Friday, October 13, 2017

October 13th, 2017: Red Storm Tip-Off

For mispronunciations, tablets, dancing, and pretending to care, join your intrepid and cranky blogger after the jump.

I wasn't supposed to be here tonight. Tonight was supposed to be D&D night. But DM changed the session date, so here I am at Red Storm Tip-Off, laptop battery dead. Here's to 90 minutes of loud music I don't actually like, 15 minutes of WBB intros, 5 minutes of awkward dancing, 5 minutes of drills, and a whole bunch of men's shit I don't care about.

Damn it. I should be being my pirate (and Pirate) affiliated rogue right now.

Security should not be surprised at large numbers of backpacks at an on-campus event.

I'm in the second deck equivalent of my usual perch in section 2.

Looks like we're going to have, or have had, an alumni game. Uniformed people all seem to be dudes, but there are women on the home bench (well, the WBB home bench) who look like Day and Jade. They weren't

One ridiculously strong dude just one-handed a trey. Jade, if that is you, don't get any ideas.

Ugh, I forgot how gated STJ's WiFi is.

I'm not really following the alumni game. Bunch of guys trying to pull off moves they can't anymore.

We've reached the "make random noise for free things" stage, or at least the first such.

Guy behind me just had to explain who Anthony Mason Jr's dad was. I think my soul just aged another year or so.

WTF Sky where did you wander in from? I know you weren't on the long list of alumni announced at the start of the game. (And she was mostly decorative. Pretend to care, Sky...)

I don't do group activities that involve hugging or holding total strangers. WTF.

Oh, fantastic, home opener is a 4:30 Friday tip doubleheader with the men. Horse apples. And students can wander between the women's game and the pregame rally. It's not a pregame rally IF THE GAME IS HAPPENING.

St. John's, you make it really hard to love you when you make it clear the institution doesn't support the team. The more successful team.

Cheer doing their thing. Lifts are a little shaky, but ambitious.

Dance looks like they're next up. But I may strangle Dave the PA guy if I have to hear the announcement loop more than once more.

No, next is a mixed group. Dance has a dude again! And he is *built*. Insert George Takei saying "Oh myyyyyyyyy!" here. Maybe he'll get pom-poms. It's sexist for male dancers not to get pom-poms if female dancers do.

Dance is already in midseason form. Oh man, the competitive routines are going to be fire! I'm feeling another national championship. I'm hyped already!

Finally! We have the mixed intro video! Not bad.

Please God let Kayla be good, because oh my God that build, we haven't had a center in ten years. Maybe more. OMG.

Imma guess the other freshman is... I think that's the Guyanese flag? She rocked it.

If Brelove didn't have a career at VCU I'd swear Jade sneaked herself another year of eligibility.

Oh, good, the awkward group dance routines aren't just a women's thing.

I swear to God, that's not how you say Quinnipiac.

Machi looks like she's bulked up a bit, in a good way.

Andrayah doesn't seem to be into the dance thing. Woman after my own heart.

I don't think that's how you say Temecula, either.

Alisha has hair! Long, shiny hair!

Marcus Lovett entered through the seats, crowned and robed... and wearing 20. That is one hell of an entrance.

Huh. The guys have a lot of transfers in.

Poor sad dude on crutches. You make me sad too.

I don't think that's how you say Mali, either, but that one I'm not so sure about.

I think Imani might be coming out of her shell...

D'awwww. Aria has officially hit weapons grade adorable.

I don't think they thought the smoke all the way through.

Akina just hit a three from somewhere in Joliet. Kayla can't quite dunk, though.

I don't care about dunks or the goddamn DJ dunking.

Time for the men's scrimmage. Joy. Okay, Ponds swishing one from, like, Co-Op City was awesome. I could enjoy watching him. Lots of inside looks for Simon, too.

Responsible videoing: give your teammate the baby while you record, Maya. I have no idea whose baby that is.

I knew Sox wasn't going to contain herself forever.

Shooting contest of some variety next. 2 guys, 2 women, and 1 student, five spots. My money's on the team with Kina and Ponds. Closer than I thought, but I was right.

Oh, look, another year where the women don't scrimmage. Insert cranky face here.

I'll give the musical act a shot. Or at least I will if they quit delaying.

Men's/women's dance-off, because we weren't going to get away without awkward dancing. Didn't last long. I think they were red-hatting.

Couldn't make out the musician through the crappy mic. I left in the middle of the second number.

Nothing new, nothing exciting. It's abundantly clear where STJ's priorities are, and I don't share them.


Monday, September 11, 2017

September 10th, 2017: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Don’t wanna, don’t have to, can’t make me.

I’m not sure whether this should be “good afternoon” or “good evening”. 5 PM is a strange start time, but I’ll take it if it means getting something that vaguely resembles coverage.

We have rally towels. They’re white, and still kind of stiff. They need the newness shaken out of them.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe is trying out another new hairstyle, from the looks of it. She’s even harder to recognize now. And he fogot her pants again. I’m starting to think this might be a thing, but I’m not sure if it's intentional or just absent-minded.

Looks like it’s going to be tight in the lower bowl. I’m okay with this. It’s good to see all the Usual Suspects in place.

I’ve been informed that a couple of busloads of Mystics fans will be joining us fo rthis game. For the most part, I’m okay with Mystics fans on the road. They tend to behave themselves, they know where to sit, they don’t take our giveaways, and they’re passionate for their team without talking trash about the other team. (Delle Donne fans are somewhat more annoying, but that’s to do with their myopia.)

Slow-arriving crowd, and a lot of red. Folks, the Jets game is over, you can come to the Garden now. I can’t guarantee we won’t trip over each other and turn over the ball that way, but I’m pretty sure we’ll look more competent than the Jets did. I know, famous last words, but really. Mom always taught me to take the Bills when they’re playing the Jets, but that’s usually because they’ll cover, not because they’ll win.

Beautiful anthem.

At halftime, it’s 41-35 Liberty, after a hot start got negated by the injury to Shavonte Zellous and some questionable officiating. (I mean, really, Tianna Hawkins, I didn’t know you were also on the diving team at Maryland.) Tina Charles has put in work for the Libs with 11 points and four rebounds, but I also love what Epiphanny Prince has been doing on loose rebounds and from the perimeter. Kristi Toliver has come out of her shell (as it were) and been putting up points.

I really don’t feel confident in this lead without Shavonte. She’s our best defensive player, especially at forward, and that’s exactly where we need a defensive ace. Unless someone can work some shenanigans with a time machine and get Crystal Robinson on the playoff roster for the second half, we’re going to have a problem.

Our DJ’s hype man might maybe want to switch to decaf for the next couple of minutes before ratcheting it back up for the second half.

Okay, seriously, to the woman in front of me: it’s a single-elimination playoff game, all or nothing, winner goes home, and you show up in all your Yankee gear and keep your face glued to your phone for updates on a Yankee blowout? WHY ARE YOU HERE? WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE? Why are you spending almost $50 on your seat and being territorial about it? You can watch the Yankee game form any other damn seat in the arena.

This will teach me never to say that we can’t suck worse than the Jets on any given day, because boy howdy, was that second half a giant stinking turd pile for the Liberty. I don’t know what happened. I don’t think I entirely want to know what happened. But I stalked out of the Garden with my hands clenched into fists, unkind thoughts in my head, and rage boiling in my heart. I’m used to the Liberty disappointing me in the playoffs- after all, four Finals and no rings still rankles, even after all these years. I even remember last year. But I’m sick and tired of it. I’m tired of this nonsense. I’m tired of this playoff system already. I’m tired of having fantastic regular seasons where it look like all the pieces are coming together, and then following those with playoff games where the team looks like they’re not entirely sure they recognize these other people who happen to be wearing the same jersey they are. I keep saying I can’t do this anymore, and I keep doing it, and someday it’s going to be true that I can’t do it anymore. My heart hurts. My chest hurts. What else can I do? What more could we have done in the stands?

I suppose at this point I have to say nice things about the Mystics now, since they won the game, and it would be uncouth not to. I don’t necessarily want to, though. But that’s my temper speaking. The original purpose of this blog was to report on games for fans who couldn’t see how their team was doing on the road; the advent of League Pass and ESPN hasn’t changed the fact that there are still details you misss. And there are DC fans out there who I like. So I’ll try to give it a go.

Allison Hightower’s shot has not returned from rehab the same way the rest of her has. Her length and defensive instincts make her a useful situational piece, but if she can’t shoot, she’s a long-term liability. There was nothing worth mentioning in the 47 seconds of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Asia Taylor. I have to remember that it’s not Asia Taylor’s fault Minnesota chose to bring her to a game where I was looking to see Nadirah, and thus her existence should not by itself cause me to grind my teeth even further into powder. (Hi, my name is Rebecca, and occasionally I hold irrational grudges for far longer than I have reason to.)

I cannot believe that it took me until the end of the season to notice that Natasha Cloud has a pun on her jersey, one that would have been even more evident back in the day where the name was on top. (She’s Cloud 9! Why did I not see it before? How?!) She was showing off her dance moves before the game and swooping athletic drives to the basket during the game. I don’t know if she fits this roster, but she’s definitely an interesting piece. I could do without her inciting the traveling DC fans from the Liberty logo, though. I could also do without Ivory Latta and the rest of the Mystics bench pumping up those fans on the road. It’s one thing to do it before the game (readers may remember one of my favorite memories of Kara Braxton being her doing the Maddie stomp at Connecticut) and doing it during the game. She had a nifty dribble drive around Lindsay Allen that she managed to put in. Tianna Hawkins had a blatant dive at the end of the first half and still can’t seem to hit her threes, but did work on the glass. She’s got a really tough build; I’m always surprised we don’t see her mix it up more inside.

Krystal Thomas made broken plays whole again. I think all of her offensive rebounds resulted in baskets, and the other two were nice finds along the baseline. Her defense was tough and her toughness was remarkable. She’s got to understand that even if someone else initiates contact, refs will call retaliation, especially if someone else is Tina Charles. She’s been in the league long enough that she should understand that. Emma Meesseman ws the only Mystic who looked discomfited by the Liberty defense. She wasn’t getting good looks, and she wasn’t hitting the good looks she did get. Small mercies, I suppose. She did okay on the glass. Elena Delle Donne didn’t really get loose until after Shavonte Zellous left the game with the ankle injury, and we had to change up the defense. The problem is that we had no other single defender who could stay with her, and the doubles were not only ineffective against her, but also left other shooters open, and that was so far beyond okay it entered into some kind of zen state vaguely resembling okayness from the other side.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat for most of the game, but her defense was on point. She’s tough, and she’s tenacious, and she follows up on defensive plays exceptionally well. She’s problematic offensively for the Mystics, but her defense is still a net positive, especially when facing a team that has, or at least is under the impression that it has, one or more perimeter threats. Hey, there’s a nice segue to talking about Kristi “where have you been for the last three months?” Toliver, who decided that this would be a wonderful time to go bananas from beyond the arc. If this was the Liberty’s defensive game plan, then perhaps it should have been adjusted sometime between the fourth and fifth threes. She killed us out there, and it’s so infuriating that I think I can hear my teeth cracking under the pressure.

I just- how can you watch somebody do the same thing over and over againa nd not get a hand in her face, not adjust the defense to handle her, not do anything to affect the shot? Yes, I know shooters get into a rhythm, but this is absurd, this is ridiculous, this is obscene, this is unreal.

The Mystics settled down after the first quarter and really started to play more within themselves. They weren’t settling for the first shot, or the most convenient shooter, as much as they were early on. That gave them the momentum they needed.

I don’t know if Amanda Zahui B would have been of any help, but it couldn’t have hurt as much as anything else we tried would seem to have. Rebecca Allen was at least able to make the first defensive move consistently, but couldn’t make the follow-up play- she might disrupt a shot, but then not be ready for Washington to get the offensive rebound, or make a deflection but not be ready for the recovery. That’s an improvement from the beginning of the year, but not enough of one. Lindsay Allen had a pretty pass to Tina Charles, but defensively she wasn’t up to the task.

Sugar Rodgers’s numbers look good, but she launched a lot of those shots, including at least one of the makes, in the waning minutes of the game, when it was garbage time. She didn’t bring the tenacious defense that’s normally been offsetting her disappearing offense, either, which made me wonder exactly why we were playing her and what we needed her for. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe fought for rebounds in the paint and finished well at the rim. She’s one of the only players who I’m not deeply disappointed in right now. She put in effort. She put in work. Kiah Stokes was unimpressive, and the block she has in the box score should be credited to Tina- Tina hit that shot from behind while Kiah fronted the shooter.

But to be fair, Kiah was more effective than her counterpart. Kia Vaughn did not have her head in the game. There was one play- I think it was in the second quarter- where she was gifted a layup right at the rim and blew it badly. She was a disaster on both ends of the floor, and I’m reminded of all the times I didn’t want her on the roster, both the first time and the second time. Tina Charles had stretches of being her superstar self, at one point finishing through a triple-team. But she started to wear down in the second half, and I don’t think she was able to keep her head in the game (there’s a play that’s coming to mind where Bria passed her the ball and she was facing the wrong way to receive it). Tina can’t do it alone, nor can she be left with the impression that she has to do it alone. She needs backup. She needs support. She didn’t get a lot of that today.

Bria Hartley shot well, and at least tried to keep us in the game that way, but she made too many stupid mistakes with the ball. Some of them may also have been on her teammates (I think the aforementioned pass that Tina should have been ready for was put down as hers) but she was careless, and we couldn’t afford to be careless if our defense wasn’t pressuring the ball away from them. Shavonte Zellous put in work defensively, and until she hurt her ankle, she was shutting down Elena Delle Donne. She gave it a go in the second half, but her explosiveness and lateral movement were missing. She probably should have sat out, but we couldn’t afford to not have her, and I don’t think she was going to pull herself out of a game this important. I probably should fault her judgment, but I can’t question her heart and her passion. Epiphanny Prince was decent, but not remarkable, and in a game like this someone else needed to be remarkable. I don’t think she fits with this roster as it’s currently constructed. There’s just something missing there, some next step that she hasn’t taken and that it might be too late for her to take.

I don’t know why the team’s energy level cratered in the second quarter and kept falling through the floor. Shavonte’s injury was a turning point, but if a 31-point swing hinged just on her, then the team relies on her too heavily and something needs to be done about this unhealthy fixation. All the rebounding intensity that we were keeping up during the winning streak? Gone. The hustle, the heart, the drive, the willingness to sacrifice for loose balls? Gone. They played like they didn’t care, and sometime in the third quarter, it turned into playing like they had accepted their inevitable defeat. I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS.

The officiating didn’t help, but I’m not going to blame them for the breakdown of our defensive plans, or our lack of intensity. We had this game, and we let Washington get back in it, and then we let Washington take it over.

What really grinds my gears about the Liberty’s collapse was that the crowd was behind the team. We had spontaneous cheers. We had noise and passion and glory. We were there for the team, and for a little while it was the old magic again. And this team that we believed in, that we watched knock off the top three teams in the league in a row, squandered that chance. How many of those fans do you think will come back after another soul-crushing loss? How much more of this can we take?

I’ve calmed down from last night. I’m not quite so inclined to set everything on fire right now. But I don’t think Sugar and Piph can co-exist, and I’m ready for Bill to retire again and take Katie with him. We need an impact player beside Tina- she needs her Nneka, or her Big Syl. She needs someone who can consistently take the pressure off her, and right now I don’t see anyone else on this roster who can do that. We thought it could be Piph; it’s not. We thought it could be Sugar; it’s not.

I’m heartbroken. I’m tired. (There’s a secret, ruthless part of me that’s relieved I don’t have to pay for further playoff tickets. Reality sucks.) I don’t know if I’m going to watch the rest of the playoffs.

See you all in November. Spreadsheet’s almost done.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

September 1st, 2017: San Antonio at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Liberty were never really threatened in their 81-69 win over the San Antonio Stars. Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince each had 16 points to pace New York, with Charles adding eight rebounds. Kelsey Plum had a game-high 18 points for the Stars, with Kayla Alexander adding 15 points and nine rebounds.

For frustration with Canadians, chastely holding hands, decent bench play, some tone-deafness, and the next great adventure, join your intrepid and emotionally drained blogger after the jump.

Hey, gang!

Not gonna lie, this week has been about a year long, but that’s for non-GNoD reasons, so won’t let you worry any more than you have to. It’s game day at the Garden, and that’s the only thing that matters right now. It’s Fan Appreciation Night as the Liberty play their final regular season home game, against the very same team they opened the home slate with, the San Antonio Stars.

Everyone got off the floor in a hurry; I got to my seat at 46 minutes before tip, and the only player on the floor was Tina Charles, doing extra drills with Herb Williams. (And for a brief moment, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, but that’s because she forgot her pants.)

Kym Hampton and Sue Wicks were out on the concourse signing autographs before with John Starks and Larry Johnson. Kym was shooting baskets for a while after that, but is now coming off the floor and blowing kisses to the fans.

I’m kind of tired of Mike W. taking off big games. I don’t know if I like the Knicks’ guy.

The Liberty broke a long-standing tradition by not having Kym Hampton sing the anthem for Fan Appreciation Day/Night, but I don’t mind. Kym’s been losing her voice over the years.

Should San Antonio fans, players, and/or coaches be concerned that Ruth Riley is present for this game? She looks good. (I am less fond of Vickie Johnson’s Wonderful Ice Cream Suit; something about the soulders just isn’t working for me.)

I’m pretty sure this DJ is related to our team president. I’m less than impressed with his skills. He comes off as more of a radio DJ than a mixing DJ- a good song chooser, but not one who’s going to shake them up a lot.

Oh, yeah, it’s 38-36 at halftime, with two teams who seem to mostly have run out of give-a-damn. The Liberty played all 11 players in the first half; Amanda Zahui B was the first sub. Lots of physical contact, lots of curious calls.

I’m not going to say that wasn’t fun, but I’m also not going to say it was a prime example of how basketball should be played. It seemed pretty clear that the Liberty were playing back to protect their players, and the Stars had parts but no real clear sense of what they were doing with those parts, or how to use them to complement each other.

Shay Murphy played briefly in both halves, but did nothing worth noting. Sequoia Holmes has good length, but one play stands out for all the wrong reasons: she deked, got Rebecca Allen up in the air with nowhere to go, and then threw up a shot so bad you could use it to build a house down in Comet land.

I don’t think the new haircut is working for Cierra Burdick, but she showed the hustle that made Liberty fans want to keep her, going after loose balls and getting physical on defense. She and Shavonte Zellous had some words, but they seemed to be the friendly kind, even after hard contact. Dearica Hamby needs to work on her screens- there was at least one where her hip went out very sharply, and it probably should have been a foul. I’m not sure she’s sure wha ther role is with this team. I’m actually not sure how many people on this team know what their role needs to be, but that’s a systemic problem, I think. Sydney Colson has good speed, and used it to take advantage of Lindsay Allen. I keep saying she’s a good understudy for Moriah Jefferson, and that might be part of why the Stars are so determined to keep her- while it’s nice to have a change-of-pace player, it’s also nice to have someone who can get you used to working with your starter.

We got a good look at how Kelsey Plum can play when she has confidence and she gets space- she can shoot, and she can score at the basket (though perhaps not as much as she thinks; that last sweeping shot at the rim was sort of pathetic). I don’t know if San Antonio knows how they want to use her yet. I feel like she might be best used as a microwave off the bench, but I don’t know if San Antonio has that luxury. Kayla McBride was able to hit consistently when she was given space, but had trouble creating that space, and obviously the Liberty defense wasn’t inclined to give her space. She was both the recipient and the thrower of ridiculously high passes. Alex Montgomery brought physical defense and the utter assurance that she could hit corner threes. She hit a couple of them, but not nearly as many as she was taking. She did a good job of clearing the glass around bigger players.

Kayla Alexander has a funky looking jump shot, but it seems to work for her. She did a lot of good work close to the basket as well. I’m not sure if the defensive game plan was to leave her open and cover the shooters or not, but that’s how it worked out. She’s got great hustle- she’s going to be a solid center in this league for years to come. She might have an All-Star year or two, but I think what will be more important will be her longevity. Isabelle Harrison complements her well, active boxing out on the boards. Someone’s got to work with her on that high, hard free throw, though- she seems to rely too heavily on getting the right bounce off the back of the rim, and that’s not a viable plan. (I mean, as a Liberty fan, I’m cool with her leaving four points on the board, but as a basketball fan it just slightly hurts my soul.) We were able to recognize her from when she tore us up last game, and forced her into shots she didn’t necessarily want to take.

I just don’t know if San Antonio knows what hey’re doing, either collectively or individually, and I think that’s where their leadership has failed them. They don’t really have a long-term veteran to hold them together (no, I don’t think Holmes is that player). Most of the team is still young. They’re finding their way, and maybe pairing such a young team with a rookie head coach and a rookie GM was a bad idea.

Amanda Zahui B was first off the bench in the first half for the Liberty, and last in the second half, and somehow neither of those things really should surprise me, especially regarding this game. She started off well, with a beautiful find of Kiah Stokes in the lane, but she was otherwise tentative at the wrong times, overconfident at the wrong times, and really needs to stop fouling people on defense. Some surprisingly good offensive play at the rim from Rebecca Allen- she was driving hard and not settling for jumpers. Extended playing time seems to have given her confidence. Or maybe it’s just San Antonio.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe needs to work on her free throws- 3-6 is not acceptable. But her motor never stopped- she was going for rebounds and loose balls like there was no tomorrow, and she had a gorgeous finish in the second half that was all grace and athleticism. Kiah Stokes was inviting everyone to the 7th Avenue Block Party down low, and she finished well near the basket (always a good sign, since she can be so inconsistent in that regard). Lindsay Allen got a very long look in both halves, running the offense, and I like her passing vision, but at the same time I’d like to see her be more confident in her own shot- she had turnovers that were unnecessary because she was trying to force the ball to other players inside instead of taking the shot herself. Her defensive positioning also needs some work, but I think that’ll come faster than the offensive confidence. (It seems counter-intuitive, but there you go.) Sugar Rodgers took some dumb shots at the basket, but was also hitting her jumpers, and was pesky on defense. Maybe she’s starting to find her groove again.

Tina Charles brings such finesse and power that you run out of words to describe it sometimes. She spins towards the basket, and you feel like she can do anything she wants, even things that might be physically impossible. She played minimal minutes and still stole the show. You can see how hard she works, with two or three defenders on her and around her, and she still makes it look easy because all the parts just flow together. Kia Vaughn did a nice job on the offensive glass, and cleaned up a few messes. Sometimes that’s all we need out of her- a little bit of offense, a good amount of defense, and the certainty for the other team that if they go too hard at Tina, there will be pain to pay.

Shavonte Zellous was quiet (or as quiet as Z gets- there was a sequence in the first half where she objected so much to a foul called against her that Kia had to calm her down, and Kia Vaughn being the calming influence in a situation is never the expected or desired result) in the first half. In the third quarter, she got aggressive and started driving to the basket, drawing and hitting free throws. She was the spark we needed to keep the game out of San Antonio’s reach. Epiphanny Prince seemed to take Kelsey Plum scoring baskets on her court kind of personal for some reason; it seemed like every time Plum scored, Piph would be the one to respond. Maybe it’s some sort of numerological convergeance, maybe they had a side bet based on the football game, maybe it’s coincidence. I don’t know, but it was funny, and useful. Bria Hartley didn’t have a good game, but it was a well-balanced game, which is also helpful. Her defense is improving, which I also appreciate.

It was clear that the Liberty weren’t going full throttle in this one. There was no need to. Just play well enough to win, keep a firm grasp on the fundamentals, and try not to get hurt. When you’re playing an out-of-contention team, that’s all you need. I’m not even sure how much the team actually cares about getting #3 as opposed to #4. There are too many variables to be sure one is better than the other, other than the satisfaction of being better than Connecticut and Washington.

I’m not sure how a shot that’s still in the player’s hand when the shot clock expires can be clearly said to have come before the end of the shot cluck, but you do you, Roy Gulbeyan; you always have. Officiating could have been worse; it can always be worse, I suppose. At least no one got too badly hurt and the outcome of the game wasn’t in question. At this point, that’s about all I can expect out of W officials.

There was a feature on Hopey’s Heart and the life that was saved by one of the foundation’s AEDs, and I’m pretty sure Piph and Amanda were wondering how it got so dusty in MSG all of a sudden. They both looked like they were sniffling a little. It’s okay. It’s an amazing story of how much trying to make a difference in the world matters.

Sitting behind the bench (not directly behind, that takes more money than I make, but close enough) gives a really good perspective on Shavonte Zellous as an off-the-court leader- she always seems to be talking to her teammates, whether she’s trying to encourage them or teach them.

For Fan Appreciation Night, there seemed to be a minimum of fan appreciation going on. Usually there are extra giveaways- there weren’t. There was one video near the end of the game showing the team interacting with fans, with no words from the players. The traditional fan appreciation gift is a t-shirt; this year we got a lapel pin and I’m pretty sure mine is broken. It felt like any other game. Honestly, between early access to the arena, early access to the autograph session, and the discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages, it felt more like a Chase Cardholder Appreciation Night. Which, I would have no problem with if it were labeled that way. But it wasn’t, and I don’t bank at Chase, so. This has consistently been the one thing the Liberty have done better since the end of the Blaze era, and seeing a backslide of this nature and magnitude makes me sad.

By the way, have I mentioned lately that I loathe the new playoff system? Because I loathe the playoff system. A 20-win season should not come down to one game. But at least we have that one game, and your intrepid blogger will be there come hell or high water on the 10th. This is the right time of year to be hot, and this is the right time of year to put all the pieces together. Let’s surprise the big guns, shall we?


Monday, August 28, 2017

August 27th, 2017: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Strong bench play anchored the New York Liberty’s 92-62 win over the Chicago Sky. Tina Charles had 22 points in 22 minutes to lead New York, with every active player on the Liberty roster contributing at least one point to the effort. Stefanie Dolson had 22 points to lead Chicago.

For unraveling, hustle, rebounding, defending, high energy, and a Chicago team that maybe isn’t sure they want to make the playoffs, join your intrepid and distressed blogger after the jump. (Distressed for non-basketball reasons. Try not to worry about it too much, but I apologize in advance if my notes are even less than coherent over the next couple of weeks.)

Good afternoon and welcome to Madison Square Garden, the World’s Most Famous Arena, as the New York Liberty look to keep their winning streak alive against the Chicago Sky. One team’s chasing the playoffs, the other chasing a bye. It’s nice to have a game be meaningful to both teams this late in the season.

If youu’re going to call your group Sparkle and Shine, you should have glitter or sequins on their uniforms, or something like that. I was underwhelmed by both the costumes and the dancing.

Nice touch: both Katie Smith and Teresa Weatherspoon spent a good bit of time talking to Adut Bulgak before the game. I get the feeling that the Liberty never wanted to cut her in the first place, so I’m glad she was able to make it back into the league. (Given the current political climate, I’m happy she was able to get into the country, period.)

Girl Scout anthem and color guard. Girl Scouts are awesome, and your intrepid blogger will never let you forget it.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 46-29 behind Tina Charles putting up 18 points and the team playing awesome defense.

JJ! Hiiiiii! (At least I am, like, 99% sure that was Janee Johnson, one of my most favorite Pirates in the history of all things pirate-y, including actual literal pirates.) (Actually, scratch that qualification. JJ is one of my most favorite collegiate people in the history of ever.) (And we are inches closer to the ultimate goal of spending a game next season with JJ, Phee, and Coach Del Preore and possibly getting banned from Mohegan Sun.)

I can’t say enough about the defense we’ve been playing. Lots of poke checks on the ball, lots of hustle plays.

Sue, if you’re going to try out the hair chalk, go all in.

I was not expecting to butt-whoop Chicago this badly. I thought we would win, but not dominate so thoroughly. Not when Chicago still has position to play for. Not when they’re fighting just to make the playoffs. (Unless they’re not.)

Amber Harris played briefly in the fourth quarter, when the bench was in the game, and was pulled quickly for Kahleah Copper. I didn’t remember her being so stocky. Makayla Epps had one nifty acrobatic lay-up off a steal, but was otherwise unremarkable in her limited time. I’m surprised Stocks hasn’t tried to use her more; it seems like there’s a shortage of guards on that roster, and trying to rotate 3s into the 2 spot isn’t a great decision. Bashaara Graves got her name messed up by the announcer when she entered the game, and provideda little physicality down low.

Man, has Adut Bulgak put in work since she left New York. She was fantastic. She rebounded well, sliding into small spaces. She defended well at the rim- trying to defend Tina Charles isn’t easy for anyone, but especially a second-year reserve. I suppose she had an advantage from a few months of practicing regularly against her, though. Jordan Hooper got a lot of run, brought some energy, and gave Chicago a halfway decent outside threat. I guess. For lack of a better word. Cappie Pondexter reminded everyone why New York doesn’t necessarily miss her. (And honestly, I don’t know how she piled up the assists. But it’s hard for me to look at Cappie objectively.)

Stefanie Dolson was the star of the show for the Sky, especially in the second half. She finished at the rim and in the midrange, even extending her jumper out ot the three-point line. But I think the deficit got into her head, slowly but surely; by the middle of the third quarter she was starting to show a lot of negative emebounding that’s a good sign she’s figuring out where to be.rself a technical for yakking at the refs. She doesn’t take well to not doing well. (And I miss the purple hair. It’s the little things.) Jessica Breland started off on fire, going to the rack and shooting jumpers with equal aplomb. Clearly our defensive game plan did not consider her a priority. We did a better job of helping on her in the second half. She’s just so solid for them. Good to watch, if you’re into the success of the Chicago Sky. Some people are, I hear. Kahleah Copper’s agility and ability to bend into tiny spaces is astounding. She twists around defenders like she’s the secret love child of Reed Richards or something.

The let down for Chicago came straight from their backcourt. Courtney Vandersloot tried too hard to make fancy passes and ended up losing the ball a lot to the intense Liberty defense. She wasn’t ready for it. Everything that normally makes her one of the best point guards in the league was missing in this game. Allie Quigley couldn’t get her looks to drop, no matter what, and I think it got into her head a little bit as the game went on. Vandersloot got her points in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided and Chicago’s starters were playing against the Liberty bench.

I have no idea why Stocks decided that Copper should be the starter running with the reserves at the end of the game. I don’t know if it was a positional thing, or if somehow Stocks was blaming her for the loss (since I guess blaming the Golden Duo in the backcourt would be blasphemy).

You get a basket! And you get a basket! Everyone gets a basket! (Except for Kia, who only gets a free throw, but that’s fine, it’s still a point.) I love when even the deep bench players get a chance to shine.

Amanda Zahui B went on a scoring run in the fourth quarter, and I don’t know who was more excited for her, the fans or her teammates. She still needs to get stronger, or at least play stronger- she missed too many easy shots on the inside. But she rebounded better than I was expecting and made her presence felt on the defensive end of the floor. Rebecca Allen showed some offensive firepower in the second half as well, and I like how her rebounding has progressed over the course of the season. She still has work to do on defense, but the energy is there, and if she’s rebounding, she’s at least figuring out what good position might be. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe needs to work on her shot- she still seems way too reliant on getting the right bounce for it- but I can’t fault her motor under the basket. She brought so much hustle off the bench. She’s the kind of player who dives for a loose ball when you’re up 30 in the last minute of the game. “Springy” is a good word for her.

Kiah Stokes made herself a target down low for passes, and she finished well at the rim (except for one skeep carrying us against higher-octane offenses.hysically dominant games, and this was one of those days, with the double-double and all that. I like that she got the rebound part first, then the points. Sugar Rodgers’s shooting woes continue, but hey, at least she hit something today. She’s starting to remind me of Essence after the eye injury, only I don’t recall hearing about any kind of similar injury to Sugar. But while her shooting has suffered, she’s more than made up for it with relentless defense. No dribbler was safe from her quick hands. I’d still like to see her shot come back, but I’ll settle for her being a defensive dynamo. I thought we also got good minutes out of Lindsay Allen- she still seemed to be in a little over her head in the first half, but in the second half she seemed to have better control of the offense. She got caught on switches on defense, but that might be her teammates’ fault as much as it was hers. (Guys, seriously, don’t make Lindsay have to defend Jessica Breland more than once.)

It was really nice not to see the starters as much as we usually do. They’ve been putting in work; they deserve a rest. Tina Charles was brutally efficient in the first half, staking the Liberty to a double-digit lead. She’s just awesome. Even in a season where the MVP is obvious, she still plays like an MVP. Kia Vaughn had a quiet game, though we really didn’t need her to have a big one. She seemed to do a good job antagonizing Dolson, which got into Dolson’s head. Shavonte Zellous’s baskets were well timed, and her defense was solid. She got a lot of rest late in the game, so my impressions of her are the fuzziest. Stupid fouls, sometimes unnecessary, certainly didn’t help her stay on the floor either.

Bria Hartley’s stamina still concerns me, but I think we can scrape together enough play off our bench to give her the rest she needs. She’s been coming up with big plays at the right times. Epiphanny Prince brought back some of the Rutgers defense, though I’m still questioning her shot selection at times. She showed some nifty ballhandling, too.

I can’t stress the team element of the defense and rebounding enough. There were loose ball scrambles everywhere. There were relentless attacks on the ballhandler, leaing to turnovers, everywhere. There were sze in advance if ine and sideline. There was a lot of work from everyone on the floor, and it was so much fun to watch. I’m worried about some of our inability to finish at the rim (Sugar, Nayo, I am especially looking at you) and I don’t like that we had so many shots and missed so many shots. I don’t know if our defense can keep this up against a higher-octane offense. But it’s fun to watch while it’s working.

Officiating was marvelously inconsistent. We got the best of it on some out of bounds calls, but the refs were really letting both teams play on both ends of the floor- lots of physical contact, but a curious emphasis on handchecks. I don’t get it either.

Quieter crowd than the last game, but they got into it once the lead started to grow and grow. (Amusingly, this is when we usually check out emotionally from the game- if it’s that much of a blowout, they don’t need us to go crazy anymore, do they?)

All in all, a satisfying and necessary win. Now it’s on to the Texas teams, and what happens next will be a very good question.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

August 25th, 2017: Washignton at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Liberty put the defensive clampdown on the Mystics in the fourth quarter to pull away in their 74-66 win. Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince each had 20 points to lead the way for the Liberty. Krystal Thomas had a team-high 17 points for Washington.

For energy, defensive pressure, chemistry, concerns in the backcourt, and how ridiculously much I love this team, join your intrepid and continuingly optimistic blogger after the jump.

I think it’s safe to say I’ve had better days, so I’m hoping that this match-up between the Liberty and the Mystics helps me exorcise some of today’s frustration.

Tonight’s the Liberty’s Planned Parenthood night, though they backpedaled on how heavily they were emphasizing it. In other words, Dolan got backlash and didn’t have the guts to stand up to it.

I don’t know what they were filming, but someone was interviewing Rebecca Allen and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe for something.

I think some kid got dared to ask Bill for an autograph and a handshake. They certainly seemed very “I am doing a daring thing by doing this” about it.

As usual, Mystics fans have done a respectable job of traveling up to MSG. It’s still very early, but I’m already seeing some blocks of red in the stands.

Tina Charles is doing a lot of work out there. Someone’s frustrated with her performance, and it might even be her.

I don’t think the two teams intentionally turned their back on the flag- they were set up to face the anthem singers. (And boy howdy did Elena Delle Donne look like she wanted out from between Tina Charles and Kiah Stokes. Me, I’m petty, I might have put her between Shavonte and Piph.)

This halftime game has some pretty good fundamentals and better skills than I was expecting from kids that small. We’ve already seen a foot-on-the-line two and some sweet passing.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 43-41. Tina Charles got her MVP on in the second quarter, with something like three straight buckets among her 17 points. Epiphanny Prince has 13 in support. Emma Meesseman has been the star of the show for DC with 10 points. Krystal Thomas has been solid down low; the battle between her and Kia Vaughn has been rough.

The folks behind me are pretty cool- they don’t know the team, but they know the game (and that the refs are not good).

This team. This team. The way they’ve been shutting opponents down late has been nothing short of amazing. The supporting cast has been taking turns being clutch. (Sometimes there are disadvantages to that. But they’re dealable ones. And I don’t care if that’s a word.)

Washington almost seemed like they weren’t sure what to do with Delle Donne and Meesseman on the floor at the same time. I think it messed up their schemes somehow.

Asia Taylor played just long enough to commit the shooting foul that got the Liberty their halftime lead. I guess Coach Thibault wanted her length on defense. Allison Hightower’s shot has not returned, and I don’t think Thibault’s faith in her has, either; after all, why else would he keep her on the bench when a guard of her defensive mindset was needed on the floor in late-game defensive sets?

Tianna Hawkins looks very different with her hair down in a simple ponytail; I barely recognized her without her crown. She’s gotten inordinately fond of the long jumper (I’m pretty sure even her twos were long ones). I don’t know if that’s a road I’d go down if I were her. Ivory Latta was surprisingly quiet, in more ways than one. She was a bit pesky defensively, but I don’t know if she’s been hurt or if time is starting to catch up with her. (That is one of the most personally depressing sentences I’ve ever had to write. I’m the same age as Latta’s class...) There just seemed to be something missing from her, whether it was energy or something else. There’s something I like about Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s certainly not how WNBA jerseys are not equipped to handle her name. I think she’s learning how to put herself in good defensive position, and use her length to her advantage. She was the pest I think I expected Latta to be.

Kristi Toliver hit her first shot, and I was convinced that after a quiet, disappointing season, this was going to be the game where she busted out, hit all her shots, and generally caused Liberty fans to tear out handfuls of their hair. But though she got some looks, they were often contested, and not the shots she seemed to be looking for. She played a lot of defense with her feet, in the “deflect the ball by whatever means possible” sense, not in the positioning sense. She lost her footing a lot, and I think it might have been the sneakers. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought physical defense on one end of the floor, but wasn’t much of an option offensively- even token defense was enough to change her shot. She had an open jumper and hit it, but everything else was hurried and hassled. She showed great hustle on the glass, though.

No matter what condition her hand is in, Elena Delle Donne’s not going to miss free throws. And when she was able to get or create space, she was money. Space was hard for her to come by, though; help defense was always on the way. I was more surprised with her bringing physical defense and hustling after loose balls on the sideline. If she’s learned how to mix a little nasty into her game, I guess that’s good for her. I’m just happy we held her to around 50% from the field and a minimal number of rebounds. Emma Meesseman carried the load for the Mystics in the first half, getting a little bit of space and hitting midrange shots. Our defense on her was far better in the second half; she didn’t get as many looks and they were far more contested when she did get touches. I think the offensive foul that took a basket off the board for her really stuck in her craw. Krystal Thomas impressed me with her touch at the basket, with her physical play on both ends of the floor, and with her hustle. She was a rock for Washington where and when they needed one. She’s put in the work to get herself into this league and stay here for a while, and I have to admire and respect that.

Much to the regret of the nice folks behind us, Amanda Zahui B was a DNP. Sorry, guys. You were fun to talk to, but the Amanda thing probably wasn’t going to happen.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe played briefly in the second quarter to give Tina Charles the only rest she was going to get. I thought this would be a better matchup for her, but it turned out not to be. Then again, how much was she realistically going to do in ninety-two seconds? Rebecca Allen hit a shot in the lane and made stupid defensive decisions. (I am also side-eyeing her interest in social media follows.) Lindsay Allen got her lunch eaten on defense and was hesitant to shoot on offense. It was like all the confidence she had in the last couple of weeks evaporated in the last two games. Don’t break the rookie, Bill.

Kiah Stokes rebounded really well, whether it was taking them down with brute force or tipping the ball over to her teammates. I would have liked to see her be more of an option on offense, and she’s got to do better with her ballhandling and holding on to the ball. I love her defense so much. Sugar Rodgers’s shot is still AWOL, and it worries me. She doesn’t have good games when Piph has good, or even passable, games. She gets open looks, and they don’t fall. She takes quick shots, and they don’t fall. She takes stupid shots, and they don’t fall. I wasn’t impressed with her defensive intensity, either. With Bria’s stamina the way it’s been, we’re going to need Sugar and Piph on the floor at the same time, and I don’t think we can ride the see-saw with them in the playoffs.

We might have to blame Kia Vaughn for Krystal Thomas getting loose, but we’re also going to have to give her credit for working hard on the glass and pulling down rebounds and boxing out. She’s started focusing more on her role, and that’s great for her. Credit where credit is due, always. Tina Charles changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter, almost single-handedly turning a five-point Washington lead into a Liberty lead. She went into the lane and she hit hook shots. I like that she has offensive versatility to her game, but sometimes I think she tries too hard to be versatile, and ends up playing to her weaknesses instead of her strengths; she brought the ball up the floor more than a few times, and while she mostly managed it, it was clear she wasn’t comfortable with it (there was one sequence where Kiah was trying to give her the ball and Tina was like GIVE IT TO A GUARD WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, only with emphatic hand gestures.

Shavonte Zellous gave as good as she got in the defensive match-up with Delle Donne- not necessarily as a physical back and forth, but as basket-for-basket exchanges. They were often similar baskets, too- one would jab forward, then fade away for the jumper. The only difference was that Z drove the paint and got free throws out of it. I love her energy. Bria Hartley came up with big plays early in the game, and did a marvelous job of running the clock down late so Washington had no time to come back. (That’s not sarcasm. Milking the clock effectively is a useful skill.) I’m worried about her durability, though; she’s been running out of steam earlier and earlier in games, which has led to the Sugar/Piph combo that hasn’t been working so great. Epiphanny Prince showed off her dribbling skills to create space for herself in the midrange, and brought some old-fashioned Rutgers defense.

The chemistry this team has together really shone. Whether it was the backtaps between pairs of teammates like Kia and Piph or Kiah and Bria, or the incredible work on long rebounds by everyone, or the crisp passing that made the wheel play beyond the arc work so well, or the nice finds in the corners- everyone seemed to be on the same page, except for the bit where pretty much everyone was dropping the ball on passes. Are there drills for pass catching?

Officiating was bad, and I think we got the best of it, but not by much. Counting appeared to be especially difficult for them, with numerous travels going ignored (pretty sure Delle Donne went from the right baseline to the basket without a dribble).

The energy in the building was phenomenal. Everyone was really into the game, even the people who sit in front of us who are usually not paying attention to the game. It was great. I think the crowd knew what this game meant.

Play of the game was the beautiful quasi-alley-oop from Shavonte to Kiah; I think it’s the play that gets called the Jewelly-oop if you throw it to a guard.

Gotta keep on moving forward. Even eight won’t be enough.


Monday, August 21, 2017

August 20th, 2017: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: A second-half defensive clampdown propelled the New York Liberty to a 70-61 win over the Minnesota Lynx. Tina Charles had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Liberty. Maya Moore had 22 points to lead all scorers, while Sylvia Fowles grabbed 15 rebounds but was held to seven points.

For a lack of substantive discussion, non-statistical impacts, unexpected blocks, flashbacks, taking care of business, and a dangerous kind of hope, join your intrepid and optimistic blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! It's game day once more at the Garden, as the Lynx- coming off their epic beatdown of the Fever- visit the Liberty- coming off two straight wins against teams ahead of them in the standings. It’s “Unity Day” at MSG, a day for diversity, inclusion, and (one hopes) learning not to be a jackass to fellow human beings. (Which... I mean... shouldn’t that be the bare minimum in interactions between people?)

But before game day, we have a panel! Liberty season subscribers have been given the opportunity to attend a town hall, “From Protest to Progress”. I’ll be taking notes for as long as I can, so these game notes might end up split across multiple posts. Events like these are part of why “non-game event” is a tag, y’know.

Good move, Swin. When in doubt, wear black. It’s been a Liberty tradition for many years, and it’s always a New York tradition. (I think it’s a quote from a bad sitcom, but I echo my dad’s fondness for the line “I’m only wearing black until they make something darker.”)

(It occurs to me that if I plan on having this out for an hour, I should have brought a power cord. I did not think my cunning plan all the way through.)

Readers who are uncomfortable with discussions about race will think they should skip this post, but honestly, if you’re uncomfortable discussing race, you need to be doing more of it. Raise your consciousness. Think about the skin you’re in and the skins other people are in.

All right, our panelists have arrived, slightly past fashionably late, unless my clock is fast. Sue Wicks and Tanisha Wright are holding it down for the Liberty (unfortunately, so is our team president, though he’s at least not on the panel, but we do have to hear him speak).

Sport may always have been a way to bring people together, but it also does a hell of a job of separating them sometimes. I think he's talking more from the athlete standpoint than the fan standpoint. He’s hammering home that the initiative behind this is coming from the players. (He’s also immensely proud of our moderator, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, because of his Detroit roots.)

“Thank you for recognizing my intellectual abilities, but please recognize me for my game.” Self-deprecation is fun sometimes. Dr. Dyson is very impressed with the WNBA’s social consciousness and how it’s wedded to athletic glory.

I don’t think Kaepernick’s decision is an accidental or inadvertent flashpoint, though.

He talks really fast. Bear in mind this observation is coming from a New Yorker.

Quick intro for all our panelists: Kristin Clarke, Juanita Holmes, William C. Rhoden, Ambassador Shabazz, and the two Libs.

I think calling what happened in Charlottesville “serious drama” might be an understatement, sir.

How do we discuss respect and dignity?

(At this point, I realized I was not going to be able to take notes, so there won’t be a separate post for the panel.)

I did not appreciate Isiah inserting himself into the discussion, I did not appreciate the guys bro’ing it up with him (the moderator gave male speakers extra turns ahead of female speakers at least twice), and I most definitely did not appreciate the simplification of the topic. If I had to hear the sports metaphor beaten to death one more time, I was going to go Bobby Knight on the chair next to me. I also didn’t appreciate the condescending way in which Brittany Boyd’s questions were answered. I thought she addressed good real-world concerns about the idealistic aims some of the panelists had.

(And, no, guys. Some of us don’t believe in the same God. Or any god. That was super uncomfortable.)

At halftime, it’s 33-28 Lynx, and it could most definitely be worse. We’ve had our looks, and we’ve played pretty good defense, all things considered. Shavonte Zellous has had both the play of the half- blocking Big Syl- and the facepalm of the half when she blew the wide open break.

Dear torch operator, please do not set Kia Vaughn on fire.

Tina’s dad is spectacularly bright today, in a red/orange jacket and red shoes.

Some people are conspicuous by their absence. They know who they are. They probably wonder why I don’t talk to them anymore. Today hasn’t even been that controversial, except for the panel, and even that was fairly non-confrontational. The teams are still stuck in the BHA shirts because it’s BHA Whatever Period Of Time.

Cooo-ee! I haven’t had a week like this since I was a Rutgers fan! Not for a single team, at least. (The year everyone went dancing is right up there, too.) We took out all three of the top teams in the league in consecutive games. This is awesome.

So, Minnesota. It’s kind of clear they’re short-handed, and I think the losses have changed their style of play. Without Brunson, you lose a lot of offense, and you lose the depth of bringing Pierson off the bench; Howard becomes the only forward available. Without Whalen, the playmaking style completely changes; Montgomery is much more willing to look for her own shot, and while she gets started faster, she often stalls the offense with standing around. You also lose bench depth. I don’t think they’ve adapted well to the necessity, their ass-stomping of Indiana not withstanding.

Cheryl Reeve was feeling reckless and put Alexis Jones in the game in the first half. This was not the wisest decision she made in this game. It was not adventure time, though things didn’t go too horribly. Jia Perkins still has the crossover, and the quick moves on both ends of the floor, but the jumper wasn’t going in with any consistency. Sugar kept leaving her open, and it’s like, Sugar, Jia’s been doing this for probably about as long as you’ve been playing basketball, why would you do such a thing? Natasha Howard is such an interesting player. There are times when she uses her length really well to snag rebounds- she almost had a nice putback on Tina Charles. There are times when you see the potential she has to learn from Brunson as Brunson learned from Griffith. And then there are the moments when she looks so lost. That’s a problem for Minnesota.

I think it was a foregone conclusion that Plenette Pierson was going to retire at the end of this season. Her play in this game indicated that that might not be the worst idea in the world. She still brings the Bad Girl defense, and there was one point where I had to ask whether Texas Tech did in fact sponsor diving, but she relied far too heavily on her outside shot. The three-pointer is best as a weapon when it’s used sparsely, not when it’s almost half your shots. And I realize this is a lot to expect, but I’d like for her to keep her elbows to herself and out of Tina’s throat. Sylvia Fowles was the center of defensive attention, usually with a post player playing her straight up and a guard going low for the ball. The help defense on her was strong. She didn’t get a lot of touches, and the ones she got were heavily contested. She was a beast on the glass, though, especially the offensive glass.

Maya gonna Maya. She skied for rebounds over players who had superior positioning. She hit threes during the Lynx’s attempted fourth quarter comeback. She hit one flying layup on a determined drive that had entirely too many people around us cheering. Please don’t cheer quite so enthusiastically for the other team, even when they make good plays; it's uncouth. Renee Montgomery seemed eager to look for her own shot, and to look for some of the fancier passes instead of the simpler passes (Moore had the same issue- sometimes you don’t need to make the behind-the-back flip, no matter how much fun it is). For some reason I get the feeling there was something personal at play for her, whether it was with the opposition or with trying to prove herself to her team. Seimone Augustus still has the beautiful, beautiful jumper, and the ability to create space to hit it. Her height was an advantage on defense- sometimes we went to smaller lineups, and Augustus versus Epiphanny Prince is a stark size difference.

Reeve is an interesting tactician. I don’t necessarily know if she’s a good one, but she’s definitely interesting. I found her timeout usage interesting, and not necessarily in a good way. I don’t know if the team failed to foul when ti looked like they needed to foul, or if she called htem off to save the points. I do wish she’d stop arguing with the refs quite so much.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe looks very, very different with her hair down, straight-ish, and braided a bit. I honestly thought for a moment we’d somehow made a very late-season roster move. She wasn’t tough enough for this game- not physical enough, not strong enough. Amanda Zahui B brought more size off the bench defensively, but she missed shots she had no business missing. I feel like there’s a leap she just hasn’t been able to make somehow. Kiah Stokes was solid in the middle, though it’s funny that she didn’t have either of the most memorable blocks of the game. She was physical on Fowles and came up with big rebounds.

Sugar Rodgers was the shooter we needed her to be today, and she also brought a lot of energy on defense, especially in the final minutes, when she had two big steals and breaks. She was key, and I love it. Lindsay Allen didn’t get a lot of run- she was in over her head more than a little bit, throwing telegraphed passes that turned into Minnesota breaks. Rebecca Allen saw brief time in both halves, mostly to give people a breather in the first and to get Shavonte off the floor in the waning minutes of the second. She didn’t have much of an impact on the game.

It was good to see Epiphanny Prince looking a little more like her Rutgers self. I don’t necessarily mean the parts where she was holding the ball longer than the play called for at the end of quarters, but I loved her help defense- she was doing a great job of forcing loose balls, especially on Fowles. She was incredibly effective and she came up with clutch plays. Bria Hartley has really found her rhythm after we were castigating her to start the season. She still makes more than her fair share of stupid mistakes on the floor, but she’s being more aggressive offensively, and she’s making some better defensive plays. I guess she’s one of those players to whom starting versus not starting matters. She’s been a huge catalyst to this winning streak.

And for all the grief we’ve given Kia Vaughn this season, she did yeoman’s work down low. She got the tough task of being the primary defender on Fowles, and I think she did a great job of it. She brought a lot of good energy to the floor. She’s Kia, so she’s going to have a few bonehead plays where she commits fouls she doesn’t need to commit, but when she’s rebounding and hustling, I’ll take those plays. Shavonte Zellous had the equally difficult task of attempting to defend Maya Moore, something she was less successful at than Kia, but something she also had a lot less help in doing. Z came up with great hustle plays and a big block on Natasha Howard. Tina Charles seemed tired- I think the back was bothering her. Some of those misses were uncharacteristic of her. When she gets tired, she starts jacking jumpers and missing bunnies. But a mediocre game from Tina Charles is a superstar game from anyone else; sometimes I think we lose sight of that.

The defense tonight was on point. Occasionally the help left shooters open who took advantage, but for the most part it prevented more points than it allowed.

Fantastic energy in the building, too. It got loud in the third and fourth quarters, and it wasn’t just me and the husband. It was really good to hear.

LOL of the game: everyone, including Bria, assuming that Kiah had the big stop on Big Syl that led to the jump ball. She was about to check out of the game and the ref reminded her that no, she had to jump.

Officiating was ridiculously Lynx-biased in the first half, more Liberty-biased in the second. Still not great. Survivable, though. (Also, Coach Reeve, I would appreciate you not bitching at the ref when he calls the first foul of the game on your team halfway through the second quarter.)

One of these days we’re going to be able to have a discussion of intersectionality without dumbing it down, and one of these days we’re going to be able to discuss privilege without immediately using it, and one of these days we’re going to be able to have this conversation without simplistic metaphors. We have not yet reached that day.

But I’m happy we’ve reached the day where the Liberty can 1-2-3 the league in three-straight games. :D


Monday, August 14, 2017

August 13th, 2017: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty ran off a 20-0 run to take control in their 83-69 win over the Los Angeles Sparks. Tina Charles had 21 points to lead the Liberty, with Shavonte Zellous adding her 19 at critical moments. Odyssey Sims had 18 to lead the Sparks.

For shiny objects, defense, a couple of lingering concerns, and a good crowd, join your intrepid and nostalgic blogger after the jump.

Let’s hope I manage to get these up on a more timely basis than I did the last batch. Night games wreck my sense of timing. It's gameday at the Garden once more, as the New York Liberty take on the Los Angeles Sparks.

It’s Breast Health Awareness Day, so shoutout to all y’all who have kicked the ass of breast cancer and other associated diseases (hi, Mom!) and much respect for those we lost. I loathe pinkwashing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good cause.

Sparks lineup appears to be bugged, unless Williams is not only back from injury but starting.

There is a man behind the Sparks bench who is either Tina Charles’s dad or someone who wants to get into a fashion war with him. It’s very difficult to win a fashion war with Tina’s dad. From here I can’t tell if the suit and hat are Sparks yellow or Liberty orange.

Uh, Sue? Are you okay? Poor Sue Wicks looks like twenty years just slapped her in the face at once. (I worry about people. I worry about people I should probably not be worrying about.)

Pink jerseys today. Very pink. Joy. Rapture. My eyes already hurt.

Good anthem singer, but she tried to hit notes she couldn’t quite manage.

At halftime, it’s 44-35 Liberty, after the Sparks ended the first quarter with an 11-point lead. Epiphanny Prince and Tina Charles are leading the way for New York. Candace Parker has 10 and 4 for the Sparks, but midway through the second quarter she hit the deck and was very slow getting up. She got up and got back in, but it looked like her hamstring was bothering her.

There’s someone on the baseline who looks like Cappie disguised as a Rastafarian. I don’t know if it’s her, though it would be funny as hell if it was.

The dance troupe at halftime can certainly move. Equal parts beefcake and cheesecake. It’s a balanced diet.

Shoutout to the dude who was so hyped for the Tina Charles trade that he bought a custom jersey before the black jerseys were ready. The #31 looks weird on blue, let me tell you.

Refs are letting us play.

Good eye by Maj Forsberg on disallowing the basket from Shavonte Zellous. Basket came on the second shot attempt, which was after the shot attempt on which she was fouled.

Well, that was fun! Parker’s injury/cramp was really the turning point in the game- that spurred the Liberty’s big run, which in turn gave the Libs enough of a cushion to hold off the periodic attempts by Los Angeles to come back. We definitely had advantages, and I don’t think this is sustainable, but it was definitely fun!

Sandrine Gruda came in at the end of the game, put up a weird-looking jumper, and did nothing else of note. I honestly expected to see more of both her and Tiffany Jackson-Jones in this game, with Ogwumike’s foul trouble and whatever was bothering Parker, but Agler gonna Agler; where he’s going, he doesn’t need reserves. I would have liked to hear Jackson-Jones get a proper introduction so she could get a proper round of applause on BHA day; she certainly got a lot of high-fives at the tunnel during halftime. I don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t want to be thought of as “the breast cancer survivor”, but if we’re gonna have BHA against the Sparks, it seems appropriate to honor her.

Jantel Lavender really seems to have drifted outside, at least offensively. I know the midrange-take-a-step-back-and-it’s-a-3 jumper is a big part of her arsenal, but she seemed to lean far too towards dancing around outside on offense. She was still rebounding well and boxing out well, but I feel like she might be more useful to them going hard in the paint. Sydney Wiese soaked up the reserve minutes at guard, and while she showed some interesting moves, she didn’t bring a lot else. There were stretches where she looked like she was panicking, and the opportunities she had she didn’t take well.

But Los Angeles really didn’t rely on their bench much. Even when it seemed like it might have been a good idea to pull Nneka Ogwumike out because of foul trouble, or Candace Parker after she made it clear that she wasn’t 100% after going out in the second quarter, Agler rode his starters. Credit where credit is due, Ogwumike was able to work around that on both ends of the floor. She was solid inside and out, physical in the first half but more of a help defender in the second half. It wasn’t a spectacular Nneka game, but I don’t think it was ever going to be. Candace Parker didn’t seem the game after leaving in the second quarter- yes, she walked it off and came back into the game, and played almost all of the second half, but she looked more hesitant. Her ballhandling wasn’t as fluid and her rebounding was more tentative. She backed off of shots she normally takes. What astonished me today about her was the fine ball control she has with her hands. The kinds of plays that normally seem to go off other players’ fingertips were corralled when she got her hand on them. It’s fascinating, and must take ungodly strength, dexterity, and skill to pull off.

Alana Beard brought physical defense, and definitely made her presence felt at that end of the floor. She had a big block on Bria Hartley that was very impressive. But her shooting was as bad as she made other people’s shooting. Odyssey Sims took ridiculous advantage of Lindsay Allen. It just wasn’t right. I think she had three baskets in a row in one sequence. She had one shot that pretty much put the “Lucky” back in “Lucky Lefty”, going in and out and back in. She brings a lot of speed to the game, but sometimes it’s rushing headlong speed, not necessarily practical speed. Chelsea Gray opened the game hot, both hitting shots and dropping sweet passes (she had a little bounce pass backwards to Ogwumike that might not have been an assist because Ogwumike had to take a step back to set up the shot, but it was sweet). I got the sense that when the Sparks got away from letting her run the offense- when Parker or Sims was orchestrating and initiating the offense- they weren’t as well off. She has such good vision.

(As an aside: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a trade where both sides have benefited so spectacularly and so equally, where both players have flourished so quickly, and where it’s so clear that neither player would have had the same results had they stayed in place.)

I’d have to go back and look at entirely too much videotape, but I’m not sure if Lindsay Allen has defended a lefty as offensive-minded as Sims on the pro level yet. It was not one of her better defensive games, which is not a good sign since half the time Bill puts her in the game when he's frustrated with how Bria’s playing defense. I do like how she’s developing offensively, though; her vision is improving and she’s becoming somewhat more willing to take the shot when it’s given to her. Sugar Rodgers’s shot selection continues to boggle the mind. She’s bringing hustle, and she’s bringing energy, but energy isn’t always helpful if it’s not properly directed. Her threes from the corner, in rhythm, were good; her drives down the lane, less so. Rebecca Allen, in a reversal of her usual role, had a couple of nifty plays on the glass (a nice pass to Amanda Zahui B off a wild rebound) and on defense (an emphatic block on Jantel Lavender), but missed the wide-open misrange jumper the Sparks defense gave her. I think she was just confused at being that open.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe finally got her Cheesy Musical Hook, and I can’t believe I didn’t even think of pulling the “Rain” portion of her name for it. (“Love Reign O’er Me”, if you were wondering.) It was a nice little basket. She didn’t bring much otherwise, but I still think we need to see more of her. Can’t run Tina and the Kia(h)s too much; something’s going to give. Kiah Stokes was quiet statistically, and couldn’t seem to believe the fouls that were being called on her. She was physical. Amanda Zahui B had her hair straightened, and I so wanted to ask what conditioner she was using, because her hair was so shiny! She had a pretty good game in limited minutes. I think she might be getting her confidence back.

(Yes, as a matter of fact, I am distracted by shiny objects.)

Bria Hartley got off to a really good start, and even the shots she missed were good shots. She’s found her footing in these last few games, I think. I’m still not completely happy with her defense, but she’s become a more effective player on the offensive end of the floor. I’m still not thrilled with her, but I’m not frothing at the mouth about her either. Epiphanny Prince found her offense early, which was a relief. She and Sugar still don’t pair well together, and that’s troublesome if it becomes necessary to put them both on the floor, but at this point I think we’re going to have to settle for one or the other having her act together on any given day.

We can’t keep running Tina Charles into the ground. It’s going to backfire on us in the end. There was one defensive sequence where she was expected to be the primary defender on both Parker and Ogwumike, and that is not a tenable situation for someone who’s also expected to be the primary offensive option at all times. Tina’s a workhorse, but that doesn’t mean we can ride her to death. She’s powering through it, but the wear is starting to show. Shavonte Zellous was the firestarter for us and the doom of the Sparks. Whenever LA made a run, Z was like, “Nope!” and hit a big shot or made a solid defensive play. She was hitting the angle three and the midrange jumper, which is always a good sign. I love the energy she brings to the floor, and the active leadership she shows. We do need someone to be a stabilizing presence, but Shavonte can definitely be the leader-by-example. Kia Vaugh continues to be kind of aderpable and mostly not in in the clutch.

Officiating was surprisingly beneficial, though I did side-eye the Sparks only getting one foul in the first quarter.

Lots of huge steals. The defense stepped up. I think we forced five straight turnovers off the Sparks at one point. Good stuff. I’m proud of this team.


Friday, August 11, 2017

August 8th, 2017: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty survived a career night from Erica Wheeler and a strong comeback from the Indiana Fever to come away with an 81-76 win. Tina Charles had 26 points to lead four Liberty players in double figures. Wheeler’s 33 points led all scorers.

For outside shooting, fight scenes, and random encounters, join your intrepid blogger after jump.

Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and well-mannered non-binary folk! We’re coming to you from the familiar confines of Madison Square Garden, where the New York Liberty are hosting the Indiana Fever for their first home game in entirely too long.

How long has it been? I was planning Legendary raids today because I forgot it was game day.

(That being said, never let it be said good karma is not a thing. Did three hours of volunteer work today. Caught my first Lugia to complete the legendary set.)

It’s halftime of Garden of Dreams night, which means that we’re watching various young and talented teens and kidlets perform. So far the young dancer in the middle has been my favorite, though the singer who’s closing out the performance is rapidly rocketing up the charts. She’s carrying off Carole King pretty well.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 46-40, though the Fever have been on a run. Tina Charles is doing Tina Charles things. My vision is a little blurry, but I think she has 18 points and five rebounds. Erica Wheeler is dishing out vengeance to the Liberty, with 20 of the Fever’s 40 (and Candice Dupree has another 10 of the remaining 20, so, uh, I think I know where our defense needs to focus). We’ve seen a lot of the Liberty bench, which has had its good moments and its bad moments.

I don’t like the new song choice for the intro video. Can I have BeyoncĂ© back, please?

Amanda Zahui B got so mad at a non-call in the paint (while she was on the bench, to clarify) that her hair exploded.

Hi, Neika! Stopped for dinner and ran into Shenneika Smith, slayer of Huskies and bad-ass Reggae Girl. (At least I assume the basketball teams use the same nickname as the soccer teams.)

That was closer than it needed to be, and I think we need to get to work on our perimeter defense. Unless that was all part of the cunning plan, in which case I don’t like the cunning plan.

Marissa Coleman did a thing! From everything I’ve been hearing, I gather this is a thing I should be surprised at, but she took advantage of her height over her defender and scored deep in the paint. That was really it. Jeanette Pohlen-Mavunga played briefly, caused hesitation on the part of our PA guy, and got knocked around by everyone, including her own teammates. (There was a whole lot of Stanford-based violence going on in one first-half sequence involving Shavonte Zellous, Pohlen-Mavunga, and Erica McCall. I think either Kia or Kiah was in on it too.) Erica McCall seemed to find her stride in the second half, using her build more effectively and getting looks from the midrange. She has some of her sister’s gawkiness, though it's less pronounced with her stockier build.

Erlana Larkins brought physicality down low, including a big block on Kiah Stokes. She was in good position a lot for rebounding and boxing out. She had trouble finishing over the taller defenders that the Liberty threw at her, though. She took a lot of contact, and more than a little of it should have been called. Jazmon Gwathmey looked a lot like her old self from JMU- aggressive offensively, both inside and on the perimeter, and not afraid to take contact on the glass. She really seems to have come into her own in Indiana, and I’m really happy for her- she took a lot of unwarranted heat for being the other end of the Jia Perkins trade (it’s not her fault Perkins wanted out of San Antonio). I’m having trouble putting my finger on it, but she seems more comfortable more assertive, more in the flow and rhythm of the game on both ends of the floor.

My goodness, Erica Wheeler, have yourself a day and a night, why don’t you? I still maintain that that last three-pointer she hit should have been ruled a 2, but it ultimately wouldn’t have mattered and I really shouldn’t be petty like that. Tonight, she was the player we expected Sugar to be- lethal from outside, fearless on the inside, a pesky gnat on defense. We left her open, and she made us pay over and over again. Superb game from her. Briann January was tenacious defensively, and you can definitely see her martial arts background in the way she uses her feet. It's not just what I’m sure is an accidental tendency to trip people, but the fact that her feet are constantly in motion. She seems to have more body awareness than most people, and I know that comes from her mad leet black belt skillz. Tiffany Mitchell in the three-guard set did not have a good night- the rims were especially unkind to her, even when she had good looks, and I wonder if the hit to the face in their last game discouraged her from mixing it up too much on defense. Gwathmey gave them more inside while not losing most of the perimeter threat, so it's no wonder Gwathmey got the minutes.

Candice Dupree is so ridiculously smooth. The new hair is taking some time to get used to (hey, someone rocks the same look for 10 years, it's hard to adjust). The defense seemed to key on her in the second half, showing a whole bunch of different looks- I remember more than one possession where Bria Hartley or Epiphanny Prince worked on her on the perimeter. She and Tina Charles were going at it on the inside, and she definitely got the worst of it- I don’t know how the forearm Tina put into her throat wasn’t called anything. Natalie Achonwa got off to a good early start, but I think picking up the second foul fairly early in the game threw her off, and facing physical Liberty defense didn’t help. She had fantastic inside position on offensive rebounds- in general, the Fever posts did a good job sealing off the Liberty posts on inside rebounds.

I love how possessive Rebecca Allen is when she gets rebounds. She brings the ball down and wraps it in both arms like she’s about to start calling it her Precious. I am less in love with the stepping on the baseline thing, especially twice in a game. The lines are bright orange, Bec, how are you missing them? I have to look up how old she is later, because I know what her play is reminding me of now- a college player who hasn’t quite gotten the hang of her body yet and is like “Holy cow, I can do these things now!” Amanda Zahui B actually had a pretty good run in the first half, with a sweet pass to set up Rebecca Allen for a bucket in the lane. She took a hard fall and got up slowly, so I think whatever progress was made on the health of her back just reversed. I suspect that’s why we didn’t see her in the second half, unless there’s some kind of weird Canadian-Swedish treaty I haven’t heard about. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe got the second half forward minutes, but did nothing of note with them.

Some of the shots Sugar Rodgers has been taking have been so ill-advised and so off-target that I’m starting to wonder if she needs to have her vision checked. I love the energy she brings on defense, but she needs to be a two-way player if she’s going to be the linchpin of our bench squad. One floater in the lane comes to mind as a particularly misguided attempt to channel Mark Jackson. Lindsay Allen helped speed up the tempo- when she was at point, there was a lot more ball movement. I’d love to crunch the numbers with both her and Shavonte on the floor; my theory is that it would show both more possessions per however-many units of time these things are measured in, and better plus/minus. She had a beautiful pass to Kiah Stokes cutting in the paint. Kiah was a rock down low, finishing the easy looks she got (there were at least two occasions where she was able to cut into a wide open lane with no defenders in sight) and defending well at the other end. It was the kind of performance we need to see consistently from her. (Though I’d like to see more rebounds. The offensive rebounding is nice, but the total is underwhelming.)

Shavonte Zellous has metaphorical cojones of steel. She took hit after hit, including one we were almost certain either rang her bell or did something to her neck, and kept getting up again. She was fiery on the court, and even if her shots weren’t going down, she was making things happen with her drives to the lane and mad dashes for rebounds. She brought an unreal amount of energy to the floor- it was glorious. Tina Charles should probably wipe her hands after she’s had a long rest- there was a fourth-quarter sequence where two passes slipped through her hands. I think she’s starting to wear down from the minute load, and it’s showing in the second halves of games. She’s a beast down low, and her perimeter game is a nice change of pace, but it seems like she’s been relying more and more heavily on the midrange game than on the inside game. I get that she needs to put less strain on herself, but that’s not how to do it. Kia Vaughn moves around a lot on the floor, but there never seem to be good results out of it. I like the occasional hook shot, but she misses it more than she makes it. There’s a reason she’s not on the floor in crunch time- there actually appear to be several reasons.

Bria Hartley is one of the most up-and-down, love-hate players we’ve had on the Liberty in a long time. She has moments of brilliance when she hits big shots, and she has moments of exasperation when she bricks open lay-ups. Her defense needs a lot of work- you could see the team trying to hide her on rotations. It didn’t go well, especially with both Piph and Sugar struggling. She slows the game down too much, and she seems very hesitant when she’s making decisions on offense. I’m not fond of that. I question Epiphanny Prince’s decisions with the ball, too; it seems like she holds it too long too often instead of passing, and then tries to do too much herself instead of looking for her teammates. Have you tried not painting yourself into corners, Piph? She has the ability to create her own shot, but it seems like she doesn’t use it often enough.

Free throws won this game for us, and I’m not afraid to say that we got the better of most of the dubious officiating. (How dubious was it? Garden graphics gave one ref’s name as Sue Blaugh instead of Blauch.) There was a lot of contact on both teams that wasn’t called, but the Liberty gave more and got less called.

Speaking of physical play... I don’t know what exactly went down, but there was some kind of altercation in the general admission stands. I think everyone on our side of halfcourt was looking over. There were most definitely shenanigans. Security was all up in there.

I don’t understand people who stomp out of a close game in the last minute, as if it offends them that people are getting into it.

Perimeter defense. This is a thing we need to work on. We’ll get there, I’m sure. But we need everyone to be the players we know they can be.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 22nd, 2017: All-Star Game

Just the Facts, Ma’am: All-Star MVP Maya Moore had 23 points, and the West created separation in the fourth quarter to win 130-121. Everyone scored in a high-scoring, free-wheeling shootout.

For fans, excitement, shooting threes, all the threes, and a lot of fun, join your intrepid and two-sport blogger after the jump.

Game day! It’s All-Star time, and it will be glorious.

We’re coming to you on tape delay- but not from KeyArena at Seattle Center. These notes are being typed at Seattle High School Memorial Stadium, where your intrepid blogger and two of her best friends (the one I married and the one who flew across the country for my wedding) are getting ready to watch the Seattle Reign take on Sky Blue FC. (Don’t tell my husband, but I’m rooting for Sky Blue. Go New York, even if you’re in New Jersey.) That being said, Seattle probably wins for having the best view in the league. Something about being able to look up at the Space Needle from the grandstand does that.

The Bite of Seattle is full of deliciousness, and right now so am I. So many delicious things. Would highly recommend the puffles.

Oh, yes, the basketball game. It was a lot of fun. My hips are still a little sore from the cupholders. The seats are a bit tight. I thought most of the players did a nice job of balancing the fun of the All-Star game with the competitiveness of actually playing to win. It was free-flowing, for the most part, and fun to watch.

I did get annoyed at Stefanie Dolson for blatantly backing off Breanna Stewart in the first half. I mean, really. Dolson had fun showing off her shooting range, though. She and the PA announcer were both thrown for a loop when she forgot to take off her warm-up shirt before checking in. (Um. Dolson. Not the announcer. The announcer was a dude.) Elizabeth Williams dropped a monster block that brought great joy to the crowd. She was the last off the bench in the first half, but part of the second line in the second half. Candice Dupree seemed to be getting fed the ball a lot in the first half; I’m not sure if there was some kind of proving herself thing going on. She seemed to take great pleasure in taking jumpers.

Sugar Rodgers landed a couple of jumpers that were very gratifying, and that doesn’t even go into her three-point shooting at halftime, which we’ll get into later. She had a nifty deflection. What can I say? That’s what Sugar does. I wouldn’t have picked her as an All-Star, but she made a good showing of herself. Allie Quigley also showed off her shot. She’s so smooth, and it's nice to be able to root for her to hit threes. It doesn’t happen very often. Layshia Clarendon had an awesome, awesome tip-in to end the fhird quarter, and then scored the next five for the East as well. I think she was really hyped to be there and wanted to take full advantage of it. Her energy was off the charts.

I can’t pull up the stats for this game right now, but I’m pretty sure Tiffany Hayes had the highest usage rate among East players. She seemed to be in the middle of every play. That’s not necessarily a good thing. For every lay-up or slick pass, you’d have a hurried shot or a turnover. It’s not all about you, Tip. Jasmine Thomas drove well and passed well, but I think that the big Wall Street Journal article on her improved three-point shooting got into her head or something. Her jumper was off.

Jonquel Jones had either family or friends at the game, with #35 shirts and a big old Bahamian flag in the stands, and she balled out. She finished down low with flair, flashed the three-point shot, and closed out the game by throwing it down (while it wasn’t the flashiest dunk, it was solid). She’s so much fun to watch, both because she’s so good and because she has so much fun out there- we could see her smiling from the upper deck. Tina Charles didn’t play a lot, and with the way Dupree and Williams were both playing, I can’t say I blame Miller. I really thought the East should have pounded it inside more. Alyssa Thomas slashed nicely to the basket, but again, I can understand why Miller didn’t play her too much. He’s got a season to think about.

I know Maya Moore had a very good game, and I can’t quibble with the leading scorer on the winning team getting MVP. On the other hand, I thought, and still think, Nneka Ogwumike should have been MVP. She got buckets whenever the East was making a run, and she boarded hard. Rebekkah Brunson seemed determined to prove that she could totally shoot from the outside. She’s still got surprising ups for a woman her age. (“Her age.” She’s two years older than I am and has way, way more vertical than I do.) Breanna Stewart got a lot of pop from the crowd, as is to be expected for the hometown team, and showed off some dipsy-do moves at the basket. It helped that she and Dolson seemed to be operating under a mutual non-aggression pact- as soon as one of them went to the basket, the one on defense backed off like she was on fire.

We actually didn’t see very much of Seimone Augustus, but she had the funniest play of the game, when she bounced it off Tiffany Hayes’s foot and the PA announcer promptly said, “There’s that veteran presence of mind.” Skylar Diggins-Smith mostly set up beyond the arc, moreso than most of the rest of her teammates. I’m not sure if she was looking for her shot or if she was in “just happy to be here” mode. She just didn’t seem to be trying to make herself a factor like most of her teammates were. Chelsea Gray showed off both her stroke and her slick, sweet passing. She had fun with behind the back passes and casual flips.

Candace Parker seemed to get more into the flow of the game in the second half, both going to the basket and shooting threes. A lot of people were shooting threes, but she seemed to be doing it more to have fun with it than shooting seriously. It’s like someone flipped a switch and told her it was okay to let people know she was enjoying herself. It's okay, Candace. We won’t tell anyone you’re having fun. Your secret is safe with us. Sylvia Fowles should not shoot threes, but she was very effective posting up down low. Makes sense. It's all kind of a blur at this point, and I do tend to focus more on my team than on the opposing team; since I’m from the East, “my” team is the one with Tina and Sugar. Maya Moore was her solid self, hitting the threes she couldn’t hit in the contest, and boarding with power. I think a lot of people would have given her MVP, and obviously that includes the people who made the official decisions.

Diana Taurasi was a bundle of energy, up and down the court at every opportunity. She launched without hesitation and without remorse from downtown. Ball went into her hands, there was a very good chance the ball was going up. She was having fun, and she did her best to make sure that everyone around her had fun. It’s fun to watch that. Sue Bird was showing off by the end, going behind the back and between the legs. Arguably her best pass was one that didn’t result in a basket, and Nneka not hitting that shot made me sad. She hit a very classic three- the “die bitches” play in action, even if it wasn’t in a “die bitches” situation.

If you took the WNBAAlien’s over/under bet, the over won. To be fair, it wasn’t an unwarranted review; it was the tip-in at the end of the third quarter, so it had to be reviewed. The refs let a fair amount of contact go before attempting to call it, and they started calling touch fouls instead of heavy contact. (Then the refs in the soccer game basically decided to make their colleagues look good, so that’s a thing. I mean, really, a player gets thrown into the boards, and y’all aren’t going to call it? Miss me with that nonsense.)

Shoutout to the old school jerseys- the Sonja Henning, the Betty Lennox, the Stacey Lovelace. Shoutout to the fully decked out Sacramento fan in her warmup jacket and cap. Shoutout to what I’m told was a Utah Starzz practice jersey. Shoutout to all y’all who were out there repping your teams: the Champion Leslie jersey, the Wings fans in the neon green behind the West bench, the bedazzled Dupree fan in the Indiana shirt, the Lynx and Merc and Sparks and Storm and Sky and Mystics and Liberty fans who rocked their colors and cheered their players.

The three-point shootout was fun! Admittedly, I’m biased because Sugar Rodgers kicked a whole lot of butt, but the crowd went wild when both she and Allie Quigley went on their runs. When Quigley all but ran the money ball rack... wow. I think next year they need to keep it to dedicated three-point shooters, even if they’re not All-Stars.

I love KeyArena, but I’m starting to understand why the NBA wouldn’t want to come back to it. It doesn’t have a lot of amenities, the upper concourses don’t really seem to be set up for a lot of people, there’s no wi-fi and probably no way to set up wi-fi, the seats are narrow, etc. It's a very nice arena, don’t get me wrong. But I recognize its flaws.

I’m definitely looking forward to next year! See you in... Minneapolis, maybe? All y’all better be there.