Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29th, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty went ice cold from the field and the Fever rose to the occasion, as Indiana topped New York 66-51 to take the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1 and advance to the WNBA Finals. Marissa Coleman canned five treys to lead Indiana with 15 points. Tamika Catchings had 14, Erlana Larkins 12 with eight rebounds, and Briann January added eight points, six steals, and eight assists. Candice Wiggins had 15 off the bench to lead New York; Tina Charles had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

For classless behavior, frustration, bitterness, rage, exhaustion, blame-slinging, Greek tragedy, and superficial basketball analysis, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

I refuse to entertain the possibility that this is the end. I can't go into the game with this mindset. No worries. No fears. No doubts. No hesitation. Can't bring those vibes.

It's been a bear of a day. Stressful and intense. Left my jersey and my hat at home, so the faithful husband had to bring them. Left my phone and my keys at the office to make the bus. This isn't helping.

Tina Charles is burning bright. Everyone else looks like dead coals. I don't know what's wrong with Piph, but it worries me. We're missing shots my high school team could make. Indiana is outplaying us, and it's not like we're making it easy on defense.

I rather question how Indiana had 4 fouls with 6:17 left in the second quarter and ended the second quarter with four team fouls. But the officials aren't yet worthy of blame in this game. We're bringing it on ourselves.

But I have to believe. What else can I do? This is my team. I ride or die with them. This is summer. My loyalties are not split. I don't have a fallback plan.

Right now, I honestly don't know what's more frustrating, the Liberty's ice cold shooting or the number of people standing in the aisles because the ushers can't be arsed to usher people to their seats and get the GA tickets out of already claimed seats. Today has been a hot mess of late-arriving large groups clustered in the aisles.

This had all the fixings of a magical night. The place is packed. Spike Lee showed up, at least ofr the first half. Knicks legends are all over the place: the Pearl, Clyde, Starks. The towels are waving. The fans are psyched.

...and historically, that's when post-2002 Liberty teams most often lay an egg, oh crap.

It sounds selfish to say this hasn't been my day, but this really hasn't been my day. This doesn't help. This was supposed to be coronation. This was supposed to be catharsis. This was supposed to be exorcism, supposed to be the link between the first and the last. Instead, the ghosts came back hungrier than ever, bigger than ever, cold and cruel and taunting.

Hamartia, the tragic flaw that brings down the hero in Greek theater: Piph's shooting, Tanisha's hesitation, Kiah's youth, Carolyn's knee, Essence's body, Sugar's impetuousness, Bill's nonchalance.

23 wins and homecourt are ashes and dust now. There's no advantage when you're not playing. Does the regular season mean nothing? No, it doesn't. This was a hell of a year and a hell of a team. But it's tainted now, overshadowed by the choke in Game 2 and the blown chances in Game 3, forever haunted by all that was supposed to be and all that could have been.

If Piph shot like the superstar she was...

If Tanisha drove instead of dribbling on the perimeter...

If we could hit our free throws...

If Kiah hit the bunnies...

But as a fan, and as one admittedly overinvested in the rise and fall of my team, there's a tiny voice in my head. If you had remembered your jersey… if you had worn the black on black like you did for Game 1... if you'd played through the playlist... if you'd done all the things you did when we won...

It's only weird if it doesn't work. Or maybe it's only not weird when it doesn't work.

All right. Time to breathe around this tension in my chest. I'm really hoping it's just my bra.

Both coaches emptied the bench at the very end, so Maggie Lucas and Jeanette Pohlen got a minute at the end of the game. Layshia Clarendon got a couple of minutes in the first quarter but was not terribly effective, so she went back to the bench until it was time for the victory formation. I miss the gold in her hair- you lose the headband without that contrast against it. Shavonte Zellous was aggressive offensively and generally seemed to be annoying people. She's good at that. Her emotions are a large part of her game, for both good and for ill.

Natasha Howard got some early minutes, but she showed in those minutes that the mental portion of her game hasn't necessarily caught up to her physical gifts. Lynetta Kizer was sorely missed by Indiana in that first game- she stretched the offense and brought physicality on defense. She's one of the most underappreciated players on this Fever roster, and that's saying something.

Briann January was tenacious on defense, fell down with style a lot, and sealed the deal with two late baskets, including one utterly ridiculous reverse lay-up late in the game that might as well have been the equivalent of ripping out our beating hearts and holding them up as sacrifice to the gods. (It's quarter to one, I'm slightly loopy and having a lot of trouble forcing myself to write these notes. If you're expecting brilliant commentary, go read Mechelle Voepel.) She chased down loose balls all over the court and read our offense better than most of our players did. Shenise Johnson and her giant hair did more work inside than out today, which I don't think we were expecting. Marissa Coleman shot the lights out from outside, because apparently we don't learn from our mistakes and don't understand that leaving Marissa Coleman open is a rather unintelligent thing to do. Any chance we had of getting our act together was shot down, and I mean that with a fair amount of literalism, when she got loose beyond the arc. Her height was a help defensively as well.

Erlana Larkins brought the physicality and set wicked screens for her teammates. She made sure the Liberty did not have good rebounding position, and she made baskets in the second half by taking advantage of open space. Tamika Catchings did Tamika Catchings things, but seemed to be hitting the deck more than usual and less of her own volition. She was the star, and she did her job, but she didn't carry her team except perhaps spiritually. She didn't have to. Gosh, that would be nice.

(Yes, I'm bitter like a mouthful of lemon and a spoonful of cinnamon. Next question?)

Erica Wheeler got a moment in the waning minutes and missed a shot over the basket, one of many Liberty players to do so. Sugar Rodgers was guarded closely enough that she couldn't get the looks she was getting earlier in the series, and she wasn't ready for it. (The petty, bitterest, part of me is all like you weren't familiar with that when you were Georgetown? {No, that's not a missing word. I saw her as a Hoya. She was pretty much all there was for a couple of those baaaaad years.}) She had shots. She missed. She fumbled. She made careless plays on the sideline. This was the Rodgers that Minnesota gave away for, ultimately, literally, nothing. Candice Wiggins played like her life was on the line. I question some of her shot selections, but she at least took the shots. She at least stepped up and brought fire to the court. That's more than I can say for most of her teammates.

Essence Carson hit one big shot and one smaller shot that might have been bigger if her foot had not been on the line. But she barely contributed defensively, and she made stupid mistakes with the ball. Kiah Stokes played like a rookie, and like the rookie she was projected to be when she was at UConn instead of the rookie she played like all season. She was late on defensive rotations, she was soft on the glass, she missed bunnies in the lane. We needed her to be rock-solid, and she crumbled.

Our starting backcourt might have been the biggest disappointment of the night, in a night that was full of them. Epiphanny Prince couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. There was a point in the game where she genuinely looked glazed over, like she was attempting to retreat to her happy place but she kept getting distracted. She pulled herself together briefly in the third quarter, but a combination of defense and... you know what, I can't even sugar-coat that bad shooting. When a slick shooter like Piph goes 1-4 from the free throw line, there's something wrong with the player on that particular night. But she's not even the starting Liberty guard I'm most disappointed in. Piph, for all her failures as a scorer, at least rebounded, defended, passed. Tanisha Wright? One of our veteran leaders? One of the players who's supposed to be at the forefront of the defense and the general of the offense? She checked out sometime in the second quarter. Her head left the game and never really came back. No way you're winning a game with a player in that mental condition. She strangled the offense with endless dribbling and made some truly dumb passes. It got to the point where Piph was playing point and Tanisha was pretending to be the shooting guard.

Tina Charles can't do it alone. We've seen how that ends. It usually ends with Tina flouncing (which, see below). She had a double-double midway through the third quarter. But Indiana doubled her constantly, or sent Tamika Catchings (AKA the woman DPOY should be named after someday) at her, or did both. And she had to guard Catch at the other end. She's only human. She faltered in the fourth. Someone should have been there to catch her. Swin Cash did her best. At least she hustled and went to the basket, but we shouldn't have had to ask that of someone who's thirty-mumble and has knee issues. I thought she should have been the defender on Catchings, but surprise. Carolyn Swords was ineffective. She fell down more than usual. She had good looks at the basket and missed. Again, story of our lives.

Bill all but pulled a Nancy Darsch in the fourth quarter, when we were still within range, taking out the hot hands and putting the starters back in. At which point everything went to hell in a handbasket, and by the time we hit the final five it was all over but the crying. (Yes, I cried. Judge me and I will hurt you with pain.)

I'd like to blame the officials, because Michael Price and Roy Gulbeyan are such good targets, but we did this to ourselves.

Even all of this might have been tolerable were it not for the endless seething frustration I spent the night stewing in. We saw an usher for the first time sometime after halftime, after we had missed probably five minutes' worth of game time due to people standing in the aisles and arguing over seats. There was almost a fight two rows in front of us that I still don't know the story behind. And the woman behind us was intolerable. Look, I love fans being loud. I'm one of them. You wanna yell at everyone and anyone on the court? I'm okay with that. But I draw the line at profanity at games, especially when there are children around, and there were two schoolgirls in the row in front of us. The woman behind us persisted in shrieking profanities at the top of her lungs in a shrill, carrying voice that probably killed untold cilia in my ears, even after we asked her to please stop swearing.

And then Tina decided that everyone else had disappointed us (except Candice), so why shouldn't she join the fun? As soon as the game was over, she tried to bolt for the locker room without shaking hands or anything. Swin was not having with that. I saw the play as it was in the midst of developing, so the first thing I saw was Swin sprinting full speed for the tunnel, and I thought she was the one frustrated and wanting to get away from everything. Then I saw her corral Tina and haul her back to the court to shake hands. Well done by Swin and disappointing by Tina. I understand the urge to get away from the scene and either go cry or go punch things, but if you're a professional, you need to paste on a smile for an extra few minutes before you go vent.

On the plus side, the organist is definitely ready for Rangers season. Me? I'm not ready for more basketball yet. I'm taking a break this weekend. I don't care about the Finals- I don't have a dog in the race and there isn't anyone on either team who I care about getting a ring.

Petty? Yeah. Fucks given? Zero.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23rd, 2015: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles flirted with a triple-double, and four Liberty players scored in double-figures as New York took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals from Indiana, 84-67. Charles finished with 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Kiah Stokes had a game-high 21 off the bench for New York. Shenise Johnson was the only Indiana player to break double figures, at 12 points.

For statements, silly hats, impressionable children, a hard-working usher, the branch office of the Connecticut Deli, sweatsuits, Stoooooooookes, unexpected results, aaaaaaaaand twins, join your intrepid and squinty blogger after the jump.
It's only weird if it doesn't work. Isn't that how the commercial goes? So you keep as much the same from the days that you win. Can't wear the same shirt, but I have a spare shirt I got yesterday as a gift. Same jersey, same hat, same pants, same shoes. Mom won't even text me because she didn't text me yesterday. No fear, no worry, no doubt. Not allowed.

Mechelle Voepel in the house! Hearts in my eyes.

I thought I saw Renee Brown both last night and tonight, but she might have a doppelganger.

Carolyn Swords is present, dressed out, and moving as well as can be expected.

This game has been so good that I think the officials have been watching it- not a lot of calls on either end of the floor, and I'm okay with that (though someone needs to sit Shavonte Zellous down and tell her to slow her roll). It's just been great basketball on both sides of the floor, teams finding ways to make shots. Kiah Stokes is beasting for the Liberty, Epiphanny Prince is making the shot clock roll over and beg, and everyone's playing their role. Indiana's playing well too, and I'm a little worried that Catchings hasn't fully Catch'd yet.

John Starks in the house! So are the Lopez twins, which led to an amusing bit of business with hats. Robin Lopez plays for the Knicks; Brook Lopez, his twin, plays for the Nets. Robin appeared on the big screen wearing a Mariners cap. Someone from offscreen dropped a Nets cap on his head (which was how we guessed Brook was there). Later, Jason, the Liberty in-game host, returned with a Knicks cap, which Robin happily put on, though he had trouble getting his hair under it.

Well. That was clearly the result we were all expecting after the Liberty ground out a clutch win yesterday. We certainly expected them to come out like gangbusters and keep on soaring through the second half. Oops, did I leave the sarcasm light on? My bad.

Natasha Howard made effective use of the minutes she got at the end of the game. I'll grant she wasn't facing top-notch defense at this point, but she used her body well and made plays. I always say she should be watching tape of Sancho Lyttle to improve her game, because that would allow her to be a better defender and extend the range of her jumper. But do that after this series. Natalie Achonwa put in work on the boards, but she crossed the line on screens and picks and got dinged for offensive fouls. We'll have to see after a year, but I'm starting to wonder if the ACL stole some of her mobility the way it did with Rebecca Lobo (though Lobo had somewhast less to lose, so the effects were more obvious).

Layshia Clarendon was tossed into the game in the second half to try and bolster the defense, or at least be steadier and less demonstrative than Shavonte Zellous. She seemed to calm the team down, but she was more a distributor and defender than a scoring threat- she would penetrate, but pass out. Zellous looked to score, but her head was not in the game. I don't know where it was, but it was not in the game. I'm not just talking about her temper getting the better of her, either- there were a couple of sequences where she clearly was not on the same page as her teammates, and I would never want Erlana Larkins yelling at me. Maggie Lucas was in as a three-point threat, for the most part, though she burned Candice Wiggins badly on a beautiful backdoor cut. Jeanette Pohlen played garbage time. She hustles. But there's a reason she doesn't play when the minutes matter.

Tamika Catchings had no relief all night. I'm not talking about not getting rest, because Stephanie White gave her some good stretches on the bench to get her feet back under her. But she was constantly defendered and defended well. She got few good looks, and the looks she got were not in good position for her. She never let up on the intensity, of course, since she's still Tamika Catchings and she's still breathing. Erlana Larkins positions herself really well. I think that's a North Carolina thing. She boxes out and gets on the boards spectacularly, and she sets wicked screens.

Shenise Johnson has such a pretty shot. You'd think she'd be easier to find with that big ol' hair, but we kept losing her on midrange jumpers. Part of that was the super crisp ball movement and the screening by Indiana. Briann January really puts her martial arts training to work on the floor, in terms of taking contact and rolling with it. Marissa Coleman is a size mismatch nightmare for the Liberty (as is Johnson, for that matter). No matter how you shuffle the defense, someone's going to be too big for the defender. Coleman put that height to work in the first quarter, drawing contact and getting to the line. She should NOT have gotten free throws on that three-point attempt that Essence was called for the foul on. Bad call.

I wasn't expecting Indiana to run as much as they did. As the game went on, I'm not sure Indiana was expecting Indiana to run as much as they did.

Avery Warley-Talbert had a nice play that got her the one basket, muscling the ball up through contact. It was the one good play she had. Essence Carson brought the defense. She looked energized. Great to see her playing to her strengths. And then Kiah Stokes had herself a game. Talk about playing to your strengths- I think only one of her baskets was outside the paint. Everything else was right at the basket, from pretty little feeds from Tina Charles or off rebounds. She stepped her game up and fired up the crowd.

So did Sugar Rodgers. Sugar took a lot of good shots and the threes were falling. She's learned not to take bad shots, which is impressive. She's come so far since Georgetown. Candice Wiggins absorbed the pain, annoyed the offense, and got herself in foul trouble. I almost wish she could apprentice with DeLisha Milton-Jones- she could learn much about being evil on the floor and sweet off it. She's been such a catalyst for this run. Erica Wheeler tried to do too much. Someone wants serious minutes.

Tina Charles started the game on fiyah, and found her touch again in the second half. But what impressed me most was when she didn't shoot. She had position- but Kiah had better position, and she dropped dimes like they were going out of style. That's the kind of star I love to see- one who's equally capable of taking the shot and making the pass. Carolyn Swords was a welcome returnee. She didn't- she couldn't- play big minutes, but she played minutes where some of the physical pressure was off Tina. She made plays on the glass and tapped the ball out to her teammates. She tired more easily than normal, so that's something we have to keep an eye on (it's easy to tell when Carolyn's overworked, because she turns red). I'm also worried about Swin Cash. Her minutes have declined sharply. She's bringing the defense, and she's a leader, but can we afford to have a starter whose only contributions are intangibles?

Tanisha Wright didn't seem to have her head in the game after the second quick foul, which seemed strange because I thought the second foul was intentional to get out of the game after she got knocked down. It might have worked out for the best, since that meant Sugar and Ice got minutes and were ready to get their game on. Epiphanny Prince made it clear that she was a superstar and she's ready to be the star we need. There are few players who toy with the shot clock the way she does. She has moments of great defense, too.

Total team effort. The ball movement was fantastic- not as crisp as Indiana's, but we found each other. We communicated. Indiana seemed to be doing more yelling at each other than anything else.

Denise Brooks, I am not even talking to you right now after that call on Essence Carson. Call it both ways.

This team made a stand. They chose this. The front office could have scrambled for an alternate arena on a different day to keep the rest period consistent with the rest of the playoffs. They chose the back-to-back. They chose the Garden. They chose us. They made a statement- this is our house, this is our time. I don't think anyone expected this.

Maybe we should have.

We're coming home, MSG. We'll see you again.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22nd, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Tina Charles put up 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Sugar Rodgers poured in 20 off the bench, to defeat Washington 79-74 in Game 3 and 2-1 in their playoff series. Ivory Latta led Washington with 18 points and seven assists in the loss.

For fashion reports, diabetic shocks, step-back threes, party favors, the man we call stan, digging deep, questionable rotations, wandering fans, and exhaustion, join your intrepid and booked blogger after the jump.

So here we are. Backs to the wall, or more precisely backs to the back-to-back, say that three times fast. Winner plays Indiana for the right to hang an Eastern Conference Championship banner from their rafters. Loser goes home. Liberty-Mystics, one more time.

So it's time to get superstitious. Don't mix the Lobo and the Boyd jerseys, we lost on Friday with those. Wear a hat. Hats are cool, plus we need all the mojo we can get. Add a lei. Add another lei. Leilani's gone, but the leis live on. All black everything. White bra, not the red, because the Mystics wear red. Devil's in the details, you know.

Is it a good sign someone else in a Liberty shirt got on at Grand, or bad news because that happened on Friday too? Very superstitious, writing's on the wall...

There's no room for fear. There's no room for doubt. Worries have to be left on the train. Can't plan for anything tomorrow except Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That's the energy we have to bring. Calm. Confident. Winning is the only option. Alternatives are not to be even considered, because they're not happening.

If the guy on the escalator is to be believed, I came up the escalator directly behind Shannon Bobbitt and may have almost hit her in the head with a towel. I'm not always good with faces, and it's not like Shannon Bobbitt stands out from the average human being in terms of size and build.

Today's giveaway is towels with the #BurnBright hashtag. They're not quite twirlable yet- too new, too starchy, but as quick as the turnaround would have had to be, I can't say I'm surprised. (I work in the business. Four days is asking a lot, especially with a weekend. Essentially next day? Fantastic work by the vendor.)

Bad mojo to change the walkout music for this game. No objections to Jay Z here, but you don't change something you've done, in full or in part, for 19 years.

At the half, the Liberty are up 45-37 on the strength of a 30-12 second quarter. Maybe the mojo isn't so bad after all. Sugar Rodgers and Candice Wiggins have stepped it up off the bench. Sugar has 14 off the bench and Candice has a pair of treys to go with fantastic defense.

I just hope these dunkers at halftime don't bend the rim too badly. That's where we're shooting in the second half.

The place really filled up in the second quarter. Not sure how much of it was tickets being given out at the last minute and how much of it was late arrivers. Apparently a lot of people are hanging out at the concourse bars, too. Stupid hip young things.

Spike Lee is in his Knicks seat, in his Knicks colors. Nice of him to join us- now someone get him a jersey!

We're sitting behind the Sugar stan. (You know. That guy who always screams, "PUT SUGAR RODGERS IN THE GAME! I WANNA SEE SUGAR RODGERS!" You've probably heard him.) Together we make a loud tandem. But we weren't the only ones. By the last couple of minutes of that fourth quarter, the Garden was rocking. Everyone was on their feet without prompting. I love it. That's Liberty basketball.

My hat is off to the Washington Mystics, and especially to Ivory Latta. They put up a fantastic fight. I may swear at Latta and call her a goddamn Smurf (picked it up from a Maryland fan in her UNC days), but at the end of the day, it's the disrespect of respect.

Ally Malott came in at the very end of the game as a shooter, but I don't even know if she got a touch. She was there as an option. Kia Vaughn had moments where she torched Kiah Stokes in the paint, but she always seemed a moment behind the play, taking a moment to think before she moved. When she got low in the paint, she moved like an avalanche, but the slightest hesitation and the defense broke her down. She did not deal well with pressure.

Taylor Hill looked hassled out there. We weren't able to cover that weak-side corner when Latta was shooting it, but Hill was a step slower to the spot. We don't always learn quickly, but we learn eventually. Natasha Cloud, demoted to the bench as Mike Thibault tinkered with the lineup, was a non-factor. Kara Lawson's defense, if not spectacular, was heady and sticky. She had a couple of nice, deft poke-checks. Her release was, as always, super fast. Her shot is just so efficient.

Stefanie Dolson played a very tough game. She had a hard assignment, with Tina Charles on her at both ends of the floor, and she showed flashes of her outside shot, as well as some nice rebounding work. I admire her flair and her toughness. LaToya Sanders stroked some early jumpers in both halves, but really seemed kind of quiet today. I don't know that the gamble worked. Emma Meesseman was quiet in the first half, though she rebounded well, then came on like gangbusters in the third quarter. Her usual shots didn't seem to be falling, so she made up for it on the glass.

I love to hate Ivory Latta. Sometimes I think she feeds off that as much as she feeds off the passion of her own fans. She made things happen. I think she might have had more trouble hitting shots without a hand in her face, because she certainly had no trouble taking that step back and letting them fly when the defense was all up in her business. She hustled. She found her teammates. She was fantastic and has nothing to hang her head about (not that I think she ever has in her life). Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was phenomenal defensively- you could tell the difference when she was on someone, versus when one of her teammates had the assignment, and I thought our comeback would die aborning when she switched onto Sugar Rodgers. She flashed some offense by the basket, too.

I swear on my honor as a former Girl Scout I will end up breaking things if we continue to ignore the corner in front of the bench and let three-shooters run rampant in it.

When Eric Thibault is trying to get Mike Thibault back to the bench before he gravely offends the officials, do you think he ever says something along the lines of, "Dad, stop, ohmigod, you're embarrassing me!" as he does so?

Am I bothered that Kiah Stokes is our only post off the bench right now? Damn skippy. We're going to need to go to some way smaller lineups tomorrow to juggle our personnel better. But Kiah came through for us tonight, picking up all the loose change on the glass, finishing at the rim, and coming up with the big, big, big block to end the game on Latta. She made the right plays at the right time.

Essence Carson made a cameo in the first half. It was unremarkable, and she was not asked to return for an encore. She needs to step up big tomorrow (which is now today). But the other two guards off the bench (yes, I still consider Essence a guard even though she usually lines up at forward) more than made up for it. Candice Wiggins was the sparkplug that spurred the comeback after that putrid first quarter. She fired the team up on both ends of the floor. She has so much enthusiasm. I understand why other teams want to smack her around, but I'd appreciate if the officials would call it. And Sugar Rodgers just would not be denied. She wasn't just jacking threes, either- she was driving hard to the rack. Love seeing that from her. We needed someone to turn it up, and she turned it up big time.

I'm a little worried about Swin Cash- not because of the stats, but because of the minute count. We could have used her before the last possession of the fourth, when Tina Charles looked like she was completely out of gas. Even a minute or two- enough to get some Gatorade and take a breath- might have been enough for Tina to stop jacking up long jumpers and find the strength to get into the paint. A lot was asked of Tina tonight, and she delivered a lot. She took some stupid shots, and she fumbled passes she should have caught. But she came through when we needed her. And she's going to have to continue doing it. Avery Warley-Talbert, bless her heart, and that's about all I can say about that.

Tanisha Wright made the right plays at the right time. She usually slows the offense up, but she was running with the rest of the pack tonight. She went hard to the basket, expecting more calls than she was getting. Epiphanny Prince had a rough night all night. Her shots were just not going down... well, except for the one that had to go down. In the end, that's all that matters, isn't it? Well, at least until tomorrow, which now comes today.

I'd love to know the backstory on why Bill didn't take Tina out in the fourth quarter when she was obviously gassed. I know Avery is not an option, but Swin and Essence both seemed to be available. I wonder if it had anything to do with the heated conversation he had with Laura Ramus early in the game.

Fashion report: Brittany Boyd rocked it tonight. Those long, loose, jackets and vests really work for her. Carolyn Swords wore what, in scale, would be an LBD, but can a black dress truly be little if the wearer is 6'6" and broad in frame?

Play of the game: Stoooooooooooookes.

Favorite moment of the game: after Kiah scored on a sweet little drop pass from Tina, or maybe it was the other way around, Sue Wicks, sitting on the endline near the basket, reacted with such joy that I'm pretty sure she wanted that pass in her life. (Or possibly sat down next to Kym Hampton and said, "Hey, Kym, you never passed me the ball like that!")

The officiating got extremely frustrating in the second half. All I ask for is consistency and for people to stop calling Candice for the audacity to be run over, sawhorsed, ridden, tangled, wrapped up, and otherwise physically abused by the player she's on. Call the contact on both sides.

General admission seating continues to be an issue, but the good news is that ushers are cracking down on people in seats that have been specifically sold. The bad news is that they kept hassling the two guys across the aisle from us, who actually had their seats. It was the other people in their row that seemed to be an issue. The only reason I'll give security any kind of pass today is because the Garden was double-booked- there was a concert tonight at the Theatre.

Let's see if we build on the guts of this victory, or if we're too wiped to put up a fight. But y'know what? I'm not going to the gym tomorrow. Because I'm going to the game.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

September 18th, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Washington forced overtime twice to claim a 86-83 win over the New York Liberty in game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. Ivory Latta led Washington with 15; three other Mystics each notched 13. Epiphanny Prince led all scorers with 26 points, with Tina Charles adding 22 points.

For substitution confusion, communication breakdown, Smurfs, trolls, wandering fans, orange sequins, small children, a contested three, and mindgames, join your intrepid and disappointed blogger after the jump.

It's a new season- the postseason. The Liberty host game one of the Eastern Conference semis against Washington, and so far it's been a tough one. The Liberty got out to a hot start early, but Washington tightened up the defense in the second quarter, so we're all tied up at 36 at halftime.

Love Brittany Boyd's shoes tonight. The all black everything is classic, and totally New York.

Fantastic anthem from a pair of operatic singers.

I kind of wish the ushers actually felt like, y'know, ushering people tonight. Lost fans should not be reduced to asking the cotton candy vendors where their seats are. With a big crowd, you need more attention to people, not less.

Body-checking Swin Cash out of bounds is a good idea, Natasha Cloud. Not only should it be a foul, but you have angered one of the Bad Girls. Swin knows pretty much every trick in the book.

I love that Bill Laimbeer had the entire staff up for the Coach of the Year presentation. Laura Ramus is one of the hardest working people in the business and needs some love.

Someday, we'll look back on this game as one of the W's great games- if not necessarily spectacular, I think it's one of the games that best encapsulates the strengths of the WNBA. It was tough, it was competitive, it was intense, it had enough flashy plays and slick moves to not look like a defensive slogfest. The crowd responded to all of that. You don't necessarily have to put on the SportsCenter play to fire up fans.

The fans around us as we left were ragging on the refs, and certainly that jump ball that Tanisha Wright and Bill Laimbeer thought they had timeout on was an issue, as was the resulting violation on Swin Cash that gave Washington the ball for the game-tying possession. But if you get 26 free throws, and you miss ten of them, that's a problem. If you commit 14 turnovers, most of them unforced, that's a problem. If your coach decides players don't need rest even when they're having trouble getting up and down the court, that's a problem.

(I'm sorry. I'm having a lot of trouble making myself write these. Disappointment is not great writing fuel.)

Mike Thibault put a lot of faith in Tayler Hill. She was the one playing in crunch time overtime instead of Natasha Cloud. She hit some big shots, especially in the second overtime. She's got some pretty moves on offense- nice crossover, a good first step. Still don't like her. Probably never will. (Yes, I'm still bitter that she had a roster spot held for her the year she was pregnant and therefore Thibault had to cut a guard. And no, I don't like Ohio State.) Kara Lawson's shot is so damn quick. You give her a moment of space and it's off. She also came up with a nice steal in the third quarter, and poked away some balls on deflections. Armintie Herrington is a solid defender, but a liability on offense. She had more space than she knew what to do with. Well, that's not completely true- she ran through it a lot.

(Surprised to see no minutes for Bria Hartley. Injury flare-up?)

LaToya Sanders continues to impress me with her positioning on the boards and her ability to sneak into tight spaces. She also sets surprisingly solid screens for a post with a slender build. She and Ivory Latta, perhaps unsurprisingly, have excellent chemistry on the floor. Kia Vaughn spend so much time making sure she's in the right position to make an offensive play that she forgets about her footwork. I don't think Thibault wanted to play her in the OTs, but he had no choice after Sanders fouled out.

Natasha Cloud had a passionate rooting section sitting across from the road bench- we're pretty sure they were in fact St. Joseph's Hawks. She was solid, if unremarkable, more effective with her size than with her shot. Ivory Latta really impressed the guys in front of us with her stepback threes, especially with their timing and utter cold-bloodedness. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought the defense, but not as much of the jumper as she did in the regular season.

Emma Meesseman had a strong offensive game in the middle, but the little reverse she likes to throw as she flies past the basket wasn't going down. She mixed it up inside and got the boards, though, and she took a lot of contact on both sides of the floor. Stefanie Dolson was frustrated inside by the Liberty's defense, but found more success outside the paint. I hope she's okay after coming up lame late in regulation. I know I call her a Troll doll because of the hair and because this will never stop being funny, but unlike some of my neighbors, I try not to wish harm on players.

Washington tightened up on defense as the game went on, and they hit some unbelievable guarded shots. We've got to be better on the perimeter, but even that doesn't help with Ivory Latta.

Candice Wiggins did little except commit intentional fouls at the end of the game. I think this was a game where we missed Brittany Boyd: as another body, as a sparkplug, as a penetrator. Despite the earnest entreaties of the stan, Sugar Rodgers did very little as well. She didn't even look to shoot, which is surprising and a bit disappointing.

Kiah Stokes was the lone bright spot among the reserves. She looked a bit more like the player who was garnering hype for Rookie of the Year. If we'd won the game, she might well have made herself the hero with big defensive plays and rebounds. But you've got to hit your shots. Essence Carson looked done. I don't mean that she looked awful. I mean that she looked like she had found the Nikki McCray cliff and flown off it with shrieks of glee. She looked like a player whose body is not-so-gently hinting that it is no longer suitable for professional basketball, and wouldn't she enjoy herself more in the recording studio? She lost most of her shot. She's lost most of her closing speed. She's lost the handle that made her a point guard alternative at Rutgers and early in her Liberty career. Her vision's gone. A defensive specialist shouldn't be wasted on Armintie Herrington.

I know I'm being hard on Essence, and it hurts. She was one of my favorites at Rutgers. I bought her jersey the year the Liberty switched to black. I paid retail money for her jersey, a thing I do not do lightly. (That I have, in fact, done only one other time before- my Davenport tee- and one time after- a Cruz jersey. Everything else I snag off eBay or use gift cards for.) I don't like eviscerating her as a basketball player. But it hurts to watch her rapid decline. I'd rather see her happy in her post-basketball life, where she's using her phenomenal skills in that field, than see the shell of her on the floor.

Tanisha Wright stepped her game up in the second half. She was more aggressive and made smarter plays. Defensively, she's one of the smartest PGs we've ever had. Offensively... she can be hit or miss. She as mostly hit tonight, but her passing is not as sharp as it could be. Epiphanny Prince was on fire, playing hard at both ends of the floor. She definitely let her Scarlet show in the fourth quarter, with tough on-ball defense.

Swin Cash was tough. She brings defensive tenacity and veteran savvy to the floor- she caught Meesseman encroaching on the inbounds late in the game. She's an example of why your starting five isn't always your most talented five- you need someone to hold the team together and save some punch for the reserves. Carolyn Swords had a great game in the middle, turning it up in the second and third quarters, grabbing loose balls and making plays. I would have given her minutes in overtime. There were multiple opportunities where there was a chance for her to be an offense-defense sub for Tina Charles. Those minutes might have made a difference, because by the end of the night, Tina was gassed. She had run out of reserves early in the first overtime and was gritting through because it's what you do. But she spent too much of the night relying too heavily on the long two, and too much of the night with rebounds or passes going off her hands. I don't want to dump on her head, because unless she told Bill she was good to go, it's not her fault he didn't sub when there were opportunities.

We should have had it. It was there and we should have had it.

I'm not going to blame the refs, though it's tempting. But Swin did encroach on the jump ball, and Tina's shot was late. Those are facts. I object to players taking players out with falls and there being no call. And I think Tanisha had the timeout call before the jump ball, and without that, this game ends in overtime with a Liberty win.

The crowd was super into it. But that's what I've seen happen over and over again- even people who aren't expecting to be into it are sucked into the energy. The place was packed. The disconnect between the expectations of the Liberty people and the expectations of the Garden people is spectacular. (Though MSG might have been shorthanded because of the concert that night at the Theatre.)

Lots of Knicks were there. Current guys, plus Starks and Larry Johnson.

We have the best road record in the league. I believe. I choose to keep the faith and keep the torch burning bright until all is said and done.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

September 13th, 2015: Chicago at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Connecticut Sun ended their last game of the season on a high note, dominating Chicago in the fourth quarter to win 86-75. Kelsey Bone notched a career-high 31 points. Camille Little added 15, and three other Sun players had nine. Elena Delle Donne was the only Chicago player in double figures, with 28.

For the injured reserve, sweethearts at the food court, cool hats, books, a complete collection, well wishes, rushing headlong, free stuff, and long bus rides, join your intrepid and throwback blogger after the jump.

L'shana tova, loyal readers! Have some cookies and chocolate with me as we celebrate the end of the regular season and the beginning of a new year. (I'm not Jewish, but I know some of my regulars are, and I picked up a lot from the salesfolk I worked with.)

Your intrepid blogger finally, finally, got to dust off her Miracle jersey for a neutral trip to the casino to take in the Sun's final game of the season against the Chicago Sky. (But fret not, Libs. I'm always true to you in my fashion; darlin', I'm always true to you in my way. My Miracle jersey is the #24 of Tari Phillips.)

We were far from alone. The line at the Arena Club, usually half a dozen people at most, stretched clear out past the fountain in front of the escalators to the hotel. There must have been sixty-seventy discrete groups on that line, all waiting for their tickets. Connecticut was releasing as many as four tickets per casino card, so there was a lot more paper in that place than usual, and more than even security was used to. I wonder how many people who usually buy tickets ended up getting freebies for this one? You have to be careful how you value, or devalue your product.

Gorgeous anthem by a Hartford School of Music student whose name I did not completely catch. Soaring soprano.

There were really cool giveaways all through the game, but honestly, I think the person in row A of section 11 could probably have afforded the prize so cavalierly given away to them. I wouldn't have minded $100 for dinner at Tuscany.

Lots of advertising for the arena's lacrosse team, the Black Wolves. Either ticket sales are not doing as well as they expected or they really couldn't sell ad time for this game.

Inside the last home game of the season seems like an odd place and time to advertise the family ticket pack.

Free t-shirts for all today! Plain, white, but coming in a variety of sizes. Appreciate size ranges.

It was an odd ending. You could almost tell where Chicago stopped pretending to care and just settled for jumper after jumper.

Cappie Pondexter was with the Sky, but did not play, and I don't think she ever took off her sweats. Other than her, everyone for Chicago got time- Pokey Chatman channeled her inner Blackhawk near the end of the game and send in a full line change. Five subs at the scorer's table and five starters on the floor left Cappie standing lonesome by the Sky bench.

(Holy crap on a stick, the ride home is crawling. It's been half an hour and we're only at exit 71. The police car that just wailed by us might hold an answer to that riddle, though.)

Jacki Gemelos was part of that big change at the end of the game, but I don't think she did anything memorable in those two minutes or so. Jamierra Faulkner got a lot of run due to early foul trouble, mid-game injury, and late-game preservation techniques. She's so very quick. She takes hits and keeps on ticking. Scoring-wise, she seems to be better as a penetrator, not a jump shooter. Allie Quigley is always a threat from the outside, but she wasn't hitting today. She always has to be guarded, and Connecticut did not cover her adequately. They got lucky in that regard. She's not there for her defense, but I'd still like to see her at least try some, y'know?

Clarissa Dos Santos continues to impress me with her solidity and tenacity in the paint. This is not a woman you want to rumble with in a dark alley, even more than the average six-foot-tall, strongly-built woman. I do not think the jumper is her strength, but when she goes inside and goes up hard, she's hard to stop. Cheyenne Parker got a lot more time than she has in most of the other Sky games I've seen this year, and she brings a bit more finesse in that post position than Dos Santos does. She blocks well and has a bit more range, but not nearly as much strength. She's still very much a rookie, but a rookie with potential, and for the first time I felt like I was seeing it. Betnijah Laney did not leave a fantastic impression today- when she missed her shots, she missed them badly, and did a bit of whining to the ref.

Courtney Vandersloot had a couple of close shaves today- foul trouble in the first half, a jar to her right shoulder in the second. From our unusually high perch in the upper deck at Mohegan Sun Arena, we could see the plays unfolding as if on a telestrator, and from that angle, it's easier to see her orchestrating the movement of the offense. It's hard to get a grasp on her role for Chicago, and that's not necessarily a bad thing! To me that says she has the ability to score when her team needs a scorer, but to step back and pass when other people are scoring. Tamera Young was pesky defensively, but made bad decisions with the ball, both passing and shooting. The sideline was not her friend.

Jessica Breland had a couple of monster blocks deep in the paint and was pretty tough overall. Érika de Souza cleared the glass, especially on the Sky's end of the floor- I think she had two on one possession. She's not as mobile as she used to be, but she's an immovable object when she needs to be.

Elena Delle Donne missed some chippies early on, but got stronger as the game went on. What would make me excited as a Chicago fan were the threes she was hitting. Her three-point shot has been AWOL for much of the season, and if it's coming back now, the timing is pretty much perfect. I'm also intrigued by her willingness to bang in the post on defense. I was not expecting that from her on that side of the ball. I'm starting to think she might be a Mary Sue escaped from the realms of fiction, y'all.

I really like Chelsea Gray at point for Connecticut. (And let's be honest, I wouldn't mind Chelsea Gray at point for the Liberty, either. "Chelsea Dagger" and "Shades of Gray" would both be awesome Cheesy Musical Hooks...) She's daring and dynamic. Better offensively than defensively so far, but with the right counterpart say, Brittany Boyd? that would be a very interesting platoon. Shekinna Stricklen never seemed to find her shot, but I'm not sure how hard she was looking for it. And it's not that Chicago was guarding her heavily. I think that's just not how the schemes were drawn up today.

Jennifer Lacy stretched the defense a little, but was otherwise unremarkable, and the shots she forced Chicago to defend didn't go down. I suspect Connecticut was relieved to no longer have to start her. Nikki Greene was physical. That's what she does, like the Geico commericals. Kayla Pedersen brought her hustle today, and sometimes even got rewarded for it with a whistle. Other times, not so much (there was one play where she had a ball and should have gotten a jump ball against Dos Santos- instead, Dos Santos ripped the ball out of her arms and knocked her backwards with no call). She had a very solid game. Makes sense- I think she's playing for her job, knowing that there's probably only one roster spot next year between her and Kelsey Griffin. (Yes, I am aware Connecticut waived Griffin in the middle of the season. I'm willing to bet actual-facts money that that was strictly a salary cap/roster positioning move and they'll bring her back next year.)

Kelly Faris got a lot of applause when she did things, or even when she didn't do things. The three she hit got one of the biggest cheers of the night; the free throws she missed elicited an arena-wide "awwwwwwww...". It really, spectacularly weirds me out. I can't deny her hustle- a guard who boxes out Érika de Souza will always get my respect for her metaphorical cojones- but I don't get the sheer adoration. Jasmine Thomas intercepted plenty of passes from Chicago. Granted, some of them were thrown directly to her, but she played well on the ball. She had a lot of shots that should have gone down but didn't. I'm not so sure about her offensive decision-making, though she did rack up the assists.

Then again, it's pretty easy to rack up the assists when Kelsey Bone is making power moves in the middle. Since she wasn't putting the ball down a lot (even when she technically should have), I can see official scorers being generous on the assist call. She missed a lot of shots early, ones that she should have been hitting. They went down for her more in the second half. It got to the point where I needed her to share the ball or I was going to run out of room on my score sheet. It still bothers me how easily she seems to get rattled by a bad call or a missed shot. Alyssa Thomas is starting to rub me the wrong way. I can't shake the feeling that she would have been the perfect Laimbeer player... and it's probably better and safer for the entire league that she doesn't play for Bill. She's very physical and very fearless. I feel like I should respect that, but I'm scared at the same time. I always forget that Camille Little has an outside stroke, and then she sets up from straight away and her team has three more points. She's so smooth. And she's sweet, too- she took the mic after the game to thank the fans for coming out.

Connecticut did a video with everyone, players and coaches both, thanking the fans for their support. I thought that was sweet.

One more soda and now I have the entire collection of Connecticut Sun "Share a Coke" cups. I really hope other teams pick this up. I'd love to see a "Share a Coke with Essence" cup.

The kids with the adorable Blaze hats were back! They were at the last game I was at, but I forgot to mention them, and I feel bad, because those hats are so cool!

A lot of late whistles in this one, and a very odd continuation call (but still not the least acceptable basket counted in a Chicago game, amirite Dream fans).


Good luck in the lottery, Connecticut. Faretheewell, Sun. For this has been the last game of the season, the last bus ride, the last taco bowl, the last uncomfortable ovation for Kelly Faris, the last slot pull, the last pile of sweet delicious candy.


Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11th, 2015: Washington at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Washington dominated in their 82-55 win at New York. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led all scorers with 15 points. Emma Meesseman added 14 points and eight rebounds. For New York, Avery Warley-Talbert had a team-high 12 points and six rebounds.

For disappointment, souvenirs, pictures, hat difficulty level, giant flags, missed cues, long gray shirts, practicality, and Essence Carson's hair flowing free in the wind, join your intrepid and sore all over blogger after the jump.

So here we are, gentle readers. The last regular season home game of the Liberty season. We know for certain it is not the last of anything- the season finale is at Indiana, and the playoffs assure us at least one more home game. But there is, nevertheless, a sense of completion, if not finality, about the day.

I don't know who was thinking what when they decided that the Liberty's final home game of the regular season should be on the 11th of September, against Washington of all teams, of all cities. It's insensitive to the people whose grief is an open wound and to whom any joy on 9/11 is salt; it's insensitive to the people who want to enjoy a basketball game without reminders of cruel reality creeping in at the edges.

(Inevitable "where were you?" story short: High school English. Mom worked in the financial district, almost went shopping at the WTC mall that day, but forgot her coupon. We lost no one within two degrees of separation, thank the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus.)

Today will be a day of shopping! $75 in Garden gift certificates + 20% coupon = Kiah Stokes or Brittany Boyd jersey and possibly a shirt. We'll see what's in 2XL.

Today will also be a day of pictures- the perfect attendance award photo is after the game. Round up the Usual Suspects and prepare for much breeze-shooting. You may not know this, readers, but I used these notes one season as proof of my perfect attendance when there was an issue with my tickets. There are advantages to being prepared. Girl Scouts for life, yo.

Today is also the day to attempt to add Erica Wheeler to the Cap, Volume 3. (Volume 1 started in 2000, ran out of space in 2006. Volume 2 started in 2010, reached back to 2007, ran out of room this year. The goal is simple: everyone. My mother's version of Volume 1 went to Australia for Jessica Bibby. Everyone is serious business.)

Wonderful. At halftime we're down 13, no one's guarding the 3 (seven treys for DC), no one's guarding Emma Meesseman (10 points), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is hitting jumpers (12), our stars do not give a good goddamn, and the entertainment is the annoying Simon Sez guy who won't go away no matter how hard I wish.

Shopping completed before the game. No Kiah Stokes jerseys to be had, but I bought a Boyd jersey, a t-shirt, and some other trinkets. Shoutout to Frances and her cohort whose nametag I could not see, for letting me use the 20% off coupon though it technically was only good downstairs (where there was diddly-squat in my size). Super helpful and super patient with our penny-pinching and careful counting.

Passes are too hard, shots are too short. And that was in the first half when we still pretended to care.

Look, I understand that this game meant precious little to the Liberty. All the things that can be clinched are clinched. But at least pretend to care. Pretend the game means something. Pretend to play. Most of the Liberty didn't even bother to do that.

This may be breaking news to some of you who were in isolated caves or on desert islands, but Armintie Herrington does not have a jump shot. She does, however, rebound beautifully and jump-start fast breaks with her speed and length. She's not a point guard, except when leading the break. Bria Hartley's shot is working a little, but I thought the best play from her was an early punchout of a rebound that the Liberty had all but buttoned up. Tayler Hill has a pretty shot and plays the ball very aggressively. I still like neither her nor her alma mater. (Sorry, Katie. I have deep-seated issues with the Ohio State University. Go Blue.)

(Spoon is currently playing HORSE with a fan. It is somewhat less successful than you might think. Spoon, after all, despite being legendary for a shot, is not a shooter.)

(Tina wandered out to talk to a couple of fans, but I think they had to re-do the ice on her knees.)

Kia Vaughn knows all the post moves, and performs them well, but takes a long time to do them. It's not so much that she's stuck in slow motion as it is she's doing them at practice speed, posing to demonstrate that she knows them technically. You always feel there could be something more, another gear. Ally Malott has a lovely jumper, but we all knew that. (Flyers in red hitting threes give me flashbacks to the NCAA tournament and Nadirah huddled in misery on the bench.) LaToya Sanders has a remarkable knack for slithering into small spaces in the paint and filling them admirably. Coming off a game where Camille Little did the same thing, I'm starting to wonder if this is a UNC thing. She kept balls alive for Washington.

Ivory Latta hit a deep three in perfect rhythm, but really didn't need to do much else. Natasha Cloud was aggressive, and a bit physical, and faster than I thought.

When did Tierra Ruffin-Pratt acquire a jumper? Is it not enough for Washington that she's one of the best defenders in the league? Now she gets to have a jumper and call glass? That is not fair. She's turning into one of the great success stories of the WNBA, and if we hadn't been playing Washington I would be a lot happier about it. Stefanie Dolson's hair is in Troll doll territory, in shade, texture, and shape. She took a lot of her shots from the outside, with mixed results, and did a lot of grunt work defensively. Emma Meesseman has such a pretty shot, and such good hands. I like watching her play when she's not playing against us. She did most of her damage in the first half, but then, that's when she was most needed.

Washington exploited our weakness against the three very well, and they beat us soundly on the boards. The rebounding, at least, I can chalk up to the Liberty's overall lack of energy, but we've got to do something about the perimeter defense, oh my God.

Avery Warley-Talbert is not a high rotation player for a team that wants to win a WNBA championship. Late in the game, however, when no damns were being given by either team, she started pouring in baskets. Pretty sure we were practicing plays that would go to Tina Charles in a real game. But it was good for her, and I'm sure it made her feel good. Kiah Stokes was highly disappointing. She was consistently late on her defensive rotations, and you can't leave shooters like Malott or Meesseman open. She still rebounds well, but if she's going to be a defensive stopper, she needs to move better and read her scouting reports. Essence Carson hit some shots in the third quarter, but was otherwise unremarkable. (Which I guess is an improvement over "ESSENCE WHAT EVEN ARE YOU DOING I CANNOT WORD WHARGARBL".)

Erica Wheeler looked like she got her feet under her a little bit. The shots were definitely falling for her, and she was pesky on defense. I'm still not thrilled with her eternal dribbling and her insistence that she can totally take any defender thrown at her, but she did more of what we needed of her tonight. Sugar Rodgers did not play with the energy I would have expected of a reserve fighting for minutes and trying to show she can step up in a teammate's absence. She was as laid back and as many steps slow as most of the starters. Fortunately for the remaining shreds of my sanity, Candice Wiggins does not have a neutral gear. Candice's gears are all set to go. Candice came in with energy and intensity, and with a desire to win. I would have liked to see her take more of the shots she passed up, but for all I know, that might have been part of the greater design, and I might have thought differently if anyone on the Liberty other than Avery were capable of hitting a shot.

Tina Charles spent most of the game nowhere near the paint, or if she was in the paint, taking runners in it. She hardly posted up. She didn't play much, and I think she played more than Bill wanted her to because of the foul trouble for Avery and for Carolyn Swords. Carolyn committed some remarkably stupid fouls, and seemed a little off her game on the boards. Swin Cash was the unfortunate starter to play near the end of the game, when it was beyond a blowout, and I think she was there to infuse them with some energy- she looked like she had come to play, or at least to rebound and defend.

Tanisha Wright took ill-advised shots and made bad passes. This was not her finest night as an offensive point guard. It wasn't her best defensive night either, but she was stronger there than on offense. Epiphanny Prince hit jumpers, but seemed to be taking some that she shouldn't be. She had a couple of great defensive plays on Emma Meesseman in a row, one of which should have been counted as a block.

We didn't see a lot of the starters in this one. Once Washington got the momentum in the second quarter, there was really no reason to play them. It was cler that no one with any authority with the Liberty cared about winning this game. I think they had reason to, to try and choose their first-round opponent. Clearly my opinion was not shared.

Saw surprisingly few Washington fans. I know it's a weeknight, but they usually travel well.

Shoutout to the girl in the Warley-Talbert jersey. I know the odds are pretty good she or one of her kinfolk is either a Warley or a Talbert, but that's still adorable and she should feel good for wearing it.

Beautiful anthem tonight.

This is not how I want to go into the playoffs, but part of me is relieved that everyone's safe and sound, and part of me thinks Bill wanted them to show their flaws so he could patch them up.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September 9th, 2015: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Epiphanny Prince had 25 points on 10-15 shooting, and Tina Charles added 16 points and 13 rebounds, as the New York Liberty clinched the best record in the WNBA with a 74-64 win over the Connecticut Sun. Kelsey Bone led Connecticut with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

For traveling fans, boom de yada, fancy dresses, birthday shoutouts (hi, Mom), benches being adorable, fashion pointers, slight loopiness, history, chemistry, and other subjects, join your intrepid and exiled blogger after the jump.

Good evening, wanderers of the Internet, appealers of swish, spotters of blog! It's Fan Appreciation Night at the Garden, though this game against Connecticut is not the home finale for the New York Liberty. But someone decided our final home game of the regular season would be on the 11th of September, and it would be insensitive to have Fan Appreciation Night on 9/11.

I'm going to take a moment to appreciate one particular fan, the one who started this whole crazy thing in the first place. Happy birthday, Mom. I swear I'll buy you something pretty this weekend.

Today. Today of all days not only is the bus late but the driver is coming off his shift and the relief is late. Good thing I didn't sign up for the ice cream social- I'll never make it. I didn't get to my seat until around 6:30. One of the suggestions we're making is to push back all the starts to 7:30, not just the Friday ones.

I did not see any pre-game entertainment. I'm told that the ice cream at the social was sub-par, but hey, it's free and it's on short notice, you take what you can get and you like it.

That was not the prettiest game in the world, but I'll take our 23rd win and the best record in the league. They don't all have to be pretty. I'd rather have played our key players less, but we can always relax against Indiana and lull them into a false sense of security. Yes, that's the plan.

There were lots of different dancers at halftime, but I wasn't paying attention, since, y'know, mom's birthday. I went and spent time with her. They seemed good at what they did.

Connecticut seems to be in that weird place where you can argue the bench is better than the starters, or at least more electric. Part of that might have to do with the lineup being scrambled because of injuries and recovery thereof. We'll see what Connecticut looks like in 2016. I thought it was interesting that Anne Donovan went to a Gray/J. Thomas backcourt for a stretch in the second half, allowing Gray to shift to the two spot.

Shekinna Stricklen killed us last time out, and we stuck to her pretty tightly because of that. I'm not entirely sure putting Candice Wiggins on her sometimes was a wise decision, though. Major size imbalance there. Chelsea Gray is a big guard, but she moves pretty fast for it. She's got great court vision, and I swear she could knock the dust off the rafters with that high, high arcing three. I mean, that is crazy unpredictable.

Alyssa Thomas did it precious few times, but when she chose to, she penetrated through the defense like a hot knife through butter, like she had stolen an invisibility cloak and donned it before driving. Not sure if the reverses were due to injury, style points, or comfort, though. Also, that shoulder brace has to come with a concealed carry permit. Otherwise, she can't hide those guns. I was less enthralled with her habit of bulldozing Liberty players, though. Nikki Greene played physical defense down low. I feel like I should say more, but she was often part of collapsing double- and triple-teams on Tina Charles, so it was part of a team effort. Kayla Pedersen had a nice block on Kiah Stokes, and was helpful in opening up the Sun's perimeter game.

I was afraid it was going to be a long night when Kelly Faris started hitting jumpers, since that has not been a very large part of her WNBA success. But it was a brief blip and then she returned to her usual defensive specialist who can't shoot role. It was reassuring. Jasmine Thomas's luck was not with her today- the rim robbed her at least twice. She seems to make unremarkable yet smart decisions, save one drive fairly early in the game where I may or may not have asked if that was what she was using a Duke education for.

Camille Little may have had the most impressive -19, 0-7, 1-rebound game I've ever seen. She just knows where to be on the glass, and how to make the plays on a slightly lower level than the heights the rest of the post players had ascended to. I like to watch her play. Jennifer Lacy was a non-factor, except for her shooting. Kelsey Bone brought power moves down low, but her aim wasn't always good, and when a bad play happened, she let it get into her head; you could see her shoulders slump on a missed shot or a foul call. I think that's ultimately what led her out of New York- that's not something you can survive under Bill Laimbeer.

Also, for heaven's sake, when Chelsea Gray flips a nifty pass to Camille Little, who finds you at the basket with a perfect look, hit the shot the first time, don't leave it short twice before hitting the shot the third time. Honestly, Kelsey.

So. This Erica Wheeler thing so far is not a thing that is working. I'm not actually as worried about the interminable dribbling directly into and through the teeth of a double-team as I am the shooting. If you're going to bill yourself as a three-point shooter, and wear #3, and plaster your three-point shot all over your Twitter, you should not come up short on both your threes. Candice Wiggins was more effective on the bench than on the court- that is to say, she fired the team up during huddles. During one timeout, while Bill and the coaches were sort of mired in that feeling of *facepalm*, Candice and Tanisha took the team in hand. There appeared to be a lot of yelling. She was unremarkable on the floor, but you can't deny the leadership she brings to this team. Sugar Rodgers was part of a three-guard set late in the game, but was more of a decoy than anything else. Either that, or Bill got tired of the guy who kept yelling, "I WANNA SEE SUGAR RODGERS!" and decided to throw him a bone because it's Fan Appreciation Night. (But not a Bone. That would be a very strange mental image, and hazardous to people's health.)

Kiah Stokes converted off a pretty pass from Tina Charles, and picked up loose change off the glass, but she made a lot of rookie mistakes on both ends of the floor- no matter how weak you think the defender is, you can't just go straight up on someone in the pros. Even if it's Kayla Pedersen. She's also got to learn to pick up the tenor of the officiating to avoid some of the stupid fouls she can commit. Essence Carson was hit or miss tonight- she had a couple of big shots, including a three that was behind the line for a lovely change of pace, but she was getting beaten too easily on offense for me to be comfortable. I love Essence, I really do, but it's hard seeing her not be good at the thing that's her specialty.

Epiphanny Prince is cold-blooded. I'm a little uncomfortable with her holding the ball as long as she did this game- we need to move more, both with the ball and without it- but if she can consistently convert with two seconds left on the shot clock, I think I can force myself to learn to live with that. Tanisha Wright is tough as nails. She'll make mistakes with the ball, taking stupid shots (even when they go in and get the crowd going and should totally be on SportsCenter) or trying to make a thing happen that isn't exactly available. But she's tough on defense and she makes a lot of heady plays. She's the kind of player you need in a deep playoff run.

Swin Cash has nice chemistry with Carolyn Swords- Swin gives Carolyn the passes, Carolyn finds Swin's tip-outs. Somehow she makes things happen. I'm not always sure how. But sometimes I understand why she starts over Kiah. You need someone with experience. Carolyn had the game of her life, or at least of her Liberty career. She was pulling down boards early, reading missed threes beautifully. She went to her knees for a loose ball in echoes of Sue Wicks (visually, Carolyn looks like a bulkier Sue; some nights she plays like it!). She was brilliant when we needed her to be. So was Tina Charles, even through the triple-teams draped over her like laundry. She backed off a little bit, and I still have no idea why she was even in position for a bailout three at the end of the shot clock on one play, but it's a bad idea and I don't like it.

I'm worried about the amount of time we had to play our starters, especially Piph and Tina. I'd like for them to be able to rest against Washington, except to correctly game the system, we have to beat Washington but lose to Indiana for Indiana to go into the Chicago series. It's a cruel complex game we play.

Officiating was so-so, but I expected nothing better than a technical for daring to complain about something when Michael Price was one of the refs.

Heartwarming moments: Essence doing the Maddie letter stomp during pregame, something that is normally Brittany Boyd's solemn duty. Also, the best- the little girl counting down to lights out for intros was named Avery. So the bench turned to Avery Warley-Talbert and counted down with her.

My personal choice for Erica's Cheesy Musical Hook is "Wheel in the Sky", but first she has to hit a shot.

Fashion report: Love the leather jacket look for Brittany Boyd, but not so sure about the looooong gray shirt. Love the cut of Chiney Ogwumike's dress, but not sold on the dull striped fabric. Yes, my dad has been a dressmaker. Moving right along.

There's usually more stuff for Fan Appreciation Night, but the prizes were all fairly huge (oh, what I could do with $500 of MSG gift certificates...) so that seems fair.

So I'm not sure what to think about the Washington game. We need to win if we want to play DC in the first round. But we don't really need to win for ourselves. We've already sewn up best record and team record for wins. What do we have to prove?


Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 3rd, 2015: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Courtney Vandersloot's 21 points led a long-distance barrage as Chicago dominated New York 82-60. Elena Delle Donne and Allie Quigley each added 19.

For flamenco, lost souls, injury concerns, clampdowns, transit concerns, bad mojo, and things left unsaid, join your intrepid and concerned blogger after the jump.

This could be the big one. This could be the regular season title game. Chicago visits New York for most, if not all, of the marbles.

If these Delle Donne fans don't stop wandering around looking for someone to ask questions of, someone's going to have to take them in hand.

We're expecting a fairly large crowd, but it might be a late-arriving one.

Tina, you and Avery should stick to your day jobs. (Upon further review...)

No Pondexter, but Delle Donne is present and in the starting lineup.

Should have switched the anthem singer and the "God Bless America" singer.

At halftime, Chicago is laying a 46-27 smackdown on New York. Their defensive intensity is phenomenal, and the three-point shooting is out of this world. The Liberty have no answer for either- we're just not used ot teams meeting us on the same level defensively. And Tina Charles is taking a lot of bad shots, and not seeing any better options.

Refs definitely letting them play.

Damn it, how can you not like Elena Delle Donne when her first reaction after a collision is to check on the opponent, even before getting up? Stop being so gosh darned sweet, Elena!

I can't say I was expecting this. I expected a tight game, but not for Chicago to come out like gangbusters on both ends of the floor. They played their game better than we played our game- it's in fact fair to say they played our game better than we played our game.

Pokey Chatman put everyone in in a line change at the end of the game. So many substitutions at once. There were a lot of subs throughout the game- both coaches were adjusting on the fly with their personnel.

Jamierra Faulkner is really quick. She's not very big, and in a dead run she's not necessarily very fast, but her feet move quickly. That's how she makes up for her lack of size- she gets to the right place at the right time. I suspect my penance for sins committed in another life is to forever be haunted, and taunted, by Quigleys. As a Johnnie, I spent six years tormented by the DePaul duo... and now Allie Quigley is hitting jumpers on my team again. Unlike those other two blondes, she was hitting them from the midrange instead of from long range. She picked Chicago up in the fourth quarter when the Liberty made a little bit of a run.

The sets that Chicago was using emphasized speed and perimeter play over power, so Clarissa Dos Santos didn't get a lot of playing time. She boxed out really well on free throws. Betnijah Laney kept busy on defense. I kind of wish she'd used up the airball a few months ago, maybe during the first round of the tournament.

Courtney Vandersloot slayed us from beyond the arc, especially in the first half. I don't know how she did it, but she did it. She did it a lot. Tamera Young hit jump shots, which is not a thing that I am used to seeing happen very much. She was also tough defensively- going with the big lineup allowed Chicago to smother Epiphanny Prince, both with her and with Delle Donne on switches.

We got on Jessica Breland early, remembering what she did to us last game. She played well on the boards, and when we reconfigured the defense desperately in the third quarter, she got jumpers. Érika de Souza played solid on the boards and was all over Tina Charles, as part of the reason why Tina looked so awful tonight..

Elena Delle Donne transcends my usual division of guards and posts, so she gets her own paragraph. What impressed me about her tonight was not her shooting, because she didn't hit a lot of the shots she got, even the good looks; nor was it her ability to take contact, get to the line, and convert the free throws. What impressed me was how well she fit in the general scheme of the offense. She set some really tough screens, and she crashed the boards very quickly. I know there's been a lot of talk about her becoming more post-oriented, but this is the first time I've seen it in action in person. She really is the complete package. And she has the gall to be a genuine human being, too. And she's pretty. Not fair.

Avery Warley-Talbert, would it kill you to grab a rebound? Or take a shot? Kiah Stokes did a lot of the non-box score stuff, but she spent a lot of the game looking either lost or like she was hung up on her mistakes. Essence Carson definitely doesn't have the step she once had to catch up with players who get past her first move, but her handle was also shaky tonight, which was a problem because of the injury to Boyd and because she ended up playing far more point guard than a small forward (in Bill's system) or shooting guard (in the modern WNBA) should be playing.

We knew that Brittany Boyd's intimate love-hate relationship with the hardwood was going to be trouble one of these days, and she hit the floor hard on one of those drives and hurt her left hand. She tried to play through it, because she's tough and maybe a little bit crazy, but she had to come out after dinging it a second time. Love her hustle. Candice Wiggins was very vocal and active on the bench, but I think her Stanford showed a little bit on the floor- she was overthinking her passes through the smothering defense. Sugar Rodgers showed some spark in the fourth quarter, when there was still a chance for a comeback, but faded out late.

This was one of the worst games I've seen Tina Charles play. "But Queenie, 17 and 8 is pretty good!" The raw numbers are pretty good, but she took shots that would have made Cappie blush. She was taking desperate panic shots, unable to handle the double and triple-teams coming at her. She took shots out of her range and shots that had no reasonable chance of going in over the Chicago defense. When we weren't the only ones in our section calling for Avery to sub in near the end of the first quarter, there might have been a problem. Carolyn Swords had trouble hanging on to the ball, but was gritty on defense and had a couple of nice taps out on rebounds. Swin Cash got the unenviable task of trying to help defend Delle Donne. That took most of her energy.

Tanisha Wright tried to spearhead the second-half comeback. She turned up the defense, and came up with a couple of shots. But you can only drag people so far. Epiphanny Prince didn't get a lot of looks, but when she was able to cross her defender over or deke them back, she converted.

I was most impressed with the coaching in this game. Every action had a reaction. Every move had a countermove. That's not what I expect from Chatman, but Chicago read our switches and answered with their own. They beat us fair and square. So much for Cappie, huh?

I still have faith in this team, though I'm worried about Boyd now. We've managed to avoid the injury bug for most of the season, but you never know when an infestation will hit. I think they'll be okay. I think we'll adjust.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 1st, 2015: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Sugar Rodgers snapped out of a funk in style, notching 23 points in the Liberty's 80-75 overtime win over Atlanta. Kiah Stokes anchored the defense with four blocks and four steals to go with 10 points and seven boards.

For a Sugar crush, KIAH SMASH PUNY ANGEL SHOT, shrill griefing, aprons at last, grit, defense, so much contact, rescheduling travel, mismatches, and a wide selection of Cheesy Musical Hooks, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.

Greetings, Earthlings! We're coming down the home stretch of the 2015 season, and the Eastern Conference regular season title is in the New York Liberty's sights. But first they'll have to get past the Atlanta Dream.

We'll see how leaving the office half an hour earlier goes. It's not entirely by my own choice- how you decide to hold massive, marathon training sessions without a conference room, I'll never know, but as the saying goes, ours is not to question why.

I think they're starting to run out of good singers. The anthem and "God Bless America" were both pretty lackluster.

If this girl behind me doesn't stop cheering every Atlanta basket, I will not be responsible for my actions.

Love Sugar Rodgers's aqua physio-tape. Almost in Liberty colors.

The dancers who have done both pregame and halftime are at least dressed and competent.

At the half, the Liberty are up four, 41-37. I'll take it. Epiphanny Prince has been bothered all night, but Sugar Rodgers has stepped up, and Tina gonna Tina. Atlanta's been playing very tough defense, especially in the post. I think this "bring your superstar off the bench" thing that Atlanta's trying might just catch on. (Well, it's what I always said the Liberty should do with Becky instead of wedging her into the point guard spot...)

Atlanta played the better game for 35 minutes. New York played the better game for the final 10. I know we've beaten the Dream four times out of five and were one horrific free throw shooting performance away from a sweep, but we still match up really, really badly with them. They're a tough defensive team that defends the paint well and blitzes the passing lanes, taking away two of our strengths. But while they had a defense, we had a Sugar, and Sugar SMASH (or possibly Sugar CRUSH).

Sydney Carter got a fair amount of run to start the even quarters. She had a pretty floater in the lane that reminded me a little of Mark Jackson in his glory days. It amuses me that she ran the stretching during warm-ups, and not a trainer or anything like that. She's not going to be much of an offensive option, which takes away from the total Atlanta offense. Matee Ajavon continues to annoy me, but she ran a decent point and had a wicked crossover for a good shot.

DeLisha Milton-Jones: no minutes in the first half, first off the bench in the second half. Oh, Cooper, don't ever stop being strange and inscrutable. Her long arms were very active on defense, but she was not in for her offense- her only shot was a long three that I think came near the end of the shot clock. Reshanda Gray was physical, but again, I don't think she looked to assert herself offensively (and she should have been called for tripping Candice Wiggins on the sideline). Angel McCoughtry came off the bench about five minutes in and I don't think she sat down after that. Coming off the bench almost seems to be good for her- she comes in like a spring uncoiling, starting fast and staying strong. She had jumpers, lots of jumpers, but she was also super-quick on the passing lanes. I don't always like her attitude, but I can't deny her talent.

Shoni Schimmel looked more like the player Atlanta drafted, but she still looks a little- lost is not the right word, but like she's trying too hard to stick rigidly to the playbook. There was a play in the first half she almost blew because she stayed precisely where the pass was supposed to be, even though Sugar had read it like a book. Sticking rigidly to the playbook is not Schimmel's strength, and I don't think she's earning Cooper's trust despite it- when the chips were down, Ajavon was in the game. Tiffany Hayes is a drama queen and she annoys me. I do appreciate her doing the big upswept hair thing, only if because it makes it easier to spot her from further up in the stands. She goes hard, but I'm not sure if she knows the line between going hard and playing too rough.

I love Sancho Lyttle's game. You absolutely can't pass over the top on her, she stretches the defense with jumpers, and she can score at the basket. She's a defensive maven, one of the best there has been in the league. But she gets bent out of shape even when she's trying to get a foul call, and I think it's a miracle she hasn't gotten a technical for all the complaining she does. Aneika Henry came up with a lot of big plays at the basket, boxing out and grabbing boards. Damiris Dantas played limited minutes, and looked more than a little lost out there. I think that's why Cooper went with Henry more down the stretch.

Brittany Boyd still needs to maybe not mainline espresso before the game- she needs to realize there are speeds other than "go very fast". She brought hustle, and the cold-blooded three-pointer, but still didn't seem to be in the flow of the game. Candice Wiggins brought defensive hustle, but her shot was way off. To compound it, she did realize her shot was off- but not that Carolyn Swords was doing even worse and was not ready for her passes. There were at least two turnovers from that connection. Sugar Rodgers had herself a game. What I like about Sugar is that when she's comfortable, she feels like she can take smarter chances on defense- she's always a gambler on D, but she doesn't seem to be as reckless when she doesn't think she has as much to prove. She brought a dimension to our offense that the Atlanta D could not handle

And on the other side of the floor, they could not handle the Kiah. Kiah Stokes was a beast on defense. She came up with nifty steals on the baseline to snag rebounds from Atlanta players. She had onster blocks. She came through the backdoor, shutting it for Atlanta and running through it for New York. That young woman deserves a year-end award of some type. I don't care whether it's ROY, DPOY, or 6W. She needs to have her hard work noticed by the league. Essence Carson hit a three! An actual, no-doubt, well behind the line three! But I'm worried about her defense. She's still missing a step that she used to have. Granted, guarding Angel McCoughtry is not an easy task even for the best and healthiest defender out there.

Epiphanny Prince had a rough night from the field, but still came up with one shot-clock-beater, plus some good defense. And her teammates stepped up around her, which is really the best part of this team. It's always "next man up". Or woman, as the case may be, but I still believe in the gender-neutral usage of man, despite it being part of the patriarchal structure of our language. Tanisha Wright had shots falling short all night, but she hit clutch free throws late and came up with big defensive plays. I feel like there's a trend here. T was the heroine of the OT, IMO.

Carolyn Swords had a rough night. Couldn't keep the ball in her hands for a fair amount of it. She did most of her damage on the boards early. Swin Cash, I felt, was our most effective defender on McCoughtry, but because of the rotations and the way Sugar was playing, she didn't get a lot of minutes. Tina Charles got off to a good start, but Atlanta brought pressure and double-teams, forcing her into a lot of bad shots and longer shots. She's still damn tough, though.

It was not a pretty game. It was a game with a lot of contact. It was a game with a lot of fouls called and a lot of fouls that could easily have been called. I don't envy Denise Brooks and Tony Dawkins working with a rookie referee. (I also don't envy them working with a rookie referee who looked like he had a chip on his shoulder the whole night because he's shorter than most of the players- dude is about Piph's height.) It was nice to have the calls finally going in our favor.

That length of sweater is very flattering on Roneeka Hodges.

Smaller crowd than the last few games, but that's to be expected for a mid-week game against an opponent with no real local draw, with school starting, especially since Atlanta is not good.

On to Chicago. The magic number is 2. With a little help from our friends, Thursday night might clinch the regular season conference title. Go Libs.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 29th, 2015: New York at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty jumped out to a big lead, lost it all in the third quarter, and then built it back in the fourth to take down the short-handed Sun, 80-66. Epiphanny Prince led New York with 18 points, adding four steals and four assists. Kelsey Bone of Connecticut led all scorers with 22.

For billions, a supreme faux pas, earrings on clearance, sandwiches, pizza, chips, cupcakes, sodas, souvenir cups, rowdy fans, promises kept, and a team to love, join your intrepid and blurry blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, Swish Appealers, Bloggerers, and other internet wanderers! Your intrepid blogger comes to you from Geno's Fast Break at Mohegan Sun, as the playoff-bound Liberty visit the injury-bitten Sun. We eschewed the Chinatown bus and the Mohegan comps for the pleasure of our Liberty family, going up on the Liberty fan bus.

I put a twenty in a slot machine and came away with forty-five dollars, so I consider today a good day already.

The bus trip was really, really nice. Poor Morgan and Genesis ended up waitressing the entire bus, but the provided meal was very thorough (Potbelly sandwiches, bags of chips, cookies/mini muffins, and drinks). Plus we get hot dog vouchers!

At the end of the regular season, I'll provide y'all with my 2015 mix, but I listened to that to get hyped up.

So someone at the Sun's ticket office is going to be in trouble, and I don't know whether it's going to be by getting a call from Sienko, from Kristin Bernert, or from Chiney Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams. Our group was stretched across a back row in sections 14 and 15. The problem with that? Section 14 is the section directly behind the Sun bench. Other Liberty fans were seated lower in the same section. You do NOT put road fans behind the home bench. You DO NOT do this thing. You do not put road fans in a one-row radius of player families, and I suspect a trio of our travelers were behind Jasmine Thomas's family. Whoever did the group sale treated us like any other group and did not take into account that it might be a bit rude to the Sun players to pile fifty-odd people in enemy colors on the logo for a postgame photo.

(Seriously, Chiney kept turning around at every timeout and staring up at our row as if plotting our collective painful demise. And then she got Elizabeth Williams into the act, and I don't want to die!)

Sugar Rodgers is popular among the fan base, but she's got to be less afraid to shoot, which are words I never thought I would apply to Sugar Rodgers. She's been consistently passing off shots that she took last year, and I think it's reducing her effectiveness. Brittany Boyd saw some time in the second quarter, and brought a burst of speed. Not always an effective burst of speed, but a change of pace. Candice Wiggins annoyed Kayla Pedersen, and probably everyone else she was on, but especially Pedersen. She had a good look at a corner three, which has become her offensive specialty.

Essence Carson looks off. Her shot is way off, even more than it has been with the eyewear, and she did not have an extra step on defense tonight. I love Essence- rock the black jersey, have the white on the wall, even named a portable hard drive after her- but she's been a disappointment on the court for much of the season. Kiah Stokes got beat with surprising consistency by Kelsey Bone, but held down the middle against all other comers, and converted on the chances she was given on backdoor cuts and offensive rebounds. I like when Kiah does good things, and not just because she's so endearing- her name is fun to say. Stooooooookes. And her Cheesy Musical Hook fits so well with its relentless beat.

Tanisha Wright played light minutes tonight- I think Bill wanted to rest her even more than the superstars. She looked like she was walking a little gingerly, and as one of the older players on the team, she might be a little more banged up and worn down than others. She was solid on defense when she was in, and that third quarter three kept us in the game. Epiphanny Prince is cold-blooded when it comes to the end of the shot clock. Near the end of the second half, I was worried she was going to go into ballhog mode and try to do it all herself (it's like we had a Rutgers scorer who used to do that), but someone talked sense into her during the break, and she got back on the right side of the balance.

Swin Cash did yeoman's work down low. She took a lot of contact and made it abundantly clear that she did not approve of said contact. She did a little bit of everything. Carolyn Swords got beat on a consistent basis by Kelsey Bone- this is not a recording. She didn't look terribly mobile, but that tends to happen on the back end of back-to-backs. Tina Charles was efficient, and found people cutting through the backdoor with pinpoint accuracy. She absorbed a lot of contact without a call.

Nikki Greene saw some minor minutes in the second quarter, but I think those were either to see if she had anything tonight or just to make sure the posts didn't fall over in the second half. She was physical, but Tina was able to get around her. Kayla Pedersen hustled on the boards and made a legitimate attempt at stretching the Liberty's defense with jumpers.

Shekinna Stricklen must have decided she didn't feel like being pigeonholed as a three-point shooter, because she took major advantage of her broad build to overpower smaller defenders (usually Candice), and unveiled a wicked fast first step. She doesn't look that fast, but she might be kinda quick. Chelsea Gray seems to have inherited some of Jasmine Thomas's puck luck- that three hit everything but the kitchen sink before it went in. The rim giveth and the rim taketh away, Chelsea; always be painfully aware of that. If she ever ends up in New York, I'm doing what I did with Kara Braxton and giving her the card to my favorite bra shop, because I get sympathy pains if she's running hard.

Jennifer Lacy ought to know better than to commit some of the fouls she commits, given how long she's been in the league, but she's a gamer. She sticks in this league because she can stretch a defense and because she can get the little things done. She's better as a reserve, though. Camille Little put in a lot of work down low on the boards- not much of it shows up in the boxscore, but she was working on the glass, boxing out hard and hustling. Kelsey Bone started off hot, with wicked spin moves and nice jumpers, but when her shot was off, it was very badly off. But she was the only thing keeping Connecticut in the game for most of the night. I'm really happy for her that she's having such success in Connecticut.

Kelly Faris brought the defense, but she's not the person who should have the ball when the shot clock is running down. I admire her hustle. Jasmine Thomas looks like she's been developing her jumper, which only took how long? I call shenanigans on the four blocks in the box score- I can only think of two, and one of them might have been a steal- it's not clear whether that wa a shot going up or not.

I think Connecticut ultimately just wore down. You can only play eight for so long, knowing that you should have more, knowing that whenever you look at the bench there are four starters in street clothes. I imagine it's emotionally draining.

The officiating was inconsistent, in terms of how tightly it was called from quarter to quarter, but if there were calls that needed a good hard questioning, they were in the Liberty's favor. Except for when Kayla Pedersen elbowed Candice, and even then Candice got to do some hitting of her own.

It was really fun being around all those crazy Liberty fans, but it got frustrating when some people started being sore winners to the Sun fans. Haven't they suffered enough?

Piph, don't yell at the ref. Piph, don't roll-block the ref.

Choral anthem, highly approved.

Got the #shareacoke Chiney and Camille cups, which just leaves Alyssa for the 13th.

Morgan and Genesis really busted their butts on the bus. There was some chaos with the tickets before the game, but it was sorted out.

Shoutout to Swin Cash for coming out of the locker room after the game and huddling us all up for a "WE ARE! NEW YORK!" battle-cry. Perversely, I think it mellowed some of the more exuberant fans out before the group photo.

20 wins. 24 is the magic number. We can do this. I believe in this team, and they believe in this team.