Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 11th, 2018: New York at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Shavonte Zellous's three off the window at the buzzer was the game-winner in New York's 79-76 victory at Connecticut. Tina Charles led New York with 19 points and 11 rebounds, getting strong support from Epiphanny Prince (15 points) and Shavonte Zellous (14 points). Alyssa Thomas had a double-double in her return for the Sun, with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Chiney Ogwumike had a team-high 17 points.

For relief, being on the road again, unexpected detours, karmic balancing, too many sports, the cavalry arriving just in time, and a fine cheesesteak, join your intrepid and relieved blogger after the jump.

It is too early for this and I am never doing this again, Sometimes I think that's actually my motto. I'm not exactly what you would call a morning person. One might even say I am decidedly not a morning person. And yet here I am on a Chinatown bus to Mohegan Sun, at 8:30 in the morning, on my way to see the Liberty take on the Connecticut Sun.

Much to my consternation, the 8:00 bus out of Flushing is the super local, detouring all the way out to Bayside by 170th and going up the Clearview to the Throgs Neck. Part of me is intrigued by the different route. Part of me is going to be extremely annoyed if the extra time and distance make me late for the game. At least there's space, as evidenced by my ability to make these pregame notes, since the woman next to me opted to sit in the back. I think she spotted an empty row or something.

Dear fellow travelers, please note that onions and scallions are not appropriate breakfast foods in enclosed spaces. Either that, or the gentleman behind me needs to put his shoes back on.

To my pleased surprise, they're being less stringent about bag check today. I think it might have to do with Camp Day. On the other hand, there appears to be a distinct lack of campers. But I'll take what I can get. It's halftime here at Mohegan Sun, and Connecticut is up 42-38 on New York. It could definitely be worse. We've been bad on switches and sloppy on passes. But Connecticut's passing has been worse.

Terrible anthem. Pick a key. Pick a tune. Figure out where your R's are supposed to go.

I'm not the only Liberty fan here, which is a pleasant surprise. Meanwhile, the people next to me are spending half the game watching tennis on his phone. I mean, I have no objection to doing other things during timeouts and other stoppages of play, but when there's actually basketball going on, I will disapprove of your actions.

The dance groups at halftime actually weren't bad. I've seen worse, and they were mostly wearing decent clothes, which is a refreshing change.

Wooooo boy does it feel good when the universe finally gives you back one of the ones it owes you! I mean, I want to know if Shavonte called glass, but it doesn't actually matter. Isn't it amazing how one moment can make the whole day worthwhile? I have no idea how we pulled it off. I really thought we lost it in the fourth quarter when the Sun started pulling away, but this team is going to kill me one of these days. I know it.

I'm currently working on these notes from the hotel lobby. We'll see how long that lasts. Trying to catch up the husband's hat with mine, but so far I've only seen Spoon and maybe Kia Nurse. And maybe-Kia was in cell phone land. We all know how that is. Those millennials and their newfangled devices. (I was born in 1984. #thatsthejoke)

Looks like the team is leaving town with no delay. Everyone's got suitcases. Making sure they don't overturn that shot?

Lexie Brown played so little for Connecticut that I only noticed she was in the game when she was running off the floor. While I think the Sun's acquisition of Layshia Clarendon will be good for her in the long run, I imagine it's going to set back her playing time in the short run. Clarendon made a big impact early, hitting her first shot for the Sun to beat the buzzer. She's more of a driver than Bentley was, and passes well out of that driving lane. I think she's going to fit in well with the Sun. Courtney Williams is just instant offense, you don't even need to add water. She's so quick and gets in the way of so much on the other end of the floor. She was one of the cornerstones of the smaller lineup that almost won Connecticut the game.

It always seems like Shekinna Stricklen should be more of a presence on the floor than she is. When she gets hot from outside, that's one thing, but she creates such mismatches on defense that it seems like she could be a monster there if she just applied herself. But she's content with being an outsized outside shooter. I don't get it. Brionna Jones got physical down low. She's pretty good at that. Morgan Tuck cannot defend Tina Charles. There are a lot of players you can say that about, to be fair, but Tuck got wrecked when she was on Tina. I might have felt bad for her, but this was not a Sun day for me. Betnijah Laney brought a lot of energy to the floor for Connecticut, and I'm pretty sure that's her role. But it wasn't focused energy, and while it was good to wake the team up, she didn't provide concrete results for them.

I really want to know if something's up with Jonquel Jones, either physically or mentally. She barely played in the second half. I don't know if she got hurt, or if Miller just really wanted to go small. When she did play, she was good but not great. There were moments when she used her height and length well defensively to block shots and deflect passes, but she did an awful lot of drifting around outside on offense. Your smaller lineup should probably not be your more physical lineup. Alyssa Thomas looks like she's still getting over the shoulder injury and still getting back in proper condition. The people behind me thought she was looking tired by the end of the game, and her free throw technique is slightly more questionable than it was before the shoulder injury. But man, when she drives and she's on, she has that same fluidity that Holdsclaw once had, that Matrix effect that makes you think she has either too many joints or not enough bones. Bend and twist and score. Chiney Ogwumike was banging down low, and she seemed to have better luck on Tina than she did on Kia Vaughn. Tina she could push a little; Kia she sort of just... bounced off. Not in the Braxton/Stinson sense, but in the "I have found an immovable object" sense. She turned up big in the fourth.

For all the attention that the ridiculous vertical of Courtney Williams gets, Jasmine Thomas can get up there too. She had an impressive tip-in off an offensive rebound. (I think. It might have been credited to Jonquel Jones. They were both in on the play.) She damn near pulverized Brittany Boyd's ankles on a crossover. When she's on the floor, you can see why she's the mastermind of the heist. I'm not sure how I feel about Rachel Banham as a starter. She's improved on defense- witness the Bria Hartley shot she rode into submission like she was trying out for PBR. (Wait. Serious question, though. Are there female bull riders?) But it's still not strong yet, and if she's not hitting, as she wasn't for much of the game, she's not much use to them. They're better with Williams on the floor- but I agree with Miller's decision to bring her off the bench. Williams as a reserve is a second wind, a fresh jolt of energy. If Clarendon can take that role, that changes the equation.

It's strange to say that a smaller lineup is a more physical lineup, but with Jones floating around outside, and with the rebounding ability of Williams and Jasmine Thomas, they were getting tougher inside play with the three-guard set and Alyssa Thomas as the four to Ogwumike's five.

Rebecca Allen was in for literally one possession, and it was as a decoy on the last possession. She didn't screw it up. *shrug emoji* I mean, there's not much else I can say there. Kia Nurse, for the first time that I can remember seeing, looked somewhat like she was in over her head. The dead ball foul she committed against Stricklen- which set up a three-point possession for the Sun- was an uncharacteristically boneheaded play from her. On days like this, I can see why she's getting fewer minutes. She'll learn. Brittany Boyd plays at full speed all the time. It can be good when she's firing the team up and getting the offense flowing. It can be a bit problematic when she's constantly throwing her body in front of offensive players and getting called for the foul, or when she persists in throwing up the worst-looking shots in the lane when she has an opportunity. I do like that she's making the three-pointer more of a weapon, even if I think she has to speed up her release a little bit. She's taking a long time to wind up. Sugar Rodgers got most of her run in early, but she was a little passive for my liking.

Amanda. Amanda Zahui B. Bless your heart sometimes, Amanda. I love the effort she brings, but sometimes I'm going to need her to stop shooting. Just because Tina is taking forced, contested shots and being the first option on offense doesn't necessarily mean you have to fill the exact same role when you're on the floor for her. I can appreciate her ability to spread the floor, but the three-pointer only becomes an unexpected weapon when it's not half your shot attempts. Loved seeing her block Ogwumike, and she had a beautiful feed to Shavonte Zellous wide open down low. Kiah Stokes did have one emphatic block on Courtney Williams (do not run headlong into brick walls, Courtney) but seemed... I don't even know what the proper word is here. Passive seems a little strong.

This was the Epiphanny Prince we've needed to see on the floor all year. She hit big shots in the clutch and was consistent on offense most of the second half. But what stood out to me even more was her defense- she was all over the ball, poking it out and disrupting the Sun's offense time and time again. Something in her looked like it finally woke up, and I hope it never goes back to sleep. Bria Hartley was a trainwreck for most of the game, committing stupid, needless fouls- but credit where credit is due, it took a lot of guts to slide in and take that charge from Alyssa Thomas with five fouls. One wrong move and she would have been out of the game (and honestly, I wasn't so sure it was an offensive foul). That's the kind of move that makes up for all the other stuff.

I give Kia Vaughn a lot of grief, and most of the time she deserves it. But this was not that day. She stepped up bigtime. She spurred much of the fourth quarter run with open shots, and her defense on Ogwumike was solid. Yes, I'm looking at this stat line for Ogwumike and still praising Kia's defense, because Chiney Ogwumike is just that good. This was the game we needed her to have as the muscle inside to complement Tina Charles. Tina had her usual game, though she was missing more inside than I would want to see from her. I think she's tired. She's had to carry too much of the load for too long, and it's starting to show. Shavonte Zellous was, of course, the hero of the day, with the three off the window to win the game at the buzzer. She brought a lot of urgency to the floor. Her defense was great, and she was all over the floor.

This was exactly the kind of game we needed to have at the end. It started out as so much of the usual frustrating dreck we've been putting out, with contested shots leading straight to defensive rebounds for the other team. But we hit the shots we've been missing. We made the stops we haven't been making. The big plays were there. And in the end, there was triumph. We didn't give up, which is a lovely change from much of the last couple of weeks.

The officiating was the usual blend of uncertainty and confusion, and Maj Forsberg should probably not be the person who throws up the ball for a jump ball. I don't think I agreed with a single block/charge call all day, and that's including the ones that went in the Liberty's favor.

For a camp day, there were an awful lot of swathes of empty seats. The campers came late and left early, and except for one group in the upper deck, they weren't very loud. I don't think a lot of places wanted to send their kiddos to the casino, for some reason.

I miss the days when the Sun would humiliate their interns instead of their younger players. No one should have to eat jelly beans that are designed to taste like boogers or spoiled milk. The reactions were so over the top that the green screen effect actually failed a couple of times. Betnijah Laney did a good job of rolling with the horror, though, joking about how she was going to start sharing with the dog because the flavor of the jelly bean wasn't half bad. (Also, why are these a thing?)

All things considered, the road trip was worth it. But I don't think this is something I'm going to be doing frequently. Not a morning person. So not a morning person.


Monday, July 9, 2018

July 8th, 2018: Dallas at New York

If they're not going to care, why should I?

I have not had enough vodka for being a Liberty fan these days. It's halftime, so your pregame notes are going to be limited. But this experience is starting to stop being fun. I'm starting to think, "You know what? No, I don't want to go to the game. No, I don't care. I don't want to be here." Well fucking done, Jim Dolan.

Yes, I just dropped an F-bomb in here. I'm tired. I'm tired of playing nice and trying to keep things kid-friendly. Fandom has turned into obligation.

Anyway, we're playing the Wings, and we're down 47-37 at the half, and we started the day off with the bus getting side-swiped and thus losing twenty minutes or so right off the top, and the woman behind me is cheering obnoxiously for the Wings, and I am just so tired. I don't want to be here. This is getting dangerously close to being the end of these notes. Dallas can sit on it and collectively spin. New York can't find their collective ass with both hands and a road map, and I'm tired, and I don't want to be here.

So I'm going to try to write game notes, because it's a 50-minute drive back to the Garden from this dump, and I have nothing better to do. The natives are definitely restless, although people are divided as to whether the problem is our lack of defense, our inability to shoot, our coaching, or a lack of talent around Tina Charles. This is a bus full of unhappy people.

I know I'm supposed to have at least a halfhearted interest in the Wings because of the St. John's connection through Azurá and Da'Shena Stevens, but nope. Nope, nope, nope, that is not happening. I do not like Dallas, I do not like their style, I do not like their players, I do not like their hideous lime green, I do not like them at all. They're nasty, and they're physical, and they have an attitude problem.

This bus appears to have two air conditioning settings, off and "welcome to the Siberian tundra". I would like a little air circulation, thank you very much. It made it so hard to think that I couldn't work on GNoD, which made dragging the computer up to White Plains pretty pointless. I've managed to calm down a little bit from being so angry I can't see straight, and so hungry I was getting a headache. But I'm still tired.

You know what? No. I don't feel like trying to write a detailed write-up of everyone who played, and what they did, or didn't do. I don't. Not happening. So here's the summary instead. Dallas is extremely physical and extremely obnoxious about it. Liz Cambage is an impressive amount of woman, but I think I'd like her better if she didn't flop, if she didn't celebrate random baskets like she'd finally won a gold medal, and if she didn't hit people in the head. Skylar Diggins-Smith is a phenomenal talent and she shouldn't have had to start the second half picking up random bits of trash off the floor. I mean, really. Should we hope the dump disintegrates before the team has to play another game there?

As for the Liberty, pretty much every possession consisted of randomly passing the ball around the perimeter until someone panicked enough to force up a dubious shot that Dallas would then rebound. Too many possessions were forced in to Tina Charles, who ended up being double- and triple-teamed, because why not? The most spark came off the bench, from Amanda Zahui B, Brittany Boyd, and to a lesser extent Kia Nurse. I have no idea why Katie has exiled Kiah Stokes and Kia Nurse. I have been done with Kia Vaughn for most of this second time around, and today did nothing to counteract that impression. Bria Hartley is streaky, and today she was terrible. Shavonte Zellous has got to learn to keep her head, though if she hasn't in nine years, she's not going to now. And it's a bad sign when someone's so heated that Z's the one keeping them from going off.

I just. I can't. I'm out of words. I can't. Tina's trying to do everything, and that's not a good plan. But no one else on the floor seems to be able to contribute consistently, and the players who are contributing don't seem to be getting playing time. I don't get it. I don't get Katie's rotations, I don't get her play-calling, I don't get anything.

I also don't get officiating in this league, but that's neither here nor there, except that it shouldn’t take a review to get a foul called on a shot to the throat. Amanda became quite the folk hero in the crowd after taking that shot from Cambage.

I'm tired. I'm tired of this team. I love them, but I can't do this. And yet I'm getting up at the crack of dawn on Wednesday to go up to Connecticut for them.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10th, 2018: Indiana at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Marissa Coleman's three with sixteen seconds left turned out to be the game-winner in a close 78-75 Liberty win over the Indiana Fever. Sugar Rodgers led five Liberty players in double figures with 16 points off the bench. Kelsey Mitchell had 19 points to lead Indiana.

For putting on the cape, missed shots, bringing the noise, hitting people in the face, gratuitous hockey references (hit somebody!), riding with the usual suspects, and the permanency of impending doom, join your intrepid and ever so slightly fearful blogger after the jump.

It's back in the saddle again for your intrepid blogger, as the New York Liberty take on the Indiana Fever in the wilds of Westchester.

Communication skills. My franchise needs them. Don't promote that the gates open at 1 if you mean "the gates open at 1 only if you're going to the panel we didn't actually tell anyone about until the last minute" and the gates actually open at the standard 2.

This time we went up on the season subscriber bus, which was half full (and yet apparently someone had been told there was no room on the bus for her, all right then). It got a little bit awkward. Pro tip to the MSG flack: trying to drum up excitement about Isiah Thomas or White Plains on a bus full of inconvenienced Liberty fans will extremely not go over well. If we were fans of either of these concepts we'd probably not be on this bus. It might be a good idea for someone to prep trivia questions and discussion topics for Kym Hampton if she's going to host every ride, too. She didn't seem to have enough material to last the entire way.

The 2018 Liberty Pride shirt has a nifty design, but not the highest-quality material. Still, we bought it, because that's what we do. We're allies, and I'm technically gay spawn. As one might expect, there are lots of rainbows about here on Pride Day.

I'm starting to get annoyed at the dicey wi-fi quality here. Y'all, can this place have maybe one redeeming quality? Just one? If we have to live here this season? Can the wi-fi not be impossible to connect to, on top of the lighting being dim, the security lines being insufficient in quantity and slow in speed, the sight lines being obscured, the pitch of the seats being dangerously low, the food options significantly reduced, the available soda being Pepsi, and the travel time an absolute nightmare? Please? Pretty please?

(Honestly. Coming to this place the day after going to the multi-time Arena of the Year at Mohegan Sun is positively depressing. I've compared WCC to Walsh Gymnasium, but Walsh is a) set up for basketball, b) has much nicer bathrooms.)

Pretty solid choral anthem.

At halftime, we're up 38-36. Given that Tina is something like 2-for-googol from the field, I'll take it. The refs are letting a lot of contact go. But the three rapid miscues with the clock in the final minute of the second quarter are on whoever's operating the clock today, and the refs actually did a pretty good job of handling both the inability to start the clock and the inability to stop it. The reviews were quick.

I think there are at least two people in this building who would rather be at the Puerto Rican Day parade on Fifth Avenue.

The sad part is that we're getting good, at least somewhat organic, crowd noise. But we can't throw it in the ocean.

Katie May, whoever told you horizontal stripes and capri pants looked good on you lied to you and does not love you. I don't mean to get all Victorian on you, but cover your ankles.

You know, just once I'd like to have a no-doubt win. I'd like to not be in a dogfight. I didn't realize I was asking too much, but apparently I am. The only saving grace, I suppose, is that we played one of our worst games of the year and still managed to eke out a win. But I don't know how much more of this my heart can take.

Hind Ben Abdelkader came in briefly in the second quarter, and the PA guy stumbled so badly over her name that I thought he was just going to give up. She wasn't out there long. Kayla Alexander also got her only run in the first half. She was physical on the boards.

I was surprised to see Jazmon Gwathmey getting so much time, but she provides an outside option that Alexander really doesn't give Indiana. She hustled hard on the offensive glass and hit contested shots. I think she and I have different opinions as to how far her range extends, however. Victoria Vivians brought extra offensive punch and size off the bench for the Fever; she came up big in the fourth quarter, including a nice steal off a telegraphed pass, and the game-tying three that gave me flashbacks to the Stricklen shot. She's still raw in places, in terms of floor spacing, but she's going to be big for them. Stephanie Mavunga hit hard down low. I don't know how many rookies can say they have a block against Tina Charles to their credit, but she had a monster one. She's really tough. I don't know if Indiana has the right personnel to mentor her, though. Dupree's a different kind of player, and Achonwa can really only teach her the dirty stuff. I wonder if they could get Larkins in as a tutor.

No, in point of fact, I am not the world's biggest Natalie Achonwa fan. I can respect her midrange jumper, but I don't think she's ever set a legal screen in her life, and she certainly wasn't about to start today. She's mastered the veteran tricks at a precocious age. Driving directly into her was not the smartest thing Bria Hartley has ever done in her life, and Achonwa made that clear with a resounding block. Erica McCall fought like hell on the offensive glass and did big work on Tina Charles defensively. I don't know if she's starter material, but she's the kind of player you want to have on your team. She does work. I didn't know she could shoot threes like that, either.

I don't know if it's been brought to y'all's attention yet, but Kelsey Mitchell gets buckets. It's who she is. It's what she does. She killed us both from outside and on wild floaters in the lane (though if she gets a crew that actually calls travels, those drives are going to turn into turnovers). You can't leave her open. You just can't. And Indiana has the kind of ball movement that can get a player open in a hurry if the defense doesn't know how to switch properly. Tiffany Mitchell's a little bit tougher than Kelsey, a little bit better of a defender, and a little more willing to take contact. Too many Mitchells. Cannot cope. Erica Wheeler kept getting overlooked by the defense and sneaking to the free throw line for buckets. She's little and she's quick, and I'm surprised she never ended up matched up against Brittany Boyd.

Indiana's work on the offensive glass is amazing. They swarm the ball so well. When they're really cooking, their ball movement creates good looks for their plethora of shooters. They get caught on defensive mismatches, though. I'm pretty sure Tiffany Mitchell gave her teammates a piece of her mind for leaving her on Tina Charles.

Well. I think Sugar Rodgers is feeling better. Her lateral movement still leaves something to be desired, and her shots in the lane were coming up short, for which she tried to overcompensate by putting extra spin, but she was spot on as a spot-up shooter. So glad to see her offense back on track. Brittany Boyd knows how to turn the speed of the game up a couple of notches whenever she comes in- the ball moves faster and everything gets a little more intense. She's got to be more careful with her fouls, but at the same time, if you corral her intensity too much you take away much of her effectiveness.

Having Boyd and Sugar back allowed Katie to play Kia Nurse more at the three. I wasn't sure how thrilled I was with the concept of a three-guard lineup with that trio, but it seemed to work. Kia showed a lot of good ball thought on the floor. She's got a way better sense of the game and the floor than the average rookie. I'm so glad we have her. Amanda Zahui B spent enough time mixing it up with Achonwa I was expecting them to drop the gloves. (You get a Swede and a Canadian pushing each other around on the floor, you'd better believe I'm going to make hockey jokes.) She played a lot of minutes in the second half as Katie tried to give Tina as much rest as possible, and while she had a couple of strong plays down low, she was full of mistakes as well. It wasn't her best game, but I'll take it.

Tina Charles forced too many shots against too much defense. She played like it was a couple of years ago and she was getting no help, instead of in a scheme where things aren't supposed to revolve around her. That was part of what allowed Indiana back into the game in the fourth quarter- they were getting good ball movement and finding the open player, and we were force-feeding Tina. I don't know if that was the call from the bench, or the squad panicking, but we can't keep trying to make Tina happen on days when she's not happening. She's carried this team enough. Maybe everyone else can remember how to step up. That being said, I am desperately in love with her hook shot and it makes me happy in ways inappropriate to articulate here. And the previous point about leaning too heavily on Tina not withstanding, Marissa Coleman came up clutch to win the game for us with a three. She was quiet most of the day, but stepped up when we needed her. I like being able to shift her back to the three- I don't think we're at our best if she's at the four and Tina has to get battered around at center. Kia Vaughn alternated between making incredibly stupid plays on both sides of the court and making clutch physical plays down low. I'm starting to think her middle name should just be "Bless Her Heart". I did love the whooping she put on an Indiana fast break.

One of these days, Shavonte Zellous is going to get herself thrown out of a game for excessive yapping at the ref, or at whoever happens to be nearby, and it's going to be glorious. She got going at the free throw line early- for a good chunk of the first quarter, she was all of the offense we could muster. She didn't have a great game after that, but we didn't need her to. Bria Hartley made enough mistakes defensively that the concept of the stop-being-stupid beam was brought up. But then she put on her cape in the fourth quarter to pour in big shots and make a big block on the Kelsey Mitchell shot that could have tied the game. She stepped up when we needed her, and I'll take that. I'll take all of that.

That push in the fourth quarter helped save the game for us, but I don't think we would have needed to make it if we'd been able to stop the previous Indiana run. Sharing the cape is a good thing. (Especially if it's the nifty rainbow cape Maddie was sporting along with the Pride t-shirt.)

I appreciated the officials being clear in the calls that they did make. Fahy is good at communicating on floor to indicate what just happened, or at least his opinion thereof. There was a lot of contact on both sides that went un-called. Tiffany Mitchell is probably tired of being hit in the face. Being hit in the face is not fun. Do not try this at home.

Some salesman from a promotional product company was handing out generic samples in the rows behind us. He was not authorized to do so by the team. The extra noise was appreciated, but the freelancing is not cool.

This team is frustrating. But I love them. But I think Westchester is going to be the death of this franchise. Pride's usually one of the biggest draws of the year, and we couldn't even sell the place out. I can't really blame people, either. The travel is killer, even on weekends. Metro-North runs once an hour and costs $12-$20 round trip depending on age. Bee-Line buses are inconsistent and the ride takes eighty-leven kinds of forever, and best case scenario you make it down to Fordham. Tolls? If you have to cross a bridge, that's about $15 out of your pocket. And all of this, to get to a place that's not even worthy of college basketball, much less paid professionals. The natives are indubitably restless. So far, every time I've gone to WCC, I've heard at least one person say they're not coming back. Adds up over time. It really feels like Dolan has looked at the examples of franchises that have folded and teams that have moved, taken notes, and started to apply those lessons to the team he so clearly disdains.

Downer note to end these GNoD on, I suppose, but even when we win I can't shake this feeling of impending doom...


June 9th, 2018: Minnesota at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Sun finished strong in their 89-75 win over the Minnesota Lynx. Courtney Williams had 22 points to lead five Sun players in double figures. Sylvia Fowles had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead Minnesota.

For an abundance of passion, tipping the ball, timing the bus, making new friends, things that are extremely orange, spa dress and dribble, and the youth movement, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, fellow basketball-likers! We're coming to you from the heart of Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Sun are ready to take on the Minnesota Lynx.

Sure, now Shekinna Stricklen is out here missing corner threes. Yes, I'm still irked about that. Do you know how hard it is to get a dagger out of your aorta?

Jonquel Jones needs to find a better place to hide her phone pregame.

Alex Bentley is shooting around without headphones today. I don't know what it means either.

This year's WNBA Pride shirts look pretty boss.

I salute you, lady who tie-dyed the white giveaway t-shirt. You've got style. And then she raised the fist of defiance during the "Take a Seat, Take a Stand" commercial, so I think I know who I want to be when I grow up.

At halftime, Connecticut is up 44-38. As we all expected, Sylvia Fowles and Alexis Jones are tied for the Lynx lead in scoring. Courtney Williams has a game-high 16 for the Sun.

Play of the game: Jasmine Thomas turns an errant long pass into a touch pass to Williams, who misses the floater in the lane- but there's Chiney Ogwumike for the tip up and in.

We now know the PA guy is Italian. He can pronounce Zandalasini and get the hard C in Cecelia, but somehow managed to turn Tanisha into something more like Da'Shena.

I have no idea what's up with Rachel Banham's sneakers. But Augustus and Brunson look like they found the remains of that preschool cartoon Dolson butchered for her shirt, and fashioned shoes from it.

The good gentleman at WNBAAlien is fond of pointing out that Father Time is undefeated, and the Lynx are proving him right this year. This Minnesota team looks old, and slow, and caught up in their own past, trying to reach a glory that they can't quite manage anymore. Against a Sun team with so many players coming into their prime, they looked like they thought they themselves were younger.

Endy Miyem has potential, don't get me wrong. But Minnesota is not a place where that potential is likely to blossom unless a whole lot of people in front of her get out of the way. She's got good size and length, but I don't know if she knows how to use them yet. I was surprised at just how much run she got, especially in the second half. Conversely, I was surprised at how little play Lynetta Kizer got. I understand trying to develop the younger players, and you might as well make it worth Miyem and Zandalasini's while to show up, but I think Kizer might have given them more offense off the bench when they needed it. I do think Cecelia Zandalasini has a place in this league. She did a good job of drawing contact and converting the free throws, and hit a pretty three when left open.

I still love Danielle Robinson's team-colored hair (it's even more of a Lynx blue up close- we passed her in the casino on our way to the bus) and hope this is a tradition she maintains her entire career. Connecticut played her well to concede the jumper. But it's clear that the Minnesota offense runs way faster when she's in the game. If this team were anywhere but Minnesota, she'd probably be starting by now. But Cheryl Reeve would be run out of town on a rail if she dared to bench Whalen. Tanisha Wright brought physical play on both sides of the floor. She drove hard and defended harder. Alexis Jones got a lot of minutes in this one and looked good early with midrange jumpers and free throws. She and Wright both give Minnesota incredible flexibility in the backcourt. I mean, we'll see if she's allowed to develop.

Seimone Augustus looked like she was trying to make the moves she could pull off in her LSU days, but her body was like “C'mon, Mone, we're thirty-odd years old with knee and abdominal surgeries, AIN'T HAPPENING.” She was consistently a step slow on defense and short on her shots. There's still beauty in her game, but the results weren't there. And she was better off than Lindsay Whalen, who looks like she's playing out the string. To borrow an old turn of phrase, she was never that fast, but she was never this slow. She looks washed up. Spectacularly so. Her drives were weak and her outside shots were short. She was reduced to a shell of herself, trying to maintain the illusion of the Lynx's swagger.

Rebekkah Brunson stepped outside, hit a three, looked springy, and then pretty much disappeared. She didn't look great, but she didn't look terrible, either. I'm not sure what Reeve was doing with her. Maya Moore remains a force of nature and a skilled assassin. If she gets an inch of space, she's going up with the ball. She's a joy to watch for any basketball fan. There's a little bit of the Tamikaze to her game, the same reckless drive that Catchings had, the determination that nothing and no one will stand in her way. She made some great defensive plays, deflecting the ball with hands quick as a magician's to break up plays. Sylvia Fowles was big on the inside, taking off in the second quarter to power the Lynx's comeback. She was bothered constantly by the Connecticut defense, but still got good looks close to the basket. And you can't say she didn't get her rebounds, but she had to fight for them as well. Jonquel Jones and her phenomenal knack for flicking the ball away did a number on her.

I don't understand Reeve's personnel moves in the last few minutes. Why barely play Robinson? Why ride Wright when she's in foul trouble? Who did Kizer tick off? It was like she was trying to concede but not look like she was conceding. Perhaps the appearance of power matters as much to the Lynx as the power they once had did.

Line change near the end of the game gave Betnijah Laney and Lexie Brown their minutes. (Brown's entry was delayed by a jump ball.) Laney got blocked hard by Miyem. Brionna Jones brought good physicality down low and did her level best to challenge Fowles. I mean, it was doomed to failure, but she's a brave little turtle nonetheless. Morgan Tuck got off to a rough start with a dumb foul and a fumbled pass/rebound thing (though that was as much on Ogwumike as on her) but she settled down on her second go-round.

Rachel Banham didn't come in until the second half, and brought a lot of energy on defense. The folks around us were fired up for her to hit a three, but I'll be happy with her continuing the hustle on defense. (And working on her dribbling to try and be a point guard- she was doing some fancy moves in warm-ups.) I'm uncomfortable with the amount of pop she gets from the crowd relative to her impact as a player, but she's growing on me. Shekinna Stricklen got hot from deep right before Minnesota got into foul trouble- she turned the game around for Connecticut in the third quarter when Minnesota was starting to get ideas. It's nice to be able to root for that to happen to someone. I'd like to see her use her build a little bit more, but if she's hot from outside I'm not going to argue. Alex Bentley passed the ball more than I'm used to- she had a beautiful feed to Ogwumike down low. Her shots seemed to be coming in the flow of the offense, for the most part, though I'm not sure about going to her straight off the bench on a possession.

Courtney Williams started the game red hot for the Sun, hitting on pretty much everything she looked at. She cooled down somewhat after her first rest, and after the Lynx were able to adjust their defense to her. I love watching her work- her speed, her ups, her energy, just make her a joy on the floor. If she were more durable and better able to take contact, her game would be even more terrifying. Jasmine Thomas was steady, taking a lot of hits and getting right back up again (usually without getting the call). She's so critical to this team's success. There are stars all around her, but she's the engine. I keep circling back to the first Mercury title teams and the role that Kelly Miller played for them. I think there's a really good parallel there. Phoenix wasn't winning without Miller; Connecticut's not going all the way without Jas.

Alyssa Thomas still looks like she's trying to figure out which shot she should be taking with which hand. In that regard, she might consider the age-old mantra of "don't think too much, you'll hurt the ball club". She was utterly relentless in chasing down loose balls on the glass. She and Jasmine Thomas make a good defensive pairing in the trap. I'm not a fan of Jonquel Jones as a three-point shooter, even if it did sort of work. I'd much rather see her in the paint, either going to the basket or using those long arms and deft fingers to lay claim to loose balls. I could wax lyrical about the way she tips and tips and tips the ball until it's either hers or her teammate's. I'm also not sure how she works in this lineup, because that pushes AT more towards the perimeter, which is not exactly her strength. I think there might be a little more lineup juggling for Connecticut to do. Chiney Ogwumike is a rock, albeit a somewhat undersized one, down low. She did big work today, matched up with the very tall task that is Sylvia Fowles. She's back in her groove and I'm loving it.

When Connecticut's off to the races, I don't know if anyone can beat them. The transition game is so strong. And the rebounding is so tough, which leads to outlets, which see the previous sentence. Honestly, I think the Sun's biggest problem might be getting out of their own way. Too many stupid fouls, and that's not even getting into the dubious officiating. Too much letting the emotion overwhelm them (see: two technicals and the flagrant). Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy.

Sometimes the officials can too. They let them play like crazy for the first five minutes or so, and then the whistles came out like these three bros thought we were here to watch them. I don't think the calls were as universally terrible as the home fans did. For one thing, while I thought the play that earned Alyssa Thomas her flagrant should have been a double common foul, I do at least thing there should have been something on AT, unlike the folks around us. Yes, sometimes Connecticut players commit fouls. It happens. But these refs were pretty bad. Credit to Barnett for the quick call on the review of the Moore/Thomas entanglement, even if they screwed up on review.

I like the concept of the drumline, but it needs a little work- more flair, more panache, instead of just percussive backup to the dance teams.

Good crowd noise today. Sun fans don't get as loud as I'd like usually, but today they brought it even without prompting. Now all we need is to get people organized and we might have something there.

During one of the timeouts, they ran a feature asking Sun players, "What is Blaze?" Answers ranged from general WTFery (Banham, Thomas) to "one of those things from Sesame Street" (Jones) to "something that lives on the surface of the sun" (Ogwumike). My answer is simple: Blaze is orange. Very, very orange.

We were sitting in front of a pretty cool dude. I think at the end, he mentioned to someone that he was Jasmine Thomas's brother (which explained why she was pitching the post-game squishy basketballs at our section).

This Sun team is pretty fun to watch. This just might be their year, if they can stop fouling.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

June 5th, 2018: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty were strong on the boards, but the Mercury were more accurate in their 80-74 win at Madison Square Garden. Brittney Griner had a game-high 26 points to lead the Mercury, with Diana Taurasi adding 21 to go over 8000 for her career. Tina Charles had 25 points and eight rebounds for New York.

For terrible non-calls, sketchy attendance numbers, the Halloween color scheme, stacks of PBJs, milestones, the missing links, and an inability to cope with Kia(h)s, join your intrepid blogger, who is not a f'ing morning person, after the jump.

It's game day at the Garden, a phrase that fills me with joy and relief. I can deal with a few thousand kids if that means I can actually watch my team play in a place that was meant to hold basketball.

Katie Smith seems to have made a small new friend, a little girl in a Final Four shirt traveling with her dad.

Brittany Boyd and Sugar Rodgers are both shooting around, but not in the uniform that we're wearing today. That worries me a little bit and makes me wonder if their statuses were upgraded just so the league wouldn't start asking pesky questions. Tina Charles is shooting in non-standard shorts, but Tina has her own opinion on pre-game fashion and this may just be a deke. (Phoenix in orange and Liberty in black. Happy Halloween, folks!)

I'm pretty sure that's Bethany Donaphin hugging and chatting with Spoon, but I'm not quite sure why Briann January is so friendly with our staff. I feel like I'm missing a couple of degrees of separation here. (She's also chatting up kidlet and kidlet's dad.

This may not be news to you, but Brittney Griner is really tall in real life. This may also not be news to you, but Leilani Mitchell is very short in real life, and not all the upswept hair in the world can change that.

Looks like no upper bowl seats have been sold. We're at half an hour before game time, and groups are few and far between so far.

Swin Cash looks nice today. Working the all black everything look, and the kerchief/kerchief-looking hat suits her.

It is 10:30. Bro, it is too damn early for beer. Then again, it was too early for beer with that one dude on the platform at Fulton Street.

We can't even sell out the lower deck for a School Day game. This is some kind of nonsense and I am so tired of it all.

Schoolkid choir for the anthem. It is what it is.

It's 43-35 Phoenix at halftime, after the Liberty burst out to a 27-21 first quarter lead. As the game wore on, Phoenix remembered that they have very tall players, and most possessions turned into alley-oop passes right to the basket. If you blinked after a Liberty basket, you probably missed the ensuing Mercury basket. Brittney Griner has racked up 17 points to lead Phoenix. Bria Hartley has 12 to lead the Liberty, but we're also getting buckets from Tina Charles and Amanda Zahui B.

Garden security has really ramped up the obnoxiousness this year. I don't know if they're not morning people or if they don't like dealing with groups or what, but we kept getting shifted around like they were looking for ways to entertain themselves.

There was a scruffy-looking dude chatting up security, and either that was Dolan or I've mistaken a perfectly innocent gentleman for a giant egotistical jerk.

I'm about 40% certain Taurasi got her tech for flirting with Forsberg. You're married, Diana.

So glad to see Brittany Boyd and Sugar Rodgers back on the floor, even if they're not quite right yet. And I don't think we'll see Boyd again in the second half. She looked pretty tight when she came out, and she let out a word that I don't repeat when there are children around. (The Storm fans' favorite euphemism applies here: starts with "f", ends with "uck", and isn't "firetruck".) But Kiah Stokes is back in the boot, and Epiphanny Prince is still out.

I love this team, but they might be one of the most frustrating Liberty teams I've seen in a long time. Everything's there until it's not. I don't know how much of that is us being short-handed and how much is dealing with Katie Smith's rookie mistakes as a coach. Games like these magnify the effect of one, or two, or five, bad calls. We need to have the whole gang together to know what we can really do, and maybe that's not even going to happen this season.

Brondello went more to her bench in the first half than in the second half- I don't think any of her young players even saw time in the second half. Marie Gülich looks blonder than I remembered from Oregon State, but I suppose enough time in the Valley of the Sun might put highlights in anyone's hair. She also seems shorter, but a) scale, and b) everyone looks shorter when Brittney Griner is in the room. Camille Little doesn't move all that great anymore, but she knows how to be in the way of the defense. Stephanie Talbot had a nifty defensive play in the first quarter to defuse a Liberty fast break.

Leilani Mitchell hits threes. She's very good at that. It seemed like the Mercury offense was moving faster when she was in- that looked like when the alley-oops were really starting to flow. Yvonne Turner mostly seemed to be in as a shooter. Phoenix didn't quite know what to do with her.

Brittney Griner is just automatic at the rim. If you let her get that close, you've already lost. And if she's not already that close, she's going to do her level best to get that close, and if that includes hitting you in the face, oh well, too bad so sad. (Yes, I am still sore. Probably not as sore as Amanda, though. Wasn't my face.) She had a couple of authoritative swats, one on Amanda Zahui B and one on Kia Vaughn. I think, in a perverse kind of way, she might be too tall to rebound. She doesn't have the right angles. But she's automatic on offense and deadly on defense, and I think Phoenix can live with that. Sancho Lyttle's outside game didn't make the trip in this one, and our defense played like we knew it. We were often hands down on her when she got outside the paint. But she made some vintage defensive plays, seizing steals and blocking a Marissa Coleman shot.

DeWanna Bonner was money from the corner, and running the break. She creates such mismatches with her height and shooting ability. I think she might actually have kept on some of the baby weight, and it's good for her. Doesn't keep her from falling down whenever she thinks there's a slight breeze, but does keep her upright when she's not attempting to flop. Briann January is, methinks, there for her defense, and maybe to keep opposing defenses off Taurasi by bringing the ball up. I'm having trouble believing the minute count in the box score, she was such a non-entity on the floor. Diana Taurasi did Diana Taurasi things: she drove the lane hard and got contact, she hit her free throws (more attempts than my entire damn team, but I'm not bitter at all), she hit threes both contested and uncontested. Her defense was lackluster at times, and I don't know if she still has all of her astonishing range, but she's still damn good.

When Phoenix remembers that they're usually taller than the other team, they have a good shot at winning. They're tall, and they can use that height well in transition. But they were slacking on the boards today, and we feasted.

I don't think Sugar Rodgers was completely ready to come back yet, no matter how much we needed to bolster the backcourt. She had limited mobility, and looked very slow on the floor. It didn't look like she was able to cut and move laterally very much, which reduced her to being a slow spot-up shooter. I don't know why she was in the game down the stretch when she was so clearly limited. Brittany Boyd started off looking good, out there with all her emotion and all her aggression, like a wrecking ball. But she slowed up quickly and left the game abruptly (and swearing, as described above), so I think she re-aggravated the leg and may not be ready for Connecticut (and why risk her against Indiana?) I swear, any point guard who spends more than two years around the Liberty starts developing some of Spoon's body language. It's creepy. Kia Nurse looked like she was getting her first taste of the big time. She was wearing down by the end of her run. Her defense was top notch, but her shots were falling short. I'm still surprised we didn't see more of her at the end of the game.

This was one of the best games I've seen out of Amanda Zahui B in a Liberty uniform. Judging from the second half start she got over Kia Vaughn, Coach would seem to agree. She was going hard on the glass and sacrificing her body on defense. I'm still not enthused about her as a three-point shooter, but it's nice to have her as a bailout option when the shot clock is running down. Rebecca Allen brought energy but not much else positive. She's a little bit of a disaster on the floor sometimes, bless her heart.

And in both genuine and idiomatic uses of the term, bless your heart, Kia Vaughn. She had to start because of the re-injury to Kiah Stokes, and, um. It did not go well. What's the opposite of a thing going well? That was Kia Vaughn today. She couldn't hang on to passes. She made terrible decisions with the ball. She was mediocre on defense. She missed gimme shots on gorgeous passes. She's an adorable human, but I think I would like to cancel this reboot of the Kia Vaughn Experience now. Tina Charles took the team on her back, which is normally our fatal flaw, but so much of it came organically from rebounds and broken plays that I can't be too mad. She's just that good. But she wore down near the end, because c'mon, how much can one woman take? She's getting tripled at one end and doubling down on defense at the other. There's only so much she can do.

I don't like lineups that have Marissa Coleman at the four. She's tall, but she's not built for that kind of banging, you should pardon my language. She's better on the perimeter, where she can launch shots and swoop in for offensive rebounds like she did today (two on one possession!) instead of getting beat up on the inside. This wasn't a good match-up for her, especially with the positional shuffling she had to do. Shavonte Zellous seemed to be spending a lot of time in Taurasi's head, but the experience looked to be mutual. Both of them did a lot of talking. Quick, act surprised. Z looked like she was trying to force a lot of action, and it wasn't working. Bria Hartley alternated between taking stupid shots, playing intense defense alongside Tina (the two of them came hard at Taurasi and forced her to cough up the ball a couple of times), and making terrible passes. She was dragging in the fourth quarter, and I think Katie mismanaged her minutes at the end.

I'm not enthusiastic about my team being the proving ground for a rookie head coach. I felt that way about St. John's when Joe Tartamella took over, and I feel the same way about the Liberty with Katie Smith taking over. In both cases, I thought the hiring process was uninspired at best and lazy at worst. I can see Katie's potential as a head coach- the team looks motivated, and she's willing to reward players for doing well instead of continuing to reward a lackluster starter. I'm not just thinking the choice to start Amanda instead of Kia Vaughn in the second half. There was a sequence when she had Kia Nurse at the scorer's table to replace Bria after a couple of dumb plays by Bria. Whereupon Bria hit a three and forced a timeout. Kia didn't come in after that stoppage. But by the same token, she's got to learn to trust her players at the end. I get pulling Amanda after the fourth foul. I don't get not putting her back in. I get pulling Kia Nurse out to get her head back in the game. I don't get not going back to her. I also question some of her clock management. Right now, she looks like someone who's more used to the rules of the college game, and that's biting us in the end.

I was very disappointed in these officials. I expected better out of this crew, because they usually are better, but when Tina Charles is literally hopping mad, you have messed up. I'm still angry that Amanda got hit in the face three times, and then got called for the foul when the momentum from being pushed caused her to knock Griner over. A 14-FTA differential is noticeable in a six-point game.

So is every school group in the area tired of hearing the same anti-bullying slam poetry at halftime, and that's why we can't even draw on School Day? I mean, c'mon. Play a recording of Wil Wheaton saying "Don't be a dick" and teach the kids about nutrition or something. Change it up. The kids were uninspired and mostly quiet. The group around us was well-behaved, and the kids actually seemed a little too polite, like we were going to bite their heads off for having to go to the bathroom.

You should've seen the look on Tina's face when the MC announced that each starter would be giving away an autographed t-shirt. Tina was like, "I was not told there would be t-shirts."

This is my team. This will be my team until it is taken away from me. But I wish sometimes circumstances didn't make it so damn hard to enjoy it.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

May 26th, 2018: Indiana at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Indiana Fever came back in the fourth quarter, but the Connecticut Sun had built up too big a lead for them to overcome, and came away with the home win 86-77. Alyssa Thomas had 21 points to lead five Sun players in double figures. Kelsey Mitchell notched 18 points for the Fever, 13 in the fourth quarter.

For lost devices, panic, chivalry, new neighbors, high emotions, shaking off the rust, and young guards, join your intrepid and distracted blogger after the jump.

Well, that was quick, right? Your intrepid blogger is back on the road, off to Connecticut to see the Sun take on the Indiana Fever. We're currently paying toll on the thruway somewhere near Larchmont. This bus, at least, has air conditioning, unlike yesterday's adventure.

If you're ever looking for us, keep an eye out for the Tari Phillips jersey. I collect throwbacks, and that's one of my favorites. I may also have a 2003 Sun jersey, because I think the McDonald's jerseys were hilarious.

We detoured a bit in the Bronx, but we're making good time through Westchester, which is the only way I prefer to deal with this county in the summer.

So far, this trip is not starting off well. Traffic was obnoxious and my hotspot decided to go AWOL. My husband is valiantly offering to leave the game early to make the bus to find it. That's how you know it's love.

We're in our regular, for a given value of regular, seats for this game and two others. I get the feeling I would prefer our neighbors from the first game.

Dupree looks weird with the blonde buzz cut.

47-38 Sun at half, but I'm not satisfied with the way Connecticut has played. Their shooting has been streaky and the offensive rebounding is not good. Indiana got a lot of good energy off the bench from Stephanie Mavunga.

Our halftime entertainment is a man who balances on small moving objects. I'm impressed but not necessarily entertained. Oh, good Lord, there's a guy trying to balance on his seat.

Not impressed with the anthem. If you're doing a military appreciation thing, get a good singer.

Shout out to the guy in the Courtney Williams jersey.

Rebecca Lobo has the call on this game, and I'm pretty sure her daughter's AAU team had the ball exchange tonight. (thought I recognized the town name, and the girl in the Rushin jersey was a pretty good hint too)

That got closer than it had any right to be. Indiana has a lot of young talent that's feeling their way in this league, and if they all figure it out together, things are going to get very real very fast in the Circle City.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Hind Ben Abdelkader. I certainly wasn't expecting her to have a shot deep enough to have a legit chance of going in from about 30 feet out. I'm sort of curious how she would have developed after four years in the US college system (she spent a year at Cal), but maybe going pro overseas did her more good. I don't approve of how Victoria Vivians wears her shorts, but I'm also well aware that it's not my decision how she does it. In any case, her shot is still quite pretty. I think my favorite was the straightaway three she kissed off the glass right at the top of the key. She made a heck of an impact in the fourth.

Jazmon Gwathmey found someone to do her eyebrows! And that's probably the nicest thing I can say about her tonight! The Fever got a lot of good post play off their bench tonight. it wasn't from her. Kayla Alexander did some work down low, though what was probably her best defensive play still resulted in a Sun basket on the recovery of the loose ball. It was still a very nice deflection. Stephanie Mavunga brought them a lot of power off the bench. The second half star in the paint, though, was Erica McCall. She was all over the offensive glass. She made so many things happen for the Fever, whether it was setting screens (she had a beauty that sprung Vivians for three) or getting putbacks. If she could be more consistent, she'd be as much a part of the rebuild conversation as the Mitchells are.

I don't know what happened, but Tiffany Mitchell had to switch to the spare jersey for the second half. It took a little while for the PA guy to make the announcement, and people behind us were whispering in confusion about it before he did. She didn't have the greatest game, but I can see the potential of her working with the other Mitchell to make a very dangerous backcourt tandem in the near future. I started taking a real dislike to Kelsey Mitchell in the fourth quarter, in the sense of "I wish that young lady would stop beating up on the team I'm rooting for". She started lighting up Connecticut for threes and driving the lane for free throws. She's going to hit the rookie wall eventually, because everyone does, but once she leaps over that wall she's going to be amazing. She's actually got some defensive chops, which is something you don't usually see from high-octane offensive players coming right out of college. Erica Wheeler was the player constantly getting overlooked by the Connecticut defense, which led to her getting open jumpers and easy drives down the lane. I know she's short, but she shouldn't be that easy to overlook.

Natalie Achonwa doesn't like getting called for fouls, even moreso than the average player. She sent a Courtney Williams shot somewhere into the stratosphere briefly. She didn't play a lot; small ball seemed to be going more effectively for the Fever, plus they were getting good minutes from Mavunga and McCall. Candice Dupree is still so ridiculously damn smooth. Even with the weird haircut making her look distractingly bald, she looks good. She finds space, or makes space, and there goes the midrange jumper or the cut to the lane. She's the closest thing this team has to a star right now as the young'uns develop, and I think she's accepted the responsibility.

I like how this team held it together even when they were down big. A young team could easily have folded down 19, but instead they fought it back to double digits. Much respect. This isn't going to be their year, but if Chatman can keep developing this core, they're going to be very dangerous very soon.

Miller didn't go to Brionna Jones and Betnijah Laney until very late in the game. I don't know what sent them both so far back into the doghouse, but neither of htem had much impact on the game, other than Jones attempting to make a tackle. This is not a recommended course of action in a basketball game. Jonquel Jones still seems to be lacking some of her springiness, for lack of a better word- she was slow getting back, and didn't seem to be going after rebounds with her usual enthusiasm. Getting to camp late is really starting to show. She did have a fantastic block on Achonwa that effectively served as a make-up call to a missed foul on the other end. Morgan Tuck got a lot of pop from the crowd, as she always does, and had a couple of nice baskets in the lane. At least she wasn't throwing elbows this time. They were quite unnecessarily last time I saw the team.

Really good offensive game from Rachel Banham. She threw some variety into her offense, and that's fun to see. Her defense still needs work, as she's especially prone to reaching like a chump, but that's a Sun-wide problem on defense. She was a big catalyst for the Sun in the fourth quarter as they held off the final Indiana run. Lexie Brown didn't get a lot of run- didn't see her until the fourth quarter. I don't think I like that plan. Alex Bentley took a lot of quick shots, and I'm not a fan of that style of offense on a good day. Then again, she fired off some good passes that were subsequently fumbled by her teammates, so I can understand a little bit why she wasn't quite so willing to pass.

Chiney Ogwumike is still a bit slow and a little clumsy holding on to the ball. But she's getting better with every game, looking more and more like her old self. She was at her best down low. Alyssa Thomas cuts through all defenses like a hot knife through butter. You can pretty much tell when she's going to blow the free throws- it looks like she's forgotten which hand she's actually supposed to be shooting with. I wonder if that's a "thinking too much hurts the ball club" kind of thing, because in the flow of the game she's lethal.

Courtney Williams did her best to shoot Connecticut out of the game in the first quarter. But, wow, can she ever get up for boards. Her ups are awe-inspiring. She brings such speed and such explosiveness to the floor for Connecticut. She set up Tuck for one of her buckets with a wicked steal. Jasmine Thomas had a rough shooting night, and she's got to be smarter with her fouls. If you're a true point, a floor general, not a combo guard or a lead guard or whatever newfangled term they've come up with, you're an extension of the coach on the floor. You need to be out there. And they were not good fouls. If you want to do a compare/contrast with Shavonte Zellous's behavior during the Liberty-Lynx game, I'm down for that. I'm not really sure what to make of Shekinna Stricklen in this game. It seemed like she was being really passive.

Refs got to a point where they were really letting them play. There was one sequence with Ogwumike and a Fever player (maybe McCall?) where I was shocked no one was called for a foul, and if their personalities were different, there might have been a fight.

Our regular seats are amazing, but I'm not fond of our neighbors. Not terribly exciting or interesting people.

Connecticut needs to invest in better paper tape or rubber bands for their t-shirts. A lot of them are opening up mid-air and not going all that far. Combine that with Solar Power dancers who can't even be bothered to try to throw shirts, and you have a recipe for disappointment.

While I'm pessimistic about the direction of the league in a management and ownership sense, I'm optimistic about the future on the court. The talent coming in just keeps getting better and better, and they're more and more ready for the pro game That's the importance of longevity- these kids coming in have always known the W was a thing, and it gave them something to aim for. Every young team I see looks like they're going to explode into glorious success. Leaning on veterans isn't going to work much longer in this league.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 25th, 2018: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Liberty came back, but fell just short in a home loss to the Minnesota Lynx, 78-72. Seimone Augustus had 21 points to lead the Lynx, with Maya Moore adding 20, including the game-winner. Tina Charles had 18 points and 12 rebounds for New York.

For turnarounds, long roads, a lack of air conditioning, unsustainability, claustrophobia, and loud noises, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

While I will admit to some satisfaction in finding a way around Connecticut's rules about laptops to get you those live game notes y'all cherish so much, I'm still more comfortable with a nice heavy laptop on my, er, lap and a thick keyboard under my hands. So that's one of the small reasons I'm looking forward to tonight.

The biggest reason of all, of course, is that it's the Liberty's home opener, and even if it's up in White Plains, I refuse to miss it. The first Liberty home opener is where I fell in love with this team, and this league, and this sport, and sports in general. These are the things that bring me joy, and I will not let James Dolan take this away from me. So it's going to be three hours up, more or less, with some detours along the way, and two hours back via railroad and train and bus. It's not a trip I can do every time out, and I'm not looking forward to that feeling like acid in the back of my mouth when I see the first home game that I'm not at, because it is wrong, if my team is home then I should be there.

Ahem. I may still have some unresolved issues regarding this exile to Westchester County. I beg my readers' forgiveness while I work through them.

Facing the Lynx with a shortage of at least one Kia(h) does not fill me with hope and joy. Mercedes Russell didn't exactly look mobile and swift against training camp posts in the preseason; Sylvia Fowles is going to eat her for lunch and demand seconds.

I'm soliciting suggestions for ways to differentiate the Kia(h)s other than last name, by the way. I loathe calling players by their surnames. They're real. They're not just figures on a screen.

I don't swear in the GNoD. I take pride in this. But this Westchester nonsense is really testing me. I got on the bus to White Plains at 3:40. We pulled out of the stop at 3:47. We made it to White Plains station a bit past 5:30. And that was followed up with a long, sweaty walk to the WCC. I am not a fan of this whole thing, and neither was the other Liberty fan on the bus. (She was sort of obvious, what with the seafoam green Liberty shirt, the Liberty backpack, the two Liberty bracelets, and the green and white sneakers.) There was a lot of swearing behind me when she was updating her friend on her status. I am hot, I am sweaty, I am annoyed, and I am somewhat hungry. (To my amusement and frustration, I ended up playing guide to a couple of other lost fans, because guess what? The way the STH were told to go from the train station to the WCC is closed and they didn't provide alternate directions!)

Did find a local deli a few long blocks back down Tarrytown Road. The stale cookie is not a promising start, but the people next to me swear that everything here is good. Then again, they're the kind of people who order dessert pizza, so we may not be on the same bandwidth here. So far I'm not necessarily impressed with the service speed, but I think I see my sandwiches in progress, about fifteen minutes later. Whatever. I'm not in that big a hurry. It's only quarter past six anyway, and I don't know that it matters to be rushing the gate if I'm not doing the autograph thing. I'd rather stay here, where it's air conditioned and I have outlets for my poor beleaguered electronics.

Kym Michelle Hampton. Stop attempting to sing the national anthem, for the love of all that is sweet and holy. I admire and respect Kym for her role as a building block of this franchise, but her voice is gone. She can't hold a note and she can't stay on key or on pitch. It's terrible.

I am not happy with our seats. We're flush along the sideline, which means that with the ribbon boards up, we start losing view of the court somewhere around two feet from the sideline, which means if there are corner threes, I can't see them. We're also behind the benches, which I normally prefer, except that I can't see them, which means that I can't tell when the subs are up until they're actually in. It's hard to have a nuanced view of the game when you can't see part of it. And if people are in front of you, forget it. You can barely even see over the kids. Kids!

I think we might also be adjacent to the friends-and-family section, and I hope it's the home team one. For a chunk of the first half, we were sitting behind Saniya Chong's mom. (Or at least someone who said her daughter played for UConn and plays for Dallas, and has Chong as a contact in her phone. Makes sense. There's a bus that's a straight shot from Ossining.) There's another group with "family" wristbands at the end of that row. Both groups seem to have moved, though.

(And for all of that, someone we know had tickets on the lower level moved up to our area. The sightlines are just that bad.)

Lisa Borders and Bethany Donaphin are here, though Borders seems to have bailed at halftime. I hope they're seeing what a goat rodeo this is. Security is not prepared for this many people, and neither are the concession stands. I've already heard two people say they're not coming back.

We had a buzzer-beater in the halftime game, and a postgame interview to boot. Adorable.

It's 41-36 Lynx at the half, and honestly, this could be a whole lot worse. Katie Smith's "wide open offense" seems to consist of everyone taking threes and Tina Charles scoring off putbacks. I mean, I'm not a trained professional, but it seems like trying to run an offense predicated on three-point shooting might be a bad idea with two of our best three-point shooters sidelines. I'm just saying.

Shoutout to the lady in the Katie Smith Columbus Quest jersey. (I wonder if it feels weird for Katie to see someone else wearing her number for one of her old teams. Tanisha Wright has 30 for the Lynx.)

I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of Epiphanny Prince's fashion sense, but at least her look is consistent, even if torn jeans seem like they would break any professionalism rules. Sugar Rodgers, on the other hand, looks like she needs a pair of roller skates before she goes to work her shift at Sonic. Brittany Boyd is in warm-ups but hasn't played. I haven't seen Kia Vaughn. Maybe she's stuck in traffic on Jerome Avenue like I was.

Well. That was frustrating. I mean, I should be happy that we kept it that close for that long against that good of a team with as short of a bench as we had. And I'm proud of them, don't get me wrong. But I think we had a good shot to win, and something went pear-shaped, whether it was a rookie coach making a bad call and not using her timeouts effectively or a rookie player making a bad decision on the floor. I'd have to see a replay to know for sure.

Tanisha Wright looks distinctly wrong in blue. Green is very much more her color. She was intense on defense, but I don't know if Minnesota completely knows where they want to use her. Danielle Robinson, on the other hand, looks like she's all the way back from the Achilles, which is a good sign for the Lynx and a bad sign for the rest of the league. Her speed is back, and her ballhawking is on point. I don't know as she's ever had a jump shot, but she didn't have one tonight. She was very successful at driving the lane, though. I'm also a big fan of the hair in team colors thing, and I hope she continues it. Alexis Jones wasn't great, but she looked good on the floor. She'll be good for them if she gets a chance to learn. I hope she does, but Minnesota's reliance on veterans doesn't bode well for her.

When are people going to remember that Lynetta Kizer has a midrange game? Because she does. I've seen entirely too much of it. And we kept not defending it, which I am not okay with. She was getting into it with the ref during a jump ball, and I was surprised Minnesota wasn't called for an infraction with all the positional shenanigans there. I do like her ferocity on the boards. Another satisfied customer of the Lin Dunn School for Refurbished Post Players. Temi Fagbenle played briefly. She wasn't notable, but she was there.

Maya Moore is cold-blooded, but I mean, if you didn't already know that, you must be new here. (If you are new here, welcome aboard, there's always room on board the bandwagon.) She rolled up and drained that straightaway three with the defense in her face without batting an eyelash, and that was the ball game. She's so ridiculously good, and she's so dangerous, and she's so balanced. She throws her body around, and she doesn't like getting called for it, but sometimes you're not innocent, Miss Maya. Rebekkah Brunson proved she'd been paying attention to Plenette Pierson's lessons on how to hook your opponent's arm and make it look like she hooked you first. (Though Bekky's a veteran herself; it's hard to think of her as only a year behind Pierson.) Sylvia Fowles had a surprising amount of trouble getting to the basket in the early going, but as the game went on and we started to run out of gas, she became more and more dominant on the glass. It wasn't like we were doing the world's greatest job of keeping her off the boards most of the night, either, but she wasn't scoring as effectively in the first half as she was in the second.

I realize that the Lynx have to start thinking ahead to a future without Lindsay Whalen, but I didn't think they were going to start it in, like, their third game. She really didn't seem to be in full charge of the squad like she usually is. I don't know if she has any lingering issues, or if Reeve just chose to ride the hot hand, or what, but it was a little disconcerting. Seimone Augustus, however, is just as smooth as ever. It was beautiful and frustrating at the same time.

There's definitely a drop-off from the starters to the bench, but with those starters, are you really surprised? If I thought Reeve could get away with moving Whalen to the bench, I think she would start the transition to Robinson, but I don't think that's something she can get away with in Minnesota.

Mercedes Russell was playing pretty effective defense early on in the game, but as the minutes started to pile up in the second half, she slowed down and got caught out of position more and more often. (Shavonte's reactions to that would have been priceless if I were a neutral observer and not a frustrated fan.) She doesn't have the stamina to play the kind of minutes we seem to be expecting from her in the absence of Kia Vaughn and with Kiah Stokes coming off injury. When she's on, I love the defense she brings down low- she had one nifty steal with a deflection to Tina. Amanda Zahui B, well, bless her heart. I'm not a big fan of Katie's offense right now in general, but I'm especially not a fan of Amanda jacking as many threes as she did. She can hit them, but not consistently enough for this to be a good plan. She's got to be more careful and more secure with the ball.

There was a stretch of the game where I was fairly certain the rim had something against Canadians, because Kia Nurse was getting all the worst possible bounces. It evened out in the second half, and she became much more of a two-way threat. I'm already in love with her defense, and I can see her becoming an All-Defensive team stalwart in a few years. All of those good things being said, I have no idea what she was thinking with the shot out of the last timeout. It came off to me as a rookie seeing a shot she thought was good, and might even have been good against college defenders. Rebecca Allen was a good offensive catalyst, but her defense still leaves much to be desired. That's a problem when it seems like we're not getting much defense off the bench (except for Kia and I'm still getting used to her).

We're going to need a longer bench. I'm ready for everyone to be back from injury now.

You know how I said I wasn't a fan of Amanda chucking threes? I'm really not a fan of Tina Charles taking three-pointers like someone told her she was subbing for Piph. Like, I get that Tina has a perimeter game and likes to show it off, but she was playing way, way too much outside. And yes, I get that Sylvia Fowles is a fairly good deterrent to playing near the paint, but at the same time, she was getting her best offense on putbacks. Go towards the hole! Kiah Stokes looks a bit hampered by whatever injury she was recovering from. But her instincts are back and her rebounding was good. She'll be fine once she's fine, if that sentence makes any sense. Marissa Coleman took us all by surprise by lapsing into a bad habit from last year's Liberty team that she wasn't even on- immediately assuming Tina should be the primary offensive option even when she herself had the better shot. She's streaky, and I'm going to have to get used to that.

Shavonte Zellous's shot wasn't falling, but I still love watching her on the floor. If nothing else, she's always entertaining in her reactions to fouls or the lack thereof. She did a really good job of getting to the line, though not so great a job of finishing when she was there. Gotta make 'em if you take 'em, Z. Bria Hartley's shot has not arrived yet in Westchester. Maybe it got caught in traffic. There's stuff on the floor that she does that I like, but I would not be opposed to moving her to the bench once we get one of the shooters back.

I like the ball movement. I do not like that so much of this ball movement seems to be ending behind the three-point line. I do not think an offense predicated on three-point shooting is a good plan without three-point shooters. I'm pretty sure I said this already, but it bears repeating, especially given that we have one of the best fours in the league on the roster. I know Katie said she wants to get away from everything running through Tina, but this is still not a good plan. It's like the worst of both worlds!

Officiating was the usual early season disaster area. Counting to two is hard, apparently.

Props to the outsourced security. Most guys don't look under the jersey. And my appreciation to them letting us scarf down the sandwiches at the railing. They were professional and polite.

The ushers, on the other hand, need a lot of work. Throwing tickets at people is uncouth. Telling a ticketed customer to change her seat because someone else claims they need it more is unacceptable.

And with all of that, the crowd still got loud. If this place were actually designed for basketball- if the pitch was good and the sightlines were clear- you could turn it into a phenomenal noise box. It'd basically be New York's answer to Walsh Gymnasium. But you can't see anything from anywhere, and two-and-a-half hours door to door each way is unsustainable. And we're not the only ones.

Until next time, fellow travelers.


Monday, May 21, 2018

May 20th, 2018: Las Vegas at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Alyssa Thomas posted 13 points and 17 rebounds as Connecticut trounced Las Vegas 101-65. Four Sun players scored in double figures, with Alex Bentley's 18 off the bench late a team high. Tamera Young had 23 points to lead the Aces. A'ja Wilson added 14 points and 10 rebounds in her professional debut.

For casino wars, fantastic video work, a good cheesesteak, impressive rookies, physical play, running up the score, and potential, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Good morning, fellow travelers! When we say WNBA all day in this house, we mean it. Your intrepid blogger has been up since 6:30 to make the bus to Flushing to make the bus to Mohegan for the Sun's home opener against the Las Vegas Aces.

Positives to this bus: the seats are amazingly comfortable and there's an outlet next to our seats. Downsides: the bathroom smells, I don't know if the outlet works, and the on-board entertainment leaves something to be desired (we got stuck on the passenger information message for about twenty minutes, and now we got an anime-esque feature on the Meaning of Easter, first in a line of Weird Sponsored Things that ran in a loop). And the outlets didn't work.

It's actually a shame our regular Sun seats are lower down. The people next to us seem nice and have very nifty Jasmine Thomas baseball-style shirts. The “we are loud” warning has already been issued.

Amazing roster cards with a fold-out illustrated poster of Jonquel Jones. I was even able to get mine signed!

I think they switched benches! If they did, I will be mildly annoyed. They did not switch benches, but I think they switched tunnels.

There's a promotion for wearing orange to the game (a voucher for a small soda is nothing to sneeze at) so I'm wearing a Shock shirt under my Sun jersey. Funny how 15 years later, we're back to the same font as at the beginning.

Courtney Williams has such a big personality. You could improve the mood of a small town if you could somehow spread her joy.

25-21 Sun at the end of the first, after Vegas raced out to a 14-4 lead behind six points from Nia Coffey. Miller is bringing the big guns off the bench with Bentley and Jonquel Jones.

I like the new name for the kids' dance team- the Sunbeams. They're cute.

49-37 Sun at the half. They initially had it at 50, but I think that was the scoreboard operator getting overexcited about the long two from Courtney Williams to end the half. Very balanced scoring for the Sun, though fouls are a concern, and I'm not thrilled with the shots they're leaving short.

The flashing banks of lights are new, and they're going to set off a seizure one of these days.

I'm just saying, maybe you don't do the ad with the spicy wings with the kid from Minnesota.

I like to think that somewhere, Pat Summitt is laughing at a concerted campaign to turn Connecticut orange.

Kelsey Bone looks good. She's slimmed down. A'ja Wilson looks pro ready. But they have no depth.

Friendly reminder to Sun fans: Bill Laimbeer only grows stronger from your hate. He is best villain.

73-49 Sun at the end of three. Shekinna Stricklen fall down go boom and left the game with a head/face injury. I didn't see how it happened, though it might have been self-inflicted. She stayed on the bench, but did not return to the game.

101-65 Sun, final, and I'm getting more and more uncomfortable with the bloodlust of Connecticut fans. They seem to get louder when they're up big, not early on when their team needs them more. At least they're starting to appreciate players who didn't go to UConn. The pop for Ogwumike, Jonquel Jones, and the Thomases was more than acceptable.

Kelsey Bone does not seem to be popular in Uncasville, and that was before she sluefooted Alex Bentley late in the game. She got a smattering of boos when she came in, and the crowd cheered whenever a foul was called on her. She was active on the boards, and physical all the way around. Ji Su Park has nice defensive instincts for a player as young as she is. I don't know if she's ready for heavy W minutes yet, but I see why Vegas opted to keep her. Good stroke at the line, too. In a couple of years, she could be a very nice player. Dearica Hamby was last off the bench and didn't even play in the first half. I'm trying to remember if she's recovering from an injury or not. I sort of hope she is, because otherwise she was just bad.

I do not question the Liberty's decision to cut Shoni Schimmel, not one iota. She was trying too hard to make passes that were harder than they needed to be. You don't get extra points for degree of difficulty, and you have to be able to get the basic passes through the defense before you can give them the old razzle-dazzle. (That being said, her accuracy should improve if she gets a chance to get used to her teammates and vice versa.) I feel for her, and when she's on a roll, she's a lot of fun to watch. I just don't know if this is the right system for her, or if there even is a right system in this league for her.

I had more to say about Schimmel than I thought, so I'll put my notes about the other guards here. Raigyne Louis, whose last name I keep wanting to give the French pronunciation, looked like the defender she was in her LSU days. Her offense still needs work, though. It's a bit wild. She's not the slasher she once was, and what works in college doesn't always work in the WNBA. Jaime Nared brings good height to the floor and provided flexibility to the makeshift Aces lineup. She had a nifty defensive play in the third quarter with a deflection.

Carolyn Swords continues to be good at being tall. Connecticut was playing a lot of small ball, which might have been a necessary evil, but doesn't match up well against a 6-6 widebody. She was able to pull down rebounds just by reaching over her opponents. She didn't get good position down low on offense, and her midrange game was full of fail. A'ja Wilson already looks like she belongs in this league. Her shooting line probably isn't going to show it, and she has to be a little more assertive on the glass, but she did a phenomenal job of getting to the line and hittting. I'm always impressed by posts with good free-throw shooting.

Tamera Young, bless her heart, still has one of the most dubious jumpers in the league, so you can imagine my surprise when she hit the three. She did a good job of getting into the paint and finishing, or at least drawing contact to get to the line and convert the free throws. If she's a primary offensive option when the regular guards are back, I'll be surprised. Nia Coffey got off to a hot start before the caffeine high wore off, and there's your obligatory coffee-related joke. I'm not sure how to sort out her skill set. She seems to do a lot of things, but not do any of them particularly well, and I don't know if she has countermoves ready for when the defense catches on to her. I'd like to take a closer look at her, though. I was pleasantly surprised at Lindsay Allen getting the start, and I thought she played well. She wasn't spectacular, and she definitely made some questionable passes that neither she nor the intended recipient were ready for, but overall she was pretty steady, and she did well defensively on Jasmine Thomas. But, again, I see her role changing drastically when Jefferson's back from her injury and Plum and McBride have returned from their overseas sojourns.

I can see some of the potential that the Aces have. There were moments when the individual defense was very good, although their communication needs a lot of work. Their rebounding was excellent, anchored by Swords, Wilson, and Young. I don't know how much good the inside play is going to do them with their guards, though.

There was a fairly large group- maybe two dozen people- in Aces shirts near the visiting bench. Not sure if traveling fans or MGM folks.

The Sun crowd really likes when Rachel Banham hits threes. I can live with her being the folk hero off the end of the bench, I guess. She's got to stop fouling, though. It makes her too much of a defensive liability. Alex Bentley realizes she has teammates, right? I understand if she took Bone's shenanigans personally, but if you're up 30 in the final two or three minutes, is it really necessary to be chucking every single shot yourself? She knows how to fire up this crowd, though. The rust showed a little bit for her, but you know that'll wear off. (Okay, maybe that's also a reason why so much of the offense went to her near the end of the game, but I still don't have to like it.) I was surprised Lexie Brown didn't get into the game sooner, but then she played pretty much the entire fourth quarter, so I guess that makes up for it. Her shot looked good. I'd like to see her get more minutes; I think she's good for them.

Brionna Jones had more trouble on defense than I was expecting after her superlative performance against Cambage in the preseason. She was getting consistently beat physically by Swords and Wilson, and a lot of it was strictly on height. I was glad to see her get her free throws at the end to get on the board. Betnijah Laney threw herself completely into the game. I love her hustle. It looked like Connecticut was trying to give her heavy run in the third quarter- there was a sequence of possessions where it seemed like Connecticut was trying to feed her every time. The results were mixed. Morgan Tuck has gotten more physical, and not in a good way. I was surprised she wasn't getting called for offensive fouls with the elbows she was throwing and the bad screens she was setting. Jonquel Jones definitely looks rusty, and in lineups where she's playing the five, there's no reason for her to be jacking threes. I love the way she tips rebounds away from players who were absolutely certain they had the ball corralled- her length in those situations is amazing. She laid the smackdown on a couple of shots, with a fantastic one to answer a Wilson block. She's just so much fun to watch, and once she's back in the groove she'll be even more fun.

For now it looks like Chiney Ogwumike is playing center, and despite the height issue, that's not the worst thing in the world for her right now. She's still not that mobile, so plopping her down in the low post is the most effective way to use her. I'm super glad she's back. Shekinna Stricklen's shot was streaky, and at one point she got a shot volleyball-spiked by Wilson. I swear, sometimes she forgets how strong and wide her build is, and falls too much in love with the outside shot. Alyssa Thomas still needs to work on her free throw shooting, but now her stroke at least looks like the shot has a chance to go in. She did a fantastic job running the break, and as the game went on her passing got fancier. Didn't always work out, but she racked up the assists and got buckets in the lane.

Courtney Williams spent most of the first quarter very much in her own way, chucking up shot after shot that went off the back iron or spun around the rim and went out. She found a bit more of her groove on the break in the second quarter, but this was the kind of game that highlights her weaknesses as a player. Jasmine Thomas was solid, but had a surprising amount of trouble with Allen. And in the end, there's only so much I can say about Jasmine Thomas that hasn't been said before in set after set of GNoD. Barring injury or games well outside the norm, you know what you're getting with her. She's not spectacular, but she's steady and she's consistent, and that's what you need out of your floor general. (Although beating up on Nia Coffey on a three is pretty spectacular. That was an awesome block.)

I love Connecticut's offense. I think I'd be tearing my hair out on a regular basis if I had to watch them keep fouling on defense. When the gambles work, they work. When they don't work, they rack up the fouls and they lose their assignment on defense. The Aces got a lot of open looks on missed switches.

Then again, Vegas has their own communication problems, what with Nared and Coffey knocking each other off the ball on one play, and Hamby throwing the resulting loose ball clear into the backcourt. Keystone Kops moment there.

Officiating was inconsistent, and the review mania needs to stop. That being said, Sun fans do understand that their players commit fouls sometimes, right? It does happen.

So much orange. Cannot cope.

I think the LA game will be a bigger test for this Sun team, and Indiana will be a nice palate cleanser. I'm looking forward to that Indiana game, though I'll probably be a zombie for much of it.


Friday, May 11, 2018

May 8th, 2018: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty held off a third-quarter run from the Los Angeles Sparks to come away with the 81-75 preseason win. Kia Nurse led New York with a team-high 19 points, while Reshanda Gray added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Cappie Pondexter had 17 points to lead Los Angeles.

For young point guards, details I've assuredly forgotten, and impatience, join your intrepid and much belated blogger after the jump.

The crazy part of this whole thing is that after doing the double header and getting home at 1 o'clock in the morning, I'm turning around and doing it all over again.

Folks, if you want to kick up a fuss about where you're sitting, you show up early. You don't roll up at ten to twelve and block everyone else from boarding while you argue with the guide. Jerks.

Guys, whatever I did to my neck, don't let me do it again. It is so stiff. Ugh. Unfortunately, I think what I did was spend too much time on buses doing basketball things. I hope no one expects me to be coherent in real life for the next few days.

Note to self: I'm going to have to find a new go to meal at Mohegan. They changed the way they store the ingredients for the taco bowl, and it looks kind of gross. It still tastes okay, but the proof will be in a few hours, or rather, will not be in a few hours. (Did not have an abreaction, but I still think I need to find a new meal.)

Being the loudest person in the arena, or at least in the section, does make one memorable.

“We're going to make the entire state of Connecticut glow orange.” Part of me wants to go full Dalek and yell, “THOSE WORDS ARE BLASPHEMY” at Matt. Given how many old Husky fans there are here, I can't be the only one.

Yeah, Tina isn't warming up. Time for another round of “quick, act surprised!” It also looks like we're not trying to fake anyone out with Brittany Boyd, either. Nor do I see Shavonte Zellous. 404 error: no damn to give found.

Blaze, don't hit Erin Phillips in the face with your flag.

22-16 Liberty at the end of the first. Kia Nurse is off to a hot start. There's no one within two sections of me, so I'm basically in St. John's mode, wherein I make as much noise as possible because no one else will. I'm getting echoes up here.

36-33 Liberty at half. But I may pop a blood vessel if we keep giving Cappie Pondexter the weak-side midrange corner. We've left her open there three or four times, and after she missed the first time, she didn't keep missing.

Does Brooke McCarty not realize that you're supposed to jump for a jump ball? Forcing them on much taller players is only half the battle. Unless she's expecting the other team to be laughing too hard at the contrast between her and Mercedes Russell to react, all she's doing is delaying the inevitable. I know we scored on one, and we may have scored on the other.

Sidebar: the ushers in my section both days were absolutely delightful. Kelly on Monday was super sweet, and David on Tuesday was very friendly.

58-55 Liberty at the end of the third, which is better than it could have been, since LA took a lead in the middle of the quarter. The STH in front of me has arrived, so I have to turn down the volume and put my shoes back on.

81-75 Liberty final! Both teams got after the refs. Differential was 4-0 against us, and in college would have been more, since there was an offensive foul or two tossed in the mix. Then Katie put the fear of Katie into the rookie ref, and the fouls went against LA in a torrent. I thought we got away with more in that run.

Someone needs to find Kaylee Jensen a better bra. I was starting to get sympathy pains up front by the third quarter. I was surprised by the smoothness of her three-point shot. She's not Danielle Adams, but she does seem to have a little bit of range. From the way she was racking up fouls at the end of the game, I wonder if she has a stamina problem. Taya Reimer got a few minutes in the third quarter, but I have nothing down on the scoresheet for her. At least Kathryn Westbeld distinguished herself by going after loose balls on the floor.

Karlie Samuelson shoots threes. This is not a recording. She got into less foul trouble this time, but I think she also had less time to get into foul trouble. If I were forced to make a choice, I'd keep her over Wiese, but I wouldn't keep either of them if I didn't have a choice. I like Brooke McCarty's heart and hustle, but she's got to get stronger if she wants to play in the WNBA. Her slightness is more of a problem than her height, IMO. I didn't see anything out of Gabbi Ortiz that impressed me or made me think she's more than a space filler until one of the guards gets back.

Shakayla Thomas's jumper was somewhat less effective in this game than it was against Connecticut, but her length and constant motion on defense made her very dangerous in the passing lanes. LA is going to need to either keep her or trade her, because in these two games, she's looked too valuable to merely cut. Mistie Bass set up Sydney Wiese for a three with a vicious pick. I don't think there's room on the roster to keep her, but she's still incredibly useful, even after a surprising number of years in terms of an athlete's career. Essence Carson hit a three-pointer! No, I don't mean a foot-on-the-line long two, although she had plenty of those as well. I mean an actual counts-for-three-points-on-the-scoreboard three. If she's finally figured out where the line is, after all these years, LA just picked up another four to five points a game. Y'all think I'm exaggerating, don’t you? She looked really good.

Okay, I didn't realize until I looked at the box score how many rebounds Wiese had. I think they were the kind you chase down when they get loose, not physical ones down low, but that's still a fantastic skill for a guard. She put up a good line, but there's something I can't put my finger one that has me doubting everything she does on the court. I'm going to have to analyze game tape at some point, because this doesn't make sense to me. Cappie Pondexter will probably not get this many shots when the rest of LA's starters are back, but she'll take them when she gets them. We kept leaving her open, which is a thing that pretty much everyone in the WNBA should know not to do at this point. Unless, of course, we were attempting to run the defense that we're going to use on LA when they have everyone back on this shell of a Sparks squad. But that would just be silly, right? Why would we show our hand without it actually being effective?

I think my favorite part was when LA jobbed themselves out of two free throws in a four-point game by calling a timeout right when Pondexter was about to get fouled. (Sidebar that I think I should have mentioned before: this time, Tonya Edwards was the coach up and about, though Agler looked more animated on the sideline than he did in the first game. I actually like the notion of letting the assistants do much of the heavy lifting in a preseason game.)

I'll reiterate the point I made after their game against Connecticut: most of these players have no chance of being involved in the Sparks' plans for 2018, and the ones who do are going to be playing very different roles. About all you can really gauge from a preseason game like this is who might be ready for primetime elsewhere and how the coaches handle their players and their business.

How does a guard even get a three-second violation called against her? Shoni Schimmel, I am side-eyeing you so hard right now I think I just gave myself a facial cramp. She's just not fitting with the personnel that we have, and she seems to be caught between trying too hard and not giving enough of a damn on the court. Worst of both worlds, and we have enough guards in camp that I don't think we need any of that nonsense. Kolby Morgan slid over to a more traditional PG role in this game, and seemed more comfortable in it than she was in the first game. Still not WNBA material, but she had one nifty steal and some good shots. She's got to realize that you can't just flick up random junk in the lane, though; the best case scenario involves missing in embarrassing fashion. Kelly Faris played like she realized her career was on the line, diving for loose balls and driving on offense. But while I realize Karlie Samuelson can be exceptionally annoying, you can't just shove her out of the way, Kelly. That's just rude. I think two of her turnovers were offensive fouls. I don't know if that performance was enough to tip the scales in her favor, but if that's closer to what we can expect from her than the Dallas game was, I'd be okay with it.

(That being said, FFS, Connecticut fans, can you applaud the players who call Mohegan Sun Arena their home more than random Huskies and Husky transfers? Maybe?)

I like what I've seen out of Leslie Robinson, even if there's no way she should make the final roster. She's got good hustle, and a pretty good passing eye. The problem is that she's not ready for the big leagues. She'll do well overseas if she wants to, but she does also have that Princeton degree to fall back on. Mercedes Russell had moments near the basket where she looked like she was actually able to use her height to her advantage, but she's stiff and slow, and if she makes this roster, it's strictly because of positional needs. Shay Murphy spent a lot of time arguing with the ref. While I can't blame her for disagreeing with his assessments, I think she got caught up in it too much, and it affected her play. She's got to keep her head in the game if she's not going to contribute statistically.

I'm even more excited for Kia Nurse's prospects after this game than I was after the last game. I love what she brings to the floor offensively and defensively, and the flexibility she gives us in our lineups. She lined up at three, but I can see her fitting in there or at one of the guard spots, depending on match-ups. I think her instinct for the game are better developed than the average rookie's, and she's going to fit in well when the rest of our veterans get back. Sugar Rodgers brought a lot of energy, but I think she was getting worn down from being so obviously the primary offensive option for much of the night (given that she was one of the few regular starters to even be in the building, let alone dressed out for the game). Lindsay Allen had another solid outing- not spectacular, not remarkable, but that's not what we need from her. Fireworks are Piph and Sugar's job. Lindsay's job is to not screw up. That sounds kind of callous, but I'm all about the steady, no-nonsense point guards.

Much better game from Reshanda Gray than the one against Dallas. She was able to get inside and get the boards that she wasn't getting position for against the taller Wings. In a game like this, I can see where she'd be a serviceable backup, but muck like my concerns about Kelly Faris, consistency is the question. If Reshanda can do this more than she can fail like she did against Dallas, I'd love to have her on board. But if she can't consistently compete against WNBA posts (and let's be honest, most of the players for LA in this game were not of the caliber she'd be facing on a regular basis, except for Mistie Bass) then I'd rather take the time to try and develop a younger player. We saw more frontcourt time for Marissa Coleman, which is also useful going forward. She's streaky, but I like her and what she gives this team. I realize that goes against the pervious statement about developing young players, but I think we can get more use out of Marissa than Reshanda, all things considered.

Tina was very loose on the bench. Funniest moment: the Sun host started urging everyone to scream. Brittany Boyd tilted her head back, and I don't know if she was pretending to scream or actually screaming, but Tina gave her the "oh no baby what is you doing?" side-eye and sort of scooted away from her like "I don't know her".

I have questions about our rotation, but that's going to depend on who's available and who's healthy for the start of the season. I think we have a lot of flexibility as long as we have everyone. But if we don't have Boyd and we don't have Piph, things could get dicey in a hurry.

I'm still ready for the season to start. I may have to watch more of it on television than I'd prefer to, and I suspect that bitterness will leak through all season long. But this is my team and I love them.