Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17th, 2014: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty finished their 2014 campaign on a high note, with a 73-61 win over Indiana. Plenette Pierson put in 15 to lead New York. Maggie Lucas led Indiana with 17 points.

For comparisons, farewells, getting the gang together, the Sound of Music, lots of bench minutes, distracting Tamika Catchings, and pictures, join your intrepid and resigned blogger after the jump.

So this is it. This is the end of the line. This is the last game of 2014 for the Liberty, and the last WNBA game of the season for your intrepid blogger (barring a conveniently timed Finals match-up between the Mystics and the Lynx, and even then that might be pricey).

I'm not used to our fate being decided so suddenly and so swiftly. Usually the last game is relevant even if our fate is no longer in our hands. But this is a meaningless game with no relevance to the Liberty and limited relevance to the Fever (someone may have to correct me on that, as I am completely lost when it comes to the tie-break situation at this point). It's going to be hard for anyone to muster up a give-a-darn, even if it's Fan Appreciation Night.

Look, all I want is a complete team set for 2014. Why are Swin and Natasha so hard to get? Why? But no, every game it's the same few people out. :(

I'm going to take a few moments and just let it soak in what Lin Dunn has done for women's basketball. She's a legend, a pioneer, a trail blazer, and a part of the game's history. She's a builder. She's an amazing woman. I know her journey isn't quite done yet, but this is the last time she's coming to New York, and I wish her all the best. I look forward to seeing what she does when she's off the bench- I know she'll keep beating down barriers and improving the game. I'll miss seeing her white pouf on the sidelines, and miss hearing her wit in that inimitable drawl. (I think my favorite was when someone asked her if she was on or going on a diet. "The only carbs I eat are in my beer.") The Liberty gave her recognition and a little send-off, which was nice.

Again, I'm pretty sure that watching this dance routine is illegal in several states and would add me to the registry.

Our regular PA guy bailed. I haz a sad.

The shirts for Fan Appreciation Night are nice, but they only come in large, and I need at least XXL. I haz another sad.

Our poor unlucky wretch. Not only has she had to put up with us all year, but they put her on dunk tank duty for the fanfest. (We love you, Melissa. You put up with us. Good luck on your travels and in your new job!)

Okay, the Bollywood troupe is better, more dressed, and I don't feel horribly perverted staring at them. This is a plus.

So far they do not appear to have opened up the upper deck, despite the fact that there are lots of people here. (And lots of rude people. There's a line, stop shoving past it. And at least one stupid person, who doesn't understand why "everyone's rushing if they're going to different seats", I'm not making this up.)

Whichever genius put the kid in the Catchings jersey and his dad on the baseline by the Liberty bench really needs a talking to. I'm pretty sure their special experience would have been more special by the Fever bench. (And I think it was. Dude sure got comfortable in those seats, though.)

I really wish the team would be able to track down Tari Phillips. Kym has pretty much lost her voice and is trying to make up for it with dramatics. Loud public speaking will wreck a person's voice, and she's done a lot of that for us.

I am not feeling Shanece McKinney's short cut. And I am still not feeling Lynetta Kizer's blue dreadlocks.

Indiana's bench, and Indiana's hustle, is the season for them. There have been very few clean rebounds for the Liberty- there always seems to be a hand or a slap. The end of the half had a very bad call on Plenette Pierson that I really thought should have been on Lynetta Kizer.

Post-game season subscriber perfect attendance photo op. We are currently dealing with fan-issued awards. Perhaps not the most adept spokeswoman. (Alex is our MIP, Plenette our MVP, so that for star power. New York appreciates hustle and heart more than anything else.)

Which is why it's easy to appreciate Indiana, to be honest. That is a hard-working team, all the way down to position 12. They will fight you. They will scrap with you. They will throw you out of the way if they have to. But they're not going to stop working you. They may occasionally get sloppy, and their reserves are in dire need of a lay-up line or two, but they're never going to give up.

DNP-CDs for Tamika Catchings, Briann January, and Erlana Larkins. Look at all the bothers Lin Dunn gave about this game.

Maggie Lucas is kind of lethal from outside, in case you haven't noticed. We sort o didn't notice for much of the game, and there was a point very late in the fourth quarter where I thought she was going to Reggie Miller Indiana right back into the game. She hit one that was from well outside. She's kind of sneaky as a distributor- I never see her making the pass, but she gets the assists. Sydney Carter is small and fast, though speedy might be a more appropriate word- as a player she's fast, but as a point guard, she spent a lot of time hesitating. (There was one point where she, Clarendon, and Lucas were all on the floor at the same time, which I think technically made Lucas a three. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dance of the Sugarplum IDGAF Fairy!) Krystal Thomas was able to muscle her opponent- usually Shanece McKinney- out of position under the basket easily, and used height to smoosh many attempts at the basket, especially late in the game- only the one on Essence Carson was really emphatic, but they all prevented easy makes. She has to finish at the basket, which you may have noticed as a trend among the Indiana posts. She got decent looks and has to hit them if Indiana is going to make any long-term use of her. Karima Christmas had a nice sideline play to save a possession, but was otherwise quiet- she spent a lot of her time on offense floating around the three-point line. It's a weapon she has, and knowing the Indiana coaching staff, I'm assuming they decided to have her practice that shot this game.

Natasha Howard reminds me of a young Sancho Lyttle or Rebekkah Brunson- at the basket, she's more of a Brunson, further away she's more of a Lyttle. She doesn't yet have the defensive acumen of either of them. But she rebounded on the offensive glass beautifully today. She had a lot of trouble finishing at the basket, but I like the moves she has. Lynetta Kizer was phenomenal on defense, physical and determined never to let anyone she was guarding at the basket. She has the little foul-line/foul-line extended jumper that reminds me of Tamika Whitmore or Ruth Riley, though she's not as automatic with it as Riley was (or at least as Riley was against us). She never stopped woring. Shavonte Zellous was quietly efficient, though she missed some shots she should have hit. I'm not used to her being so willing to give up the ball, but I guess Lin Dunn can teach an old ballhog some new tricks. Layshia Clarendon seemed more hesitant than I would have liked running the offense, and she should have finished a lot of the shots she missed. On the other hand, I should have realized it would be a rough shooting night for her all the way through when her shots in warm-ups consistently fell short. I'm starting to wonder if she either has a low pain tolerance or a very touchy back, because every time I've seen her it looks like she's either caught a cramp or had her back seize up (although to be fair, if Swin Cash got me with one of those bony hips, I'd probably feel back pain too). Marissa Coleman hit her first three, and had plenty of opportunities, but really didn't play a lot, and really didn't have much impact on the game. She seems like the one player who philosophically doesn't fit with this team and their style.

Good Lord, Stephanie White's pants were bright. So was Sylvia Crawley's dress.

Shanece McKinney. Shanece. We were all in your corner coming out of training camp. We thought you got screwed and we were glad to see you back. But you have got to hit a dang lay-up if you want to be a professional basketball player. She got good looks from her teammates and didn't put enough oomph on them, or hesitated long enough for Krystal Thomas to lay the hammer down. Hit your shots, Shanece. Natasha Lacy ran a nice offense- I would have liked to see her call her own number a lot sooner, since she was the last Liberty player to score, and heaven knows that Shanece and Avery weren't helping her assist numbers. She's fast. I like her. Can we keep her? Essence Carson came in for defense, and I honestly don't remember her attempting to do much offensively. Sugar Rodgers looked like she was in preseason mode- that's usually when the team suddenly starts giving up shots under the basket to make quick little passes to other players under the basket. (In that case, it happened to work out.) She started a little slow, but found her groove in the second quarter. Plenette Pierson used all her veteran craftiness to get to the line, and she hit her shots when she got there. She was all up in the paint's business. Alex Montgomery was unmemorable. Last off the bench in the first half, but started the second. This is the logic of the IDGAF Bowl. Chardé Houston has more colors in her hair than I realized. She took a lot of shots, hit some when we needed them, and startled Cappie Pondexter by attempting to pass her the ball. I don't think Cappie expected Chardé to pass. I don't think Cappie has ever expected Chardé to pass.

Tina Charles started the game, played most of the first quarter, then retired permanently to the bench. We didn't expect much more than that from her. Cappie Pondexter played limited minutes, and I don't think any of them were in the fourth quarter. She looked a little out of sync, but that might have been the oddness of the number of reserves getting time- the lineups were not the usual lineups. Anna Cruz kept up the defensive intensity and cut well to the basket. I do like to see her being aggressive offensively! Avery Warley-Talbert, by this point in the season, seems to have been conditioned to believe that if a whistle is being blown while she's on the floor, there's a foul on her- she had quite the WTF face while Swin Cash was being called for a defensive three seconds. Granted, Avery is usually correct that the foul is being called on her, whether she's earned it or not. She had a nice lay-up inside from a Swin pass. Swin Cash was passing well tonight- she had the previously mentioned look to Avery, plus she got Natasha her basket right before the shot clock expired to make sure everyone scored. She also brought some defense and some rebounding. I don't know if she's worth inviting back next season, but she showed quality today.

I expected better from a Denise Brooks crew than fouls that were essentially coin tosses, long discussions where a linesman seemed to be trying to overrule a crew chief, and an inability to count steps. (Also, officiating pet peeve: if the player with the ball runs around a screen so that her defender is scraped against the screen like a bug on a windshield, why is it a foul on the defender? What else is she supposed to do?)

One of the timeouts had an awesome dunk contest- real players on real baskets, instead of the kiddie contests we usually get. Much better. Tamika Catchings kept trying to look past the huddle to get a view.

Props to the guy who hit the three for a grand. It was the only three the Liberty hit all day.

I'll miss the Garden for a few months. I'll miss the Usual Suspects. We're both going to miss our neighbor Dan, who's moving to California. (Good luck in Cali, Dan!) I'll miss slipping on my black jersey and heading down to the rail. (And I never did get Swin and Natasha on the hat.) This is it. Lights are out, Garden is deconstructed, stanchions are down. Season's over in New York. Time to regroup, get healthy, figure out the situation, and possibly learn some crowd management skills.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12th, 2014: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A spirited effort by the Liberty fell short against the Mercury, as Phoenix came away from New York with a 76-64 win. Five Mercury players notched double figures, with Candice Dupree leading the way at 18 points, adding 10 rebounds. Brittney Griner added 14 points and a team-high 11 boards. For New York, Tina Charles notched game-highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds.

For heart, hustle, purple and black and blue, office supplies, pain, hard screens, noses to the grindstone, and dodging bad acts, join your intrepid and clichéd blogger after the jump.

Hello, fellow Swish Appeal type people! (What are we, anyway? Swishers? Appelates? I feel like I've made this joke before, too.) It's gameday at the Garden, and the Liberty have the daunting task of facing down the Phoenix Mercury- oh, and the Mercury need one win to clinch the West and pretty much seal up homecourt all the way through the Finals. No pressure, Libs.

(My expectations and hopes for this game pretty much boil down to "no one get hurt". I'll be euphoric if we win, but I can't bring myself to believe in anything more than not dying.)

I'll be getting to the game early today, as I took the afternoon shift volunteering with Operation Backpack. It's my third year doing it, and it's a worthy cause. (There are several drives across the country- see if your area has one! Won't someone please think of the children?!)

DeWanna Bonner was really happy to see Anna Cruz. I don't know the degree of separation there. She was last off the floor, and for a while I think she lost track of time, because she suddenly ran off the court like a bolt of greased lightning, then stopped to talk to some Mercury fans and returned to normal socializing speed.

Brittney Griner received Skittles. She got a lot of attention at the Mercury end of the court, so she ran off in a hurry through the tunnel. I'm annoyed/regretful, but not mad. She was swarmed. Her sleeve is prettier up close than in pictures, but I think I still like Seimone Augustus's better.

There is a lot of purple and radioactive orange in the building tonight, most of it Taurasi and Griner themed (as opposed to general Phoenix stuff). It distresses me, but on the other hand, you have to expect it. Griner is a cultural phenomenon, not just an interesting opponent.

There appears to be a lonesome scout in the upper deck.. Either that, or someone really got screwed by the ticket office.

Do not adjust your Liberty bench. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.

You didn't get a halftime report because I had a tape dispenser to deliver to my mother and an Anna Cruz jersey to get 30% off on in the team store. I skipped the dance routine. I do not feel like anything of value was lost in my life. Unfortunately, I had to sit through the pregame Simon Says game, with that annoying host.

That went better than I was expecting. Phoenix is much more talented than we are, but we came at them consistently through most of the game, except for a brief patch at the end of the second quarter. We needed that intensity, and we needed to remember that there are four quarters in a game as we hit the stretch run. I'll take it.

Tiffany Bias is adorable and clearly has decent cojones, if she's going to walk into Phoenix and take that 23. She came in at the very end of the game, along with Ewelina Kobryn. Kobryn was a little handsy, but honestly, it was, like, the last two minutes, I don't think anyone actually and truly gave a bother. Anete Jakobsone-Zogota was a late insert in both halves, as a spot-up shooter and a defender of questionable skill. Phoenix hid her on Essence Carson whenever possible. Mistie Bass did Mistie Bass things- physical defense, tough screens to free up her teammates (occasionally illegal ones), and boxing out. Mistie Bass is, to me, the quintessential intangibles post- she will make you better and you will like it, though it will not be pretty. Shay Murphy brought the defense (Murphy's latest law: if there is a mid-air collision between two bench players, the foul will be on the player who appears least likely to have initiated the contact). Love her work. Erin Phillips seems to have gained back her speed, along with her shot when she was left open repeatedly beyond the arc. She was tenacious on defense, though perhaps sometimes to her detriment- she did get away with at least one trip.

DeWanna Bonner is really tall and skinny and kind of long-armed. For once, she wasn't launching ill-advised threes, and she seemed to be everywhere on defense. As a basketball fan, it's nice to see her using her height. Diana Taurasi seemed to have a chip on her shoulder for most of the game, starting with her deliberate lingering on the logo during Maddie's pre-game routine (yes, try that again, Diana, Maddie will step on you) and through her demeanor on the floor throughout the game. She didn't seem in control of herself for much of the game, with bad passes and bad decisions. She still had the long ball working with no hesitation and no fear. Penny Talor had a lot of shots altered by Liberty defenders or changed by the rim, but she sure is pretty out there. I love the way she moves. She sets their break off well. Candice Dupree is so smooth. No fuss, no muss, just efficient and smooth both in the paint and just outside it. And no one notices her because there are so many other players to notice. Brittney Griner is ridiculously tall and even skinnier in person. I love her little hook shot. She dunked in warmups, but not in game play- though she did almost put up some basket interference with her fingers in the net on Alex Montgomery's three. She is not very good at down. Up, she's good at, but down appears to be more of a challenge. Up allows her to influence shots even without touching them.

So many weapons. It's not fair.

Shanece McKinney saw second half minutes, presumably to save Plenette Pierson and continue the physical defense on Griner. She was somewhat less successful than Avery Warley-Talbert. Chardé Houston was inserted a couple of times in hope that she would provide some offense. She didn't. On the plus side, she seems to have corralled all the braids that she bought, as opposed to having one try to escape. We actually got to see a lot of Essence Carson tonight, both because the options around her were not of great use and because she looked like a fair amount of the rust had flaked off. She could still be relied upon for the Plinko shot (you know the one, that shot that goes so high that it bounces off the top of the backboard and rattles around the supports before falling through), but her defense was back and she was hitting some jumpers. Nice to see her back. Sugar Rodgers is still in regression to Georgetown mode- firing up so-so shots and playing so-so defense. She had a nice little hustle play gong for a loose ball. Plenette seemed more offensive-minded than defensive-minded for this game, floating around the outside and throwing up jumpers. She gave some toughness inside, but overall seemed to be marking off time to the end of the game. Alex Montgomery played some defense and hit a big three, along with a lay-up along the baseline that she almost traveled on.

Tina Charles, oh my goodness. She just had her way with Griner in the first quarter. It was a fine example of a savvy veteran using her size, strength, and knowledge against a younger player with a height advantage. She moved around those long arms and got the job done. Avery Warley-Talbert defended Griner well, making her uncomfortable in space and forcing her to change her moves constantly. The shot she hit was off the offensive rebound, on a nice play. Swin Cash was up and down all night, from hard-nosed hustle to plays that harked back to the "Crackhead" days in Detroit. I don't know if I like her as a starter here. I would have liked more of Anna Cruz in the fourth quarter, since I think she could have contributed more offense than Sugar and kept the play moving faster than Essence could (I love Essence, but when she's running point, she flashes back to Stringer's system, and then I want to gouge my eyes out as the universe grinds to a halt). I understand the logic, but I don't agree with it. Cappie Pondexter came up with midrange jumpers for most of the night. She looked partially like her old self. I missed that.

The intensity was there for New York, which was a blessed change from the last couple of hot messes that the Garden has seen. We faded a bit near the end of the first half, and I think that clinched the game for Phoenix, but the Mercury didn't look quite as juggernaut-esque as they have most of the year.

Auriemma was in the house, two seats over from Sue Wicks (fortunately, Sue's time at Rutgers predates the RU-UConn rivalry, so there was no bloodshed).

I cannot even with the officials, and we're lucky no one got hurt in that regard. (Both sides, to be fair.) Lots of holding and grabbing by both teams in the first half, lots of holding and grabbing and ticky-tack calls in the second.

Survive and advance. Survive and advance. That's all there is to it.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10th, 2014: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tamika Catchings poured in 29 points to lead Indiana in a wire-to-wire 90-74 win at New York. Erlana Larkins added 14 points and six rebounds for the Fever. New York got 18 points from Cappie Pondexter, and 17 points and six assists from Tina Charles.

For frustration, incomplete sets, wanting to smash things, the big black scary paint, and harassing opposing fans, join your intrepid blogger after the jump, though she's going to go play Heretic now to get this game out of her head.

Good afternoon, loyal and disloyal readers! We're coming to you from a warm summer afternoon safe in the air conditioned confines of Madison Square Garden, as the Liberty finally get to host the Indiana Fever.

Getting Swin and Natasha on the cap continues to be a challenge. All I want is a team set. :(

Several families here from Penn State, presumably because of Maggie Lucas. She stopped for pictures and autographs for them- she stopped for everyone, but she came out and around behind the benches for them. (That is not to say she was showing preference- they were the only ones who tried.)

Layshia Clarendon seems to have mastered the art of the 'oh crap I'm late but I'll do pics and signatures as fast as I can anyway' run. I do like her.

To the fans in the Briann January shirts: I am so sorry about that guy. He's autistic, and not as high-functioning as he used to be.

I think they overbooked entertainment for the last few games- they've had "God Bless America" performances and more dance groups than you can shake a stick at. I have not been impressed by most of them.

At halftime, it's only because Anna Cruz hit a buzzer beater that we've cut it under 20, at 51-32. The entire team has decided that taking long two-point jumpers is the most brilliant idea in the universe. (There was actually a point during one of the timeouts that either Bill or Katie wrote in huge letters on the clipboard "BRAIN!")

Well, at least we pretended to care in the second half. I guess that's better than not even bothering to pretend to care. I love my team, but they're very frustrating sometimes, especially when we're stupid, and we spend so much time being stupid. Indiana played tough defense in the lane, that's true, but we reacted to that defense as if it were on fire.

Krystal Thomas got time early in the fourth quarter, and early on it looked like she was going for the record for fastest DQ in league history. She didn't play much. Sydney Carter saw the floor late in the third quarter, with an encore appearance in the fourth. She's fast, and smoother than I remembered, and she showed more interest in going to the basket in six and a half minutes than most of the Liberty showed all game. Layshia Clarendon played briefly in the first half, but either she twisted her ankle or something flared up in her calf, because she hobbled off the floor and was never seen again (and that golden 'hawk does stick up from the crowd). Lynetta Kizer is an adult and allowed to make whatever bad decisions she wants to, but that particular shade of bluish green looks like her hair has mold in it. She was unremarkable- a little bit of toughness, a little bit of shooting. Karima Christmas was tough defensively, and seems to have extended her shooting range a little bit, since she was comfortably going for threes in this one. I think her bigger impact was defensive, though. Maggie Lucas can shoot. We kept leaving her open. This was a bad idea. She also did a nice job passing out when she didn't have shots. Natasha Howard's athleticism impressed me- she showed why she was a first round pick, and that she can be the kind of inside-outside threat that Tamika Catchings is (not that she is Tamika Catchings in level yet, but stylistically).

Briann January knows how to fall- I swear she slapped the mat after one play. She wasn't called upon for a lot, but she ran the offense and did her job. Shavonte Zellous didn't really get shot-happy until the third quarter, and even then, she seemed to have found a comfortable place in the flow of the offense, taking good shots instead of firing away randomly. Marissa Coleman was given open looks and took a plethora of them, both good ones and ones that were a bit longer than expected. Erlana Larkins moves with unexpected fluidity for a woman of her solid build. She took over offensively in the second half, including one on a pretty feed by Briann January. I know she wouldn't have developed into this kind of player in New York, but I still resent that a New York castoff has become such a solid contributor elsewhere. Tamika Catchings remains Tamika Catchings, film at 11: she can score from the outside, she can score from the inside, she can get you on the glass, she'll defend you 'til her last breath, and she can occasionally play as if she is unaware of the presence of other human beings. Putting Avery Warley-Talbert on her to start may not have been the brightest thing Bill Laimbeer has ever done in his life.

Indiana played tough and got the job done inside, so that New York was flat out terrified of the concept of going into the paint. Meanwhile they were going to the basket at will.

Natasha Lacy came in at the very end of the game, and at least she could hit her free throws on the clear path foul. Hitting free throws is a bit of an issue for this squad, especially ones without players lined up along the lane. Essence Carson still looks like she needs to get the rust off- I was surprised she played at all, given that she was talking to Laura Ramus and holding her knee before the game, and that she was sitting on the floor with her legs stretched out for much of the second half. Oh, hey, it's Shanece McKinney. She did not play the most relevant 122 seconds in the history of basketball. Chardé Houston actually got the second half start ahead of Alex Montgomery, and brought a little offensive punch. Not a lot, but a little. At least she occasionally dared to set foot in the scary paint place. Sugar Rodgers, in one swell foop, reverted back to her Georgetown style of play. She got some offense going in the second half, but she did not seem efficient and she did not seem smart. Plenette Pierson was physical and seemed to enjoy taking jumpers just a little outside her range. I feel like we got lucky on some of her foul calls. Swin Cash at least hit jumpers, but overall, I don't think she should have been taking them. I also think Bill had too much faith in her defense.

I don't know when exactly Alex Montgomery suffered her recto-cranial inversion, though I suspect it was after the halfcourt shot, but she really needs to seek treatment for it. She's taking bad jumpers and her defense has deteriorated. Since her defense is her calling card, this is a bit of a problem. Avery Warley-Talbert was tasked with the impossible duty of guarding Tamika Catchings, and was abused outside by her. It was not pretty. Anna Cruz did not play much of the second half, as Bill looked for more dynamic offense, and Anna seemed scared to shoot for much of the game. Cappie Pondexter started off hot, but I think she may have had to carry too much of the load. You can't expect her to score, and distribute, and defend on top of everything else. Not with the condition she's in. Not at this time of the season. Tina Charles relied too much on shots outside the paint- solid, but not MVP solid. Passing out for stupid jumpers is a nice way to pad assists, but it doesn't help the main problem of the offense settling for those jumpers.

Yes, I've looked at the box score. Yes, I've looked at the stats. But for most of this game, the Liberty were terrified of going to the basket, and even when they did score in the paint, it was on questionable jumpers. There was way too much backing out. Go the basket. Good things happen when you take lay-ups.

The officials called a lot of ticky-tack stuff, then let the wrestling matches go. I'm not impressed.

At this point, my goal for the Phoenix game is "don't get hurt and don't look like a D-III team".


Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8th, 2014: Connecticut at new York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty came away from a game full of missed shots with a 71-66 win over the Connecticut Sun. Tina Charles had 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead New York, while Avery Warley-Talbert had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Katie Douglas led all scorers with 26 points, with Alex Bentley chipping in 14.

For clanks, auld acquaintance not forgot, clunks, Californian hair dye, clonks, the world's most annoying cotton candy vendor, clinks, conflation of cultures, and missed shots, join your intrepid and blurry blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone! Actually, as I type these words, it's afternoon. Your intrepid blogger took today as a half-day and is currently on a Manhattan-bound F train coming up through Brooklyn, sitting across from one of the Lil Torches and her mom. Couldn't quite take the long way around that I wanted to, since HopStop wouldn't give me a route through Brooklyn to the Staten Island Ferry, but it is what it is. We're coming down the backstretch now, and every game in this utterly ridiculous Eastern Conference counts. Not to mention, we kind of have this thing with the Connecticut Sun.

Finishing off my hat has gotten tough to the point of ridiculousness. At this point, my best bet for getting Natasha is going to be begging her wife for a favor.

Adorable meter broken. Avery Warley-Talbert came out with cupcakes for her family. Not realizing at first that they were her family, I assumed they had a super-double-plus awesome ticket plan (because there's only one way to one-up seatside service) and made an ass out of myself. (Also, Mr. Talbert is quite attractive. Well done, Avery. Hey, when all you can see is the outside of the book, you can at least pay compliments to the cover.)

Renee Montgomery was so happy to see Ashley Walker in the stands she heaved herself up on the railing to say hi, and needed Ebony Hoffman to catch her on the way down. No joke. (Also, I'm assuming one of the team's favorite electives at Cal has to do with the proper application of hair dye. The body of evidence: Layshia Clarendon's golden 'hawk, Gennifer Brandon's Sailor Berkeley pink braids, Ashley Walker's dark purple hair {which is more the shade Stefanie Dolson should have gone with, IMO}).

We have a drum team. I approve. The guy drumming upside down was pretty impressive.

Okay, hands up anyone who got a very weird mental imge when they announced "DJ Lobo" on the mix?

Well, that's a first half I would like to scrub from the inside of my eyelids. New York is up 33-25, but that's mostly because Connecticut spent most of the second quarter being able to hit water by falling out of a boat. New York decided that the substantial lead thus built up provided a wonderful opportunity to practice taking their really bad jumpers. We're rebounding well, though that might just be because both teams are providing plenty of opportunities.

It's Noche Latina at the Garden, nominally to exploit honor Anna Cruz. On one hand, a celebration of Spanish-speaking cultures is a good way to get folks in the door. On the other hand, celebrating a Spanish player with South American and Caribbean culture is sort of like celebrating English Heritage Night with hockey, kangaroos, and Bermuda shorts. Nothing that is related to the actual country of Spain where Anna hails from has been involved tonight.

They showed a little message for Bill Laimbeer and his wife's 35th wedding anniversary. I have never seen that man turn so red in my life. We're talking Houston Comets road jersey red here. (And yes, I did have a sample to work from- there's a woman in a Cynthia Cooper jersey here.)

That game was all kinds of hot mess, and everyone involved should just try to pretend it didn't happen and move on. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Oh, all right, fine.

Kelly Faris was inserted in the first half as Anne Donovan desperately sought something that would work. She scrapped, but was irrelevant. Ebony Hoffman got some decent run, and though she wasn't effective statistically, she used her frame well and forced Tina Charles to put in more effort defending her on the outside. Definitely an upgrade on Kelley Cain. Danielle McCray hit a three, at which point I was sure all hope was lost for the Liberty. We pulled through somehow. I like her hairstyle- very reminiscent of Le'Coe Willingham. Renee Montgomery seemed to speed up the Sun's offense, which didn't necessarily seem to jive with what Donovan wanted to do. She did NOT want to come out of the game after her second foul. Kelsey Griffin was tough on the inside- got the scoring going in the first quarter for the Sun, and set things up with screens and rebounds in the second half. I still don't like the way she plays, though I probably would if she were in New York. She's just that kind of player. You can call her dirty- it's not always accurate, but she spends the kind of time around that line that you usually see from much more veteran players. Her battles with Plenette Pierson are pretty intense.

Katie Douglas either hit her shots tonight or missed them badly. There was no in between. Either they were sweet and through the net with much grinding of teeth in our section, or they glanced off the side of the rim or only hit glass. And she was hitting a lot of those shots. She pretty much decided that she was going to take over the third quarter. It helped the Sun's cause that she had a relatively immobile defender on her. She was solid on defense, too, including one crushing block on a bad decision by Sugar Rodgers. Much of the offense in the first quarter seemed to be running through Kelsey Bone. I'm not sure if that was a plan by Donovan to try and get Tina Charles into foul trouble, but it was not terribly effective. She missed a lot of chippies. She pulled down rebounds decently and filled up space in the middle on defense, but was not an offensive threat. Alyssa Thomas started using her athleticism more in the second half, going strong to the basket, and Connecticut might very well have won that game if she could shoot more effectively with her off hand. She had a couple of opportunities that she couldn't take proper advantage of. She did help galvanize Connecticut in the second half. Kayla Pedersen is not Chiney Ogwumike, despite the same alma mater, but she was ferocious on the glass. She went after rebounds with a single-minded intensity that was kind of scary- she had a really nice one that she flat-out stole away from the Libs that led to a Douglas three-pointer. Alex Bentley came up with pretty much all the field goals in the second quarter, with midrange jumpers and cuts to the hoop. She had a nice steal in the first quarter- I think it was off Anna Cruz, but don't quote me on that.

Chardé Houston, one thin blonde braid dangling from her bun like the pull-cord to a ceiling light, proved that the only shot she's ever seen and disliked is the one that someone else is taking. She had some pretty bad ones out there, egregious even by the standards of this bad-shot-happy game. Essence Carson got some first-half run, threw up a horrendous shot, played minimal defense, and proved why she has not been getting playing time for most of the season. I love Essence, but this season has not been her finest collection of moments. Swin Cash had a nice play near the end of the game to help salvage a loose ball, but was otherwise not impressive- when she fouled Douglas on the three near the end of the game, I'm pretty sure there was an epidemic of gray hair in the stands. Sugar Rodgers demonstrated a lack of shot selection that I haven't seen from her since the Georgetown days. She came up with big shots, but she also took some spectacularly dumb ones. She has perfected the soccer knee-slide of triumph. Plenette Pierson got away with an elbow- it didn't make contact, but it was pretty vicious- and did a lot of falling and slipping.

I think Cappie Pondexter's Achilles issue flared up again. She did not have any lift on her shot, nor could she keep pace with Douglas on defense. Connecticut used Pedersen and Bone well to get Douglas space, but Cappie got caught on those screens like... well, a moth on a screen door. She didn't play much of the second half, but came in to hit a couple of those legendary fadeaway midrange jumpers right when we needed the offensive boost. Anna Cruz was strangely reticent to shoot for much of the third quarter, penetrating and then dishing to places where there were no players to catch the ball, or if there were, they were Connecticut players. She got over it a bit more in the fourth quarter. Avery Warley-Talbert did nothing flashy, but fought hard for every rebound and went hard to the basket. It was one of her better games this year. She's a bit of a liability defensively, but I love her hustle and her work. Every team needs a player with that kind of mindset. Alex Montgomery demonstrated all the shot selection of a concussed lemur- bad jumpers, badly off line. Go to the hole, Alexandria. Go towards the basket. It's nice there. Defensiely, she was solid. Still would like to see her make that more of a focus. Tina Charles started off hot, then cooled down, with some unfortunate misses. I'd like to see her rebound a little harder, but she got the job done on a night when no one seemed familiar with the concept of throwing the round thing towards the other round thing.

You may have noticed I have harped on the bad shots taken and missed in this game. There were a lot of ugly shots, and a lot of ugly misses on shots that shouldn't have been missed. I swear, I think I would have done something drastic if the Libs had missed one more free throw. My eyes.

The officiating veered in terms of bias. I don't get it either.

We won, I'm relieved, can we never talk about this game again?


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 29th, 2014: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It took buzzer-beaters, overtime, and getting back a lead as high as 15 points, but the New York Liberty pulled off an 80-76 win against the Washington Mystics. Tina Charles had 23 points and 12 rebounds, 19 and 7 of those in the first half. Kia Vaughn led Washington with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.

For pinkness, transiting, drop passes, Valentines, purple mountain majesties, and staying up past your bedtime, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.

So it's already one of those nights, one of those crazy old nights, and I've barely crossed the county line, let alone gotten to the Garden, let alone seen the game start. One bus was early, the other one late, and I can think of better things to do with twenty minutes than wait for a bus in the industrial armpit of Queens. My computer's being a brat. I'm running late and highly disapprove of the entire situation.

Once your intrepid blogger successfully drags you through the perils of the MTA, we'll be coming to you in surround sound from Mystics-Liberty at Madison Square Garden. It took over an hour, though it didn't help that security was being obnoxious. (Dude. You have a wand. Wand me and we'll move on.)

BHA night at the Garden, with free towels and lots of pink. The black and pink is not completely horrid.

So, yeah, Alex Montgomery hit her first shot of the game as a running shot from beyond halfcourt that was nothing but net. That just happened. That is a thing that has happened in real life. Go home, Washington. I SAID GO HOME, NOT FORCE OVERTIME WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

"America the Beautiful" was all right until she blipped on "purple mountain's majesty", and then it was stylistic hell from there. Anthem was all right- a bit more operatic than I like.

I'm not a fan of the Valentine's Day look. The pink was so dark that there were a couple of early miscues where people on the court mistook one team for the other. They got over it. (Also, Chardé got busted for rolling her shorts so much that the white lining showed glaringly against the pink.)

I think Kara Lawson was being saved as a late-game secret weapon. It kind of worked a little. She spent a fair amount of the third or fourth quarter with a large pad on her back. And then she was making with the big shots. All her points were in the second half, and most of those in the fourth quarter. She got a bit physical, too, and I love when she tries to play innocent after delivering a hit that would please the Baltimore Ravens. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought some defense, but she seems to think she's a jump shooter. Tianna Hawkins played briefly in the first half as part of the line change near the end of the first quarter, but showed me nothing. Judging from the lack of minutes in the second half for her, I suspect Mike Thibault agreed. Stefanie Dolson and her cheerful purple hair got much more of that time in the second half and overtime, both at center with Meesseman and at power forward with Vaughn. She's good at getting little things done on the floor, and she deked out Tina Charles with a couple of over-the-shoulder moves. She stretched the Liberty defense and while she seemed a little in over her head at times, she was solid for them.

Bria Hartley has such a fast first step. She's not necessarily fast, but she's quick, and I think that's the first time I saw the stark difference between being fast and being quick. She seemed to start off slowly, but got into a better rhythm as the game went on. Monique Currie had the jumper going a little bit, but also had the temper going a little bit. She said one of the magic words to Jeff Smith, and the T came in a hurry. Kia Vaughn had her way with Avery Warley-Talbert, but came up with a bit more trouble on those rare occasions when Tina Charles was the one defending her. She scored in flurries. Emma Meesseman was a non-factor in the first half, but started the third quarter red hot, cutting along the baseline to get easy shots. She moves real pretty. There's so much potential there, and I hope that she keeps coming back to the US so we can watch her develop it. I just love to watch her work. Ivory Latta didn't impress, but she kept her team steady.

Going to the double-big, and going with Dolson in the second half, and increasing the defensive intensity, really helped Washington turn the corner in the second half.

Oh my goodness, Sugar Rodgers. She just took over in the overtime period. It wasn't just offense, either. She was intense on defense, forcing two jump balls in the final Mystics possession. There as a point near the end of regulation where she was put in for Plenette Pierson on defense, as part of a small lineup, and we thought it was a bad plan. She promptly stole the ball. She's really developed this year, and I think I like her now. I think. She induces lots of both "OH MY GOD SUGAR YES!" and "OH MY GOD TA'SHAUNA NO!" Natasha Lacy provided a quick lift whenever she was in the game, driving hard to the basket. Chardé Houston (tonight rocking a mostly shaved head with long braids sprinkled with blue and blonde) brought some of the offense and did at least try on defense. She failed miserably, but she did try. Swin Cash was ineffective. Decent defensively, but on the other hand, she didn't play much down the stretch, when a more defensive-minded player might have been desired. She made some bad decisions with the ball (I think she was the one who inbounded after the Sugar steal, at which point Washington stole the ball back). Plenette Pierson brought toughness, that odd dolphin-kick jumper, some questionable fouls, and defense.

Tina Charles was a beast in the first half. I don't want to call her unstoppable, because as many points as she scored, she took a lot of shots and missed a lot of shots. But she found her groove and tore it up in the first half. In the second half, she faced much tougher defense and started taking some spectacularly dumb shots. Tina, you are not Kareem, you have not perfected the hook. You are not Katie Douglas, so lay off the modified finger roll. Avery Warley-Talbert fought so very hard, though the numbers are a wee bit skewed- she got five o-boards on one possession (where at least two fouls should have been called, grar). She was called upon for a lot of defensive assignments that were over her head, but she did well for what she could do. Alex Montgomery hit that fantastic halfcourt shot, but that was all she hit, and in the second half, she took some really, really bad shots, as if she thought hitting a halfcourt heave automatically gave her range to take and hit any off balance shot she felt like taking. She got pulled after a bunch of those, and Bill pulled her back a couple of times. Cappie Pondexter looked limited by her Achilles for much of the game, though she scored a flurry in the third quarter. She read long rebounds well and led the break. Anna Cruz found her groove again, whether it was with threes (I could have done without the attempt in Hammon-land, though). Or with hard hustling after loose balls, the final game-saving play being the biggest one of those. She recognized that we needed her to do the scoring, so she became more assertive.

I just wish we hadn't decided to slow-play the second half. We might not have needed overtime if there was less hesitation in the third and fourth quarters. Yes, Washington swarmed more heavily on defense and forced players out of their comfort zones, but there was way too much passing up of open shots and too much winding down the clock.

This was the same officiating crew as there was in Connecticut on Sunday, and by golly they were tired from the long trip, because they just didn't feel like calling much of anything. There was a lot of physical play, some of it dangerous (Natasha got lucky on the trip that wasn't called) and some of it ridiculous. That favors New York (we are Bad Girls, after all) but I still don’t like it.

Skipped the BHA auction. Feel no guilt. The options were not impressive.

Spoon is rocking the 'hawk. She was coaching Alex from the baseline while Alex was on the bench. I think she works for us now.

If that dunker named Ariel was actually A'riel Hampton, I am going to side-eye the Garden forever and three days. Do not use your employees' children in contests.

This was the kind of game we might have lost in June. This was the kind of game that showed why the black jersey mindset means something. Now it's time to hit the road and try not to panic.


Monday, July 28, 2014

July 27th, 2014: Minnesota at Connecticut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16th, 2014: Atlanta at New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13th, 2014: Los Angeles at Connecticut

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

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

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

Lost twenty bucks. I regret nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11th, 2014: Los Angeles at New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6th, 2014: Minnesota at New York

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

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

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

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

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

Spoon working the room, as she does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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