bonne idée? Je n'parle français.)

Jantel Lavender is not quite her Ohio State predecessor when it comes to making shots off the glass (that little drop with the left hand off the window was a Jessica Davenport specialty) but she got inside and made life miserable for the Liberty. She used her body well to create space both for herself and for her teammates- she was setting tough screens all night. She was really feeling it in the second half, getting all kinds of interesting rolls off the rim. Alana Beard looks odd as a point guard, but she did capably, and she cut to the basket like a hot knife through butter. It was full flashback to the Washington days, before the ankle went out on her. Kristi Toliver was mostly shut down, and reacted like a bit of a punk when she finally did get something to go down in the second half. I could also do with less of her flopping. Slovakia didn't make the World Cup, Kristi. She got pretty flashy with her passing, which was fun to watch but not particularly productive for her team. Nneka Ogwumike does all the things. She was fierce on defense- there was one Liberty possession where she simply would not stop hounding the ballhandler along the sideline to the baseline. She rebounded well. She finished her shots well. She survived Plenette Pierson (seriously, between Plenette's tangles with Chiney and this game, I'm starting to think Plenette is trying to start a blood feud with the Ogwumike family. THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLAN, PLENETTE.) and gave almost as good as she got. The only thing I don't like about her is her footwork- she has an obnoxious tendency to trip her opponents. Candace Parker is smooth to watch when she's gliding past her defender, but if you put a stubborn body on her, she's much less effective. If I'm playing against the Sparks, I'm okay with her desire to wander around the midrange. When she drives, she's phenomenal- but of all the LA players tonight, she might have been the least inclined to drive among players who use dribble penetration.

Los Angeles cut into the lane over and over again, whether it was Harding spinning around defenders or Beard moving through open space. Most of their baskets were in the paint, either with passes down low to the three-headed monster of post players or on penetration by Parker and the guards.

I did not approve of the officiating, and I'm grateful that no one got hurt. I still can't believe Toliver got away with that shove on Anna. I swear, Herrington got so much benefit of the doubt from Michael Price on out of bounds calls that I thought there was some kind of familial relationship between them.

I don't know what Candace was saying to Bill, but I'm surprised that didn't end badly. I also don't know what Plenette was saying on the bench that Barb Farris was so energetically agreeing with, but I don't like her body language during it. She was hot under the collar about something.

Spoon has gone back to the braids leading up into the sort-of-hawk. Whatever makes you happy, Spoon.

I just don't know what to make of this team. I love them, but I love them with a 2 by 4.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6th, 2014: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles had 24 of her career-high 32 points in the first half to hold the fort for New York, and her teammates took up the flag in the second half to claim a 87-80 win over the Minnesota Lynx. Cappie Pondexter added 18 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, while Anna Cruz added 10 points and gritty defense. Maya Moore had 25 points and eight rebounds to lead Minnesota.

For hairstyles, old acquaintances renewed, scarves, getting right down to the real nitty-gritty, impressive Huskies, managing ailments, mild concern, and a joyful ending, join your intrepid and technologically challenged blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, everyone! It's gameday at the Garden, as the Liberty face the daunting task of beating the Minnesota Lynx.

Your intrepid blogger's loyalties are not fully torn, but they are a bit frayed. I recognize that Nadirah McKenith has induced a mild case of Our Girls Syndrome in my heart, but with treatment and Liberty wins, it's being managed. We got to say hi to her at this one, unlike last year's run in Washington where the rookies were all but kept sequestered. The Lynx come off in a neat, organized fashion, convenient to autograph hunters. Janel McCarville seems to bear no animus towards Liberty fans (we weren't sure, since the circumstances of her departure were somewhat acrimonious, or at least the seeds were).

I believe the gentleman in the University of Miami jersey may be somewhat temporally displaced. Tulsa was several days ago, San Antonio was last month, and Tamara James has long since left the building.

Spoon working the room, as she does.

Lots of Lynx fans around, and not all of them Husky fans in Maya Moore jerseys, either. (And after that debacle at the Mystics game, I'll even take UConn fans who know who Maya Moore is.)

Sure, everyone can wear shirts for Hoops for Troops. (Which is a noble and worthy cause, but I'm still pissed that the league backed down on the Pride shirts.)

Chardé, seriously, everyone knows that is not your hair. Obvious weave is mad obvious.

Premature Lynx is premature. I think that was Peters. (There are only so many times I can spell Ms. Peters's first name in my life. I prefer to stockpile them.)

Katie Smith is working that little blue dress and needs to contact the assistants at Seton Hall as to where she got it.

At halftime we have a martial arts exhibition and a tied score. It's been all kinds of intense in the last couple of minutes- Anna Cruz bore down on Lindsay Whalen during the final possession like Debbie Black on Teresa Weatherspoon, only with nobody getting slapped. Tina Charles has 24 out of 48 for the Libs; Miss Maya started red hot for the Lynx, with the first seven points, but she's only got 11 at the break. Lynx attack has been pretty balanced, with the sense that they could break out at any moment.

Seimone Augustus is not in uniform, but a nice black shirt and a crisp pair of brown pants. The belted look works for her.

(Yes, of course ten Lynx are active and nine have played, with no points to the reader for guessing who has not yet seen time. Helps with managing the OGS, I'll say.) (Ten Lynx were active and nine played. Coach Reeve, you're not gonna make friends with your intrepid blogger this way.)

That was exhilarating in ways I haven't felt about my team in quite some time. Yes, I know the Lynx are missing two Olympians and haven't been able to adjust quite so well as they would like. But we buckled down hard on defense, and came up with baskets when we needed them, and I think that got into Minnesota's head a little bit.

Asia Taylor gave physical minutes down low. We would all appreciate if she did not pull people's jerseys hard enough to show their compression undies, though. She boxed out well. Tricia Liston is more substantial than I remembered, but she didn't use it as much as I would have expected. She had a couple of pretty threes, and I was surprised that Reeve didn't put her in late in the game when Minnesota needed some outside shooting. Devereaux Peters committed fewer fouls than I expected. She's very good at being tall. That's not necessarily damning with faint praise- if you're going to be a reserve post in the WNBA, you need to take advantage of your minutes and do the little things, and she hit shots when she was open and boxed out on the inside. Tan White served as an offensive catalyst, but I did have to question her on a couple of shots. She got beat pretty bad on defense, too.

I know Minnesota wants Janel McCarville taking long jumpers to stretch the defense and make everyone question their life choices, but I'm going to turn around and question that decision right back. Sometimes you need to go to your strengths first, then fill in around those, and she did not have the long shot going today. On the other hand, she bailed Lindsay Whalen out after Whalen got into a little trouble, taking a rifled pass strong to the basket. She facilitates, but she did not necessarily help her team today. Lindsay Whalen looked strong, but she also looked bothered by Anna Cruz's defense. She was markedly more comfortable when Anna wasn't on her, and that was when she could get more ball movement going, when her teammates set screens to give her space. Monica Wright was surprisingly good at setting those screens to make space. She got hot early in the second half to get Minnesota going out of the tie, but I think we closed on her well to shut her down. She also needs to remember that just because she wears #22 and went to Virginia, that does not mean she can or should flop like DeMya Walker. She did a fair amount of diving. It was obnoxious. I was surprised by how much both she and Maya Moore brought the ball up even when Whalen was on the floor. Maya Moore started the game looking like she was going to completely obliterate all things in her sight, and some things did get obliterated in her wake (I am thinking of a specific Alex Montgomery shot here), but she seemed to be taking too much of the offensive burden on herself later in the game and forcing shots that no one but Maya Moore would even have a chance to make. Maybe she was feeling it, maybe she felt like no one else was going to contribute anything, but she forced the matter and that helped us pull off the win. I actually almost forgot to write about Damiris Dantas, but that's because she looked like she was in over her head. She did a lot of little things well- I remember I kept saying "nice screen by Dantas", or "nice play by Dantas", but couldn't find her feet against the veteran posts.

Chucky! It was nice to see Chucky Jeffery get on the court, even if it was for thirteen utterly irrelevant seconds. To be honest, though, I think she needs a little more time on the bench. Chardé and DeLisha still need to work on her dance moves. DeLisha Milton-Jones had the jumper working, but not so much the defense. She's cooled down noticeably since she started the season looking so rejuvenated. Does anyone have any magic cheese? Chardé Houston wore her hustle hair today (if you're going to make it obvious that your hair is bought and paid for, I am going to make jokes about it)- she fought two different Lynx players to force a possession and got the timeout to keep it. Obviously, she got burned by Moore on defense, but everyone does. She has really been a sparkplug for this team, not just on the court, but on the sideline. The bench looks much happier and looser with her on it, keeping everyone entertained and involved. Sugar Rodgers gave a little bit of offense and a little bit of hustle. Plenette Pierson did work down low at the basket, cutting to the hoop and boxing out. She's looking stronger and stronger, but I agree with Bill's decision to have her come off the bench. Don't waste her early so you can have her late.

Avery Warley-Talbert was a non-factor. I would have liked to see her be a little more aggressive against the reserves, but I'd have to look at the tape to determine how much of her time came against the reserves. Alex Montgomery had a nice defensive game- you could tell the difference in Moore's approach when she was on the floor versus when Chardé was on the floor. She didn't do a lot of scoring, but she didn't need to. Tina Charles was on fire in the first half. She went strong to the hoop, she did work on the glass, and then she started going to the outside. She cooled off a little in the second half, but by then the rest of the team had joined the party and it was a much more balanced attack. Cappie Pondexter was cold to start, but turned it up in the second quarter, and came up with some big buckets down the stretch- but she was much more influential on the game on the glass and on defense. She did a phenomenal job reading the angles on long rebounds, which fed the break, which either led to easy baskets or to more controllable offensive possessions in the halfcourt. She was the scoring lead guard, general of the offense, in charge of the attack. Anna Cruz was the general of the defense, in charge of holding the line, and the line was held. She hassled Whalen in ways I haven't seen from a point guard in ages. She locked down. One of my posse said she reminded him of Debbie Black, and that's exactly it. She was in Whalen's space both physically and mentally. She wasn't afraid to look for her shot today, either, and she was hitting in the second half, if not the first. She had a couple of miscues with the rim (as did Cappie), but I like when she's attacking on both sides of the floor.

I was not happy with the officiating, especially early in the game where the Lynx were getting away with a lot of holding (protip: it is really obvious when someone as pale/ruddy as Janel McCarville is holding all up on someone the medium brown of Avery Warley-Talbert, just saying). Poor Anna Cruz takes more hits and gets called for being hit than anyone I've ever seen in the W. She and Briana Brown need to start a club or something. On the other hand, stepping on McCarville is not cool.

What I enjoyed about the evolution of this game was that it started with a transcendent performance from Tina Charles, then turned into more of a defensive stand combined with team effort on offense. Both of our superstars came up big in this one, but at different times, which is the way the seesaw is supposed to work (not on a game-by-game basis). And Anna... as amazing as Tina was, and as great as Cappie was, I would say that Anna put her stamp on this game more than either of them.

Good crowd, and one that got into the game. I think a lot of these people will be back again.

I'm now very worried about Essence Carson. DNP-CD when Chucky's inserted into the game? I would have expected to see her as a defensive specialist, or even just get the pity seconds that Chucky got. Please be all right, Essence. You've been one of my favorites. Please be okay. (Shanece McKinney also did not play her usual three minutes in the first half, but I'm willing to chalk that up to match-ups.)

Let's get this done in San Antonio! Are we rolling, or is this just an illusion?

And when do the makers of the Cappie Patch Doll and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj Doll come out with a Chardé Houston version? I would buy that, as I would have bought a Cappie Patch Doll from Phoenix and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj Doll.


Friday, July 4, 2014

July 3rd, 2014: Tulsa at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: With a solid frontcourt to support them, Tulsa's guards blazed the way in a 96-83 win over Connecticut. Odyssey Sims led all scorers with 30 points, adding five assists; Skylar Diggins had 20, 14 in the second half. Alyssa Thomas led Connecticut with 24 points, while Chiney Ogwumike fought for a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double.

For flying objects, unmoving objects, utter exhaustion, the sound of the rain, small amounts of money, new friends, and secret escapes, join your intrepid and humid blogger after the jump.

Hello, intrepid readers of your intrepid blogger! We're coming to you from the rolling glory of a Dahlia bus as it departs Mohegan Sun Arena after tonight's match-up between the Connecticut Sun and the Tulsa Shock.

In retrospect, I should have sucked it up and taken a cab to catch the 2PM bus in Flushing, instead of relying on public transit and taking the 3PM. A ride that's usually around two hours- maybe three with some traffic around Bridgeport or New Haven- took more than four, with the entire western half of the state of Connecticut turning into one more or less unmitigated traffic jam. Combine that with the driver deciding he needed to make a pit stop just west of New Haven and an accident just east of New Haven, and your intrepid blogger missed the entire first quarter. A CRANKY. I HAZ IT.

(Oh, holy crap it is raining out there. The water hisses under our wheels and patters metallically on the roof.)

I was very surprised to see Theresa Plaisance on the floor when I came into the building. She got the call in the first half ahead of Vicki Baugh, but produced nothing. Baugh got the call in the second half, and though she didn't provide much on offense, I thought she was good defensively. She made a couple of nice plays on the baseline. Angel Goodrich really seems to have regressed. I wonder if Coach Williams has changed things up to reflect the strengths of Diggins and Sims, and that's left Goodrich as the player without a chair when the music stops. She hit a pretty three from the corner, but things seemed to bog down when she was in. Jennifer Lacy, despite being the veteran whose job it is to not do stupid things, managed to do something particularly stupid when she came back for a ball before fully crossing the midcourt line, thus turning the pass into a backcourt violation. (To be fair, that was kind of a dumb pass, too. I think Sims was the guilty party there.) Jordan Hooper showed off her shooting range- seemed less involved down low than she was on Tuesday, though that might have been because I didn't see the Tulsa offense under the basket as much as I did Connecticut's- my seats were under the basket by the Connecticut bench.

(We're through the worst of the rain. The windows are lightly spattered instead of a constantly changing constellation of raindrops.)

Perhaps worth mentioning is that Riquna Williams wasn't on the roster handed out at the game. Perhaps not worth mentioning.

Roneeka Hodges seemed to get the start to fill space, and perhaps because Señor Fred isn't completely comfortable with Courtney Paris as his most seasoned starter. I cannot say I would blame Señor Fred. There's such a thing as taking "PLAY ALL THE YOUNGSTERS!" too far, and though Hooper has been better in these last two games, I don't know if I'd want a lineup that went rookie-sophomore-rookie-third-year-(I've-lost-track-of-how-many-seasons-Paris-actually-has). Glory Johnson has some nice offensive moves at the basket, but Alyssa Thomas made her look absolutely silly on defense. I think and hope that she'll get some of the jerkiness and rough edges off her game one of these days, because she seems to rely too much on her athleticism and not enough on skill. I continue to be amazed with the progress Courtney Paris has made since her unsuccessful stops in the W. She moves very well for a woman of her size (and that's not just a comment on her weight- she has a broad frame and she's never going to be DeWanna Bonner). When she wanted rebounds, she got them, and before this year I don't think I've seen her crash the boards this hard since Oklahoma. She had a couple of resounding blocks, too, though she only seems to have been credited with one. Skylar Diggins looked mediocre in the second quarter, then started getting loose for silky jumpers and swift cuts to the hoop in the second half. Still don't like her, or her mouth. Maybe in a few years I'll get used to the mouth and the mean-mugging, but right now she comes off as a punk kid. Talented punk kid, but a punk nevertheless. (It's going to take some time for me to be impartial about her. I do not like that woman. I know that's obvious, but I feel the need for clarification.) Odysssey Sims was hitting everything in sight. All of the drives and finger rolls she missed in New York, she hit in Connecticut. All of the attacking moves led to positive offensive possessions for Tulsa. She looked confident and phenomenally talented. Something tells me it's going to be feast or famine with her and Diggins, and Tulsa fans had better be ready for the ups and downs.

AD, would it have killed you to put in Faris and Cain at the end? I mean, really, though. Throw them some pity minutes.

Kayla Pedersen came in late in the game, as some kind of desperation move when the Sun had already let the game get away from them. The box score leads me to believe she played earlier, but if she did, I didn't see it or didn't remember it. Kelsey Griffin had her hands full with Glory Johnson- there was a lot of pushing, shoving, holding, the usual activities of a couple of posts in action against each other. Renee Montgomery put together an offensive spurt in the second quarter, but tapered off after that. I'm surprised about that, to be honest- AD's philosophy with the point guards is to play the hot hand, and the slightly warmer hand was Montgomery's. Stop making me feel pity for Huskies, Anne. Allison Hightower still seems to be a ways away, but I can't be sure if that's her or the play-calling.

I think Alex Bentley has regressed to the mean, to put it politely. Her shots have not been going down, and I think that's messing with her head a little. She's pressing the way Cappie Pondexter does when her shot has gone walkabout, taking the first thing that comes up just to see if she can get something, anything, going. Kelsey Bone started well around the basket, but then she started taking jumpers, and then she started missing bunnies, and it all went to hell from there. To the best of my knowledge, Kelsey does not have a jumper. Katie Douglas got hot in the fourth quarter and pretty much decided by herself that she was going to make this as respectable a final as possible. She was firing threes like it was shooting practice. Chiney Ogwumike could find no space under the basket. There were black jerseys everywhere. The spaces that she normally fills so well were emphatically occupied. She fought hard on the offensive boards, moreso in the second than in the first, I think. She hit the ground hard for one of them. Fortunately for Connecticut, they had Alyssa Thomas, who was pretty much all the awesome, whether it was driving, fast-breaking (breaking fast? No, that's food), going strong to the hole, or even taking the occasional outside shot. She did all the things. I don't know when or how she ended up with the mask.

Things kept falling off for Connecticut, and I'm not even talking about the metaphorical wheels. On one fast break, Thomas's facemask came undone, and by the time she was done with the break it was dangling precariously from her ponytail. Griffin lost her right shoe, and play went on for quite some time, and she still got pretty good defensive position on Glory Johnson- might have been able to finish the play if her foot hadn't skidded. Apparently Bentley also lost a shoe, but that must have been in the first quarter. /shakes fist at the heavens

I think part of what drives me nuts about Diggins, and to a lesser extent Sims, is that they get the calls that I want my team to get, and then they smirk about it. It's very distressing. Connecticut fans are never happy with the refs; Tulsa's guards know how to get calls. There were a lot of boos, at least until the point where the Sun fans stopped caring. People were leaving before the t-shirt toss. People never leave before the chance of something free.

To the young lady sitting next to me in section 11, row H: your deadpan snark was much appreciated, and if you happen to see this, drop me a line with what Skylar didn't need from the two dudes behind us (to prove your identity), and I'll stake you to a ticket either for the Sparks game in NY on Friday (since you said you wanted to see Chiney's sister) or the Sun-Liberty game in August. (The two dudes were... well, dudes screaming "SKYLAR! SKYLAR!" much of the game, except for the bit where one of them was complaining about regular fans not getting special treatment on Season Ticketholder Appreciation Night. The point, you haz missed it.

Since Tulsa Zerg rushed off the floor in New York, I hit the hotel lobby to try and get autographs. Tulsa's been a difficult get, with the Prudential Center stuff, and they have a lot of young players whose scribbles I needed. Got most of the roster, save those veterans I've bothered in the past. Ignored Diggins. There will be other chances for her; for someone like Plaisance, I'm not so sure. Chatted with the lone Tennessee fan in Connecticut, and even though Kyle likes most of the players I dislike, he seems like a decent sort.

Somehow we accidentally ended up following, or being followed by, Vicki Baugh, Kelley Cain, and Odyssey Sims. One of these things is not like the others.

Won three dollars. You take what you can get on a day like this.

For a place named for a Philly guy, Geno's makes really bad Philly cheese steaks, served with a side of attitude this evening. Would it really have killed you to take the pickle off the top of the pile, dude?

Tulsa has a lot of promise. Connecticut has a lot of questions. Promise, but questions.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1st, 2014: Tulsa at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 9-0 burst to open set the tone in New York, and the Liberty never trailed in their victory over the Tulsa Shock, 90-74. Tina Charles led all players with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Anna Cruz added 17 points on 7-7 shooting from the field. Skylar Diggins had 23 points to lead Tulsa; Glory Johnson notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Courtney Paris had seven points to go with her 12 boards

For nostalgia, stealthy Tigers, blurriness of vision, and relief, join your intrepid blogger, who is up too late for her own good.

Happy Canada Day, readers! We'll be coming to you on tape delay from Madison Square Garden, the World's Most Famous Arena, for tonight's match-up between the Tulsa Shock and the New York Liberty!

If I'm astonishingly well-behaved tonight, or curiously chastened, it's because my mom's sitting right behind me at the game, so I have to behave myself. (Hi, mom.)

They actually had the extra time session from USA-Belgium on the big screen. Poor USA. (Only 1 minute of stoppage time? Really? All that dithering led to 1 minute? That's it? What, were the refs tired of all the dramatic extra time games?)

Tulsa comes out early and Zerg rushes off. I do not approve. You have a plethora of young players, Tulsa, how else am I going to get them?

(Okay, she might not end up right behind me after all. There are people in those seats who are not my mother. I feel slightly at ease.)

Why were we letting someone in Tulsa gear who is not a Shock player shoot the ball on our court?

Just for the record, I have no beef with Tulsa at the moment, but I can't bring myself to wish them anything good as long as they have Princess Twitter and her legion of followers on board the ship.

Chardé, it is really obvious that you got a weave, and possibly a few other hairpieces, when you go from two inches of fuzz to a puffy bun slightly more massive than Angel Goodrich.

Interesting anthem- excellent until the singer seemed to get lost near the end.

Tina Charles seems to have taken the criticism to heart. Just a little. Given that she's got 20 and 8 at the half and everything.

Teresa Weatherspoon keeps taking seats closer and closer to the Liberty bench. The stealth method is not one I've seen tried in coaching changes before, but if anyone were going to try and take a coaching job by sheer force of presence, it would be Spoon.

Glory Johnson will keep taking you right until you make her stop, Plenette.

Mom's right. Where is Chucky Jeffery? (Answer: she was behind the bench in street clothes. Not sure if injured or cut to non-guarantee her contract, or both.)

That felt really, really good. I like watching my team win. I like watching them win big. I like seeing everyone score and everyone get involved. It's a happy feeling.

Theresa Plaisance got time at the end of the game and scored a basket with such stealth that I didn't even notice it until I got home and looked at the box score. I thought it was adorable that she and Shanece McKinney were guarding each other in the last twenty seconds. I imagine they had a short conversation about how it was funny to meet like this. (I imagine a lot of things.) Jennifer Lacy is the perfect veteran for this team- she's not going to do anything spectacular, she's not going to be the star, but she'll set you a solid screen, and she won't be out of position on defense, and when the shot clock runs down she'll keep her cool. She hit two shots to beat the shot clock buzzer in this one. Angel Goodrich is very tiny. I know you know this already, but it bears repeating. She seemed kind of reticent on the court, as if she were more comfortable with her teammates taking the lead. She went flying into the stands after a loose ball, and it took a while to extricate her. Vicki Baugh seemed to be in for defensive purposes, when Fred Williams seemed to want someone a bit more mobile, and/or faster, than Courtney Paris. Jordan Hooper started her time on the floor hot, but cooled a little more. Is it wrong of me that my intitial assessment of Hooper is "oh, she's the player Kelsey Griffin thinks she is"?

Wow. Courtney Paris. Wow. She looks like she's finally put everything together. Well, not everything- her shot is still a work in progress, but for the first time in five years, she looks like the rebounding machine who set NCAA records. She was moving well under the basket, she crashed the boards hard (which I imagine will live in the nightmares of her opponents for years to come), and she was solid on defense. Seriously, I have not seen this Paris since Oklahoma, and I did have the privilege of seeing that immense Paris-Paris-Olajuwon combo live. Glory Johnson is an amazing athlete- I don't know if I like how she handles herself on the floor, but she's amazing to watch. She'll abuse a move until you prove that you can stop it. She rebounded well, though not as spectacularly as Paris (although there is a lot more of Paris to notice). Roneeka Hodges seems to be a stop-gap in the starting line-up, or she just had a bad day. Offensively, she seems to be playing a similar role for the Shock to the role that Alex Montgomery plays for the Liberty- she takes threes, usually from the corner or on an angle. She uses her size well on defense, since she seems to spend a lot of time on smaller players. Odyssey Sims is very fast, but still needs to learn some discipline. Not necessarily a lot of it, because I think that would negatively affect her game, but maybe a little bit to learn when shooting the ball would be negative for her team. She likes to show off her moves, though she wasn't able to finish a lot of them, except her teardrop in the lane. Skylar Diggins definitely looks more comfortable on the court than she did last year, and she seems to have adjusted to the pros, but she still annoys me, and I still hate how many free throws she gets. I'm not going to be able to deal with her for a while. She spent four years annoying me at Notre Dame. She's pretty, and she can play, and that's all you're getting out of me.

Tulsa needs to work on their shooting. Their posts are excellent, and they rebound very well, but they need the outside threat to go with the inside threat.

Yay, basket for Shanece McKinney! She worked hard for that one, too. I like when she gets decent run. Essence Carson came in as a defensive specialist in the second half and even got in a jumper (of course it was a long two, the bane of my husband's existence and Essence's personal bugaboo). I hope this means she's on her way back to full health and strength. DeLisha Milton-Jones took some dicey jumpers, but her long arms were excellent on defense. We got fantastic minutes on defense from Sugar Rodgers, which I'm pretty sure is a phrase that has never been typed before in the history of the universe. She went hard to the floor after loose balls, and though screens shook her loose, she stayed tight on Skylar Diggins for most of the game. Plenette Pierson kept Glory Johnson busy most of the game, and in general stuck to her role as overall annoyer of opponents. I really thought someone was going to get popped by the end of this one, the way they were going at it. Chardé Houston, bless your heart, but we didn't hire you to play defense, we hired you to hit shots, and that means if you get two offensive rebounds on the same play you should hit the basket, kplzthxbai.

Alex Montgomery was quiet today. Kept the defense up and hit her only shot, and of coruse she was in the mix on the boards, but Tulsa did a nice job of boxing her out on most of the ones she usually comes up with. Avery Warley-Talbert got the start, but got fouls quickly and was generally outmatched by the larger, faster Tulsa posts. She was about even with Baugh, but the other ones slayed her. Anna Cruz was scrappy and tough and hit big shots in the paint, and Anna does so many awesome things the only reason I didn't buy her jersey tonight is that there's a 30% discount in the season subscriber ticket book in August. But I love how she moves her feet and how she finds her teammates. Cappie Pondexter stepped up in the second half, getting and-1s by driving the lane, then popping out for the big shot. She's beautiful to watch when she's on. So is Tina Charles, who decided that she was actually going to play center tonight, and thus got lots of shots right around the basket instead of (mostly) taking stupid shots from the perimeter. I love Tina when she's forceful.

Things look like they're starting to click. I like that a lot.

Officials, I can't even, yes, Johnson get a tech for the elbow to Plenette's face, but how was there a foul on Plenette on the play? How does that even logic? I looked at that replay and never saw a foul by Plenette.

Ran into some Johnnies after the game. (Hi, Dukes!) Good to see old friends. Expect to see more on Sunday, assuming the rosters hold as they are.

So. Sunday. We go against the champs with two straight wins under our belt, we can totally make it three, right? Right? :D?


Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29th, 2014: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It got tight right at the end, but the New York Liberty came away with the 67-65 win over Connecticut. Tina Charles and Cappie Pondexter each had 14 points to lead the Liberty. For the Sun, Chiney Ogwumike had game-highs of 22 points and 17 rebounds.

For odd comparisons, a lack of hair style, rookie bonding, the travails of the 12th player, bad shots, good defense, and delays, join your intrepid and digressive blogger after the jump.

Hello, loyal and patient readers! (What should I call you, anyway? Doom-bots? Swishers? Appelates? {No, those are Jayne Appel fans.} Masochists?) It's a warm and somewhat humid Sunday in the City That Never Sleeps, so I'm glad to be in the Garden for the Liberty's game against the Sun. I think we're done with them now, though that might just be an infernal illusion and in truth this is like that Star Trek episode with the guys with the painted faces, and we're doomed to eternal warfare against the Sun. We have never been at war with Washington. We have always been at war with Connecticut.

Either Tina misses Renee, or Renee misses Tina, or it's just a UConn thing, because they came out together, with Chardé following close behind. I'm getting a little weirded out by our team getting buddy buddy with the opponents on court, on game day. I feel like we're missing some focus here.

I think SuperJudy has swapped out her wig for a hard hat. DO NOT WANT. I like the different, colorful wigs.

Today's theme is Maddie's birthday. I passed up on the poster, because if I want a team poster, it's going to focus more on the team than on the damn mascot.

Dude, don't fight with the usher, I don't care if you're old-fashioned enough to wear a Champion shirt.

I think there are tourists behind us. I don't know if they've ever been to a basketball game before, either. This could be awkward.

Spoon is glad-handing, as she does so well. There are very few people who know how to work a room like Teresa Weatherspoon, and few who are as good at working such a large room. And if you want to add a little extra drama to the day, I'll note that she came over and chatted with both Katie and Barb, and that Barb went to go say hi to Spoon's new arm candy. (Who is cute, but that's par for the course. Spoon got game.)

Essence Carson is still wearing the Pride shoes, which I definitely approve of. At least someone in this league has the courage of her convictions.

I normally don't question players' tattoos, those are their business, but Cappie, what on earth possessed you to tattoo a hickey on your neck?

Quiet but powerful anthem. I like.

I'm really sorry that being loud offends you, dude, but this is my team and I care about them and I support them. Deal with it.

At halftime, New York is up three, 34-31, despite clock management that would make Herman Edwards blush and Tina Charles's phenomenal ability to take the worst possible shot in any situation where she has the ball. The defensive intensity has been great.

Air Maddie, I don't think the Josh Groban thing is working for you. You are one of my favorite things, but this is still not a good look.

Kelsey Griffin, can you not with attempting to choke out Sugar? Wanting to choke Sugar is Liberty fans' job, let us take care of it.

Despite really lousy clock management and shot selection at the end of the game, we pulled this one out. Superstars did superstar things down the stretch, and we made defensive plays. But if I'm a Connecticut fan, I'm very intrigued by the Thomas-Ogwumike duo and the way they work together, and I'm almost waiting impatiently for Katie Douglas to retire.

Connecticut ran heavy with their starters, and had a really tight rotation. It's nice to see Allison Hightower back in action, though she doesn't seem to be fully integrated back into the offense; the work that Alyssa Thomas did in her place certainly doesn't help that situation. Renee Montgomery seemed to be trying to run a faster offense than Bentley did, and than her teammates were ready for. She really seems to have been off her game lately, though I don't know whether that's because she's coming off the bench or because there's something else going on. (Renee, if you miss Tina, tough luck. We don't need you and we already have a Montgomery who wears #21 and hits big threes.) Kelsey Griffin really seems to have some kind of chip on her shoulder when it comes to playing New York- she seems to be more physical against us than she is other teams. I know we have two masters of the art of psychological warfare on our roster, but you don't expect to see the results so starkly. Kayla Pedersen played very briefly in the first half, saw no time in the second half (or if she did, it was of such little import that I don't remember it).

No, seriously, Connecticut asked their bench for diddly and pretty much got squat.

Katie Douglas had the back radiator on a lot of the time when she was on the bench- saw it coming off a couple of times when she was checking into the game. I think the back must have been bothering her, then, because that would explain why none of her shots were falling. There was a moment after she drained the one trey that I thought it was going to be like the other game against Connecticut, where she was ice cold to start then got hot late. But she stayed cold, with the shots that she normally hits going wide, or off the rim, or otherwise not landing in the basket. She still has the defensive instincts, though- she single-handedly smothered a 2-on-1 fast break for the Liberty, shutting down Sugar Rodgers like an angry computer user smashing Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Alex Bentley started a little cold, but really got hot in the fourth quarter. You can't give her space. You certainly can't give her the entire baseline like we did on one play. Alyssa Thomas had a lot of great passes to Chiney Ogwumike- seriously, if I'm a Sun fan, I'm really excited at the potential of the two of them together. (You're welcome, Connecticut.) Her strength is remarkable- she forced a lot of jump balls and stole rebounds away. Tough kid. I would have loved to have her (but I'm happy with Tina too, don't get me wrong, I think that's a win-win choice). Kelsey Bone missed free throws, which we mocked her for mercilessly, but played tough, physical defense, and hit most of the shots she was asked to hit. Some, she had no business taking. Chiney Ogwumike doesn't seem to like us very much. Maybe part of it was how DeLisha welcomed her to the league that first weekend, but she played like she had a chip on her shoulder today. I admit, I didn't see the flagrant- my attention was on another part of the court. But she got in a couple of hard shots that weren't flagrant. She also completely owned the boards, especially down low. She and her teammates swarmed the offensive boards, and she was usually the one coming away with the ball once they were done swarming. She's so good. She's so good down low. I'm trying very hard not to like her, because she's not ours.

Shanece McKinney played briefly in the first half to absorb contact, fouls, time, and other inconveniences that posts higher in the rotation wouldn't want to have to deal with. That's what she does. I'd like to see her do a little more of it, but it is what it is. Chardé Houston, bless your heart, we didn't hire you to play defense, and it's clear why. She seems to have gotten some of the hang of the offense, and I like her hustle on defense, but she's just not very good at that whole other-team-has-the-ball thing. That being said, she's a much needed infusion of both offense and joie de vivre- I think we've seen more dancing out of the team in the last two games than we have all year. (Not that we don't have dance-inclined players- Plenette especially likes to get her groove thang on at the slightest provocation- but they've been much more inclined to show it during pregame and during intros.) (Also, obvious Photoshop is obvious when her pic on the big screen is bald and she's currently sporting about two inches of new growth. Chardé is not a Chia Pet. That might be a tie-in product from the makers of the Cappie Patch Doll and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj, though.) DeLisha Milton-Jones had the jumper working, as well as the long arms of tangling doom. We needed good minutes from her, and we got them. Sugar Rodgers was very active on defense. The kid is growing on me again, and I really hope I don't need to get out the Round-Up. She does stupid things, but she seems to be doing fewer stupid things, or at least there is a reason for the stupid things she does. And of course, she shoots pretty good too. Plenette Pierson seems to have found her groove again, cutting to the basket for easy hoops or getting the jumper to fall. I could have done without a lot of her flopping all over the floor, though. Don't make us get out the memorial DeMya Walker Flop-O-Meter cards. (Somehow, I don't think Plenette would be as good a sport as DeMya was about them- DeMya even signed one.) I know it's part of her job to sow chaos, mayhem, and dissension among our enemies, but sometimes she takes it too far.

Tina. Tina, Tina, Tina, Tina. Whoever is telling you that you are the combined female incarnation of Kareem and Dirk is lying to you. The hook is not working. The fadeaway is not working. The long jumper is not working. Going to the basket, that was working. Being tall and big and tough and getting position on younger defenders, that worked too. She found her groove a little more in the fourth quarter, and came up with a big tip and basket down the stretch. I'd like to see her be a little more practical with the shots she takes, but at least she's not taking everyone else's stupid shots. Avery Warley-Talbert is going to kill me with this hyphenation one day, aren't we only allowed one hyphen per team? got the start, but I think the pattern is to start her to conserve Plenette, and because Bill prefers to bring Plenette off the bench anyway. Not great hands, but she gets the job done. Alex Montgomery hit a couple of threes to set the tone early, then hit the boards to corral stray possessions and brought the hammer down late on defense. Her jersey needs to be in the team store because I need to buy it. I love the way Anna Cruz reads long rebounds- it's the same knack that endeared Leilani Mitchell to us, and the same knack that helped make Becky Hammon an all-around threat. She showed a lot of grit coming back with the hand injury, though I really hope Laura Ramus is brushing up her Spanish- it looked like they were having some communication issues. Si necesita alguien para tratar de traducir... anyway, I love having her at the point. Cappie Pondexter held down the fort in that regard, and had a good game on both ends of the floor. It was nice to see her hitting jumpers again after that hot mess on Friday.

Things I did not like: no one having the common sense to take smart shots in the last few minutes. We should have had that game a lot more comfortably. Special mention goes out to whichever idiot tried to lead Anna with a hot pass to her left. You know, where her fingers were taped together. Not the world's greatest idea, kids.

I expect one of these huddles to start with Chucky Jeffery yelling something along the lines of "Will you guys please stop [mess]ing up? I am SICK of Bill venting at me because you guys are doing dumb [stuff] out there! I don't even play and I get lectured for dumb [stuff] that you [guys] are doing!" Poor kid never plays, but she sits right on the spot on the bench where Bill likes to vent his frustrations at whatever ill-timed shot or errant pass has raised his ire. She and Essence shared a couple of aside glances after Bill ranting.

The birthday thing mostly involved putting kids in positions of power and having a couple of guest mascots visit. If the Rutgers mascot stayed in our section much longer, I was going to have my husband burst into a round of the Seton Hall fight song to make him go away.

I came out of that game with a very strong feeling of relief. We held on through grit and determination, certainly not through offensive beauty. I don't know if we can sustain that when Tulsa comes to town with their dynamic guards. But it's something to build on.


Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27th, 2014: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Epiphanny Prince dropped 30 on New York again, and the Sky held off a second-half charge from the Liberty to come away with the 73-69 win. Prince had game-highs of five assists and five steals to go with her 30 points. Tina Charles had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead New York.

For eggs, signs of the apocalypse, ennui, rainbows, helpful people, not so helpful people, utter geekery (the minions have the phone box!), and the throwing of hands in the air, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good evening, basketball fans! We're coming to you from the gloriously rainbow-filled Pride Night at Madison Square Garden, where the New York Liberty are hosting the Chicago Sky.

So far the only player I've seen rocking Pride gear is Essence Carson in the BeTrue sneakers. But it's early yet.

Epiphany Prince and Essence Carson came out from the tunnel together, arms over shoulders, and Pokey Chatman, coming off the court, proceeded to run between them to separate them, for the lulz.

I salute the pastel-pink and frosted-white Afro puffs rocked by Gennifer "Sailor Berkeley" Brandon tonight. Let your freak flag fly, yo.

Chicago has adopted the curious habit of signing in small print over their own name on the roster. The only other team I've ever seen do that was the Australian national team. They also split up when coming off the court, half going through the usual visitors' entrance/exit and half through the Liberty entrance/exit. Then again, a batch of Liberty players came through the usual visitors' tunnel, too. Maybe there's been a switch back there somewhere.

Rainbow thundersticks, rainbow Pride shirts, rainbow graphics- so far the Libs are doing Pride right, and that makes me immensely happy. (I'm pretty much straight {though I'd make an exception for Tari Phillips, wherever she is}, but the gay gene doesn't run in my family so much as it stampedes; combine that with a family propensity to hang out with gay men and lesbians, and you get a lot of gay influences on a wee tiny queenie. I could probably write an entire essay on why Pride matters to me as a straight woman, but this is not the place for that.)

So it looks like no one is wearing the Pride shooting shirts, which I take the league to task for. You made a point of something, and then you ran away screaming from your principles the second one person raised a stink. Sorry, but if you're dumb enough, or misguided enough, or thoroughly stuck on the translation of a translation of a holy book enough, to think that wearing a gay pride shirt is any kind of problem, then I want to know who you are and why you don't believe in equal protection under the law for my family and your teammates. I don't want you to be able to silence the voices of your colleagues who want to let their rainbow flag fly.

Phenomenal choral anthem.

I don't know what to make of this team. We're backing out of the lane and missing shots that we should be hitting. Then again, Tamera Young has hit three clean jumpers, so we might just be looking at the end of the world here, and if we are, then, readers, I love you all for the time you spend reading my words and I wish you good fortune in the coming apocalypse.

Follow your shot. Follow your shot. Follow your shot. Professional players should know this. Veterans like DeLisha Milton-Jones and Plenette Pierson should definitely know that. I don't know why we stood around looking pretty on a lot of those shots, because we're really not that pretty of a team, no matter how much dressing up Cappie tries to do.

Bill, this one's on you.

I love watching Jamierra Faulkner's footwork. This is going to sound like damning with faint praise, but in that regard, she reminds me of Erica White from the Comets- fast feet, always moving, very precise with them. She's very fast, and very useful on defense. Markeisha Gatling is a whole lot of woman. Chicago fans will surely rejoice that she wasn't called for any illegal screens tonight. She was mostly in for relief when the starting posts hit foul trouble and Sasha Goodlett needed a break. Goodlett was actually pretty efficient down low, taking advantage on offensive rebounds and defensive switches. Allie Quigley hit shots, because she's a Quigley and we have Big East players and that's how Quigleys roll and aaargh of incoherent dismay and frustration. Courtney Clements got her minutes early, hit a shot, and eyebrowed most fearsomely.

Given the post situation for Chicago, I'm disappointed Sailor Berkeley didn't play, but only because I'm trying to make something happen with this nickname.

Courtney Vandersloot, I am so sorry about that hit, that's not what it means to stand for Liberty and that kind of play embarrasses all of us, and I hope you're all right. At times it seemed as if she and Prince were switching off who was playing point and who was getting the shots, and I don't know if she was as comfortable at the off guard as Prince was at the point guard. She didn't seem fully comfortable with looking for her shot. Tamera Young, however, took advantage of the times that she was left open and hit jumpers. And unlike every other time I've ever seen Tamera Young play, not only was she hitting jump shots, they were fundamentally sound jump shots with proper arc and wrist action leading to that arc. If she's finally learned to shoot, after however many years, then Chicago becomes more dangerous by far, because she adds a potent weapon to her offensive arsenal and becomes a true two-way player, fast on defense and willing to crash the lane on both ends of the floor. Sylvia Fowles was physical, but still didn't seem to have her legs under her- Avery Warley-Talbert was able to battle her to a draw down low. She boxed out well and helped her teammates get rebounds. Jessica Breland had the outside shot going very early, but not so much later on. Doubling off her was not my favorite of decisions, but it worked out decently enough for us some of the time. Not all the time- she was able to make the extra pass, or the swinging double caused a weakness elsewhere in the defense. She got into foul trouble late in the game, and I think that affected them a little- but not a lot. Epiphanny Prince was pretty much the team for Chicago. Okay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but in the first quarter she was outscoring New York by herself. She was hitting pretty much everything she looked at, except for some of the more impossible attempts with multiple defenders hanging on her. What was actually most impressive about her tonight was her ability to read passing lanes. Anna swung a pass towards Alex that Alex usually turns into a three-point shot, and Prince was on that like a cornerback. Granted, Avery threw her the ball twice, but still. Her Rutgers definitely showed in this one.

Chicago moved the ball well when the double came to the ballhandler. And when all else failed, they had Piph.

Shanece McKinney played very briefly in the first half to absorb some time on defense defending Fowles. DeLisha Milton-Jones seemed a little out of place on defense, but was able to get a little going on offense. Plus, someone had to fish the ball out from the side of the rim after Piph got it stuck, and we cut Toni Young. Sugar Rodgers had another solid game on both sides of the floor. I'm coming to love her ability to jar loose balls when foolish posts bring them down to guard level. She forced two jump balls today, even though she wasn't the player who jumped either of them. She forced a little bit at the offensive end, but someone had to, and you know Sugar's going to take shots she should regret in the morning. Essence Carson continued to demonstrate the clock awareness of Herman Edwards, to the point where I no longer feel comfortable that she's going to do something good with the ball when the clock is running down. And that's a shame, because I like Essence. She had a nice break, though. I can't even with Plenette Pierson right now, after that cheap shot she threw at Vandersloot. She was mixing it up down low all night, but this was something else completely unrelated, to the point where we were wondering if Vandersloot said something about someone's mother to have merited that kind of hit. It's a shame, because she had a good game, but that one shot overshadows everything. That's the stuff that makes people side-eye Bill Laimbeer and the Bad Girls.

Cappie Pondexter had a couple of nice defensive plays, but offensively couldn't find the range. Then in the third quarter, she had a flare-up of what Mike Lupica once dubbed "Wanna Be The Man" disease. Either she or Bill decided that they were going to try to force her to get shots, and she took some ridiculous shots into heavy defense. At least she got it together in the fourth and backed off a little, until near the end of the game. But the endgame was a hot mess in general. The fact that we stayed in this one despite getting a goose egg from Cappie was remarkable. Alex Montgomery really seems confident in her shot, and either she's been told she needs to take more threes or she's been practicing her threes, or something, because she looked good as as a shooter. Her defense was pretty good, too. Anna Cruz kept pace with the Sky point guards and started getting more aggressive offensively in the second half. Avery Warley-Talbert was very tough on the inside, making Sylvia Fowles's life miserable, but it's clear on offense that she's not Tina. She does what we ask of her, which is to clean up offensive slop and hit open lay-ups, but she's not a creator offensively. I feel like I'm using that word too much. Tina Charles got boxed out a lot and threw up some really odd shots, but still had a decent game.

There comes a point when you have to move away from the concept of using a lesser player to defend a super star to protect your superstar's foul count. Bill was bound and determined to keep Tina off Big Syl, and I think that came back to bite us in the end, because the defense looked a bit disorganized down the stretch. There is no reason Alex should end up on Big Syl.

If you're down late in a game, would you not insert the player who's been scoring and who you brought in because she can score?

Why in the name of the flying spaghetti monster would you try to go 2-for-1 under 24 seconds on the clock? Otherwise, why in the name of the flying spaghetti monster do you have Plenette going to the basket with 22 seconds left and the shot clock off? I just don't get the logic.

The officiating was sketchy in the first quarter, but then Bill yelled at Amy Bonner and got a tech, and it evened out a little bit, so that both teams were getting their share of crappy calls and crappy non-calls. I still think they should have called the Plenette foul a flagrant on the review.

I'm not sure who's not listening to whom on the Liberty anymore. I thought we'd figured something out, but we're back to square WTF again.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22nd, 2014: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A third-quarter surge powered the Liberty to a much-needed win over the Atlanta Dream, 85-78. 23 points on sharp shooting from Cappie Pondexter led five Liberty players in double figures. Pondexter also had eight assists and five rebounds for New York. Angel McCoughtry was dominant for Atlanta, with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals.

For crankiness, people who won't stop standing in the aisle, questionable judgment, an army of Cappie, strange shoes, and the release of pressure, join your intrepid and tumultuous blogger after the jump.

Oh, this is going to be a long day, I know it.

Today is Cappie Pondexter bobble-head day, which means a myriad of opportunities to smack Cappie upside the head, in addition to opening up the possibility of trading Cappie in the future, or at least one of her. At least smacking Cappie upside the head will be emotionally satisfying.

It's going to be a long day because some people won't shut up and other people don't seem to know whete they're supposed to be sitting and have been standing in the aisle for, like, five minutes and don't seem to know where they're going. The sections are numbered, the seats are numbered, the rows are numbered, why can't you figure thi out? I have no patience for any kind of stupidity today.

Atlanta comes off in a zerg rush. You have to get them when they're coming on. They did not make a lot of new friends today. On the other hand, there are signs here for Shoni Schimmel.

Dear God, this pregame entertainment does not look legal in any state of the Union, and I'm fairly sure watching it on YouTube gets you a visit from the Feds. Little girls in short red dresses, stretching like college dance teams and gyrating body parts they don't have yet, all to the tune of "99 Red Balloons". So many things wrong with this picture that I don't even know where to start.

The second pregame performance at least seems to have interesting cultural significance- Native American dance group. Yeah, this is my not-terribly-surprised face at their choice of this particular game. For some reason, the sequins amuse me.

To the woman in 108, row 7, seat 19, would you please actually sit down, this is ridiculous. If she keeps standing through the game I am going to have to smite someone. Seriously. There will be lightning bolts.

There's a surprising amount of applause on our side of the court for Atlanta as they come out. Then again, should I be surprised at anything at this point?

Completely unnecessary rendition of "God Bless America" today, thought he singer was good. Anthem singer was also solid, though I can't stand people who mess up the words.

At halftime, thanks to the work of Sugar Rodgers in the second quarter, we're down 40-38 to Atlanta. Sugar has 10 to lead New York. Angel McCoughtry has 15 points and the undying enmity of half the crowd after she rolled Anna Cruz's ankle and refused to get off it.

Larry Johnson in the house. So are Kym and Spoon. Spoon's been showing up more and more often lately, but I'm sure that doesn't mean anything, right?

Shoni, I have no beef with you whatsoever, but since the women behind me are determined to puncture my eardrums whenever you do anything good, I have to keep hoping you epic fail and Coop plants you on the bench. It's nothing personal. I just like my eardrums.

This is the first time I've ever seen people abandon bobble-heads. We adopted two additional Cappies to go with our two, so I'm now entertaining trade offers for Cappie, and no, I will not be getting tired of that joke any time soon.

This was the game we needed, or at least a game that we needed. We'll see if this lasts as long as the last big win we had- you'll have to excuse me for being skeptical about it. At this point, I'm skeptical and cynical about a lot of things.

Shoni Schimmel caught a hot streak from beyond the arc in the third quarter, but went so cold in the fourth that Cooper pulled her out of the game late in favor of Jasmine Thomas, when a three was definitely called for. I'm not sure why he did that. She had a couple of nice passes and a couple of good steals, but was otherwise unremarkable. Céline Dumerc played a fair amount at the point- sometimes alongside Hayes, sometimes alongside Schimmel- and seemed to have a firm hand on the offense, along with a surprisingly vicious rivalry with Anna Cruz. Gotta be from overseas, I'm thinking. There was a collision near the end of the game where they both went down pretty hard. Of course, I have to think that Dumerc initiated the contact, but Anna might have been a little reckless too. I don't know how Swin Cash got away with those shoes- I'll swear on my grandmother's grave that they were the light-up ones like the little kids have. Even if they weren't, they were at least sequined in the back and reflecting light off the court. She got called on to play a fair amount of four in the fourth quarter, after Sancho Lyttle started racking up fouls like they were rewards points. She and Plenette got tangled up for a loose ball, during which it appeared that there were some perhaps unresolved issues from the Shock days. Aneika Henry gave good minutes from the post- not necessarily statistically strong minutes, but she defended well on the inside. Amanda Thompson played briefly in the first half, and all I can remember about her is how fabulous her hair was. They were not the most influential of minutes.

Tiffany Hayes rubs me the wrong way, whether it's the odd shot selection, the diving (though she kept that mostly in check today), or that wonderful little karate chop to Anna's throat. I think that might be it, actually, since then Anna got called for the foul. (The crowd was not amused, to put it mildly.) I don't know why Jasmine Thomas is still getting the starts in Atlanta, unless it's just a matter of familiarity. She's not playing the starter's share of the minutes, from what I've seen, but she's playing in crunch time, and she showed nothing today that would indicate a player who deserves crunch time minutes. She doesn't seem to play superb defense (then again, neither do her counterparts) and her shot was not falling. I love Sancho Lyttle's defense. I like it even better when she's not playing against my team. It's not necessarily that she plays fundamentally sound defense, but she gambles, and she gambles like a card counter at a Vegas blackjack table. She's got a good eye for how and when to use those fast hands and that athletic body. I don't know why she was taking outside jumpers, but more power to her for doing it- helped us win the game, so I can't complain too much. Érika deSouza is just so solid. She's not flashy. She's not going to set the world on fire. She's not going to make you ooh and ahh with her moves. But she will not be moved, and she will take down that rebound, and if you do something mind-numbingly stupid like drive right at her with no backup plan, she will swat you without mercy. She had shots go in and out, and also seemed to be setting up outside more than she should have. Angel McCoughtry put on a show from all over the floor, including some of her Lori Ann antics (Lori Anntics?) near the end of the game. She followed her shots ferociously, which I have to love. She's such a phenomenally talented player, just a player I want to smack upside the head.

Brief moments of Chucky Jeffery today, as a spot defender who can handle the ball a little bit. She got at least one of Essence's shifts in the second half. DeLisha Milton-Jones played more in the second half than the first, giving Plenette Pierson relief when she needed it. (That... came out wrong.) Nothing remarkable, but she didn't make too many mistakes either. Essence Carson played some defensive shifts, took bad shots, and caught the ball while standing out of bounds, I am not making this up. I'm pretty sure that's why she didn't get much more playing time after that. Shanece McKinney had a couple of nice shots in the first half and came in late in order to protect Plenette from someone on either team doing something stupid. Plenette Pierson looked like she was starting to recover from the knee injurys he suffered a couple of games ago. She was tough on the inside and hit her shots when we needed them. I'm glad to see her back on form. I like Bill's idea of sticking with Avery to start the game and get those first few rough minutes out of the way, actually. Avery is a very useful player, but in the crunch, I'd rather have Plenette not as worn down as she could be from starting. Sugar Rodgers had a solid game on both ends of the floor. I have to say I didn't think Sugar had the kind of temperament to adjust to being both microwave and defensive maven, but she's been willing to learn. She was never a great defender at Georgetown, but she's been putting in work on that end in the last couple of weeks. She's growing on me. Of course, I say that now and next game I may want to apply the Round-Up to get her to stop growing, but she is what she is.

Avery Warley-Talbert is not quite good enough to challenge Érika deSouza, but she's serviceable. She gave Plenette and DeLisha a chance to rest up for the stretch, and that's about all we asked of her. Alex Montgomery was really feeling her shot, for good and for ill- I mind me of one three-point attempt that struck me as pure heat-check after she'd hit a couple of shots. She missed a lot right at the rim, to our infinite and eternal frustration, but she brought the defense (as much as she could- Angel McCoughtry is no one's easy assignment) and showed why she should be starting. Anna Cruz really needs to look for her own shot more- I think there were at least two possessions where she made an extra pass that resulted in a turnover or a horrendously bad shot from someone else- but she had a good all around game, and I love how the offense runs when she's on the floor. Tina Charles pulled down her boards, but seemed to have fallen into the peculiar habit of taking other people's preferred bad shots. She fired off both one of Cappie's fadeaway-off-the-left-foot jumpers and one of Essence's pell-mell-throw-the-ball-sort-of-at-the-basket-wildcat-football drives. Tina, make your own mistakes, don't make your teammates' mistakes. Cappie Pondexter was lethal and came up big down the stretch. It's kind of refreshing to look at shooting lines and question people other than Cappie. She did a lot of running and carried a lot of the load, and she was one of the heroes of the day.

The officiating was flat out dangerous at times in this game. I really do object to uncalled karate chops, and Angel's utter lack of maturity at the end of the game (though Cappie was not the most adult in her response, either). I thought for sure something was going to go down at the end of the game when DeLisha and Shanece came in for Tina and Plenette.

We were strong tonight,a nd we took what was thrown at us and threw it back from beyond the arc. Hot three-point shooting isn't going to save the day all the time, but that kind of fortitude and resilience will.