Monday, June 20, 2016

June 19th, 2016: San Antonio at Connecticut

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

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. We're coming to you on the usual tape delay from Sunrise Square at Mohegan Sun, where the San Antonio no-longer-Silver Stars take on the hometown Connecticut Sun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 14th, 2016: Dallas at New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love my team, and I love my Garden.

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


Sunday, June 5, 2016

June 5th, 2016: Indiana at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Indiana Fever went up big and held off a fourth-quarter rally from the Connecticut Sun to win 88-77. Tiffany Mitchell had 21 off the bench, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to lead all scorers. Tamika Catchings, Marissa Coleman, and Devereaux Peters each added 12. Alyssa Thomas had 20 to pace the Sun.

For mismatches, size differences, color confusion, things of questionable popularity, terrible merchandise, Huskies, Terps, pegs in wrong-shaped holes, boss managers, and natural phenomena, join your intrepid and inspired blogger after the jump.
Oh no! My team has gone on an eleven-day, three-game road trip! What shall I do with myself? Catch up on housekeeping? Work on the Great American Novel?

Screw it, I'm going to Connecticut. The Sun are hosting Indiana. So we squeaked and rattled our way out of Queens to Mohegan Sun, making good time on quiet roads. As it turns out, the squeaks and rattles were ominous- we changed buses on the way back.

I don't know who's managing behind the counter at Geno's this afternoon, but that dude is a trooper. There's a new woman on the register who knows diddly-squat, and he took charge back there like a boss.

I think the Connecticut Sun are at a crossroads. They have talent. They have a coach who has a system. What they don't currently have is talent that matches that system, or a system that matches that talent. They're going to choose. And to me, it looks like they're about to choose the system and the coach over the talent, and I think that's a mistake. I think that's going to lead to a couple of very rough years, especially without the pick they traded for Jonquel Jones, before they come out of it, and Miller might be a casualty of those rough years.

Today I got to see out of Indiana what wasn't as apparent in the game against New York- their offense is heavily predicated on ball movement. When they can get that crisp, sharp ball movement going, the offense is unstoppable. When that ball movement gets impaired, the offense breaks down and they become more dependent on one-on-one play.

I was surprised to see so much of Natalie Achonwa after her short minutes in New York, but she was second post off the bench today for the Fever. She was unremarkable, but she closed well in the paint on defense. Devereaux Peters had herself a nice, nice day. The outside shot was falling, she was hitting the looks she got inside, and she got those long arms up on defense to really mess things up for Connecticut on the inside. Part of me understands why Minnesota traded her, but at the same time, they might very well have given up on her right when she was ready to blossom. We'll see how that plays out.

Erica Wheeler, bless her heart. So much speed and no idea where she's going with it. Her clock awareness at the end of the first and third quarters was a bit questionable- the play worked in the first, but gave Connecticut a chance at another shot in the third. She definitely makes the game faster, but I don't know if it's always to her team's benefit. Tiffany Mitchell got her Microwave on in the fourth quarter, when Connecticut was making a run. She broke their backs with the three-pointer that extended the lead back out to 10. She's a bit of a defensive liability, but if she can keep scoring like she's scored in the last couple of games, she'll score more than she gives up.

I see why Fever fans have been complaining about Marissa Coleman. She's got a pretty three-point shot, to be sure, but she should be doing more than setting up for threes. She has the strength to do more on the inside. She also needs to do more vis-à-vis ball security. I don't think her decision-making was quite there. Erlana Larkins got out-sized by Connecticut, but she swooped in for offensive rebounds like a boss. She finds and makes space so well. Tamika Catchings was tough defensively, of course, because she's still breathing, and right when we were discussing in the stands the low probability of breaking Tina Thompson's scoring record, she hit back-to-back shots. (I still don't think it's going to happen, but would that make her any less of a legend?)

Shenise Johnson brings firepower and a legitimate distance threat. I think she must have said something about someone's mother, or something, because near the end of the game she was getting knocked down a lot by the Sun reserves. Briann January found the open player brilliantly time and time again (fairly often it was Larkins). She and Catchings together spearheaded the defense and set the tone.

What I would like about this Indiana team if I were inclined to like a team that isn't my own is that they're no longer Tamika Catchings And A Bunch Of Random Parts. They're balanced. They're no longer dependent on Catch to do anything and everything all at once. The future is coming and they're getting ready.

Jonquel Jones has a world of potential, and as the saying goes, you can't teach height. You can, however, teach ball securityand the ability to hold on to the ball upon receipt of a pass. She has to go up with more authority, and she has to get some of the jerkiness out of her shot. Once that happens, she'll be a double-double machine. Chiney Ogwumike has lost some speed after the knee injury, and she was never super fast to begin with. But she cleaned up down low, especially in the second half- that baseline was hers. Morgan Tuck was spectacularly unimpressive. She held her place on defense well enough, and the play where she scored was a nice hustle play, but when the first impression you make is letting a pass bounce off you for an out of bounds and a turnover, and the first shot you attempt is a finger roll two steps short, well.

Kelly Faris hit a three-pointer, but I'm pretty sure it was an accident and it won't happen again. (I'm not just being snarky, either; it was an off balance shot as she as falling to her left.) She hustled well enough, but I can't help but think that a defensive specialist would have done a better job on Mitchell. I have a lot of trouble being objective about Faris. Rachel Banham's shot is lightning quick. I'm going to try to avoid snake jokes, though. She's still struggling to learn the defense, but she needs to be freed on offense. (The steal was mostly not her own doing, except being in the right vicinity when the Indiana player dropped the ball.)

Kelsey Bone needs to remember her size. I grant that Curt Miller's system is pretty much designed for players to forget their strength and focus on their shooting, but sometimes you need to get outside the system and use your strength. Bone was scoring when she went inside and used her build to throw people around. Granted, that was also when she was getting into foul trouble offensively. (Lowering elbows into people's backs is generally not the way one makes friends.) Camille Little was solid all around, because that's who she is and what she does. We're all going to not talk about the second free throw, of course. We're going to pretend that a veteran in her ninth season did not airball a free throw. Alyssa Thomas needs to be set free from this place that will never use her properly. She needs to acquire a jump shot from somewhere, but when set loose inside, she's a beast. She penetrated the Fever defense with strength and speed, and when she got inside, she was pretty much unstoppable. She has no reason to be taking perimeter shots right now, though.

I don't know what's going on with Alex Bentley. I don't think her head was entirely in the game, but it was hard to get a read on her with how little she played. I was surprised she spent so much time on the bench. Jasmine Thomas was telegraphing too many of her passes, and Indiana was ready for them. She played better than the stats indicated, though.

I'm not quite sure how this happened, but Erlana Larkins got stuck in her warm-up shirt, and it took three teammates to detangle her. Somewhere in here, there's a joke related to the academic acumen, or lack thereof, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I, however, have entirely too much of a self-preservation instinct to make that joke.

Anthem singer had a nice voice, but couldn't sing. And there's no excuse for messing up the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner when they appear on the screen in front of you.

"Enterting" the arena, Mohegan Sun? Really?

Officiating could definitely have been worse, but there were some dubious calls. The worst was the foul on Banham- I'm pretty sure she never actually got a hand on the shooter.

Remind me never to get into a game of Chinese jump rope with Briann January. She'd probably do some of the really tough layouts.

Note to self: do not call the Sun's orange uniforms ugly when talking to a man in an Illini shirt. (They didn't wear the orange, but they came up in conversation.)

There's a lot of promise to these young Sun players, but there's going to be a long adjustment period while they come into their own. And I don't know if this franchise is going to have the patience to ride it out.

The arena was pretty dead until the final push. Even the announcer seemed to be mailing it in when the Sun scored, and the MC as lower-key than usual. I figured there might be trouble when their own people accidentally razzed Morgan Tuck for the pass that bounced off her chest. Someone's not used to the lack of home whites, and the teams were shooting at opposite ends from the way things are usually aid out.

We're on the Whitestone Bridge now, and there is a brilliant rainbow shining to our left, from deep red through bright orange and pale green to indigo. This has nothing to do with the game, but it brings me great joy and glee, and it's a beautiful end to a busy day.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

June 3rd, 2016: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: After a nip-and-tuck first quarter and a competitive midgame, the New York Liberty turned on the afterburners in the fourth quarter to blow out Indiana 91-59. Sugar Rodgers had 21 points to lead New York, with Tina Charles adding 14 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Tiffany Mitchell led Indiana with 11 points.

For squee, kicking the back of the chair, seeing the reserves, learning from mistakes, and Tina Charles's gleeful strut, join your intrepid and unfocused blogger after the jump.
Hello and welcome once more to the Game Notes of Doom! It's Friday night, I just got paid, and it's game night at the Garden. The Indiana Fever are in town, and it's time for vengeance. Rain fire and blood upon them from the heavens and let them hear the lamentations of their loved ones. Or, you know, something like that.

Shooting at opposite baskets during warm-ups today, which was a little confusing and a little frustrating when Lindsey Harding was right there and then ran off down the usual Liberty tunnel. I have a hat that needs a Lindsey, damn it.

The UPS guy who delivers the ceremonial game ball is quite early. Not what I ever expect out of UPS.

Carolyn Swords is still working on her passing and ballhandling skills with the guards, though now it's Katie Smith working with her instead of T-Spoon.

The dance troupes appear to be well garbed and competent, though I'm really not sure how blue sequins go with "Joyful, Joyful".

At halftime, the Liberty are up 42-29, energized and sharp. Something about Indiana has brought the best out of us, like a whetstone honing a sword's edge. Tina Charles has been her superstar self, but she's getting support from Sugar Rodgers, Shavonte Zellous, and most of the supporting cast.

More dancers. Not bad, but again, I question their costume choices.

Shavonte is a mad genius to draw that foul at the buzzer.

Wow. I love that that happened, but I'm not quite sure even how it did. Everything just worked. We're not going to have thirty more nights like this, but even three-quarters of this will do.

Indiana wasn't ready. I think they just didn't know what to do with a Liberty team that was as ready to fight them as they were to fight. They miss the outside threat of Maggie Lucas. They miss the spacing, the balance, the security, that come from having an extra shooter to pick up when everyone else is off their game.

I see why they call Brene Moseley Bones. She's so slight! I wasn't impressed, but she didn't have much opportunity to impress. You can tell she's a rookie. She's still hesitant and adjusting to the speed of the game. The Fever looked better with Briann January on the floor, but that might just be experience speaking. They needed her not to shoot as much, though- her shot was way off. She was wide right twice, and her jumper in general looked like it needed a lot of work. Her defense was on point, with strong steals and relentless pressure. Shenise Johnson worked really well with Lynetta Kizer, and was able to work herself open for looks- they just didn't fall. (Big hair observation of the day: yes, Kiah, it's still a foul even if you only hack her in the hair.)

Lynetta Kizer brought a lot of energy, and a midrange jumper. She has a knack for being in the right place in the right time. She's not spectacular, but she's super useful. Plus, she's given up frosting her hair in blue, so there's another plus. Devereaux Peters is very physical- you can tell she spent her formative years in the WNBA in Minnesota, where the defensive discipline is somewhat lacking. She doesn't have the kind of outside shot she thinks she does. Ruth Riley she is not. I was surprised that Natalie Achonwa played so little and came in so late. She looked somewhat out of sorts, and she seemed to have some kind of disagreement with Adut Bulgak late in the game, though for all I know it could have been about the Leafs and the Oilers instead of whose responsibility it was to dislodge the ball wedged between the rim and the backboard. There was a moment where she looked like herself, but for the most part she was a step slow and a step off.

Erica Wheeler had her good moments with her speed, but I think sometimes she forgot what team she was playing for- she had plenty of passes that went straight to Liberty players. Her speed killed her more than it killed the opposition. There were fans who used to call Helen Darling the Headless Chicken back in the day with the Rockers, and I think Wheeler may have earned the right to take the nickname from her. Tiffany Mitchell started the game like a house on fire, but she tried to push her range too far out and got a little hesitant because of that. She's got great potential, though. She'll be brilliant for Indiana. They just need to get her defense up to Indiana's par, and it usually takes rookies longer to adjust at that end.

I have a tendency to look at Erlana Larkins, and see her physicality, and see the width of her frame, and completely forget just how fast and mobile she can be. She has the kind of defensive versatility that makes even the purportedly simple task of bringing the ball up the floor hazardous to any player's sanity. She's a very heady player, too. She picks her spots well. Marissa Coleman set up for long range shots, but honestly, she was more of a threat as a smothering defender, using her height to pressure our guards on the wing. I'm happy for her that she's found a place where she fits, after Washington and Los Angeles. Tamika Catchings is, of course, still Catch: relentless, tough, brilliant on both sides of the ball, willing to stand up for her teammates and willing to do all the little things that make the difference for her team. But the defense keyed on her, help coming pretty much every time she got the ball, so she was forced to pass out to the open man- and that open man either didn't hit the shot, or the ball was intercepted before it ever got to its intended target. It was a surprisingly efficient game for Catch- but less of one than she's normally capable of.

I think Indiana lost a little bit of their fire in the fourth quarter, when the Liberty came at them strong and kept it coming, but I have to applaud their tenacity through the first third. They were everywhere. It was fun to watch.

Adut Bulgak lives! I thought she was being saved for Olympic qualifying, but she lives! And she rebounds! And she scores a little! She's awfully spindly compared to other WNBA players, but she'll grow into that body of hers if the training staff works with her properly. She cuts well to the post, and there's good instincts in her. Kiah Stokes did good work in the paint on both ends of the court- she was the recipient of some beautiful passes, and unlike games earlier this season, she was able to capitalize. She brought the house down with a big block in the second half. (However, whatever she did to Tiffany Mitchell that had Mitchell looking like she'd taken a shot to the crotch is not cool. I am not okay with this.) She really looked like someone lit a fire under her. Amanda Zahui B looked somewhat tentative. She floated around the three-point line more than I like to see out of a big, and she hesitated inside far too often. The one big three-pointer was nice, but I'd like to see her be more assertive in the paint.

Shoni Schimmel brought the showtime in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided. When she's on her game, boy, is she ever fun to watch. The passes are slick and crisp and sharp, and the shot is beautiful. Of course, she's a defensive liability, but that's going to take a long time to fix, if it can ever be fixed. But she definitely makes the game more interesting. Brittany Boyd still needs to work on her control, and pairing her with Sugar Rodgers is fun but rather dangerous. But I love the ferocity she drives with, and I think hitting shots has restored enough of her confidence that she's passing with less fear, as well as being more willing to take harder hits. We need her to be awesome. Shavonte Zellous played really well- she had a couple of dumb moments, but for every one of those she had two brilliant plays. She was fearless, which is the kind of play you need against Indiana. The play to end the first half, where she drew the three-shot foul, may very well have been the psychological game-winner; if nothing else, it reminded this team that we're capable of hitting free throws.

Tina Charles faced a lot of double and triple teams, and sometimes when she tried to pass out of them, she panicked and threw the ball right into the teeth of a prepared Indiana defense. But she didn't have to be the star today, and that was huge for her. She was able to do work on the boards and set up her teammates. She had a beauty of a pass to Kiah for the finish in the lane, and if they can get that two-man game working on a consistent basis, this is going to be brilliant. Swin Cash doesn't have the range that she used to, no matter what she thinks, but when she gets her junkyard dog on inside, she's a beast- she did work on the offensive boards and kept plays alive. I do need her to stop taking long jumpers, though; this isn't Detroit, or even Seattle. Carolyn Swords's mobility still worries me, but she looked a little better than she did against Indiana, and I knew that we were playing with renewed fire when even she was diving on the floor for loose balls. (Not that I doubt Carolyn's commitment, but she doesn't tend to dive, because it's awfully hard for her to get up again.) We were definitely better with Kiah on the floor, though.

Tanisha Wright at the point- no, Bill, I refuse to refer to that position as "lead guard" no matter how many times you say it- works way better than Tanisha Wright at the small forward. She has a mastery of the offense that comes with her experience and knowledge, one that the younger guards don't yet match. She might have been able to play a little smarter on defense, but Indiana tends to draw fouls out of you, even if they're not doing so intentionally; it's the style of the game, the way it flows when these two teams take the court. Sugar Rodgers wasn't always sharp on defense, but she came up with the big threes when we needed them. As much as this is Tina Charles's team, and don't let anyone tell you this isn't Tina's team, we rise and fall with Sugar. Tina will be Tina. Sugar is inconsistent, and she's glorious when she's on, and she's chaos when she's off.

There was a sense of urgency to this team that we hadn't seen in the last three games. More, Bill learned from the mistakes he was making in those losses: the bench got playing time, allowing the starters to rest; we used timeouts more tactically to maintain control of the game and possession of the ball; everyone's body language was better, focused on the game.

I love the joy on the bench when the starters see the reserves going off. Tina was strutting when Shoni hit that second three.

Officiating was pretty solid, though they seemed unsure of themselves at times. It was a pretty experienced crew, so I was surprised at some of the hesitancy.

This was exactly the kind of game the Liberty needed before heading out on the road. This was the kind of game that makes me wonder if the Fever are more concerned about the season or about Stephanie White's departure.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May 31st, 2016: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Minnesota Lynx went up big early and used that cushion to cruise to a 79-69 win over the New York Liberty. Maya Moore led the way for the Lynx with 25 points, adding six rebounds. Tina Charles led New York with 23 points and 11 rebounds; Shavonte Zellous added 12 points off the bench.

For troubling patterns, twirling, the beauty of the Maya, not using the bench, pacing, veterans, missed shots, and irritability, join your intrepid and disconnected blogger after the jump.
Time for the showdown. All hands need to be on deck for this one. When the defending champions come to town, everyone needs to be on top of their game. And that goes double for TV games.

I'm not sure the seafoam green and the sea blue are going to be the best color combination on television. Those who are prone to motion sickness should take Dramamine before watching.

This is why I'm the spotter- helped one of my buddies get Jia Perkins for her collection.

This Maya Moore running out at the speed of light thing is not convenient.

Well, this was a thing that happened. It's 46-31 Minnesota at halftime, thanks to crappy defense by the Liberty, good reads on switches by the Lynx, and some folks coming down with a painful case of stupid. I know Swin Cash isn't as stupid as the fouls and the passes straight to the opponent are making her seem. I know we can play better than this. Tina Charles needs help. Someone's got to be consistent without getting into foul trouble.

"God Bless America" singer was trying too hard. Anthem choir was powerful enough that they really didn't need the mics. I approve.

Getting good crowd noise, at least. It's not a large crowd, but all you need are a few people at the right time.

The well-mannered response to your child's crying is not, "Shut up!", woman behind me.

The halftime entertainment looked good, but I didn't see a lot of them. I was busy typing out GNoD. These are the sacrifices I make for you, my loyal readers.

It has only now occurred to me that there's a remarkable concentration of Sting on this model of the Lynx. McCarville, Perkins, Patterson, Reeve... I approve. Our lost franchises should not be forgotten.

Bill seems to think you get a bonus if you take timeouts with you. There's trusting your team to sort things out on their own, and there's letting the opponent go on 10-0 runs.

I'm getting very tired of following the same old routine. It's only May and I'm already tired. I'm tired of fourth quarter substitution questions and I'm tired of trying the same old thing even when it's not working. This is not the turn of the millennium WNBA, where a single superlative star can carry a team. This is not a league where one star can light the way. Tina Charles took the bit in her teeth in the second half and tried to take the game over, and I can't fault her. But missed lay-ups and blown assignments, idiotic passes and stupid fouls, killed us. Minnesota isn't the kind of defensive team that forces you into mistakes. You can't make stupid mistakes against a team as loaded as Minnesota.

Natasha Howard showed her athleticism on defense. There was a play near the end where she had a long-armed deflection that made me think someone finally got around to showing her that Sancho Lyttle game tape I always say she needs to study. She's still raw, but she's in the third year. We all know what that means. Janel McCarville had a slick little drop pass to Howard (I think) for a good shot, but the shot was missed. She bodied up on people (look, Janel, I know you like to gamble, but Kiah is not a slot machine, please do not pull her arm) and hit midrange jumpers. I do not like that woman, and I don't mean it in the respectful "she just dropped 20 points on 70% shooting" manner.

Jia Perkins still has terrifyingly quick hands. She wasn't feeling her shot tonight, but it was only a little off. She was pesky on defense, and you can see the veteran in her Does she take the crown of Most Talented Underrated Player from Janeth Arcain and Vickie Johnson? I don't know, but she definitely follows in their footsteps. Renee Montgomery drove like a pinball through the lane and annoyed the living daylights out of the ballhandler. You know she's going to shoot when she gets the ball, but I honestly don't remember her passing as much as the box score says. Part of me admires her toughness, but part of me wants to apply my clipboard directly to her forehead. I suppose that's a gesture of respect, in a twisted way.

Maya gonna Maya. She combines speed, grace, and vertical in a way I haven't seen since Swoopes. There was one play where Shavonte Zellous was in perfect position to get the rebound, and then Maya happened behind her. Whatever Maya wants, Maya gets. You get the idea. Nobody rebounds quite like Rebekkah Brunson, with that hunger and desperation and innate sense of where the ball is going to be on some kind of Zen level. I don't know if Cheryl Reeve wanted her taking quite so many midrange perimeter shots, but who knows these days with fours? (As an aside, the dye job works when she's got her hair braided, but not when she's got it straight down.) Sylvia Fowles missed some bunnies on the inside, which surprised me. She made up for it at the other end with monster blocks and rim defense. Also, I am immensely jealous of her cheekbones.

Seimone Augustus isn't as phenomenal as she used to be, but gosh, that's whatever the opposite of damning with faint praise is. She hit the open looks she got when the hand was just a fraction of a second too late going up. She's no longer as smooth as she once was, but she's still very good, and in a veritable murderers' row, she's as lethal as she ever was. Lindsay Whalen is the maestra, able to set up her teammates and make herself a threat when the defense steps away from her, hitting shots falling away. Her toughness is pretty impressive.

I do not know where Swin Cash left her brain tonight, only that it did not accompany her to the World's Most Famous Arena this evening. She came off the bench and immediately committed stupid, unnecessary fouls. The stupid, unnecessary fouls weren't even the worst thing, in my opinion- the mindless pass to McCarville was pretty embarrassing, and she had very good looks right at the basket that she missed. If you're going to come back and cost a young player a chance to develop, you'd better bring your A game, and that was F-game. Kiah Stokes worked hard on the boards, and she had a gorgeous block on Fowles, but for the love of all that is sweet and holy, she has got to hit her free throws. I'm hoping that this was a one-night aberration and she goes back to a less Drummond-esque performance on Friday, because drawing contact means diddly-squat if you don't hit the free throws.

That means you too, Brittany Boyd. It actually goes more for Boyd than it does for Kiah, because while Kiah was contributing on the glass, Boyd's impact was mostly pell-mell drives that went for naught because she missed the shot. Her demeanor was more promising this game, but the shooting percentage has to improve. So does her handle, but that was an issue for more than one player this time around. I won't say I'll give her a pass, but it wasn't the biggest concern for her. Shavonte Zellous, at least, came to play, or at least came to drive the lane and get the rolls. She brought hustle and fire (though she needs to learn to step awaaaaaay from the big fiery torch during intros) off the bench, and we're going to need a lot more of that from her.

Carolyn Swords looked like a whole lot of useless out there. She put a body on Fowles a couple of times, so at least she knew to do that much, but at six-six and broad-framed, she has to be more assertive offensively. She missed too many easy putbacks and surrendered too many opportunities by passing out or letting the ball slip out of her hands. Ball security is a recurring theme in these GNoD, and she was one of the worst offenders. I put none of this on Tina Charles, though. She did everything she could, especially in the second half, to drag this team back into the game despite all their best efforts. She was tripled and quadrupled, and she still made things happen. If anything, she tried to get her teammates too involved by trying to pass out of double-teams to players who weren't ready for the pass. She's phenomenal- but she can't do it alone. Someone has to be a second option.

After the hot start in the wins, Sugar Rodgers has settled back down to earth. She's being a little more closely marked, so she's not getting the open looks she was, and it's in her head a little. When she thinks too hard about what she's doing, she hesitates and the moment is lost. If she takes her shot in one swift motion, catching and stepping and shooting, it's automatic. If she has to move, then there's a problem. She's got to be smarter on defense, too- too many stupid fouls. Lindsey Harding was a complete disappointment. She didn't do anything spectacular, but she didn't do anything good, either. She simply existed, and ate minutes, and lost her assignment (I seem to remember she got deked with regularity by Montgomery, though I'm sure there were others as well). It felt like she might be horribly scared of something, and I don't know what. Tanisha Wright's handle was abysmal. Five turnovers might actually be generous. She was at least somewhat more willing to step into her elbow jumper than she had been the last couple of games, but she's got to be smarter on defense. Just because Minnesota has a propensity to foul doesn't mean we should take this opportunity to foul as well. I'll grant you that Minnesota is no easy defensive assignment, but the reaches were stupid.

That all being said, these were also pretty lousy officials. I don't necessarily mind the bump by Tanisha on (I think) Augustus going to the hoop- it was the correct call. I do object to Roy Gulbeyan blowing the whistle a full four seconds after the contact, when the shot had been missed and the rebound was in play. I don't think this was an easy game to call, not with a team that can get as physical as the Liberty and not with a team that can get as handsy as the Lynx. But the WNBA has led me to expect great, and I hold trained professionals to a high standard.

That includes coaches as well, and I'm starting to wonder if Bill Laimbeer is still the right coach for this team. I can't be sure how many of the on-court decisions are play-calls from the bench and how many are the players going off script, but personnel moves are all on the coach. If Carolyn isn't providing anything, and Swin isn't providing anything, and Kiah is strictly providing help on the defensive end, why not consider trying the bench? I'm pretty sure Amanda Zahui B can lay a body on someone. Honestly, if you're 20 points down, what's the harm even in testing Adut Bulgak against Natasha Howard? Give her a couple of minutes to see if she really can stretch a defense or create pandemonium for an opposing offense. If you're in dire need of a shooter late in the game, when it's a two-possession game, what is the worst possible thing that can happen by putting Shoni Schimmel on the floor? If a thing is not working, why keep doing the same thing? If the other team is on a 12-point run, why sit on your timeouts? I realize that stocking up on timeouts for the end of the game is important to advance the ball, and Cheryl Reeve's timeout management was almost as bad in the other direction, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere. If your team is having trouble with fundamentals for multiple games in succession, why not drill them on those fundamentals until they get it right? That's on the coach, although I recognize that that part of my mind may still be in college mode, where there's more of a responsibility to teach fundamentals.

Janel, you are not an airplane.

Maya spinning on her butt before getting up from stretching will never stop amusing me.

Amusing musical choices: during intros, the team plays a mildly amusing song gently teasing the opposition. The choice for the Lynx was "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota".

I really miss green as the Lynx primary.

We haven't done all that well with extra time to prepare for teams. Maybe we'll do better with a quick turnaround against Indiana. I have faith in these players. I just don't know if I have faith in the people who are supposed to tell them what to do.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 24th, 2016: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: For the second straight game, the Liberty faded down the stretch, and for the second straight game, they took an overtime loss, this time to Atlanta, 85-79. Tiffany Hayes had 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Dream; Atlanta got 15 points after halftime from Angel McCoughtry, who did not play most of the first half. Tina Charles had a monster game in the loss for New York, with 29 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals, and six assists- but Sugar Rodgers (10 points) was the only other Liberty player to crack double digits in scoring.

For screaming, so much screaming, new living room decorations, passionate road fans, cool kids, defensive lapses, Huskies crying wolf, chemistry issues, questionable play-calling, so very many missed opportunities, and lousy officiating, join your intrepid and transient blogger after the jump.
Good morning, everyone! It's your intrepid blogger's least favorite sort of game of the year- School Day, the 11 AM start that messes with my circadian rhythm and forces me to endure thousands of screaming children for the sake of my team. To be honest, I was seriously considering skipping this one, but for work-related political reasons, I decided to take the days I was entitled to.

Of course, if there are children, there are thundersticks. They're black and white, but the 20th anniversary logo is pretty well done.

Atlanta rushed off in a hurry. Reshanda Gray disappointed the kids, but Meighan Simmons at least stopped for pictures (and for my hat, yay!).

We have a biddy game to start things off, and people are so adorably hyped when one of those little kids hits a shot. One kid runs a pretty nice fast break but is just too tiny to hit a lay-up. (No, seriously, between the braids and the gait, she looks like a very tiny Spoon, my heart is exploding with squee.)

God bless you for coming up here, you decked out Dream fan, but you're behind the wrong bench.

At halftime, New York is up 39-32, but the bigger issue for Atlanta is that Angel McCoughtry came out very early in the first quarter and did not return. She's been on the bench, but not playing. We're enduring an anti-bullying lecture/slam poetry session.

The kids behind us are into the game and loathe the officials as much as we do, so that's cool.

The officials have been lousy. The FT differential is ridiculous. Then Mount Laimbeer exploded, and now both teams are getting crappy calls on them.

Tiffany Hayes leads Atlanta with 13; Tina Charles has 10 for New York. Both teams are missing open shots and multiple looks.


Okay, fine, I'll write coherent Game Notes for you. They're going to be more collaborative than usual, since the Queen Mother and I are hashing the game out as I type.

Atlanta did a marvelous job playing the passing lanes and deflecting balls. That's one thing they're brilliant at. They closed like a trap and batted the ball away. 11 blocks and 13 steals- and that's just what made it into the stats.

Michael Cooper worked heavily with his deep bench in the first half. Everyone saw time. Reshanda Gray's only minutes were in the first half, and even then the announcer almost forgot to mention her existence. She was physical, but otherwise unremarkable. Rachel Hollivay hits hard- she bodied up early and often on the Liberty posts. She had good looks at the basket, but she missed them- then again, the rim at that end of the floor was doing odd things to shots. Lots of stuff was rimming out. Cierra Burdick's first half minutes were unremarkable, but there's something I would like about having her on the floor if I were a Dream fan. It might be the defense. She needs to lay off shooting after the whistle, though.

Meighan Simmons is still very fast, and still likes to shoot a lot, and is still terribly inaccurate when she does. I'm not quite sure when she managed to block a shot, but we were getting swatted a lot by a lot of hands; that might have been a block-by-committee that got assigned to her. Matee Ajavon played very briefly, missed an easy shot, and generally still gets under my skin just for existing, but I acknowledge and accept that it's mostly irrational. Carla Cortijo passes the ball very fast and very hard- in that regard, like a young Ticha Penicheiro. I think at least two turnovers were because the ball got there before the recipient. She's a good energy player. Bria Holmes did a good job drawing fouls and getting to the line, although with this officiating crew pretty much anyone in an Atlanta uniform could draw fouls.

Layshia Clarendon brought the defense (and as usual, the epic hair). She didn't play as much down the stretch, with Cooper going to Cortijo instead, but she came in for defensive shifts. She plays good, heady defense. I feel like I'm harping, but she was utterly useless on offense. Tiffany Hayes appears to have been working on her upper body strength- with the thickness of her shoulders and the long skinny braids, she was starting to remind me of Loree Moore. She took a lot of hits and fell down a lot. Either she has the strange combination of low pain threshold/high pain tolerance, or she gives no damns about her body, or she's really good at acting like she's hurt. It cost her on one play, where she hit the deck and no foul was called. That was a rarity. She got the call most of the night. She killed us from outside, and she killed us penetrating, and I'm pretty sure by the end of the night she had people wanting to strangle either her or the defender who kept bailing on her. (Ahem. Ta'Shauna.) She's reckless and wild and one of these days she's going to have a 2-19 night and kill her team that way. But if she were a Lib her jersey would be flying off the shelves.

Angel McCoughtry left the game very early in the first quarter, and she was limping when she came back for the second half. Whatever it was, either she got over it or they gave her some mighty fine painkillers to take care of it, because she lit up in the fourth quarter and overtime. That was the Angel we know to fear. She's still convinced she's a distance shooter, but as a Liberty fan I'm okay with that. She and Sancho Lyttle are still one of the most lethal double-team traps in the league, with long arms and active hands and absolutely no give. The two of them together forced I don't know how many turnovers off steals or rebounds or missed shots. Lyttle's shot was off, but for brief moments she looked like the Sancho Lyttle of the Houston Comets. And defensively, of course, she was ridiculous. Her hands were everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Elizabeth Williams was a calm center in the midst of the frenetic defensive activity. She's solid. She could stand to work on her free throw shooting, and she's got to finish at the rim, but she's an excellent piece for the next stage of the Dream's life cycle.

I like the Dream's uniforms. For them, that pop of red on the collar works, and the blue on blue is reasonably attractive. I'm not so sure about the gray jackets, though.

I think the training staff really needs to do something about this recto-cranial inversion that Brittany Boyd is suffering from. It's really getting ridiculous. She's trying too hard to take the fancy shot when she could settle for the straight up shot. She's telegraphing her passes. I want her to succeed so very badly- I'm typing these words while wearing a Boyd jersey, and y'all know how I feel about the price of jerseys. But the pressure is getting to her, or something is getting to her. Her body language is really bad. Everything seems to be accompanied by a grimace or almost a growl. I really hope she's okay. Shoni Schimmel played briefly at the end of the game, and just like last game, she went in about two possessions after she was really needed. She looked to be in a little better shape than she was last game. Something's off with Shavonte Zellous, too. Her shot is off, and because her shot is off, it's throwing off her entire game. She seems like she's trying too hard to draw contact and not enough to actually hit the shot. If you're not getting the calls, learn to recognize that and move on.

Kiah Stokes had a nice sequence with two blocks, and was solid defensively, but she's got to be more assertive on offense. I thought she played well on the boards and in the middle. Amanda Zahui B saw a few minutes in the first half, but she looked like she was out of sync with the team on both ends of the floor. Maybe she's not a morning person. I've been there. Swin Cash hit her free throws, which was more than I can say for most of our posts. It's good to have her defense and her leadership back. She's still a little rusty, but that's to be expected.

Tina Charles went into beast mode today. I'm not going to give her too much grief for the missed free throws, though it would have been nice if she hit one of them in regulation. But she put everything out on the floor and played out of her mind. Inside, outside, swatting shots, claiming boards, deflecting balls- I don't know how many of those steals were legitimately hers and how many she just initiated that other people took off down the floor. She was phenomenal. Carolyn Swords has to finish at the rim. She had offensive rebounds and chances to score, and she missed at the rim again and again. I like what she brings, but I need to see more of it.

Lindsey Harding was missing a lot of shots short, and we were irked that she wasn't getting yelled at for them. Katie Smith eventually took her aside and gave her a talking to, but it didn't seem like it had much of an effect. Sugar Rodgers had another bad shooting night, and reverted back to the approach of "keep shooting, it'll go in eventually". It didn't go in all that much, except for the wild shot to force overtime and drag the suffering out further. She was out of position a lot on defense. If Hayes is shooting as well as she was, why in God's name would you repeatedly leave her open to go double? Why is this a good plan? Tanisha Wright was okay, nothing more. I'm still worried about her shot and her tendency to pass out of good looks, though those two are probably related.

Bill, we need to talk. A lot. We need to talk about you sitting back with your feet up like you're chilling at the bar as Atlanta goes on a run. We need to talk about you hoarding timeouts like you get a bonus for having them left at the end of the game. We need to talk about you grinding the offense to a halt in the last seven minutes and clocking the ball. (I'm pretty sure Stringer was yelling at you to get the offense moving, Bill.) We need to talk about your personnel decisions in overtime, and why you won't use Shoni even as a decoy when you need three-pointers. We need to talk about why this team doesn't know their defensive schemes, and why people are out of position, and why we're not hitting free throws. Something's not right here, and 70% of what went wrong in this game comes down to coaching and coaches' responsibilities.

And then there were the officials. So many bad calls. So much contact allowed at one end and called on the other. And then so many bad calls on both ends of the floor. There was one play that should have been a jump ball and ended up being nothing at all. So many bad calls. So very many bad calls. And they went on both sides after Laimbeer blew his top.

Seriously, that Dream fan was amazing. She came up that morning, from Georgia (she had the Georgia voter pin on her visor), fully decked out: visor, pins, lanyard, schedule, shirt, wristbands, thundersticks, the whole nine yards. We should all be so passionate about our teams. (She was kind enough to pass along the thundersticks when I asked if she had extras. They will hold a place of great honor among the others in our living room.) I hope the rest of her trip to New York is full of magic, wonder, joy, and good karma.

I'm really wondering if Bill is still the right coach for this team. He's brilliant at evaluating talent, for the most part, and he trades well. If we could carve out a position for him to be in charge of that, and let someone else coach, and let Bernert continue to handle the business end, I think we'd be well off. But I've been questioning more and more of his decisions in the flow of the game. Getting outcoached by Michael Cooper has to stick in his craw. Right?

Kids, it's only a t-shirt. You don't have to fight each other like dogs over a bone. Don't get hurt over it. The Torch Patrol overshot their tee guns a bit, aiming for the upper deck and hitting the bridge a couple of times.

We need our young guards to get their act together. We need our veterans to play like veterans. We need someone who can make the chemistry work. Who's going to step up?


Sunday, May 22, 2016

May 21st, 2016: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Los Angeles Sparks made up eight points in less than two minutes to force overtime and beat the New York Liberty 79-72. Nneka Ogwumike had 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Sparks, with Candace Parker adding 14 points and 12 rebounds.. Tina Charles had 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead New York.

For missed shots, odd spacing, planning epic birthdays, friendly neighbors, security issues, and ennui, join your intrepid and distracted blogger after the jump.

I could make a joke about this game really going to the dogs, but what kind of bit- aaaaanyway. It's a grayish day in New York as the Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks renew the league's oldest rivalry (perhaps only by a couple of days, but don't hate just because y'all weren't there right at the get-go).

It's also the celebration of Maddie's birthday, which means lots of kids and a calendar of Liberty players with dogs. I don't think Epiphanny Prince is a dog person. (I, for one, am looking forward to Maddie's next birthday party. That'll be 21. SHOTS SHOTS SHOTSSHOTSSHOTSSHOTSSHOTS)

Candace Parker, if people are holding Sharpies and trying to get your attention, ignoring them is not a good plan. And I was going to tell her she deserved to be on the Olympic team, too. Maybe there's something to the chemistry thing, or maybe I'm just petty.

I'm not digging the blonde on Essence Carson's ponytail.

There's something appropriate about the Liberty wearing their black and the Sparks wearing their gold in this first meeting of the 20th season.

At halftime, we're tied at 34. Candace Parker has 10 points, seven boards, and some monster blocks. It's been a balanced attack from unexpected sources for the Liberty, with eight from Carolyn Swords and seven from Brittany Boyd.

Moment of quiet and small video tribute to a deceased STH (and mom of another). Very nice touch: "We Are Family" isn't usually memorial music, but it's the music played when they show a former Liberty player, or "Liberty family", on the Jumbotron. In other words, she was included as Liberty family, on the same level as Kym and Sue. (In assuredly unrelated news, there's an awful lot of confetti drifting loose from the ceiling today...)

That was a frustrating game, but it could have been worse. We can pinpoint the things that we did wrong: free throws, close-range shots, offensive rebounding, offensive sets at the end of the game. We got a lot of good contributions from a lot of people. And it's still early in the season.

I was surprised we saw so little of Chelsea Gray. Maybe I shouldn't be; she doesn't really fit with the personnel the Sparks currently have, or the style they want to play. Her passing is pretty slick, and she seems to inspire her teammates to pass just as showily. Ana Dabovic is a bit shot-happy- not that that's a bad thing in the offensive scheme, but she's definitely better on offense than defense. She fell hard for a lot of shot fakes, especially from Brittany Boyd.

Jelena Dubljevic barely played, and left no major impression. I was surprised that Eugeniya Belyakova got so much time, but I think Agler likes something she's doing on defense, even if it's just being really tall. (I'm also amused by the different Romanizations of her name- on the roster, it's spelled Eugeniya, but on the website, it's spelled Evgeniia. Slightly confusing.) The Liberty were not impressed with her on offense- when you're a tall forward and Shoni is being hidden on you, you're not considered a valid offensive threat. That lasted until she hit a three late. Ann Wauters was good defensively in the few minutes she got off the bench. Jantel Lavender was physical on the boards, but didn't seem fully involved in the game. There was a weird sequence near the end of the game where Parker appeared to be trying to hug her or something, and she was no-selling it like nobody's business. Like, "please remove your arm from around my neck right now, thank you much" level of no-sell.

Essence Carson brought the defense, but her shot has left any building she's in. It went wide often. She missed open lay-ups badly. Watching her during shootaround, there's a hitch to her shot that I can't put my finger on, but don't think looks right- there was a lot more push from her right hand and less guidance from her left than seemed proper. She got a very warm welcome and a highlight package. It looked like Agler had no trust in her offense (which I can't blame him for)- she sat out some key minutes late in the game. Alana Beard is in fantastic shape and moving really well. She looks like she's never had an injury history. She started the game red hot, taking advantage of what the defense was giving her in order to keep the more recognized threats bottled up. Her offense cooled down a little later, but her defense was utterly crucial to keeping Los Angeles in the game. Kristi Toliver was off for most of the night, but she hit the big shots when Los Angeles needed them. Her moping mostly was not as evident as usual. She also came up with a nice defensive play at the end of the game, which I wasn't expecting from her.

Candace Parker seems satisfied to take long shots and use her athleticism to beat players instead of her talent. She took a lot of long shots and a lot more complicated shots than she really needed to. If she'd gone inside more, LA probably would have romped. As it was, she did a nice job on the boards and using her length to block shots. Nneka Ogwumike is a beast, and this needs to be her team, not Parker's. She dominated down low. We threw all different defensive looks at her, and she was just like, "nah, I'm gonna score now." She knows her strengths and she plays to her strengths.

It's hard to envision Los Angeles as a defensive-minded, blue-collar team, but they suffocate the passing lanes and play really tough defense. Parker sticks out in that scheme.

I don't know what's wrong with Shavonte Zellous, but someone needs to fix it with the quickness. Her shot is AWOL, her drives are questionable, her ballhandling is shaky, her court vision is lousy, and her defense is so-so. She gave us a lot of minutes, and they mostly weren't good ones. You can't airball a shot late in the game like that. Brittany Boyd brought energy and a renewed fire. She was closer to her normal self this time around. I don't know if benching her helped or if she's moved past whatever was causing her recto-cranial inversion all by herself. Shoni Schimmel played a little, brought a little offense, but I would have put her in in the overtime just to add an extra shooter. I'm really not sure what to think of her and what she brings.

Kiah Stokes was back on defense. It was good to see her blocking shots- she had a few beautiful ones, including a deflection off a Parker shot that looked so natural that you'd think Parker missed it all by herself. It was also nice to see her taking and hitting shots. Amanda Zahui B had a quiet few minutes, but they were good defensive minutes. I might have wanted to see more of her, but on the other hand, I don't know whose minutes I would have taken away to put her on the floor longer.

Sugar Rodgers started off not shooting well, and she made some bad decisions down the stretch in overtime, but if she hadn't gone off in the fourth quarter, we wouldn't have had overtime in the first place. I'm not sure what to call those- Sugar highs? Sugar spikes? But this was last year's Sugar more than this year's Sugar: capable of incredible feats in a short stretch of time, but in the long run capable of making you tear your hair out. (That being said, her rebounding and her reads on long misses have improved immensely. That's cool.) Lindsey Harding got the start over Boyd and continued to demonstrate her lack of familiarity with the new shot clock rules. I don't know how comfortable she is with the team, and how much of that is a function of time. Tanisha Wright found some of her offensive groove, but she was passing way too many open shots and good looks for my comfort. I like her at the three less and less, and fortunately, this was the last time we're going to have to do this. I don't think she can take the physicality of the forward position in the modern WNBA.

Tina Charles was solid, but she missed a lot of interior shots that she should have made. She and Carolyn Swords both had good looks at the basket that they missed. I really like what Carolyn brings in the starting lineup, but I'm worried about her stamina. She's registering more and more often on the Adubato-Kraayeveld Scale, and doing so earlier and earlier in games. As for Tina, we all know how I feel about her taking perimeter shots, especially three-pointers. I know, I know, but it's going to keep being a point in the game notes until such time as either the shot becomes more reliable or until she stops doing it.

The missed shots at the rim were the most frustrating thing about this game. LA had a lot of makeable shots that they missed, and we failed to take advantage of that. No team should have two separate possessions of empty third chances. If they're right at the rim, you have to hit them.

The best part was how into it the crowd, or at least our area of it, was. There was far less waiting for the sound cue than usual, and I like that.

Officiating was lousy, but what else is new.

Getting Swin back will help with the perimeter defense, and maybe with some of the missed putbacks. I wasn't expecting this game to be as close as it was, so that's a good sign, in a perverse way.


Monday, May 16, 2016

May 15th, 2016: Dallas at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: New York went up 11-0 and never trailed in their 79-71 win over the Dallas Wings. Tina Charles and Sugar Rodgers each had 24 to pace the Liberty, with Charles adding 11 rebounds. Dallas got 14 points each from Odyssey Sims and Theresa Plaisance.

For Broadway, bright colors, questioning greens, new neighbors, herding cats, forgetting the damn wheelchair ramp, bad passes, big shots, and a Sugar high, join your intrepid and sleepless blogger after the jump.

Good evening! It's Opening Night at MSG, and the New York Liberty are hosting the Dallas Wings. As I type this, it's halftime, and Montell "This Is How We Do It" Jordan just finished performing a customized version of "This Is How We Do It" for the New York crowd.

I don't actually know what the most hideous part of the Dallas color scheme is, the chartreuse or the red. I like their blue, but it doesn't go with either of the other two colors.

Bridget Pettis is one sharp-dressed woman. Rocking that suit.

Amanda Zahui B was joking around with all the baby posts for Dallas before the game, so they seem to have left on good terms with her. (Though I noticed Plenette Pierson was all business.)

(We're now in the postgame, and we just had a crowning moment of Canadian. Adut Bulgak and Ruth Hamblin just swapped phone info or something. Holy crap, someone has an original '97 jacket signed by the '97 team... including developmental players. She left before the picture could be taken {it took a while to herd the cats} and that's a shame, because otherwise I would have told her, "Holy crap your jacket is awesome TELL ME ALL YOUR 1997 STORIES".)

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don't have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she'd had to play, and I don't think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn't help their rotation.)

Ruth Hamblin played very briefly in the first half and was very unremarkable. She seems friendly, though. Well, she's Canadian. Theresa Plaisance shoots very well, and I think we forgot that she likes to do that. She wasn't very smart on defense, though. I got the feeling that mama Coach Plaisance may have thrown something at her League Pass-enabled device when Theresa committed that foul with .6 left in the second quarter. It was a stupid foul. Jordan Hooper was out there, but not very memorable. I think she was getting beat on defense a fair amount.

Brianna Kiesel is taller than I remembered, but also slighter. She brought speed off the bench, but an unwillingness to shoot and a paradoxical missing step on change of direction. She did have one nice play to completely am-scray a Liberty fast break, though. Aerial Powers has phenomenal athleticism and a very high ceiling. Her midrange jumper was on point, less so her three-ball. For some reason I thought I remembered her having more of a slashing game in college, but here she was strictly a jump shooter. I wonder if Fred Williams was encouraging her to take threes even when they weren't falling, just to work on that facet of her game more.

My goodness, Plenette Pierson doesn't think she's ever committed a foul in her life, does she? Her surprised expression after getting caught with an arm bar was priceless. No, Plenette, you can't hook your assignment's arm and then claim she did it first. She didn't. Really, Plenette, you've been in the league longer than is healthy for me to calculate, everyone's kind of on to that patented trick of yours. She was frustrated early on- her points all came in one big spurt in the fourth, when the game was pretty much out of reach. She was physical. Her posing tendencies came out strong- I don't want to say she telegraphs her moves, but she does take a little bit to get into them. She fell a lot, sometimes with help, usually with not as much help as she tried to give the impression of. Courtney Paris is a lot of woman. I'm not saying that as either a good thing or a bad thing, merely a statement of fact. "Glacial" is a fair description for her- she's not very fast, but she's inexorable. She will get to her spot when she wants to get to her spot, and if you happen to be in her spot, you'll be moved. Other players served as decoys for her and draw away the defense, and there she was for the uncontested lay-up. I'd like for her to stop throwing elbows, though- she fired up a couple that seemed to go unnoticed by the officials. Also, driving into her is a terrible, horrible, very bad idea that people should not do.

Karima Christmas is a fantastic piece to have for a team- but she's not a starter, and having to start her in the absence of Diggins is a problem for the Wings. She does all the little things- she hustles for loose balls, she traps well in the corner, she defends like nobody's business- but she's not a scorer. I was surprised to see her hoisting so many threes, but then, that's our weakness. Odyssey Sims hits the floor like the second coming of Ivory Latta in her Tar Heel days. It gets to the point where you can't be sure she's actually hurt until and unless the trainer carries her off. She found her groove in the third with a couple of quick threes that tied the game for Dallas, but it didn't last long. She drove a lot, but her shots weren't falling. She didn't get good angles because of the defense. Erin Phillips ball-hawked like her life depended on securing the basketball. She got a little bit of offense going in the third quarter, but her most important job was defense.

Dallas tried to play to their strengths- interior passes to Paris, driving and dishing- as well as to our weaknesses out on the perimeter. I don't know if they're going to shoot like this all the time.

The woman, the myth, the legend, the Shoni. She played briefly in the first half, had a nifty three, but was otherwise unremarkable. The defense still needs work, but this might be a recording at this point. Shavonte Zellous came off the bench for some good solid minutes, getting buckets when she was open. Lindsey Harding was invisible at point, but in the good way, in the sense that she facilitated the offense for her teammates instead of over-forcing it. She still needs to get used to that weird 14-second reset off offensive rebounds- she was losing track of the clock a couple of times in the fourth. She's fitting in better than I expected.

Kiah Stokes is a defensive specialist, yes? She's good at defensive things, yeah? But she epic failed on Paris today. She kept wheeling to help, and Paris kept hitting lay-ups. That's a lot of woman to overlook, I'm sorry. She did well drawing fouls, but I'd still like to see her be more assertive on the offensive end. 0-0 is not acceptable in 20 minutes. Amanda Zahui B had herself a day. She did work in the paint and drew fouls. She still needs to find where she fits in the schemes, on both offense and defense, but I think she's going to be just fine.

I'm worried about Brittany Boyd. I don't know if it's the wrist, or if she doesn't like the personnel decisions, or if something else is going on in her head, but she's not herself. She's letting mistakes get to her, and that's causing her to make more mistakes. The shots aren't falling, and that's going to happen. She's got to be more careful with the ball. Sugar Rodgers, on the other hand, was phenomenal. She took the right shots at the right time, and the shots she didn't take were almost as important as the ones she did; it means she's learning better self-control within the flow of the offense instead of just chucking it whenever. We usually talk about the big step forward in the third year for posts, but Sugar's making me wonder if it's just as valid for guards. I'll need a statistician to look into that. She played an all-around fantastic game,a nd the only quibble I have with it is the question of whether she can keep it up.

I'm not digging Tanisha Wright at the three. Yes, the three-guard set gives us more options if one of the guards is struggling, and it makes us a little bit faster. But there were too many defensive mismatches for my comfort. I think it affected her shot, too- she got open looks, and her shot didn't look right when she got them. I appreciate her toughness and the defense she brings, but this is not 1997, and you can't start a two-guard at three anymore. (I also understand that this is likely a temporary, makeshift measure until the 24th, thanks to the scoop from Excelle, but it isn't a great makeshift measure.) Carolyn Swords was inconsistent, and I worry about her playing too low to the ground. She brings the ball down way too much, and was having trouble grabbing high passes- the passes that need to be high to go to her and her alone. Her basket came on a very pretty cut to the hoop. Tina Charles started the game like a house on fire. It was glorious. I love to watch the way she moves when she's feeling it. I'm not as sanguine about this long-two thing as the rest of the team seems to be, but I recognize that I have some old-fashioned expectations of frontcourt players. That being said, if you're going to take them, at least follow them instead of admiring them.

I feel like I'm harping a lot on the negative, which is funny in a game where we got out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed. I suppose I'm contrary that way. A lot of people did what was expected of them and not much more. Sugar was phenomenal. Tina did a lot and tried to do too much down the stretch. We need better balance behind our scoring options.

Inconsistent officiating will be the death of me, or at least the cause of my banning from a basketball arena. If you're going to call ticky-tack offensive fouls, then call the trips on both sides. If you want to call a tight game, then call Courtney Paris for throwing elbows. If you want to let 'em play, then don't call touch fouls. Figure out if you care more about the letter or the spirit. And I don't know who peed in Amy Bonner's Cheerios before the game, but she was being very anal about pace of play rules. Dallas got hit with a delay of game warning early on, and almost got another one because it took slightly longer than the requisite time to bandage up a cut on Sims's arm. Amanda got one too, for getting excited about a play and leaping forward onto the Y in the endcourt.

The national anthem, as sung by the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton, was fantastic. I think the waiting list for tickets just got a month longer, and that's under the assumption that people at the game were already on the list. I could have done without the second round of "God Bless America", though; if you have to sing multiple verses, sing the actual verses, not the first verse twice.

I prefer the black jerseys, but the seafoam aren't horrible.

We have new neighbors in the section! Very excited! And they seem to like us being loud. This is a good sign. I like neighbors. Fan community is as important a part of the W experience as the game and the players.

A good showing for opening day, but the Sparks and The Wrath Of Parker will be more of a challenge.


Friday, May 6, 2016

May 5th, 2016: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Minnesota Lynx raced out to a big early lead, then held off a second half charge by the New York Liberty to win 77-74 at Columbia University. Renee Montgomery had 17 points to lead the Lynx, with Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles each adding 10 in limited minutes. Sugar Rodgers led all scorers with 22 points off the bench.

For bleachers, festivities, funny hats, dogs in ponchos, Talia Caldwell's dance moves, fantasy games, grit, and the gift of t-shirts, join your intrepid and renewed blogger after the jump.
You knew it was coming. Maybe you feared it; maybe you anticipated it. Maybe you didn't want to think about it.

The Game Notes of Doom are back.

We'll be coming to you from the friendly and vaguely familiar confines of Levien Gymnasium, on the campus of Columbia University, as the New York Liberty take on the Minnesota Lynx. Unfortunately, your intrepid blogger has this pesky thing called a job and will have to miss the pregame festivities celebrating Cinco de Mayo. (Which is not to be confused with Cinco de Maya, the feast day of Maya Moore, patroness of large cats and championship trophies.)

Our season tickets look pretty awesome, and the envelope is even more spectacular. (I'm in the profession now, so I notice these things.) The season subscriber gift was a lanyard and plastic badge holder big enough for the tickets. (By the way, our official name is apparently "Liberty Loyal", but that's a stupid name, so I'm electing to ignore it.)

Look. Guys. If you're going to put preseason games in places WNBA games are not normally held, can you please get the security straight? Tell people which door to go through and what to do when they get there. Don't block the door on my husband when you've just let me in.

Maya's having fun out there. Finished her stretches with a couple of 360-degree spins on her butt. I wish the DJ would turn down the music a little, though.

We got maracas! I know, you're excited about the prospect of me being able to make even more noise, right?

There's someone on the end of the Liberty bench who looks an awful lot like Aleesha Powell. Turn around, person with big fuzzy hair! In the end, I don't think it was her.

Hee, Kym Hampton singing along with "Dancin' in the Streets". I'm easily amused.

I think they're still working out the handicapped seating a little bit.

We have mariachis at halftime. Also at halftime, Minnesota is up 44-31, on some really lousy shooting by both teams. Brittany Boyd has got to hit the shots she gets when the penetration is available.

Dude, you can either show up late, you can extol the virtues of Saint Maya to me, or you can come in stinking (and I mean stinking) of weed. You can't do all of these things at once.

Heh. The two Fever gals catching up at the half, Shavonte Zellous and Natasha Howard.

Kiah Stokes did not dress for this game. Street clothes are very nice, though far too many zippers.

We look rusty. Too many missed shots, too many steps slow. Minnesota looks a little rough, but still better than we do. That being said, if we play like this when we have our full roster, if we bring this kind of grit and hustle and three players diving on the floor in a preseason game, if we can come to the point where we declare "this far and no further" and mean it, we have a shot to be as good as we were last year.

Porsha Roberts has all the tools to be someone's Michelle Campbell or Aneika Henry, the player who goes overseas for a few years and becomes a star there before returning to the United States and becoming a solid piece to a W team. She's phenomenally athletic and has a good build, and I like her eye for rebounds. She's not as skilled as she could be, but those things can be learned. Bashaara Graves has pretty good instincts for a rookie. She had a nice steal in the first quarter that led to a break and a lay-up for her. I don't think I've ever seen someone foul out in a preseason game before, but Keisha Hampton managed it. She played like a Blue Demon- in other words, whenever the opportunity presented itself to take a long shot, she took it.

Sydney Wallace wasn't afraid to shoot, and I think that helped her a lot. When she missed, she missed badly, but when she hit, she was deadly. Renee Montgomery is a human pinball, especially on inbounds plays. I don't think she endears herself to opponents very much, judging from the number of times she got tangled up with either Swin Cash or Jennifer Lacy. She has phenomenal quickness and no fear. That floater near the end was pretty clutch. She just rubs me the wrong way, though. Nika Baric was unimpressive, but our PA guy probably wants Minnesota to keep her just so he can keep saying her name. He has a fondness for Eastern European names. Courtney Clements has pretty intimidating eyebrows and a hilariously wild shot. She reacted well on the boards, and she's a good hustle player, but she can be a liability on offense.

Jia Perkins had a quiet game, but that doesn't mean you can leave her open, Shoni. Jia Perkins hits open shots. Lindsay Whalen, like most of the starters, didn't play very much, so it's hard for me to get a sense of where she is this year as compared to all the other years, but she drove a bit. Maya Moore will do Maya Moore things, like hit step-back jumpers as the half expires, or pass the ball under an opponent's leg so Natasha Howard can hit a lay-up, or snatch the ball from Swin Cash like the candy from the proverbial baby. She burst to life in the second quarter, which was really all they needed from her.

Natasha Howard has so much potential, but if the Indiana "Welcome All Post Reclamation Projects!" Fever can't make heads nor tails of her, she might have a long way to go. She's in the third year, though, so if she's going to make a leap, this is the time she's going to do it. She's got to move her feet more and her arms less. Seriously. Sancho Lyttle at and in Houston video. NOW. Am I the only one who sees it? Sylvia Fowles had a big first quarter, getting Minnesota off to a quick start with power moves in the paint. She didn't play much after that, but I think she proved that she's still Big Syl.

I honestly don't know how much confidence Cheryl Reeve has in her team. Minnesota seemed to burn through their timeouts a lot more quickly than the score seemed to require. They've also still got a problem with foul discipline- there's a difference between physical defense and overly grabby defense, and Minnesota's first instinct is to grab. I'm also not sure how much coaching she herself was doing; Jim Petersen was on his feet and doing clipboard magic almost as much as she was.

Elin Eldebrink didn't look quite as lost as her last box score seemed to indicate, but there's still no way she's making this team. She wasn't terrible, and I like her heart, but she didn't show anything spectacular enough to squeeze her onto a crammed roster. Ameryst Alston showed willingness to drive the lane somewhat, but couldn't keep up with the speed of the game and couldn't hit the shots she was given. She's another player who might do better developing in Europe before attempting to break back into the WNBA. Sugar Rodgers had herself a fourth quarter. She's streaky. She's inconsistent. She's maddening. But when she's on, she's a sight to behold. Is there a way to be cool and excited at the same time? Because that's how she rolls. Shoni Schimmel can fire up an offense, but we'd better be in serious need of offense and not defense if she's anywhere near the floor. She's not a good defender. She doesn't know how to stay on or near her assignment. Her lack of movement creates horrific mismatches, and at least tonight, we didn't have anyone who could fully cover up for her.

Avery Warley-Talbert brought her lunch bucket today. She was a huge part of the second-half comeback, playing hard on defense and pulling down boards. It's going to be a tight squeeze if we want to fit her on the roster, but she's been good for us (and honestly, I think we've been good for her- she seems a lot more relaxed than she was when she first started with us). Jennifer Lacy was a tweener, stretching the offense but playing interior defense. She did a good job defending her teammates- there was a sequence where one of the guards got hit on offense, so Jennifer turned around and sawhorsed the offender on the other end of the floor. Talia Caldwell was very physical, but she's not going to get anywhere if she keeps committing offensive fouls. I feel like she'd be a good person to have on the team, but not the right fit as a player. Adut Bulgak has promise, and she had a really nice block on Bashaara Graves. She needs to work on her game, but she's a rookie, that's how they roll.

Brittany Boyd was super frustrating tonight. She got good looks at the basket and got good passes to take those looks, but they don't count if you can't hit them. She brings life to the game and life to the team, but again, it means nothing if the shots don't go down. Tanisha Wright seemed to settle back into playing shoothing guard, but she took a lot of jumpers and missed a lot of jumpers. I still like having her around for her defense, though.

Swin Cash cleaned up on the glass- both of her baskets were on putbacks. She also took charge of explaining to Amy Bonner why she was wrong about things. There was a lot of explaining to be done. Tina Charles didn't play much, but she looked good when she did. She's still a little too fond of the outside jumper for my personal preference, but I know Bill prefers to use her as a four, and that's part of being a four in modern basketball. That doesn't mean I have to like it. Carolyn Swords used her height well to pull away rebounds from shorter opponents. She's got to hit her shots at the rim, and she has to hold on to the ball- there were a couple of plays where she fumbled or dropped passes and rebounds.

We need to work on our shooting. Maybe things were off because we weren't familiar with the sight lines at Levien. Maybe we were tight, nervous, trying too hard because it's preseason and there are a lot of players competing for very few spots. But the shooting was bad. The defense was solid in the second half. That's what we hang our hat on; that's what we make our identity on; that's how we're going to succeed.

Levien wasn't equipped with replay technology, because otherwise there were several plays that would have gone to the monitor. There were two out-of-bounds plays that were sketchy, and there were issues with the clock reset for much of the night. I think both the teams and the officials are getting used to the new rules. It was a tightly called game, for the most part, except for one sequence where Montgomery got tangled with everyone and then Jennifer retaliated. (And the sequence where Montgomery held Swin at one end, Swin hooked back at the other, Montgomery hooked her again, and then the foul was on Montgomery.) The new guy communicates well, but we need to see what he can do in a regular W arena with the usual bells, whistles, lights, horns, sirens, and equipment.

Pretty good turnout, all things considered. I was certainly glad we brought our WCBB seat cushions, though- the chairback seating was reserved for Delta Club, so the general admission seats were in the bleachers.

There was a short fantasy game after the regular game, for some lucky season subscribers to suit up in Liberty practice jerseys and get on the court. Liberty players coached, or "coached", or at least coaxed and encouraged, their teams to a surprisingly competitive fourteen-minute, two-half game. The funniest part was the pregame entertainment- they needed to stall so the players could come out, so they played that game where one person in the middle throws the ball at people and if they don't catch it, they're out. The crowd was quite gleeful when the guy in the middle dropped the ball with three players to go.

The incident mentioned above with security led our long-suffering rep Morgan to hook us up with wristbands to the post-game autograph session. (Thanks for putting up with us, Morgan.) The n00bs were there- Adut, Ameryst, Shoni, and Shavonte, who were all very nice. And then we got bonus Lynx, Whalen and Fowles. They were both very professional, but I got a "er, why are we part of an event for a bunch of opposing fans?" vibe off of them, like they felt a little weird about delaying everyone else. (I also have no shame and snagged Courtney Clements, who was hanging out by the door with Jia Perkins.)

The rosters are really hard to pare down, especially for the Liberty. There's too much up in the air with Piph and potentially Rebecca Allen. I can't even fathom a guess. But I'm looking forward to the regular season and seeing how all the pieces fit together.