Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21st, 2016: Indiana at New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, July 18, 2016

July 17th, 2016: Connecticut at New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13th, 2016: Atlanta at New York

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

For matching shirts, avoidance, blank shirts, cheap shots, Swedes, the spoils of war, and resting the starters, join your intrepid and mildly embarrassed blogger after the jump.
Grunt. Grunt. Snarl. CAFFEINE. Seethe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful bilingual anthem- English and ASL simultaneously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, July 11, 2016

July 10th, 2016: San Antonio at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It wasn't pretty, but the Liberty turned on the afterburners to knock off the San Antonio Stars, 75-65. Amanda Zahui B. had 14 points off the bench to lead a balanced New York offense. Monique Currie had 17 in the loss for San Antonio.

For touching on intersectionality, missed chippies, that guy with the Sugar thing, a lack of ball security, activism, and holding on tight, join your intrepid and proud blogger after the jump.
Good afternoon! Your intrepid blogger continues her drawl-tinged adventures this week as the Liberty host the San Antonio Stars.

Just as a warning: these notes may appear to be written by a drunk. I'm not drunk, I'm sleep-deprived; it's like being drunk, but you can do it for free. Went to the Garth Brooks concert last night, which got delayed three hours and didn't start 'til quarter to twelve. I got home at 4:30 in the morning. I'm not used to that. So I'm still exhausted but exhilarated and my filters haven't properly reset.

Monique Currie seems to have picked up DeLisha Milton-Jones's mantle as "superbly hateable on the court, superbly cool off it". She was really friendly with fans today. (And, uh, sorry for accidentally throwing my Sharpie at you, Dearica Hamby. Seriously. I am not coordinated today, but you are- that was a nice catch.)

I wasn't paying attention to the dance troupe before the game. Sorry.

Liberty have black t-shirts for this one, hashtagged both #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5. Can't see what the line on the back says. (Oh. Oh, my heart. It's a blank hashtag. Like they're waiting for the next one. Because we know there will be a next one. Or they're waiting to tell their own stories.)

(And I wonder: how do the Australian, the Canadian, and the Swede look at this country? How did the discussion go down? Did the poster girl for Native success speak up for Native American lives? Did anyone utter the fateful words "All Lives Matter"? Is it different if you're white, biracial, black? If you're from the North or the South? If you're a city girl or a small-town kid? Who spoke first? Who spoke last?)

At halftime, it's only 33-31 Liberty, but the reserves got a long stretch of time in the second quarter. I'm not too worried yet. San Antonio can't hit the broad side of a barn from inside the barn, and Tina can't be this bad forever, right? On the other hand, we have no ball security. It's terrifying.

On one hand, that game was closer than I felt like it needed to be, at least until the final couple of minutes. On the other hand, we won by ten with the role of Tina Charles being filled by Amanda Zahui B. and all the reserves played at least a quarter's worth of minutes. On the other hand, I'm worried about Shavonte after that dirty play by Jefferson. On the other hand, where are all these extra hands coming from?

You knew it was "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" time when Jazmon Gwathmey was set to check in at the end of the first quarter. I've been hoping to see her get work done, but she looked very tentative out there (which isn't a surprise if you're talking about a rookie who's barely playing). There was a possession where she had a shot I've seen her take at James Madison that she passed up for a play to the inside (I think that was one where the Stars blew the initial shot but picked up the offensive rebound and scored). Astou Ndour is almost ridiculously tall and skinny; if she played for one of my teams, I'd be able to bring back the old jokes I used to make about Shenneika Smith, about go-go-Gadget arms and the viability of folding her for convenience. She didn't play a lot, which was a surprise, since she kind of did a number on us last game out. Kayla Alexander travels a lot. Maybe Canadian steps aren't worth as much as American steps, so she can take more of them? (That's an exchange rate joke, son.) I like her hustle on the boards, but she's got to learn to play more with her feet than her arms. But one of the silver linings to this season for the Stars is that players like Alexander are able to develop- I wonder if that's one of the reasons they felt they could let Adams go.

Sydney Colson played the part of Danielle Robinson pretty well today, except that she's actually got a jump shot. She was throwing up some ridiculous shots that somehow went down, and could even have gotten a little more help from the rim. She brings good speed for them- she's a real firestarter. Haley Peters used her height to get looks, but she couldn't get them down. She was mixing it up a little bit on the glass, too.

Dearica Hamby crashed the boards like her life depended on it. By the end of the game, you could see how thoroughly her jersey had absorbed sweat- she was soaked with it, and there was a line on her shorts where her jersey was tucked in. Her rebounding was the best part of her game- she had a lot of trouble hanging on to the ball and hitting shots right at the rim (she had some really good looks). Jayne Appel-Marinelli does a nice job facilitating for her teammates as a screener and a passer, but she doesn't bring enough to the table offensively (her one basket was on a play near the end of the game where the defense bailed) or defensively. Monique Currie decided pretty early on that she was the option of first and last resort for her team, and she did well with the mid-range jumper. She used to get a lot of her stuff off penetration, so she adjusted well to our defense. (Saying first and last resort is not to say she was ballhogging, either. First resort- she was making herself an option. Last resort- when the Stars needed someone to score in the fourth, it was her.)

Moriah Jefferson has to have rockets hidden in the heels of her ruby slippers. That's the only thing I can think of to explain how high she goes up and how fast she goes. With the ball, she's faster than a lot of players without it. She has both inside and outside game. She's got such vertical lift that she's able to counteract her lack of height- she was killing us on the glass, and not just the usual way guards get rebounds (either long ones outside or going low to steal them from post players who persist in bringing the ball down). I would like her a lot better if she didn't leg whip Shavonte right at the end of the game. Alex Montgomery got most of her run in the first half, and seemed to be focused on shooting from the perimeter, which is amusing given how we pigeon-holed her as a defensive specialist in New York. She doesn't seem to fit into that lineup.

San Antonio is... not a good basketball team. They need a coach who can work with fundamentals, who can design an offense that plays to that team's strengths, and who can help get them a front line in order.

Amanda Zahui B. put in work today off the bench down in the paint. She got a little foul-happy in the fourth quarter- I don't think she was prepared for that many minutes in a row. But it was nice to see the variation in her game, and to not see her taking threes (and to see her defending them). Someone still needs to work on Kiah Stokes and her finishing at the rim, but I love her defense and her rebounding. Rebecca Allen brought hustle off the bench, even if she couldn't hit a shot. Someone's got to get some of that weird spin out of her shot somehow. It affects her consistency.

There are going to be more nights when Shavonte Zellous doesn't get the calls. She has a persistent habit of going for the contact instead of the shot, of jacking up things that aren't really shots as soon as she sees the potential of contact. She got the benefit of the doubt today, for the most part. I like her work on defense, too. I hope she's okay- she was limping after taking a leg whip/kick to the ankle from Jefferson. We really needed what she brought today, because we were getting nothing out of Swin, but more on that later. Brittany Boyd was the Energizer Bunny that the crowd has come to love- she finished with panache on her first two makes, then brought it home with the jumper. She and Jefferson were going at it hammer and tongs- I can't remember if they played each other, but I thought someone might have said something about someone's mother at some point. It's good to see her bringing that energy again.

I've seen Swin Cash play some pretty bad games in a Liberty uniform, but this one was right up there. Down there. Whatever the applicable turn of phrase would be. She was out of position for her passes, careless with the ball, and just generally off her game. Maybe she was distracted. I don't know. But Shavonte took a big chunk of her minutes, and for good reason. Tina Charles's shot was way off. She was taking a lot of jumpers and not getting in position to rebound them. It's a good thing we didn't need her to be MVP Tina in this one. She had flashes of her MVP glory, but they were mostly in the paint, and she was mostly not in the paint. Carolyn Swords had the big right-handed hook working today, and she was a beast on the glass. I think the competition behind her has lit a fire under her- Amanda's ready to take more minutes, and Kiah's always been an option at center. She has her good days and her bad days, but I'm hoping we see more of the good than the bad.

Sugar Rodgers got off to a slow start, but picked up a little bit in the third quarter. She was fantastic for her size on the boards- there was one play where I swore she levitated across before she landed. Her development this season has been fascinating, and I look forward to seeing more of it. Tanisha Wright still needs to do something about her ballhandling. She's way too careless with the ball, especially when someone's starting to guard her. And opposing guards are sensing weakness and going at her. We really need someone with a solid handle to give her a break- Boyd's not as consistent yet as we need her to be for that.

We didn't play well, except maybe for Amanda and Carolyn, and they even had their issues. But we answered every time it looked like San Antonio might have rallied behind Currie or Jefferson. We shut the door on them each time. Sometimes, all you need to do is do enough to win.

Officials mostly let 'em play all night (we thought it was funny that Shavonte was arguing calls when she had committed a couple of blatant reach-ins with no whistle). We got more of the benefit from that than the Stars did, so I can't complain too much as a Liberty fan (just as a fan of reasonable officiating).

Kind of a quiet crowd, no matter how much we did. Sometimes that's the problem with packing the house (today was "Show Up for Daughters", MSG Family Day, and there was an autism awareness event as well). People who are only there because free tickets were tossed at them don't get as loud as quickly, and for the most part this wasn't the kind of game that would coax cheers out of newcomers.

Any moms out there want a picture frame?

We got the win, and that's good, but honestly, I think the best takeaway from this game was proof that this is a team willing to hold up Liberty's torch, to speak out and say, our lives matter.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

July 6th, 2016: Seattle at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Storm made it interesting, but the Liberty rode first and third quarter surges to a 78-74 win. Tina Charles and Tanisha Wright each had 18 points to pace New York, with Sugar Rodgers adding 14. Breanna Stewart made a statistical splash for Seattle in the loss, with 24 points and 16 rebounds.

For musings on names and stardom, parenthetical asides, bailando con sabor, timing issues, missing guards, defensive lapses, and grit, join your intrepid and surprisingly philosophical blogger after the jump.
Hey, gang! It's gameday at the Garden, which is the best of all possible days. Tonight the Liberty host the Seattle Storm, in a game that'll surely have UConn fans of all eras filling the place. It's also a good day to be an international tourist (Tok gets a lot of touristy attention).

Hello to all my fellow fans taking in their first WNBA games! I know there's at least one of you!

Seattle, as always, continues to be exceptionally accommodating to fans along the tunnel, both in terms of being willing to stop and in leaving one by one instead of in a Zerg rush. (And Alysha Clark came back when she said she was going to come back! Is this a Sun Belt thing? Because she and Crystal Kelly are the only ones I've ever seen keep their word like that.)

I actually feel kind of bad for Breanna Stewart. Yes, she has phenomenal cosmic powers talent, but she's been constantly in the spotlight for more than four years now. ESPN won't leave her alone. Fans won't leave her alone (and yet while part of me regrets being a miniscule part of that burden, that didn't stop me from pulling out the Sharpie). She needs a break. Start the overseas season a couple of weeks late, Stewie. Go off and be yourself without everyone else wanting you to be who they think you are. If you belong to everyone, that means you belong to yourself too.

At halftime, the Liberty are up six, 39-31. Could be more, but we got a very long stretch of five reserves on the floor, so we really didn't push the offense as much as we could. Breanna Stewart got hot late in the second to lead Seattle with 12. Tina Charles has eight to lead a balanced and scattered Liberty attack.

Our halftime entertainment has been Spanish-flavored ballroom dancing. Sexy dresses for the ladies, and sleeveless vests for the men. I'm down for that. Equal opportunity ogling is best ogling.

National anthem was an intriguing blend of chorale and drum rhythms. Whoever in the chorus has delusions of being Kristin Chenowith, STAHP PLZ.

Oh, loveable neighbor, the second my butt hits the seat cushion is not the second you should decide you need to get through. The second before my butt hits the seat cushion is that moment.

That game was tighter than it needed to be, but the Liberty made plays down the stretch. Both teams left the door open, Seattle with free throw shooting and the Liberty missing bunnies at the rim. Very fierce game, and entirely too much fun to watch.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis showed her offense, both on jumpers and on one hard-nosed drive through the lane (though I'm not actually sure how much interest Sugar Rodgers had on playing defense that possession). Defensively, she was surprisingly pesky. I don't know if she's a player who would have been worth last year's #1 overall, but she's starting to look like a high-caliber offensive player who can play a little defense. I find it very hard to believe that Noelle Quinn played over eight minutes the way the box score said she did, because she did so little of note that I thought she was only in to bridge Bird's rest through the quarter breaks. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but I can't for the life of me see what she brings to a basketball team.

There was a sequence where Jenna O'Hea boxed out so hard she forgot to rebound. (I think Seattle ended up with the ball in the resulting scrum, but Shavonte Zellous made 'em work for it.) But that's the only thing I really remember about her. Krystal Thomas was in mostly for height (she didn't play in the second half until the last possible play). She fouled Amanda Zahui B.'s hair, and I think Amanda was deeply, gravely offended. DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN HAIR. Ramu Tokashiki has mastered the backdoor cut to the point where I wonder what it would take to get her on the Liberty (because we rock that backdoor cut). She got foul-happy in the fourth quarter, and couldn't quite get out of that mindset.

Things I do not understand, part something of many: Alysha Clark is one of Seattle's best defenders, so why put her on arguably the second least offensively adept member of the Liberty's starting lineup? Don't get me wrong, she shut Swin Cash down completely, but it seems like Seattle could probably have gotten a better +/- by getting fewer points from Tina Charles in exchange for maybe letting Swin score an extra basket. Crystal Langhorne started the game red hot, because we plan for superstars, not necessarily All-Stars. I like the work she does in the paint, getting to the glass. Breanna Stewart is pretty amazing. She has the range, she has the feather-soft touch in the paint, she has liquid flexibility. I feel like she's being asked to do a lot for Seattle, and it's wearing her down physically- there were stretches in the second quarter where she wasn't moving around a lot on either end of the floor. I realize that if there's a W player she should model herself on, it's Delle Donne, but that doesn't mean Boucek should be cribbing notes from the Chicago offense, because Chicago's offense is a terrible thing.

Things I do not understand, part another of many: Jewell Loyd is a fantastic athlete, one of the few players in this league who can play above the rim on a consistent basis, skilled at creating her own shot. Why would you waste that skill set by trying to turn her into a facilitator? I get expanding a player's skill set and all, but this doesn't seem like the most effective use of her physical gifts. I think we were able to take away the shots she wanted and force her into more difficult shots. Sue Bird still has the knack for finding her teammates, and she hit a big three late that brought to mind her Rebkellian nickname, but her age, in basketball terms, is beginning to show. I don't think I've ever seen Bird telegraph a pass as thoroughly as she did tonight, or botch a handoff as badly. It was strange. She's still brilliant, but less consistent. Her mastery of the game was not as apparent as it once was.

Rebecca Allen played briefly, but left no impression. (She hung out with Abby Bishop before the game for a long while. I <3 Aussies.) Amanda Zahui B. got some first half run, but after the play where she attempted to field the ball with her hair, well, that pretty much ended her night. She's got such potential, though. I'm hopeful for what we can do with her during the Olympic break (Sweden's not in the Olympics, right?) Kiah Stokes can't be missing shots right at the rim- she had a couple of relatively easy ones and missed them. She was a beast on the boards, though, especially offensively. She anticipates so well. Shavonte Zellous got hot at key moments, but not nearly as hot from the field as she thought she was. I was having flashbacks to Cappie with some of her decision-making. She was solid on defense, though, making all the hustle plays on the floor. Shoni Schimmel got some minutes in the first half, but she was tentative on offense and completely lost on defense- there was on possession I remember very clearly where she was in the middle of the floor and looking wildly from side to side, like she had no idea where she was supposed to be. (So now I'm worried about Brittany Boyd, because she was a DNP, and there were plenty of situations where her services were required. Please don't be hurt, Boyd! You're fast and you're super fun to watch!) (Y'all may be wondering why Brittany Boyd, unlike any other home team player, is listed by her last name, and that's because the name Brittany fits on her like an extra-small jersey fits on Danielle Adams. Much like Tweety Nolan or Pee-Wee Johnson, the first name is a forgotten legality; the only difference is that the sophomore doesn't have a cool nickname yet, just Flav's "yeahhhhh, Boyyyyyy(d)!" Even the spelling matters; the implicit extra syllable in Brittany as compared to Brittney has a fru-fru effect to it that is... not relevant to the woman and player she is.) Seattle, Imma need you not to hit Tina Charles in the face when she's wearing a face mask. The Storm got a three-pointer on a play where she was out of the defense because she was holding her face. Her shot is so ridiculously high-arcing, getting over the defense and looking like it's going to go every which way but in. You wonder just who she had to spend her life shooting over. She didn't have the three-point shot in this one- both of the threes she took from the top of the arc were well short. Swin Cash hustled, but she didn't play a lot- Bill went with Shavonte down the stretch. She got her points mostly on jumpers, but the jumper was very hit or miss. Carolyn Swords got her game on whenever Kiah or Amanda were in the bullpen. She set tough screens, almost to her team's detriment. I could do without the missed free throws, she's got to move her feet better, and ball security is super important, but she gave good minutes. I'll swear on my honor as a former Girl Scout (troop 4839 4 lyfe, yo) that Sugar Rodgers played most of the second half injured. She took a hit that I think was a domino effect from a crushing screen by either Tina or Carolyn and came away holding her left side very stiffly. I couldn't tell if it was her ribs or her hip, but you're not going to tell me Sugar passes up an open jumper with an optional drive to the hoop without being hurt. But because Shoni can't defend and Boyd was unavailable for reasons, she played, and she came up with huge defensive plays at the end of the game. Her third-quarter threes- boom, boom, boom- were emotionally a stabilizer; it was as if she said, oh, you wanna play the long game? I can play that to Seattle. The talk before the game was about the Huskies, either Tina versus Stewie because of stardom or Kiah versus Stewie because of that one block. The talk after the game, unfortunately, was still about Tina versus Stewie. The talk should have been about Tanisha Wright. T had one of the best games I've ever seen her play in a Liberty uniform. She still needs to work on ball security, though at this point in her life, that's probably not changing very much. But when we needed a big shot, she hit it. When we needed a stop, she got it. She frustrated both Bird and Loyd in equal measure- watching her and Bird, the two former backcourt partners, go at it was a pleasure. She took over, and she deserves all the credit in the world.

I think we took Seattle, and their collection of useful parts behind their All-Star five, too much for granted. That stretch in the second quarter, where the reserves played most of the way, allowed Seattle to come much of the way back, and to believe that they could come all the way back. I wouldn't have wagered my life on Sue Bird missing a game-tying free throw, and I sure wouldn't gamble a game on it. (That being said, this was some solid end-game management from Bill, which is a refreshing change.)

The UConn poke-check in action: near the end of the second quarter, Tanisha had the ball, Bird on her, Stewart closing fast. They're both going for the ball, and T can't hold it for the last shot the way she wants to. They force her to pass and initiate the play a good nine seconds earlier than intended. It ended with a basket by Carolyn Swords- but that gave Seattle time for an answer by Stewart.

The call that gave Bird the free throws was a pretty weak call, but the Liberty were getting the benefit of a lot of contact early on. I'll let it go, since we won, but I think Roy Gulbeyan has something against Sugar. Must be the son of a dentist or something.

Someone needs to give our organist coffee. It's one thing to let the crowd dictate the pace, but on a night with heavy walk-up, in a close game, it's time to step up and lead the noise. Two loudmouths and one clipboard can't go it alone.

I'm not sure how okay we'll be for Chicago's perimeter attack next game, with the potential injuries to our backcourt, but we got through this and got a win we needed. Seattle's still one or two players away from making real noise- and in my opinion, they might be a head coach away, too.


Monday, June 27, 2016

June 26th, 2016: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Phoenix Mercury came back from a 10-point deficit to beat the New York Liberty 104-97 in overtime at the Garden. Candice Dupree had 26 points and eight rebounds to pace Phoenix, with Diana Taurasi adding 24 points, including the game-tying free throws. Tina Charles had 26 points to lead the Liberty, with Sugar Rodgers contributing 23.

For nostalgia, celebration, mocking the refs, screaming, catharsis, and getting punched right in the feels, join your intrepid and proud blogger after the jump.

We're back in the saddle again, continuing a week of celebration and commemoration, as the New York Liberty host the Phoenix Mercury in a rematch of the Liberty's first-ever game at the Garden. We're expecting a large and very proud crowd; the Pride Parade is today as well, and I've known more than a few people who use parade-and-a-game as date night.

In addition, there's a season subscriber event after the game with the original 1997 team. VERY HISTORY SUCH EXCITE WOW.

As the colloquialism goes, I'm all up in my feelings today- deathwatch in the family, deathwatch in the fandom- so I apologize in advance if there's anything lacking in these notes. My mind may not be fully on the game.

Almost no one came out to shoot around for Phoenix. I am very confused and a little bit disappointed. I just want to get Lindsey Harding on that hat!

I see some of the original Libs in their seats of honor. Rebecca Lobo brought the whole family. Simone Edwards either has, or has been accosted by, a small Jamaican contingent. Welcome home, y'all. Welcome home. (The Jamaicans were definitely with Shimmy. They came with her to the afterparty, and I think a few people who didn't have such clear memories of her mistook one or the other of them for her.)

The pregame entertainment has included a mediocre martial arts group (y'all need to coordinate your timing) and dance teams in shiny outfits.

Today was not the day to have the inspirationally disadvantaged music group perform the anthem, okay? Because no matter bad they were, you can't criticize them because it's not nice.

They played the 1997 intro video and did the full intros for the '97 team, and it was fantastic. (Except Sue Wicks didn't start in 1997 {they overlooked Sophia Witherspoon there, and she's here} {because that's what happens to poor Sophia}, and Kym Hampton went to Arizona State, not Arizona.) They played the intro music, and it brought back so many memories I started crying, choking on the sheer joy this team brings to me.

DJ Kool just finished his halftime set. Again, feels and memories. "Make some noise in this joint!" is my go-to for trying to get things loud. (Well, that, and Elena Baranova. "GET MORE LOUD!")

At halftime, Phoenix is up one, 47-46, after starting off on fire from beyond the arc. The Liberty have cranked up the defense, and the shots that were spinning out are starting to spin in. Also, to the joy of headline writers everywhere, Swin hit a shot off the glass. That's right, Cash had the bank.

We're at the Liberty celebration event now, which is at a nice venue, but not one that was conducive to loading large numbers of people in a hurry. Very limited accessibility. The chicken is oniony, but the egg rolls are fabulous and the sliders solid.

"Come take pictures with us, it's what we're here for." Oh, Brittany Boyd, you need to be careful how and when you say that. This crowd is rather intense. Way too many fans in too small a space for them, all trying to do the same things.

Kristin Bernert has a Tennessee Volunteers shirt on underneath her dress jacket. I approve this message.

Sophia Witherspoon looks fantastic. Better and happier than she did in a Liberty uniform, even; she always looked so terribly stressed with us, and now she looks like there's a burden off her shoulders.

Shoni Schimmel is working the room, in amidst the crowd.

You can't hide forever, Rhonda Blades-Brown. We're going to find you. And we did. And she was ruthlessly efficient and practical, wielding her own Sharpie and using a nearby table as a flat surface.

So yes, I do not approve of these officials at all and they may all walk very quickly off a very short pier. Phoenix flopped frequently and often. Three three-shot fouls in a single game? Come on, man.

Alex Harden, in a nutshell: she made a fabulous steal, raced the length of the floor, and proceeded to fumble the ball out of bounds. She's very much a defensive specialist, but I noticed she was doing a lot of shooting around before the game, so she knows she has to work on it. Sonja Petrovic has a pretty shot, even if it wasn't falling. I was impressed with her work on the glass as well- even when she wasn't getting rebounds, she was tipping the ball around to her teammates. I like what she does for Phoenix. Lindsey Harding picked up the pace of the game, but if Phoenix is expecting her to provide offense, well, that's cute. Her shot was still coming up short.

("Everyone calls us that '97 team. We called ourselves a family." Damn it, Teresa. They opened the roof and now it's raining on my face. They did a Q&A session with VJ and the Spoons. Seriously, Sophia looks so happy.)

Mistie Bass brings the physicality, but they really didn't go to her that much. She does her work in the paint. Kelsey Bone seems to have gone back to being the post player she was meant to be, instead of parking on the perimeter and jacking up jumpers. If Phoenix can get her to be consistently physical, they have a dangerous weapon in their arsenal. She got into foul trouble pretty quickly, and was pretty cranky about it. In other words, she'll fit in just fine with this Mercury squad.

Diana Taurasi is really good at basketball. Look, I'm tired and my feet hurt and I'm full of nostalgia squee. I'm having a lot of trouble bringing myself to care about analyzing the finer details of the winning opponent. She basically followed the same game plan as EDD did last game- take threes, hit threes, score many points. She's got a mouth on her, but you knew that already too. She plays like she's thinking about the game at a different speed from everyone else, like she's already seeing the next move, like she's seeing what's going to happen. Penny Taylor is beautiful to watch on the floor. She moves with grace. She found her teammates really well, especially in the overtime where the post players were basically taking turns going down the lane. Her height also drove us nuts on defense.

I don't like DeWanna Bonner. I don't like her stupid ponytail that she cut from a My Little Pony, I don’t like her dramatics, and I don't like her flopping. (I like when she runs into Screens of Death, though. That's fun.) I respect that she can shoot, and that she's useful on defense because she can be used both inside and out. I don't have to like her and you can't make me. This had to be- this just had to be- the game where Candice Dupree found where she stashed her give-a-damn. Of all the days. She is so smooth. She's not as smooth as in her Chicago days, but time happens. I'm the same age as she is, and I know I'm not as smooth as I used to be. She had the elbow jumper working, the moves in the paint working, pretty much everything. Brittney Griner showed flashes of the difference-maker her height and length make her (no, Tanisha, even if you went to Penn State, you're not going to win a volleyball play against Brittney Griner). But if I were Phoenix, I would want her to be more assertive and less cavalier on offense. She seems to throw up shots without thinking of the angles. Defensively, her arms are everywhere, sometimes to her team's detriment. There was one play where she blocked the shot hard, then deflected it back into play from the baseline- whereupon Tina Charles recovered it and made the second shot.

Phoenix almost seems to have two wildly different modes on offense. Either they're bombing from deep with the perimeter players or they're going hard in the paint with the post players. Dupree was really the only crossover between the two styles with her midrange jumper.

I really like what Rebecca Allen brings to the table, in terms of offense and in defensive hustle. I really would have liked to see more of her in the second half- she played a stretch in the third quarter, then went AWOL until overtime. I feel like she could have helped us, given us a little more speed to counteract Phoenix's size. Amanda Zahui B was solid, if a bit slow, in her minutes. Again, I thought she would have been useful late in the fourth. She provides a little more offensive potency, and not too much less defense, than Carolyn Swords. Size doesn't always matter, Bill. Kiah Stokes brought the defense, but her hands weren't as good as they needed to be. I don't think she should have fouled out- there were a couple of plays where I thought she didn't touch the player she allegedly fouled- but she overcommitted early in the game and had to back off afterwards. The baby bigs showed really nice touch around the basket.

Brittany Boyd had the wild shots working today, which is good, because we all know she wasn't going to get the call. Someday, when she slides on that followthrough and hits the floor, it's not going to end well for her ankle or her knee. Shavonte Zellous played the backdoor cuts beautifully, but I'm not actually sure if she was out there more for offense or for defense.

Tina Charles's high-arcing shot worked to her advantage today- there were a couple of shots that we're pretty sure Griner adjusted to the Liberty's favor (obviously unintentionally). But she can't do it alone. And she shouldn't be expected to do it alone. No one on this team should be taking 27 shots, not even Tina. No one should have to. Carolyn Swords picked up two very quick early fouls, which forced her to the bench early, which led to Kiah having to pick up the slack, and which led to Kiah picking up too many fouls to go on. Ball security is super important, too. Swin Cash was long on the inside, but I really don't remember much of the impact she had on the game.

Sugar Rodgers got off to a bit of a slow start, but she got cooking in the third quarter. When she thinks too much she misses. Then again, sometimes she needs a moment to set her feet, instead of just throwing it up. Her trigger was a bit too fast by the end of the game. Tanisha Wright still needs to work on ball security, but this is starting to feel like a recording.

Our perimeter defense is a hot mess. We're backing off way too much and letting them go wild. We're backing off too much late, and it's allowing teams to come back on us. We've got to learn to hold leads, this is ridiculous.

I'm also utterly baffled by Bill Laimbeer's personnel decisions and his endgame coaching. Rebecca and Amanda have both played well- both of them were solid in this game. Why wouldn't you go back to them in the fourth quarter? When we needed a three, why not go to them? Or, for that matter, down six in overtime and needing a shooter, why not give Shoni Schimmel a try? And I don't like the way the offense is running down the clock. I know that gives the opponent less time, but the way we're executing at either end, that leaves us with less time. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to go two-for-one, and we gave Phoenix last shot in regulation. And look what happened.

The officiating most definitely didn't help. Blatant reaches by Phoenix (ahem, Bonner) were ignored, and the three-shot fouls were absolutely ridiculous. I'm willing to grant the one that Penny Taylor drew, but the one DeWanna Bonner drew was a very weak call, and the one that Diana Taurasi drew to tie the game was the wrong call. On the replay, it looked like Tanisha had reached to get the foul on the floor for two, but that call was missed and the second contact was called. The officiating felt very one-sided, and that irks me. (It did lead to some snark from the people two rows behind us. Eric Brewton is not a tall man, and no one looks tall next to Bill. So after one spectacularly horrible call, we heard, "Bill, tell him how short he is." Followed up by, "Come on, you're too short to see that call!")

To the family one row behind us: I don't like that your kid is screaming right in my ear. I can deal with that, though. What got me turning around and glaring daggers at you was your kid screaming "YES!" right in my ear when the Mercury scored. Don't tell me he's too young to know the difference when you were explaining it before. I don't need your kid screeching at every basket that both teams make because he's just so excited that the numbers are getting bigger.

Fortunately, while our... acquaintance... in the Cowboys gear made a comeback, he kept to himself and there were no incidents. He even seemed to get a little excited when Tina made shots! We'll convert our new neighbor to the ways of GET MORE LOUD, just you wait and see.

Geno was in the house, looking absolutely not thrilled to be on camera. All the Huskies went over to say hi after the game.

I've touched on the afterparty in bits and pieces in the midst of the notes, but it was just really truly special. It was a homecoming, and a gathering. Nineteen years later, these women still mean so much to each other, and that's more important than what they mean to us. What's humbling is what it seems like the fans still mean to them. This is the feedback loop that defined the Finals-era Liberty: they played with all their heart, and we cheered for them, and they fed off our emotion, and we fed off their emotion.

I think our youngsters are getting it too. Most of the current team was there, and interacting with what seemed like good cheer. More importantly, they were interacting with the originals. To players who were toddlers when this league started, understanding that history is important. Understanding that they're still part of history is important. The fight for a stable and growing league is still happening. The choices today's players make- the image that they project- still matters.

So these turned rather philosophical at the end, but to be honest, I'd really rather think about the team I love than about throttling the refs.

One last note: as we walked out of the hotel, feet sore and hearts full of joy, there was a very tall figure with very long dreads posing for pictures on the corner. I don't know where Griner was heading, but I hope she had fun wherever she was going. (It's also really cool to see players recognized in the wild, as it were.)


Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 24th, 2016: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Chicago got off to a strong start and erased most of a big lead near the end- but New York held the Sky off, 80-79. Tina Charles led New York with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Elena Delle Donne led all scorers with 31 points, while Cappie Pondexter added 20 for Chicago- but no other Sky player had more than nine.

For sleepless nights, the speed of Sugar's shot, Tina Charles being the boss, misplaced courtesy, too much yellow, just enough maroon and gold, role reversal, rocking out, and glorious rainbows, join your intrepid and stressed blogger after the jump.
Good evening, gang! We're coming to you in glorious color from Pride Night at Madison Square Garden, where the New York Liberty take on the Chicago Sky. Everything is in rainbows. We all have rainbow wristbands with the #OrlandoUnited hashtag.

Whether by coincidence or design, Shavonte Zellous is on the front of the roster cards for this game. There's also a Pride version of the Liberty logo, with the WNBA Pride ball replacing the usual flaming basketball.

No H8 set up shop in the Garden lobby for photos and temporary tattoos. Very popular, obviously.

This is why you can't afford to be a nice person when autograph hunting: I passed up EDD because I thought she was in a hurry to stretch. And then for the first time in as many years as I can think of, the road team went out the other tunnel. Missed 'em all. RAEG.

Both teams have the #OrlandoUnited shirts, though it took a moment for Swin to get hers on.

Anthem was excruciatingly screechy. Girrrrrrl, just because you're small and blonde and pretty does not mean you're Kristin Chenowith.

At halftime, the Libs are up 50-40 on Chicago and we're rocking out to a Led Zepplin cover band, Lez Zepplin. Chicago's stars have been superb- but only four Sky players have scored. Meanwhile, the Liberty are clicking on all cylinders, getting short bursts of greatness from Amanda Zahui B and Rebecca Allen. I'm going to need everyone to get off the wi-fi so I can check mail and things, because reasons.

MSG, y'all gotta do something about general admission and security lines. Way too many people being hustled around and seat-jumping, way too many people coming in late.

Dear my Liberty, I'm going to need you to stop milking these leads down until they're almost gone, or in some cases completely gone and then returned. My family has a history of heart problems on both sides and I'm going through a lot of stress right now. I can't afford another round of Maalox Moments.

Chicago can either have a plethora of blondes or they can have the yellow jerseys. They can't have both. Personally, I'll take Delle Donne, Quigley, and Vandersloot over those gold jerseys if I'm a Sky fan.

Cheyenne Parker is very pretty and very enthusiastic out there, but so far she's not very impressive. Imani Boyette is already ahead of her in terms of talent and in terms of using her height effectively. She seemed to get stronger as the game went on- maybe it was a matter of match-ups, maybe she was finding her confidence. But the tall girl was using her height on both ends of the floor. She had a very emphatic get-that-outta-here block. It's clear that she's going to be Chicago's center of the future. Jessica Breland played a little in the first half, but she was getting beat pretty handily on defense and picked up a couple of quick fouls. I'm not even sure she played in the second half or if Chatman just rolled with Boyette for all her post reserve needs.

Jamierra Faulkner is so very fast. She's fun to watch when she's running at full tilt, but sometimes her speed betrays her. There was one play where she thought she had an open lane, raced for it like it was the last open parking space on the block, and then got Stoked. (That's going to be a thing now.) I respect her willingness to attack the rim, but you got to know when to walk away and know when OH DEAR GOD IT'S KIAH STOKES RUN RUN NOW RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. Allie Quigley found space in the midrange in the fourth quarter, because it is known that if you're a Big East fan from a certain era, you are cursed to be forever haunted by Quigleys. (Unless you're a DePaul fan, in which case it's more like, "Hey, girl, how you been?" But among my people, Quigley is a swearword, shrieked defiantly with a fist jabbed at the heavens.)

Érika de Souza got the start, but it almost seems ceremonial at this point. She's not terribly mobile on either end of the floor. She got rebounds, but I think she needed the help of her teammates with boxing out to get those boards. When Carolyn Swords is making you look bad, it might be time to consider ending a sterling WNBA career (that had an unfortunate detour, but we don't speak of it). Tamera Young's shot continues to be strange and funky, and she should not shoot the ball as often as she did. She's great on defense- she's part of how they can swarm so quickly on the ballhandler and bring pressure in a hurry.

Elena Delle Donne defines positional boundaries and paragraph boundaries, because that's how she rolls. She killed us. She almost completely killed us dead, and if she had been going for the game-winning shot instead of the game-winning free throws. We had no answer for her on defense- she was too quick and fluid on the perimeter, but too tall for the guards to cope with. She's improved her defense as well, and she's picked up some of La Leslie's dirty tricks down low (the casual elbow, the slew-foot). She's really devoted herself to becoming a true franchise player, and I have mad respect for that.

Courtney Vandersloot has amazingly quick hands, especially on defense. If you are in the least bit careless with the ball in front of her, that ball will be hers. She had a beautiful strip in the first quarter that had me all but dropping my jaw. She seemed a little more reliant on the long ball than she perhaps should have been. Cappie Pondexter started off red hot, but she does have a tendency to try and do everything herself, and near the end of the game I think that came back to bite Chicago. This is not to cast any shade on her basketball skills, but instead on her timing of them. There was one play (that, to be fair, worked out for Chicago, as she beat the shot clock buzzer) where Boyette had Sugar Rodgers on her, but Pondexter chose to keep the ball.

I'm not entirely sure Chicago has endgame strategy other than "stop the ball" or "give the ball to Elena".

Rebecca Allen, welcome back to New York, we missed you, please don't leave or get hurt ever again. She was a huge boost off the bench, disruptive on defense and stretching the offense. She fit back in like she never left. I forgot how good "AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!" "OI OI OI!" felt to belt out after a three or a big hustle play. Rebeccas are awesome and Australians are awesome and Bec is pretty awesome. Amanda Zahui B had a very nice stretch in the first half where she and Brittany Boyd were clicking, but I think Bill's got her on a short leash when it comes to fouls- the silly foul she committed seemed to be her cue to take all the seats and never look back. I would have liked to see her get a few more minutes to give Tina and Kiah a break. Kiah Stokes was a defensive beast and did a lot of big work on the offensive glass. She picked up steam as the game went on, going up strong on the boards for put-backs to finish second and third chances.

Brittany Boyd needs to finish at the rim, and in general find her shot. She increases the pace of the game, but that doesn't matter if she's stagnating the offense by slowing down point production. Watching her and Faulkner go at each other was a blast. Shavonte Zellous hustled hard on defense, disrupting plays all over the place, but she's got to hit her jumpers.

Tina Charles continues to be fantastic. She had that double-double by the third quarter. But you could tell she was starting to wear down by the end of the game. There's only so much even a superstar can do when she's triple-teamed constantly. Her shots were starting to fall a little short. I think the mask may also have been affecting her vision, because otherwise I don't think she would have done the show-the-ball trick in front of Vandersloot. Carolyn Swords started off the game really well, then went to the bench for Kiah and was barely seen again until the end of the first half. She had a rough go of it to start the second half- stupid fouls, careless plays- and someone lit a fire under her somewhere along the line, because that was when she started taking on de Souza and going harder after the ball (when Carolyn hits the floor, it's a physical game and she's going hard). She cleaned up some good loose change. Swin Cash hit buckets at the right times, whether it was to spur the comeback in the first quarter or fend off the Sky in the second half.

Ball security, Tanisha Wright. She usually made up for dumb turnovers within a few plays, but she still has to be more careful with the ball. I'm a little worried about her jumper, too. She gets the job done, though. Sugar Rodgers had a slow start, and got caught on some really awkward defensive switches, but once she found a little space in the second half and stopped hesitating to shoot, she got fired up. Tina's going to be Tina, but we need Sugar to be something special if we're going to succeed.

We realized the officiating was going to be a problem when we saw both Michael Price and Kurt Walker amongst the crew. Walker already had a burr under his saddle pregame, when he looked like he thought the Liberty were taking too long to take the court. Lots of missed calls all night, and they affected both sides. I thought Pokey was going to flip her lid when Delle Donne went down after the push from Kiah. Just terrible refereeing all around.

Shoutout to our Gael homies who sat by us for a while and remember when we weren't the loudest people in the room (that would be Damika's family).

Also, shoutout to the French coach who showed up and was pretty impressed with everything. And to the Swedish fans with their Swedish flag! International basketball fans are awesome. Basketball is basketball, no matter what language it's in.

Adut Bulgak is pretty good at charades, but asking a Canadian born in Africa to mime being a cowboy will only end in hilarity.

We won despite their superstars being superstars. We've been winning by shutting down stars and getting killed by roleplayers; this game was the complete opposite, and I think it's a good sign that we can be that versatile. But we've got to find more consistent offense from people who aren't Tina...


Monday, June 20, 2016

June 19th, 2016: San Antonio at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a game where both teams gave up double-digit leads, the Connecticut Sun outlasted the San Antonio Stars 93-90. Alex Bentley led all scorers with 29 points. Jasmine Thomas flirted with a triple-double, with 11 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds. Kayla McBride led the Stars with 25 points.

For roller coasters, disturbing collegiate loyalties, shutting up the verbose blogger, exhaustion, traffic, and getting the job done, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. We're coming to you on the usual tape delay from Sunrise Square at Mohegan Sun, where the San Antonio no-longer-Silver Stars take on the hometown Connecticut Sun.

Shoutout to our entrance's sweetheart of an usher, Darlene. Super friendly, really helpful to people who needed help, and helped carry someone's walker. You go, girl!

I'm not sure if Jayne Appel-Marinelli signing my match play voucher would have made it invalid or not, so I didn't risk it. (Also: so excite that VJ will be at the Liberty 20th anniversary celebration this time next week! SUCH EXCITE VERY HISTORY)

Anthem singer was trying way, way too hard. It turned into more of a cross between a hymn and a dirge. Not exactly hugely inspiring.

Well, that game turned out to be pretty good, for featuring the two worst teams in the league. It was a real roller coaster ride, with both teams holding and giving away double-digit leads. I think we saw why they're both at the bottom of the standings- but also saw what kind of depth the league has and the talent on both teams.

It was apparent, at least to me, that Sydney Colson is nothing more than an understudy for this San Antonio squad. She's there to keep the Stars prepared for an undersized, speedy backcourt of dubious shooting ability. She's a bit flashier of a passer than Danielle Robinson, or at least she wants to be, but she doesn't have the vision that she thinks she has. She was a step behind pretty much everyone on the floor. I like her fearlessness, but she has to temper it with the awareness that there are four teammates on the floor and five people who don't want her to have the ball anymore. Haley Peters brought good size off the bench. If I were designing the Stars' offense, I might have tried to get her a few more touches beyond the arc to really stretch the Sun defense (then again, since that's the kind of scheme Curt Miller is in loooooove with, maybe he's prepared for it).

For the first half of the game, I thought Kayla Alexander had donned an invisibility cloak, because there were three or four calls where I thought she was in the wrong and the officials didn't agree. There was an out-of bounds I thought went off her, a foul called on Hamby (I think) that I thought was hers, and two rather rough plays that weren't called fouls. In the second half, some of the whistles started going against her. I like her way of insinuating into space on the boards, and her move across the lane on offense. Class of 2013, so it's her put-up-or-shut-up year, and she's playing like it. Astou Ndour showed some really good flashes of talent, but she looked like she was still trying to get used to her body, like she woke up this morning and discovered that she was six-five and pretty much all arms and legs, knees and elbows. She had a really nice block on one of the Sun guards. I was surprised that she didn't get more run in the second half- she only came in near the end, to make the inbounds more difficult for Connecticut.

I had not seen Jayne Appel-Marinelli in person yet this year, and it was quite startling when I did. She's never been small, and she's never been slender, but I'm actually genuinely worried about her. No one should look that strained, that painfully intent, when shooting free throws. I can't shake the feeling that she's not well in some way, and doesn't want to face it. There were a couple of moments where you could see the flashes of her passing ability, the key to her presence in the Stars lineup. But for the most part, she was immobile, foul-prone when she did move, and unable to finish at the rim. I feel like Dearica Hamby has potential, but her coaches need to figure out her position and what skills of hers to hone. From what I saw today, she'd be better off as a four, but I don't know if she has the size to stand the constant banging. (All the twelve-year-old boys in the audience can stop giggling at their earliest convenience.) Monique Currie played like "y'all forgot about me, huh?", especially in the third quarter when she was getting open looks, or bulling her way through traffic to finish at the rim. Good old Scowl-and-Foul put in an appearance in the fourth quarter, though, after a dicey out-of-bounds call, and a turnover. Don't argue about a blatant reach-in, Monique.

Kayla McBride is a cold-blooded shooter. I'm really not sure what else she brings to the table, though the box score is showing me a nice pile of assists, but I don't remember her passing game. I just remember her taking a step, getting that space, and hitting jumpers. That's a very good thing to be very good at in basketball. Moriah Jefferson has the tools to be a worthy #2 pick, and in the very near future she'll be fantastic. But this is the pros, and this is not UConn, and even a bad W team is better than most college teams, on a relative scale. She's fast, and she has vision and style, but she needs to put a little more oomph on her runs. I think she's used to the amount of energy she needed to expend in college to make her drives, and she's not used to the level of defense she's getting in the WNBA. She had a nice first quarter, but ran out of oomph in the second half.

San Antonio really seems to be preparing for next year with their roadrunner backcourt. I know they can't really cross-market with UT-San Antonio, but it would be so perfect. Meep, meep.

Y'all who have read the GNoD for any length of time know that I give Kelly Faris a hard time. Hype backlash gets to me, and seeing a back-of-the-rotation reserve get treated like an MVP while All-Stars get disrespected irks me. I'm sure she's a perfectly decent human being, this is nothing against who she is. But let me tell you, this was Shut Queenie's Mouth Day at Mohegan Sun, because Kelly Faris had herself a day off the bench. She hit big shots when she was open, she made good defensive plays, and she scrapped for loose balls. She needs to stop committing stupid fouls after turnovers, but if that means she's trying too hard, I'll accept that as an answer. Shekinna Stricklen has a really quick trigger- she got that ball and she was shooting, damn the consequences. Maybe that fits Miller's system, but I'm not impressed.

Chiney Ogwumike is not quite Big Sister, but she was solid down low. She went through a stretch in the third quarter where she was committing all kinds of fouls, which could be a problem. More touches for Chiney, please. Jonquel Jones went to work on the offensive glass, cleaning up on misses. She's got really long arms- you can see her potential but you can also see where she needs to work on her technique. She's raw, but she's good. I don't know how consistent she'll be as a three-point shooter, and this is not a thing I think she should be doing, but it's a thing that Curt Miller thinks everyone should be doing, so it's a thing. This is what happens when your formative basketball experiences come from the New York Liberty: big players go to the basket, you grind through painful defense, and heartbreak is a thing.

So, continuing the trend of Shut Queenie's Mouth at Mohegan Sun today, I'd been talking to the husband about how Alex Bentley had been playing like various temperatures of garbage for much of the season. Apparently someone lit a fire under her, because she decided to do her best Cappie Pondexter impression today. And yes, sometimes that included ignoring open teammates and playing entirely too much one-on-one hero ball with off-balance shots. But they went in. She took off in the first quarter and never looked back. And for all of that, I was still way more impressed with Jasmine Thomas. Thomas very quietly had herself a very nice day. Her drive and dish set up Faris for one of the big threes. She had an utterly monstrous block on Jefferson, plus a slick steal on a different possession. She made the plays that her team needed to maintain control of the game (or at least their footwear- she committed the intentional foul that allowed Alex Bentley to reclaim her left sneaker from under the courtside seats next to the road bench). She's a wildly inconsistent shooter, but the more I see her, the more I like her intangibles.

Kelsey Bone started off reasonably strong, but she got her bell rung twice in rapid succession, and though she came back into the game, I don't think she was 100%. It could be my perception or my expectation that she played outside more after the injury, or she could actually have been taking more shots outside the paint after that. She's got to be more consistent, but we already knew that. There are moments when she looks like the All-Star she was once, the rock down low with the midrange touch that Connecticut traded for. But there are a lot more moments when she looks like the player Bill Laimbeer gave up on in exchange for Tina Charles. Camille Little was quiet- I still like what she brings, but she just couldn't get her shot going. She was active defensively, though. Morgan Tuck got some looks when the defense rotated, but she still needs to do work on her all-around game.

Someone in marketing overheard my, or possibly someone else's, kvetching as to why the only name-and-number shirt available was a truly hideous Tuck shirt with all the wrong fonts and the Sun logo in the wrong shades. Now there's a slightly less hideous Bentley shirt with the wrong fonts.

The crowd really got into it by the end, which is good, because if you can't get into a game where you erase a ten-point lead, what is wrong with you?

Officials didn't make a lot of friends in this one.

Notes are late because of course this was the one time the bus back was full, and also of course the one time that it took three hours down instead of three hours up. GRUMBLE.

Still not sure if Curt Miller is the right coach for this talent. Still not sure whether everyone's on the same page. But San Antonio is definitely way worse.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 14th, 2016: Dallas at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Up by as much as 10 and down as much as eight, the New York Liberty finished with strong defense to win 91-88 over the Dallas Wings. Tina Charles had 28 points to lead the Liberty, with Sugar Rodgers adding 18. Karima Christmas led Dallas with 21 points, while Courtney Paris notched a 13-point/10-rebound double-double.

For hammer time in the stands, the t-shirt feeding frenzy, gutless wastes of flesh, schadenfreude, Stooookes, good neighbors, taunting, and bad decisions, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
It's game day at the Garden, as the Dallas Wings return to New York to take on the Liberty. Undoubtedly, there will be tears, and a moment of silence, and probably more rainbow flags in the crowd than usual even for New York after what happened in Orlando. Our fan base is very gay and very proud- and also very black and Hispanic, with plenty of intersection amongst all those descriptors. These were our people. These are our people.

(And then there's the Zellous family's close call. Shavonte says it way better than I do: )

In other news, the Q59 is evil and children need to be taught not to scream on public transit. On the other hand, holy crap in a peach basket, when did they start adding the L train to the wi-fi stations? This is awesome!

The pregame entertainment consists of young girls in what appear to be Rosie the Riveter inspired costumes. They need to get that routine on ice...

There are two women here in Canadian Hammer shirts, wielding a Canadian flag. Bless their hearts. (Eh? Can I just say that I love the increase in Canadians in women's basketball? I love cheap, easy, Canadian jokes about verbal tics and Tim Horton's and hockey and unshakeable politeness and beavers and lumberjacks and geese.) (Almost typed geeks there. Ruth Hamblin is a geek, or at least a nerd, but that's not related to her being Canadian.)

Nice choral anthem, though I'm not sure why they followed it with "God Bless America" instead of the other way around.

The moment of silence was profoundly silent, and the rainbow-striped Liberty flag was debuted a week or so early. Maddie waved it for long enough that people weren't sure whether they were supposed to cheer or remain quiet and respectful.

That scoring pace from the first half was fun. Unsustainable by either team, but fun. The pattern that's become more and more apparent in Liberty games is that we'll shut down a star player, but then the role players will step up.

Case in point, the pesky Erin Phillips. She drove Sugar Rodgers nuts on defense, hassling her and pinning her on the sideline. And then she was bombing threes, even when Shavonte Zellous had a hand up in her face (I think it was after that play where Shavonte stood with her arms outstretched, as if to say, "What more could I do?"). I would appreciate if she would avoid undercutting Shavonte, though. This appeared to have been the night Aerial Powers was assigned to shoot threes, because it's a range she needs to add to her game and something that's still a bit lacking in her game. I love her athleticism, though.

I'm not sure if they consider Jordan Hooper a forward or a guard, but I talked more about the guards, so she'll get stuck in with the forwards here. She had a nice little stretch in the late third and early fourth- I think it may have helped her to have Shoni on her. It looked like she might have taken that block a wee tiny bit personally. She's a useful part, but not much more. Theresa Plaisance played very briefly in the first half and was unremarkable- she took her three-point shot during a stretch when everyone on Dallas seemed to be hitting a three, and since she opened up a can of whoop-ass against us the last time out, I was a bit worried that that was going to blow the doors open. But she missed, and that was pretty much the end of it for her. Glory Johnson has funky shot selection, but more than makes up for the impossible contortions of her shot with her active, quick hands on defense. She was all over Tina Charles, making things very difficult for her.

I like when Skylar Diggins misses lots of shots. Petty? Damn right. I spent four years watching her get every call in the book and then some, and watching her whine every time she got called for one. It's nice to see the shoe on the other foot sometimes. She had a couple of nifty moves on defense, including a beautiful steal off Sugar Rodgers that was absolute petty larceny, but her shot definitely isn't back yet. As much as they held her back in the first month, I'm not so sure she was ready yet. Perhaps keeping an eye on this will help the Liberty decide what to do with Epiphanny Prince after the Olympics. Odyssey Sims couldn't seem to miss, whether it was from outside or driving pell-mell down the lane. I admire her toughness, though I could do without her doing the three goggles; on the other hand, she probably wouldn't do them if we guarded the perimeter.

In a weird way, I enjoy watching Plenette Pierson play because she looks so odd on the court. I don't know whether it's the precision of her moves, the extreme kick that jackknifes her body as she takes a jumper, or the conscious effort she puts in to stand up ramrod straight on the floor, but there's something fascinating about the way she handles herself. She started the game, but I don't think she started the second half- the back must have been acting up again. She gave good hustle in the minutes she got, bringing toughness and bodying on the boards. Karima Christmas killed us, inside and out. She's developed herself into a very useful supporting player- she's not a star, but she does what Dallas needs of her. She hit threes early, she went hard to the rack, and she played solid defense. I don't know if she should be starting, but Dallas should keep her just as long as they can. Courtney Paris is a whole lot of woman, and I find it hard to believe any defender can lose track of her, especially when she's wearing electric lime green. That is a lot of bright green to overlook. She has very limited range on her shot- her midrange jumper, at least tonight, was coming up consistently short- but she has nice passing touch and can score when she's at the basket. She's as mobile as rush hour traffic, but sometimes it's better to be the immovable object than the unstoppable force.

What is with Dallas's obsession with rolling the ball on inbounds? They did it three or four times last night, and not in the usual scenarios where a team is desperately trying to scrap for every second they can get to keep their hopes alive. I'm talking about eight minutes left in the third quarter in a one-possession game.

Shoni Schimmel still needs to work on her defensive rotations, but that block on the Hooper three and the resulting fast break combined into one beauty of a play. She's a firestarter, and she'll earn playing time that way, but she's going to miss a lot of crunch time if she can't improve on defense. (Though she played when it was FT time, part of a four-guards-and-Tina set.) I'm worried about the mental part of Brittany Boyd's game. She seems to be missing that extra oomph in her shot and that extra step somewhere along the line (though her lack of fear is showing up in other ways- she had a bump and a staredown with Pierson after Pierson fouled her on a drive). It looked like she might have picked up a couple of tweaks to the knee and the wrist along the way, too. Shavonte Zellous didn't play her smartest defense tonight, and I was surprised at her free throw rate, but all things considered, she was solid. She made the backdoor cut beautifully and came up big late.

Amanda Zahui B needs to be more physical- if you're going to foul someone, make sure they feel it, especially when you're a broad-framed post. But we needed the minutes she gave in relief of Tina. Kiah Stokes threw a block party and everyone in green was invited. She had a huge one on Sims near the end of the game that helped slam the door- not just close it, but slam it with authority. I'd like to see her be more aggressive on offense and be more of an option, but she's such a force on defense that if that's all she's going to be, it's not the worst thing in the world.

Tanisha Wright's shot was way off- her jumper was coming up consistently short. Her passing eye was a bit off as well. She made up for it on defense, especially down the stretch when she laid the final block on Sims to seal the game. That was a thing of beauty. I joked during the game that she really wanted that 1000th rebound to get past the milestone- she had two o-boards off her own misses in the first few minutes of the game. Sugar Rodgers is at her best when she's finding her shots quickly, in the flow of the offense. While I love that pretty much everyone on my team is willing to drive the lane, that's not where her strength lies. I'd rather see her taking jumpers than driving pell-mell down the lane, trying to draw a foul that will never be called. (We really need to learn that the officials are going to give us nothing. It's good to draw contact, but we've got to stop prioritizing contact over the angle to actually make a reasonable shot at the basket.)

Swin Cash did work on the offensive glass- she didn't play a lot, but she did what we needed her to do, and that's why we needed her back. Carolyn Swords was solid on offense, but she was slow rotating defensively, which allowed Paris to go to town. Also, ball security, this is a thing that needs to be emphasized. In general, that's a thing that this team needs to emphasize coming out of this game, but Carolyn was pretty bad. (So was Kiah, but her bad-assery on the other end of the floor more than made up for that.) Tina Charles was her superstar self, hitting from all parts of the floor. I'm not sure how many threes she actually had, as opposed to long twos, since she was flirting with the line a lot and there was a scoring discrepancy. But Tina did all the things. It was starting to wear on her in the fourth quarter- her shot was falling short and she wasn't moving as quickly. Shockingly, being covered in triple-teams tends to wear a player down. But she had enough left to hit the game-winner.

Our perimeter defense continues to be an issue. They got more than half their points from beyond the arc. It may be a feature, not a bug, but it's one that needs to be developed out. And while we shut down Diggins, we got burned by Christmas and Phillips. The league's gotten to the point where role players can do that to you.

Officiating could have used a few more explanations- we never found out which of Tina's shots had the point taken off the board, or even the explanation for why there was a point taken off the board (it's my own theory that it was one of Tina's "threes" that was really a long two). Can't complain too much, as it really didn't make a difference in the game.

The only real blemish on the experience was the jerk in front of us. I'll admit that I didn't see the whole thing, but I came back to my seat to find the man in my husband's face, snapping at him to "tone it down" and making comments about how if he didn't, they'd have to talk about it elsewhere. Do not ever threaten my husband in front of me, and do not ever ignore me when I call you on it. We don't swear at games and we try to keep our language family-friendly, because there are kids (and the... gentleman... in question had a young girl with him). But we get loud and we get rowdy. We cheer for our team, we razz the opponent, we mock the opponent's mistakes and bewail our own. That's how we roll. Our neighbors stood up for us when we went to get security, and security handled it well enough (except for the one woman who asked us if we wanted to move- uh, no, we're not moving out of our season seats because one guy has a problem, he can damn well move if anyone needs to move).

I love my team, and I love my Garden.

I think we needed a game like this before a road trip. We just need to stop leaning quite so heavily on Tina.