Monday, June 12, 2017

June 11th, 2017: Seattle at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty had the final run in a back and forth game with the Seattle Storm, coming away 94-86 victors. Tina Charles and Sugar Rodgers each had 21 points to pace the Liberty, with Charles adding 14 rebounds and Rodgers adding four steals and three blocks. Breanna Stewart notched 23 points and 10 rebounds for Seattle before fouling out; Sue Bird added 21 points and 10 assists.

For cupcakes, monster blocks, hideous jerseys, crowd noise, and big wins, join your intrepid and sick blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to Madison Square Garden, the World’s Most Famous Arena, as the Liberty take on the visiting Seattle Storm.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 43-40, in a game that’s been very exciting. Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart are basically playing “anything you can do, I can do better”. Tina has 13 points and nine rebounds, while Steowart has 14 and seven. Jewell Loyd got going a bit in the second quarter, and we all know how lethal Sue Bird can be.

There are an awful lot of Storm fans here, but Seattle’s roster is overloaded for that kind of thing. Bird and Stewart are both from New York, and there’s even a family of Syracuse fans here (I’m guessing for Peterson, or why would they have worn Syracuse gear? Because there’s no reason to wear that orange otherwise. Ever.)

But special mention must go out to Breanna Stewart’s Mini-Me, with her UConn #30 jersey and shorts. Stewie seemed quite taken with the kid.

Lots of dance groups here today. Not sure how I feel about the group in pink that was shaking their tushies. Quoting the kids next to me on that one.

One of the Reb’s posters made a crack about loving Big East basketball, and with UConn, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgetown, and Boston College represented on these rosters, I see his point.

I’m okay with cute little kid DJs, but not when they’re obvious fakes. Pro tip: it’s rather obvious when you’re not wearing headphones.

Someone has no idea of what they’ve done to their child. There’s a kid wearing the infamous #11 Schumacher jersey that existed ever so briefly before someone told Schuey that wearing Spoon’s number would be a terribad idea.

It’s the celebration of Maddie’s birthday today. The mascot’s age has conspicuously not been mentioned, perhaps because savvy fans will decide that it’s time for shots (shots shots shotsshotsshots). (Honestly, though, the team is missing a golden opportunity to market this to adult fans. We’re in the 21st season, after all...)

To the performance artist on the A train: yes, announcing that the train is only stopping at the last stop will get you the attention of everyone on board. It will also make sure that no one gives you money when you start hitting them up, even when they agree with your political beliefs and the points you’re making about police brutality, black-on-black crime, and the orange thing in the White House.

Woo! What a game! And I’m not just saying that because we won. It was a tight, hard-fought game all the way through, and I would not have expected Seattle to be the team that lost their composure in the waning minutes. But the crowd was fired up, and the defense was on point.

Carolyn Swords got a warm welcome back at the Garden (she actually squeed in warmups when a fan welcomed her back), but she was highly ineffective in her brief time. Kiah showed her why we kept Kiah instead of her. Sami Whitcomb got her shot off in a hurry, and was pesky defending along the sideline (one might even say she harried the ballhandler). She fills the need left by KML’s absence, but I think KML might be better at it.

Seattle has got to be looking to move Crystal Langhorne, or something. Ramu Tokashiki is too good and too versatile to be stuck on that bench forever. Her propensity for fouling, or at least for being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, keeps her minutes down, and she’s got to work on that. But she got buckets at the basket with strong moves and good cuts, and she screened well for her teammates. Noelle Quinn can still occasionally hit open shots when her teammates set her up, but her value to Seattle is more in her size and her ballhandling ability- she can play 1 through 3 in their lineups, allowing both Loyd and Bird to move off the ball as necessary.

I don’t know if Alysha Clark was off tonight, or if the defense on her was that good, or if her shot has just abandoned her for good, but her shot was AWOL today. It was consistently short and a bit flat; she got her points in the paint. Crystal Langhorne was pesky defensively, bodying up Tina Charles when she was in. She’s a hustler and a scrapper, but whatever looks Seattle was thinking of finding for her never panned out. Breanna Stewart balled out in the first half- she and Tina looked like they were trying to one-up each other for a while. She ran Tina ragged on defense, too, and no one else was really capable of checking her (except when Sugar put the cape on). She’s so phenomenally well-rounded that it would be fun to watch her if she didn’t play for the other team. Fouling her out in the fourth quarter (on a play she should have backed off on) was a game-changer.

Sue Bird still has it- the passing eye, the killer instinct, the beautiful jumper. She might be a step slow, but only a step. She played more off the ball than I was used to, but she still did a beautiful job setting up her teammates. Jewell Loyd is capable of startling speed and ups, and I think one of the biggest things we did in this game was keep her grounded and control the pace so she couldn’t get off and running. There were moments when the defense sagged, and she cut through the paint like a hot knife through butter for lay-ups. But those moments were fewer and further between than Seattle might have liked.

Great ball movement from the Storm. They whipped the ball around the perimeter and created looks for three, something we have trouble defending. But they fell apart at the end of the game; if you had told me one of the turning points of the game would be Sue Bird fumbling the ball, I would have looked at you like you had multiple heads.

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe has gotten better with every game this season. She cleaned up on the offensive glass and had some sweet putbacks. She’s been a crucial part of this big run, and I’m not sure where we’re going to find minutes for her when Kia Vaughn comes back (or where we’re going to find minutes for Kia, for that matter). Amanda Zahui B continues her role of mopping up minutes for players who need rest near the ends of quarter. I’d like her for her to be able to do more, and there are signs she’s learning how not to commit stupid unnecessary fouls.

Lindsay Allen did a decent job defensively on Sue Bird (you can argue she was more effective on her than Bria Hartley). There are ways in which she’s still working off the rookie jitters, but she’s coming along nicely- better than I thought when I saw her in the preseason. Rebecca Allen brings offense- but her defense has been abysmal. When she’s not shooting- let alone not hitting- she’s a liability on the floor. She hustled on the glass, but at the same time, she probably could have been dinged for a couple of fouls on reaches and over-the-back calls.

Bria Hartley seems to get hot in stretches- she’ll hit a couple of baskets in a row, then go quiet again. She couldn’t keep up with Bird on defense. But we needed her points. On the other hand, Sugar Rodgers had one of the best defensive games I’ve ever seen out of her. She had a magnificent stuff on Loyd, a great stop on Stewart, and hard on-ball work on Bird, which seems like it should be some kind of formalized trifecta. Her shot fell enough, and at the right time, and she hit her free throws down the stretch. Probably the best game of the year from her, and a game we needed- not just offensively, but defensively. I am still in awe and squee at the defensive plays she made in this game.

Shavonte Zellous continues to be a solid scoring option, and she mostly toned down the yapping at the officials. Her three was part of the final run that sealed the game for the Liberty, and the roof pretty much came off when she hit it. She’s really come on during the Eurobasket stretch. Kiah Stokes brought the physicality, which helped free up Tina. It’s a bit of a step back from the breakout performances she had the last couple of games, but that wasn’t what we needed from her, and she did drop a massive block on Breanna Stewart late in the game (plus she drew the sixth foul on Stewie). I’d like to see her stop babying the baby hook quite so much- she had a couple of short misses with it. Tina Charles started off hot and came on for a couple of big baskets in the fourth quarter, but she was laboring. She had her hands full with Stewart (as she was the only one of our forwards who could handle Stewie inside and out) and got regularly doubled and tripled by the Seattle defense. You could see how hard she was sweating.

(Related to that angle, I may be a little bit in love with Kiah’s shoulders. Not Loree Moore level, but very nice to look at.)

Still can’t believe they didn’t hit Stewart with a tech for elbowing Bec in the face. Yes, they called it an offensive foul after the review, but still.

Great crowd atmosphere, and I think that played a part in Seattle losing their cool at the end. The noise was amped up, which is unusual for the Sunday games; usually those are the days when parents bring their kids and look at you funny if you start yelling. But the kids and their parents around us were really into the game (even if the one girl wasn’t sure whether Shavonte and Tokashiki were girls or not- mom made it clear they both were in a hurry).

Maddie got cupcakes. I have no idea where they ended up. (Also, I am rocking with the headcanon that Hudson is Maddie’s super annoying little brother, and going with it until/unless we end up with a litter of mascot puppies.)

The fan cam is creepy and I wish it would go away.

Do you think players like Bird and Stewart get tired of coming off the court during warmups and immediately being swallowed by the media piranhas? Obviously they’re too well trained to show it, but I always wonder what’s going on in their minds as they go through another round of questions.

Brittany Boyd sighting! She was rocking the jeans (though shimmying in a full walking boot while leaning on a crutch is perhaps not a wise life decision). More relevantly, she was rocking the big black nerd glasses, as befits a Cal alumna.

That was one of the best games I’ve seen all year, both as a Liberty fan and as a WNBA fan. The team looks like it’s starting to gel, and we faced a most worthy opponent. Now it’s on the road- see you all next week or so!

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

June 7th, 2017: Atlanta at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty kept on rolling in their 76-61 win over the Atlanta Dream. Tina Charles had 18 points and 15 rebounds to lead New York, with Kiah Stokes adding a game-high 17 rebounds. Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes each had 14 points to pace the Dream.

For truce, buffer room, unexpected flashbacks, impressive youth, and guarded optimism, join your intrepid and comfortable blogger after the jump.

School Day.

Teams love it. The league loves it. There are even misguided fan souls who love it.

I? Am not one of those. I don’t like children. I don’t like large groups of children. I don’t like directionless screaming. I don’t like having to schedule vacation days, or else waste a $46 ticket, to be surrounded by thousands of screaming children. If I had my way, there would be no School Days, or Camp Days, or Kids Days. You want to do stuff for the kids? Fine. Why should season subscribers have to pay for it? Do an event that is exclusively for schools, not accessible to season ticket holders, no matter their VIP level.

To the three cops at Fulton Street: sorry, you missed the train, the doors are closed, y’all have to wait for the next train like everyone else. (Given that one of them was carrying a folding table, either they were returning from a shift as random search checkpoint personnel or on their way to a wrestling match.)

I am not comforted by the chaperones of the group next door using their thundersticks to mete out discipline. Y’all claim to be a leadership academy?

Well, this is going swimmingly so far. At halftime, the Liberty are up 47-29. Tina Charles is doing Tina Charles things, the bench has been productive, the kids around me are either engaged with the game or being quiet about their disinterest, and no one’s hit me with a thunderstick.

I could do without the anti-bullying slam poetry at the half, but this is what makes it E/I programming.

I’m starting to get the feeling that Layshia Clarendon is not a morning person.

Brittney Sykes is kind of adorable, in a refreshing honesty sort of way: as the half ended, she was smacking herself in the forehead for whatever mistake she made that led to the foul by Williams and the free throws for Shavonte.

I am totally here for Kyle O’Quinn’s mom kicking butt on the dance-cam.

There’s something bizarrely ironic or hipster or something about one of the “oversized” jerseys for Dress and Dribble being a Schimmel jersey. (And the other one was a Maddie jersey. I mean, really.)

Someone needs to get Mike W. a pronunciation guide. This is a recording. I think he had three different pronunciations for Damiris Dantas’s last name so far. We ended at four, and maybe the first one was correct.

I don’t think Atlanta are morning people. They rely very heavily on youth, and when that youth does not serve them, it’s going to be a long day.

Matee Ajavon was already working the ref before she even checked into the game. She was a sparkplug for the Dream in the second half, taking the rotation spot that had belonged to Meighan Simmons in the first half. She was aggressive at both ends of the floor. Meighan Simmons still likes to shoot, but to be honest, I missed about half her second stint on the floor because I was tweeting about the game (which will show me not to tweet during games, but it was picking up on something I started during a timeout). Brianna Kiesel is slight, and fast, and gritty. I admire that kind of player.

So are we sure that Brittney Sykes isn’t actually Deanna Nolan with a little plastic surgery and a fake ID? Because holy crap on a stick, she has the same two skinny braids behind the thick headband, the same build, the same ridiculous vertical, the same drive in the lane, the same fallaway jumper. I am genuinely weirded out by this. She doesn’t have the consistent athleticism that Tweety had, but she’s also torn her ACL multiple times, I can forgive that. I managed to miss her when Syracuse played at St. John’s, so I had no idea what I was getting into. Damiris Dantas, in addition to the indignity of having her name mispronounced all night (source: I went and asked a Brazilian), could not get her shots to fall, either in the lane or from the midrange. She had looks, and they simply would not fall. It was a bad day for her; it happens.

I know I joked about Layshia Clarendon not being a morning person, but I swear there’s something to it. She didn’t play great at all, but she was more out of it in the first half than the second half. In the second half, she was at least able to create a little bit, both for herself and her teammates. Overall, she didn’t seem to have the control and command over the game that she’s shown in Atlanta’s televised games this season. I really don’t like Tiffany Hayes. I respect her shooting, and her willingness to perform full-body sacrifice at all times. She’s a heck of a player. But at the same time, I could do without the flopping, and the milking of every time she hits the floor, and the dramatic overreaction every time there’s a call or non-call that she disagrees with, whether she was involved on the play or not. Tip, sometimes your teammates need to fight their own battles.

Bria Holmes managed to make a fantastic impression without hitting the broad side of a barn, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. She showed a lot of grit and hustle going after loose balls and tipping away rebounds. I love what she brings to the floor, and when she hits more shots she’ll be even more dangerous. Sancho Lyttle doesn’t have that spring in her step anymore, and her jumper is not the weapon she thinks it is, but it is still a very bad idea to attempt to pass over the top of her. Elizabeth Williams got bodied up all night, and it showed. She took a lot of contact inside, knocking her shots off balance. She was just as physical defensively, and she’s a solid defensive player. I like watching hard-nosed post players at work.

I originally thought this was going to be a game where we found out what Atlanta was made of, and if that was the case, then they’re not made out of very much except smoke and mirrors. But I think it’s more likely that this game was the aberration: they ran headlong into a defensive post tandem that was in the mood to prove themselves and a bench that was able to rise to the challenge.

I would very much like for Lindsay Allen to stop committing stupid fouls, but she’s a rookie; that kind of thing is to be expected. She had some nifty passes in this one. I think she’s more comfortable with the starters than she is with the other reserves; I think she has a better sense of what her role is when she’s subbing for Sugar or Bria. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe seems to have a knack for drawing trouble, or something, because this is the second game in a row where someone’s done their best to put a forearm in her throat. Lyttle was all up in her business, and I don’t know why. I mean, she’s stubborn, and she’s a little grabby, but not to the point of wanting to kick her ass that badly. Love her hustle. Love Rebecca Allen’s offense, but she’s got to play better defense. I’m not asking her to turn into DPOY or anything, but as the saying goes, defense is played with the feet, not the hands; she’s not doing enough to get herself in position to make the plays she needs to make, so she ends up reaching, and fouling, and causing Coach Laimbeer to throw out his arms and toss back his head in dismay. You know the pose. We all know the pose.

I’d also really like for Amanda Zahui B to stop making stupid mistakes on the floor so that she can be more than just a soaker-up of stray minutes at the ends of quarters to keep Tina from picking up cheap fouls and falling over (not necessarily in that order). I also want to know what’s up with Cierra Burdick, because she’s barely playing and her hustle seems to have disappeared in those precious seconds she does get.

Is it safe to say that Kiah Stokes might be back? She wasn’t the offensive threat today she was the last couple of games, but she was ferocious on the boards (Tina had to throw up the “aieee, don’t hit me in the face!” forearms under the basket a couple of times). The away-from-the-ball offensive fouls are starting to become a problem, especially since I don’t know what she’s doing (since they’re away from the ball and all that). But, most importantly, she’s being the physical bruiser we need next to Tina. Tina Charles got off to a hot start- she slowed down later on as the defense started to wear her down with doubles and triples, just draping themselves on her like so much laundry. I think the burden is starting to wear her down a bit- even though everyone else has been stepping up around her, she’s still expected to be the star, and needs to be if everyone else is going to have space to operate. Shavonte Zellous continues to be exceptionally passionate about all calls and non-calls that she believes should have gone in the Liberty’s favor. I keep thinking about the Barenaked Ladies line about wearing your heart on your sleeve and having a habit of taking off your shirt. (I’m paraphrasing.) She’s been handling a lot of the point guard duties- bringing the ball up the floor, initiating the offense, that kind of thing, and she’s surprisingly good at it. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting that.

As awesome as the three Sugar Rodgers hit from somewhere in the vicinity of Newport News was, it was the result of a broken play, and you could see Coach Laimbeer’s “no, no, no, YES!” reaction as she shot it and it went in. I think she’s starting to find a little of her confidence again, though. She’s taking shots in the flow of the offense- they might be quick ones, but most of them have been good quick ones. I’m okay with quick shots if they aren’t just panic heaves with no one in position to rebound. Bria Hartley is definitely better off the ball. This was not her day, but we survived.

On one hand, I appreciate the clarity of Janetta Graham’s communication on the floor- she was crisp on her calls and signals. On the other hand, it looked like she was trying too hard to ensure that the coaches respected her authoritah. I wonder if that has to do with being a fairly young female ref dealing with two NBA alumni coaches. I’m really, really not sure what was up with all the offensive fouls.

T-shirts are serious business, man. I don’t get it. People attack those shirts like piranhas.

Kids weren’t digging the Timeless Torches. Their School Day routine isn’t one of the strongest they have, though. (I do think it’s weird we don’t have a regular dance team- we have kids and we have older dancers, but we don’t have the usual complement of svelte, toned, twenty-and-thirty somethings.)

The difficulty level goes up from here. But I think we’re starting to rise to the challenge. I do love this team.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

June 4th, 2017: Phoenix at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty tightened up the defense in the fourth quarter to win down the stretch, 88-72, against the Phoenix Mercury. Kiah Stokes had a career-high 23 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds. Shavonte Zellous added 21. Brittney Griner had 26 points to lead all scorers.

For repeated flexing in a no-flex zone, a missed moment of awesome, too much purple, career highs, rocking the rim, and bringing the noise, join your intrepid and pleasantly surprised blogger after the jump.

Good afternoon, everyone! We just dodged the rain; let’s hope we can dodge the desert heat, too! It's gameday at the Garden, as the Liberty host the Phoenix Mercury. (I almost wrote ‘hose’ there, which is rather more wishful thinking.)

No real pregame notes; most of the Mercury never made it out to the court or were already off before the fans got there.

Way too many stargazers for this game. Too much purple. I like purple in most contexts, but this is not one of them. On the plus side, the Yankee fan in front of me didn’t show up, and the family behind us is really enthusiastic about the game.

Youth chorus anthem. Not bad, but a little shaky.

Way too many dance groups. Staaaaaahp.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 47-41. Kiah Stokes is having herself a day already, with 15 and 10 at the break. Brittney Griner has been the star of the show for the Mercury, with 19 points. She’s even leading them in assists!

Liberty are getting a lot of good looks behind the defense, along the baseline. Mercury are getting three-point looks.

Cierra’s hair is still not on fire.

I wasn’t expecting to win this game late. I didn’t think we were the team that was going to make the big run in the fourth quarter to put the game away, because that’s not the team we’ve been. I’ll happily take it, don’t get me wrong!

Sandy, Y U NO PUT BRUNNER IN GAME? Would it really have made a difference in the final minute?

Alexis Prince saw a short bit of run in the second quarter (early, I think). She committed a not-smart foul, and that was pretty much the last we saw of her. Shay Murphy blew a fast break chance that she should have had (and almost led to an enormous play for the Liberty) but showed a lot of hustle on the offensive glass. Late in the game, she was one of the few Mercury players still fighting for loose balls. I have a lot of respect for that kind of hustle. Emma Cannon was very physical, and didn’t understand why she kept getting called for fouls. To be fair to her, a lot of people didn’t understand why they were being called for fouls, on both teams. I’m not sure what differentiates her from the myriad of physical post players out there that are mostly around to pick up fouls and instill fear in the opponent.

Yvonne Turner was not afraid to shoot, and there were times that she should have been. She needs to work on knowing where the three-point line is. Leilani Mitchell was fast, and efficient. She’s ruthless on defense (she’s just too tiny). Sometimes she needs to understand that “Hey! Pick on someone your own size!” can be a caution to smaller players, not just a challenge to taller players (perhaps having her try to guard Kiah Stokes was not a good plan). Cayla George’s shot reminds me of Stacy Frese’s shot- her body arches, so that that everything is over the arc except her feet. I’m not sure where she fits, positionally. She’s stuck in the front court, but I don’t know if she’s effective there.

I’m starting to think of Weeping Angels when I see Danielle Robinson play. You can’t look away from her. You can’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. Blink and she’s off down the floor, on the fast break, and that’s two points. Look away from her and she’s going to take the ball away from you. She looks like she’s been extending the range on her jumper; maybe someday she’ll hit a three. Diana Taurasi had a hot stretch in the second quarter that I thought was going to turn the game around. She was deadly beyond the arc. You always know when she’s on the floor, and not just because of her mouth. There’s something about the way she moves on the floor that’s electric, like she still has another gear even after all these years.

Brittney Griner got off to a sort of slow start, being nudged out of her comfort zone by the Liberty defense, but started to pick up when the fouls started to mount up on the defense. She got down low and hit shots, and when she didn’t have angles she threw passes that no Liberty player could reach (though I’m not sure any 6’9” player needs to leave her feet to pass). She almost had a phenomenal tip-in off a loose ball early in the game, the kind of play even opposing fans have to admire. I don’t know if she can set a legal screen, though. Stephanie Talbot did a lot of holding inside. She was astonishingly unremarkable for a starter. Nobody is ever going to outwork Camille Little, but she’s started to reach that point in her career where she’s drifting to the perimeter offensively, and unlike many players, it doesn’t seem to be coming naturally to her. She didn’t look like she was being used to her full potential in the lineup.

I thought Phoenix gave up in the last couple of minutes. If you’re in a scenario where you really need threes, or at least consistent scoring, I would think you would want Taurasi on the floor, not Robinson. But what do I know?

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe is rapidly making herself very popular among Liberty fans for her endless motor and hustle. She never gives up on a rebound. She’s always looking for a way to make a play on a loose ball. Her offense still needs polishing, but she gives us a lift right when we need it. Amanda Zahui B had all the chances in the world to get a bucket, but she just couldn’t get the shot to go down. (And I think her grandma was here, so now I’m really bummed that she didn’t have a good game.) We still need to find Rebecca Allen’s confidence, but it’s getting there. Defense still needs work, though.

Shoot the damn ball, Lindsay! Lindsay Allen is being called upon in a big way for the next couple of weeks, and she needs to find her footing in a hurry. I like her court vision, and I definitely see why people had been excited about her in the first place. She had some nifty ballhandling that made me wonder how she managed to avoid being called for a travel. I’m thinking she might develop nicely in a couple of years now. Chelsea Hopkins finished the first half as a speed counter to Phoenix’s guards. If what we did hadn’t worked, I might have gone to her more in the second half. (But since it did, I shouldn’t complain.)

Tina Charles had Brittney Griner on her most of the night, which limited what she could do at the basket, and even in the midrange. (Those long arms, man. Freakin’ crazy.) When Griner had to go out of the game in the third quarter, Tina had more opportunities at the line when Talbot and George tried (and failed) to guard her legally. Fortunately, having Griner on Tina meant that Kiah Stokes was available, and she took full advantage. The defense kept doubling and tripling Tina, or whoever had the ball, and Kiah just sneaked along the baseline for good looks. The scary part was that the looks she missed were also good looks right at the rim. Her rebounding was on point. Her defense was on point. She laid a couple of shutdown blocks, one on Cannon, one on Taurasi. What a night for her! Shavonte Zellous also seems to have found her offensive groove as well. She and Kiah had some really good passing action going on. I’m really glad Shavonte’s jumper has arrived; I guess it was held up at customs for some reason. I’m still worried her mouth is going to get her in trouble, but she can probably handle it. And who knows, maybe it’ll get someone else in trouble first.

I’m still also worried about Sugar Rodgers’s shot. Maybe that halfcourt buzzer-not-quite-beater will boost her confidence going forward, but she had open shots in this game and could not get them to go down. She’s doing a phenomenal job defensively, shaking loose balls and proceeding to make plays on them- her hands have been great. Her passing to the interior has also been pretty solid. Honestly, she seems to be doing better as the point guard in our jury-rigged lineup. Meanwhile, Bria Hartley seems more comfortable off the ball, with Sugar or Shavonte handling more of the playmaking. She’s finding shots, and she’s finding a place in the lineup. I get the feeling that if we still had Brittany Boyd, Bria would have made these strides maybe a week or so sooner, instead of having her head ripped off for not being a point guard. (And yes. Guilty as charged.)

We aren’t always going to win shootouts. As long as we consistently bring defensive intensity, we should be all right. And the Liberty’s calling card has pretty much always been defense, from day one. That’s what keeps me in love with this team.

We got the benefit of the doubt on the officiating (except for Griner swinging a forearm at Nayo, a play that didn’t even get reviewed because Cannon and {I think} Shavonte got tangled up on a potential double foul). There were plays that should have been fouls on Kiah and Shavonte. I’m not going to lie about that. The play by Rebecca Allen that led to Sugar’s halfcourt heave should probably have been a foul. I’ll take it as the balancing act it is, and I hope Coach Laimbeer has reminded them to be more careful about fouling on defense in the future.

I honestly didn’t expect to start 2-0 without Kia and Piph. I don’t know if we can keep this up. But I’m taking bets on who’s next to have a career high!

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 2nd, 2017: Dallas at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The New York Liberty roared back in the third quarter and hung on late to beat the Dallas Wings 93-89. Tina Charles had a game- and career-high 36 points to go with 10 rebounds; Shavonte Zellous added 27 points, and Kiah Stokes had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Skylar Diggins-Smith had 19 points to lead four Wings in double figures.

For fashion disasters, the judgment of Mama Taj, worrisome guards, trials by fire, and getting off my lawn, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.

Why do the four-day weeks always seem longer? You’d think they wouldn’t be, right? And yet here we are. At least it's Friday. We can make it. I believe in you. I don’t know if I believe in me, but I believe in you.

Let’s take a moment to offer up prayers for the recovery and/or soul of my beloved Jocelyn, who may be dead or dying. She wouldn’t start up this morning, but I’m hoping I can fix that with a system restore. She’s been a good computer, sleek and beautiful and fast. As useful and lightweight as Kim (my Samsung tablet) and Manuel (the Lenovo laptop I’m typing these notes on) have been, things just won’t be the same without Jocelyn.

The difference between a 7:00 start and a 7:30 start is so stark it's not even funny. Even if Dallas did pretty much blow everyone off. That includes the two girls in Dallas green. Y’all. People are willingly wearing that putrid color you claim as your primary, and you ignore them? You deserve your bad karma. (Except for Chong, Christmas-Kelly, and Davis.)

It’s going to be a torch night. I didn’t think that this was that big a matchup, but you do you.

Hello to the Irish fans down in the front row of our section. I hope you and the rest of our visitors enjoy their visit!

No Timeless Torches, but we get Lil’ Torches instead. This is an acceptable exchange.

At halftime, it’s 50-45 Dallas, and I feel like it could have been worse.

Cierra Burdick is utterly adorable, between her dance moves with Amanda Zahui B and her patting the back of her hair as if to make sure it was still there when the torch flared off.

Shavonte. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. I know you’re frustrated. But stop talking. Just. Stop talking. Certainly stop talking to the Dallas bench.

I feel like the picture-perfect crossover followed by the airball 3 is as succinct a synopsis of Bria Hartley’s season as we’ll find this year.

Stupid Dallas fan frat boys.

Stupid jerks doing the Bleacher Creature roll call for the Wings.

Stupid ugly Dallas uniforms.

Not for nothing, but seats in our area are $46 per game. I have issues with people who pay $46 to go to a Liberty game and watch a Yankee statcast during a one-possession game.

(Peripherally related, I think I have my new sig line over at Reb’s.)

This was entirely too close for comfort, and I can’t shake the feeling that we got out of it as much by the Wings’ issues as we did by Tina Charles Being Awesome And Doing Everything So Well She Deserves All The Capital Letters. There were recoveries. But there’s a problem. There’s a big problem. But we’ll get to that.

Seriously, Dallas, is that red accent supposed to represent the bleeding your eyes do if they have to stare at those green uniforms for any length of time? I’m normally all about getting away from blue uniforms, but Dallas has a really nice and somewhat unique blue I’d like to see them use more.

Saniya Chong still has a lot of work to do, but I like her instincts on the floor. She got outplayed by her Liberty rookie counterpart, or at least outhustled. She got a surprisingly big hand from the crowd; either there are more UConn fans among the Liberty crowd than I thought or the population of Ossining was temporarily transported to Manhattan. I see why they kept her, though. She’s technically sound. Kayla Thornton sort of came off as the poor man’s Glory Johnson; there were a couple of sequences where I had to double-check the number to see who made the play. She’s not quite as a lot of things as Johnson is: not quite as tall, not quite as athletic, not quite as quick. She got into foul trouble in a hurry in the third quarter. Kaela Davis is a very nice shooter, and there’s no reason we should be leaving her open.

I don’t have an Internet connection right now, so I can’t go back in time and look at my notes from the times I’ve seen LSU play. But I’m pretty sure at some point I saw Theresa Plaisance in college, and I’m pretty sure I commented on her soft touch and long range ability back then. If an untrained fan sitting in the stands can spot it, I would think trained professionals would have it on the scouting report. And yet we kept leaving her open for threes (and we’re lucky one of them wasn’t a four-point play; the ref must have decided that Tina was giving her a high five for the basket). Glory Johnson brought a lot of speed and athleticism to the floor; there were several sequences where she was the one bringing the ball up with long, loping strides, and she wasn’t half bad at it. She kept moving, especially on defense, tipping away passes. Karima Christmas-Kelly appears to have misplaced her jumper, and attempted to make up for the loss with reaching and grabbing. As much talking as was coming from the Liberty end (and there was plenty) she was doing more than her fair share to the refs. She took a couple of hits, though I only saw the aftermath of them and thus cannot pass judgment on who did what and why would they do such a thing. She was very physical. She’s a Bad Girl, but without the Detroit part of the pedigree.

I don’t like Skylar Diggins-Smith, but she does have moves. (I actually dislike the cult of personality around her more than her personally, but I also dislike players who cultivate said cults. Anyway.) As pretty as she is on offense- the long jumper, the floater in the lane, the drop passes- I think I like watching her more on defense. There’s something about the quick movement of her feet and the way she holds her hands out that just works. But also, I am a sucker for defense and have been since jump. Allisha Gray wasn’t afraid to shoot, which is a good sign for Dallas’s future. No, really! You know she’s going to be a big part of it, and given the trouble the Liberty have had with getting players to shoot, it’s sort of refreshing to see a rookie who isn’t.

I might have had the successful three-point shooter out on the floor in the final minute or two instead of the hothead with five fouls, but I’m not chill enough to be Fred Williams.

Rebecca Allen got some brief run in the first half, hardly worth mentioning, and Bill didn’t go back to her. She’s playing like someone who’s lost confidence in herself, and while I can’t say I’m surprised, I hope she finds her footing. Cierra Burdick does exist! She played briefly in the second half, and they were unmemorable minutes. But I’m glad she’s okay. Amanda Zahui B got first half run, but in the second half she was sort of balancing on a board on the sideline between dance numbers, so I think she might be dealing with some kind of nagging foot injury. Foot injuries are not to be messed with, especially for posts.

Welcome back, Lindsay Allen, and we’re just going to throw you straight into the fire, no pressure whatsoever. She was first off the bench (though that was partially out of necessity, not out of rotation) and she acquitted herself about as well as could be expected with a rookie in her first game back. She’s got to be more careful with her hands, and we could use a little more offensive aggression from her, but she’s shown me more in one game than she did in three preseason games. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe got the bulk of the minutes at all the forward positions, and I love the activity she brings to the floor. She tips balls and she makes plays happen.

Tina Charles, my goodness. She knows she has to be the center of attention, and she knows she’s going to be getting doubled and tripled pretty much every time she even thinks too hard about the ball, and she still put up a reasonably efficient career-high with a double-double to boot. We’re so lucky to have her. The only quibble I have is that she needs to be more careful with her fouls- we need her too much for her to have to be off the floor or backing off on defense. Kiah Stokes brought strong interior defense and rebounding. It was the kind of game we needed out of her; it was the kind of game we’re going to keep needing out of her. Shavonte Zellous had a fantastic offensive game, both shooting and driving. She had some defensive lapses that I found disturbing- you can’t have your hands down on Diggins-Smith. Also, Z, it is bad form to yell swear words so loudly that people ten rows up can hear them... especially if you did, in fact, commit a blatant reach-in foul on Christmas-Kelly.

Bria Hartley did better as a shooting guard than as a point guard, which is reassuring in one sense (that she’s not a complete walking disaster) and distressing in another (well, we did kind of bring her in with the expectation that she was going to be able to run point for at least a few minutes). Playing her as the shooting guard makes her more effective, but someone still has to do the ballhandling. And her shot has been inconsistent. And then there’s the other issue in the backcourt, the elephant in the room we’ve all been too distracted to discuss because there are too many other issues to count. I love what Sugar Rodgers has done for the Libs, but this year, she’s been too inconsistent, taking steps back to the volume shooter she was at Georgetown instead of the more measured player she’s been for the last year or so. I’ll give her credit for her defense and passing, but we’re not going to survive many games where Sugar’s first points are the game’s last points. She has to make better decisions on the floor.

Refs somehow managed to call a boatload of fouls and still let a ridiculous amount of contact by both teams go uncalled. It got physical frequently and often. I’m surprised no one got hurt.

Survive and advance. Three rotation players down, that’s all you can ask. It’s unrealistic to expect Shavonte to shoot like that again, or for Kiah to drop another double-double with such emphasis.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30th, 2017: Los Angeles at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: A strong start by Tina Charles and the Liberty gave way to a Sparks rally and a 90-75 Los Angeles win. Candace Parker had a team-high 22 points, with Nneka Ogwumike adding 20 points and 11 rebounds. Tina Charles had a game-high 25 points for the Liberty, with Epiphanny Prince adding 21.

For reflection, delayed reaction, sandwiches, panicking, patriotic spirit, and the possible presence of an unwanted smell, join your intrepid and concerned blogger after the jump.

I’m devoutly hoping that I got any bad karma I might have out of my system before gametime. The Liberty have enough problems- Brittany’s injury, Kia and Piph whoring themselves out overseas going to Eurobasket, Kiah and Amanda’s struggles- without any other bad juju affecting the team.

The Sparks aren’t going to be easy, that’s for sure. Loaded frontcourt crashing into a strong defensive frontcourt- but I think the guards will be key. We need Bria Hartley to be... better. Let’s just leave it there.

Seriously. If the Liberty have a day like I just had, it’s going to be a very long night, and WNBA policy forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages after the end of the third quarter.

At halftime, it’s 38-36 Liberty, mostly through the very hard work of Tina Charles, no thanks to the refs. (Seriously. Tiffany Bird needs to never work in this league again.)

Beautiful anthem tonight, in honor of Military Appreciation Night. Well done timeout presentations, too.

To the three people in front of us, respectively tracking the Yankee game, reading his news feed, and playing Words with Friends: sorry our passion for our team is interrupting your phone activity. You paid ~$50 for these seats each why?

Mike W is having a rough day. I know he knows how to pronounce Ogwumike, but he’s been botching it badly. (On the positive side of the ledger, he’s gotten to say Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, and relished every syllable of it. He likes long names, hyphenated names, vaguely exotic names, and long vowels; Nayo’s name is like the jackpot.)

It’s a bad sign when the three attempt Tina all but airballed and got real sheepish about is only the third stupidest thing the Liberty have done in the first half (highlighted by Kiah Stokes and Shavonte Zellous knocking each other out under their own basket).

This was not good, and not just because we lost, and not just because we ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. This was not good because the stars did what they had to do and the people behind them did sweet Fanny Adams to help. Players we were expecting to be more than they are have not been. Players we already had expectations for have been disastrous. It’s barely June and we already have to rethink the makeup of the roster. Losing Brittany Boyd didn’t help; losing Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn to Eurobasket definitely won’t help.

Short bench for the Sparks, because we’ve all met Brian Agler and we know how he rolls. Sydney Wiese got some good open looks in the first half and showed off that pretty left-handed jumper, but once the defense started to close more on her, she was less effective. I think that might have been why Agler didn’t go back to her in the second half. Jantel Lavender stretched the offense to the high post with long jumpers, and brought physicality down low on defense. Riquna Williams does love to shoot, and her speed caused absolute chaos on defense. But when she was off, it gave the Liberty long rebound opportunities and took Los Angeles out of their groove.

Alana Beard picked pockets like a professional perusing the tourists of Times Square. Having her on Tina Charles wasn’t gong to end well for the Liberty if Tina had to do any amount of ballhandling. She took advantage of opportunities on the fast break, but is historically enough of an offensive threat that we couldn’t sag off her very often. Essence Carson was soid on defense, and of course now she can figure out where the three-point line is. Of course. She got a pretty good hand from the crowd (and I think there were a fair few folks from Paterson there). Chelsea Gray showed the passing eye she’s so well known for; by the end of the game, she and her teammates were really starting to show off with behind the back flips. More importantly, she kept the pressure on. I don’t know if I would have had her taking quite so many shots to open the game if I were Los Angeles.

I really would like to know what is with Candace Parker’s on-court attitude. Is she trying to mean-mug her way through and just doesn’t have the face for it? (Some people just can’t pull off certain expressions. It happens.) She looks like she’s perpetually smelling something bad. Her ballhandling is exceptionally graceful, and when her jumper is falling, it’s beautiful. She cuts fluidly- not to the level of Chamique Holdsclaw in her heyday, not quite T-1000 liquidity, but gracefully. She’s a stark contrast to the under-the-basket grit of Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike knows where to be and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get there. I admire her toughness. I don’t know if I admire the dramatics both she and Parker put into their reactions. Parker is more demonstrative, so it comes off worse (there was a play that inspired me to ask if Tennessee had a diving team).

It still takes a lot for me to get used to Los Angeles- the team of glitz, glamour, and cover girls- as a defensive-minded team that will rough you up in ways other than elbows. I still think they’d be far easier to like without Parker.

Oh, dear. I have to talk about the Liberty bench, don’t I? And I have to do it without swearing. This should be a challenge. Okay, let’s start with the posts, they’re less swear-inducing. Kia Vaughn was very active, and I still think one of the fouls she got called for should have been given to Bria Hartley. She was tough on the inside, but as always, once the double or the triple comes she has no idea what to do. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe got extended minutes. She’s very quick and light on her feet- extremely mobile. She’s got a great motor. Unfortunately, her idea of shooting the ball is rather akin to throwing it at the glass and hoping it goes in. Putting it on goal is a noble idea, but perhaps in another sport. (We have a Canadian. It’s the Stanley Cup Finals. ALL THE HOCKEY JOKES.) Amanda Zahui B came in at the very end of the game, after repeated chants from the stands had no prior effect. (People, we are talking about Bill Laimbeer; y’all are making it less likely he’ll put your favorite in.) She didn’t do anything other than almost commit a foul.

Rebecca Allen had the chance to really get a rocking crowd rolling at the end of the third quarter, but she missed the three. She, like many of her teammates, seemed scared to shoot, which is more of a problem for her since she’s primarily in for offense. And then there was the nightmare that was Bria Hartley. I’m starting to think we might have been sold a bill of goods on Bria. She looked like she was in shape, and maybe she is. But her brain, her reflexes, her skills, and her basketball acumen have not caught up to her physical condition. Her passing was bad. Her shooting was bad. Her defense was bad. We cringed whenever she was ready to check in, and you can’t tell me we were wrong for it. She doesn’t seem to have figured out the schemes on either end of the floor, especially on defense. We’re lucky Riquna Williams missed as many of the looks that Bria gave her as she did, otherwise this would have been an even uglier margin.

Whatever is wrong with Kiah Stokes, she needs to get it together in a hurry. She was getting outmuscled, outworked, and out-timed (if that last is a word). Granted, Lavender, Ogwumike, and Parker are an adventure for any post, but Kiah shone as one of the league’s top interior defenders last year. Did the officiating help? No. But she’s got to work through that, and in her third year the excuses start to run thin. There’s no excuse for her to be out of shape, playing heavy minutes in one of the more competitive leagues. She was actually benched for a couple of minutes to start the second half, with Bill going to Kia instead. Tina Charles played her heart out. I’ll assume the stupid fouls (especially her fifth) were from exhaustion. She started the game on fire; for the first five minutes she was the offense. We were calling on her to do everything, and she answered; there were a couple of sequences where she was the one bringing the ball up. She has such a phenomenally well-rounded game. But she can’t do it alone, especially in the frontcourt. Someone needs to step up next to her.

I use the phrase “next to her” deliberately, because Epiphanny Prince certainly stepped up behind her. Piph went hard to the basket, and in the second half she turned up the on-ball defense hard. She showed heart and hustle. She tried to drag the team across the finish line when Tina had to play back because of the five fouls. Sugar Rodgers was solid- I question some of her shot selection, but this is a Sugar thing. She went to the floor for loose balls and made plays that way. If I’m going to question her on defense, the question is going to be how the rotations managed to leave her on Candace Parker. Shavonte Zellous’s jumper appears to have abandoned her (honestly, this is the version of Shavonte who literally couldn’t beat me in a Pop-a-Shot contest). She made up for it pulling down boards and making passes out of the paint to open shooters. She brought her lunch bucket for this game.

Our team was scared to shoot. This is a problem. There was one possession where Shavonte had a good look at a three-pointer with ten seconds to go on the shot clock. Three passes later, the ball was back to her and she had to rush a shot. The supporting cast needs to step up, especially with Piph and Kia- two of the better performers in this game- heading off to Europe for the next three weeks.

We need a guard. Bria’s not doing the job, and we are paper-thin in the backcourt. Either that, or we need a small forward to swing Shavonte over to two. This is still not ideal, but it is what it is. Cierra Burdick was a DNP, and I’m wondering if she’s hurt or if there’s a transaction in the works involving her. I know about Lindsay Allen coming in, but I don’t think she can be the only answer.

Officiating. Let me tell you. Highlights of the absurdity included a Spark tripping over Essence Carson and the foul promptly being called on Kia Vaughn, Alana Beard hitting Piph in the head with the ball and Piph getting called for the foul, and (in the interest of fair play) a block by Kiah being called a travel on Parker (though that one got overturned). Lots of late whistles, to the point where the refs looked like they were watching the game on tape delay. I can’t even.

So, clear-path fouls. Would I be correct in comparing the clear-path rule to the offside rules in hockey and soccer? If another offensive player is ahead of the ballhandler, it is not a clear-path foul (but it would be offside) and vice versa?

We’ve got a long homestand coming up, and it’s adventure time with a short roster. These are the times that try women’s souls, or at least the advertising skills of ticket reps and the patience of coaches. We have to show heart. We have to show hustle. We have to be a team that people can believe in, even if we’re not necessarily a good team during that time.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 26th, 2017: Minnesota at Connecticut

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Minnesota beat Connecticut. I'm too tired to blurb further.

Sometimes you think you have a brilliant idea, and then it turns out it’s the opposite of a brilliant idea.

See, my employers are bastards sometimes, but they do offer us one half-day of the three-days-before-summer-holidays. So I looked at the schedule and said, “Oooh! Connecticut hosts Minnesota the Friday before Memorial Day, so if I leave the office at 1, I should make the 2:30 bus out of Flushing!” It helped that one of my co-workers gave me a lift to the train.

I thought I had taken Memorial Day traffic into account, I really did. But then we started detouring. And detouring. And detouring. The route usually goes over the Whitestone Bridge; we went over the Throgs Neck. We’ve been on this bus for over two hours as I type this, and we haven’t even hit Bridgeport or New Haven, the two biggest causes of traffic under the normal state of affairs. I’m kind of scared.

On the plus side, I am walking the hell out of some eggs. Or, more precisely, “walking”.

And there are no comps available. This time I even tried calling.

We’re coming up on three hours on this bus, and we still haven’t reached Bridgeport. Where are all you people going?! (The answer, by the way: not Bridgeport. We’re passing Harbor Yard now, and we’re actually moving at an acceptable clip.) (And it wasn’t New Haven, either, even the beaches at West Haven.)

ARE YOU SERIOUS the driver just pulled into the rest stop before Lyme for a goddamn smoke break. Dude. DUDE. You already stopped the bus once because you didn’t go before you left. I would like to get to Mohegan at some point before tipoff! I am not paying for you to smoke! (And, of course, since it was a rest stop, a whole bunch of people got off to use the bathroom, so we had to wait for them.)

Travel tip: a fully charged power bank will help you bond with your fellow passengers.

I missed most of the first quarter, but I made it. (Might have caught more of it if the driver hadn’t stopped for his smoko. I swear to the sweet hypothetical baby Jesus. Usually when bus drivers hit traffic, they go faster to make up the lost time, not slower!)

This was not pretty for the Sun. There were a couple of moments when it wasn’t pretty for the Lynx, either, but on this night, the old dogs still had it.

Jia Perkins got her points in the fourth quarter, against the overmatched Connecticut bench. She’s got the moves, still. She got into a bit of barking with Shekinna Stricklen, and I don’t know what all of that was about. (And to be honest, even given Strick’s size advantage, I’d probably take Perkins in that fight.) Renee Montgomery showed a little bit of flash and a little bit of excessive dramatics. There was a play in the second quarter that sure looked like a dive that had the crowd very angry. She and Perkins make a good tandem. Alexis Jones still looks like she’s finding her footing in this league. That’s okay. She’s a rookie. She looks like she’s going to get the hang of it at some point.

You can take the Bad Girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take the Bad Girl out of Plenette Pierson. She locks up opponents, she runs her mouth, she makes the most hilarious moues of dismay whenever officials dare to intimate she might have done something not, per se, within the rules of the game. She’s also teaching Natasha Howard well- there was one sequence where Howard had Alyssa Thomas’s left arm (the one where she wears the shoulder brace) in a lock that looked painful. Howard did a nice job of cutting into the paint and taking the open opportunities presented when the Sun defense doubled on whichever post player was on the other side of the basket. If she can absorb Pierson’s physicality, and if Brunson can teach her how to really use that long, athletic frame, she can be something really, really special. Temi Fagbenle needs work- she was getting bodied around by Brionna Jones. I don’t know if she has WNBA skills, or at least can play at WNBA speed.

When did Lindsay Whalen start shooting threes again? Because I don’t remember that having been a thing for a while. But Connecticut kept leaving her, and it happened. I’m not used to her not taking crazy physical drives down the lane, to the point where I wonder if she’s hurt. Seimone Augustus’s crossover is a thing of beauty- she broke Courtney Williams’s ankles so hard they’re still picking up bone fragments. Her range was off, but when she got open she was money.

This is why Maya Moore is a superstar and you are not: even on a night when she chucked up two airballs, she still drew oohs and aahs for her phenomenal rebounding. I don’t know why the shots weren’t going down, but she more than made up for it by owning the glass. Nobody could box her out, as hard as they tried. She had a monster block on Lynetta Kizer that was painful to watch if you were rooting for the Sun. Sylvia Fowles couldn’t be stopped in the post, for the most part- when she got position, it was going in. Kizer had the best luck against her, but that’s not saying very much. Yet the two times I’ve seen the Lynx this year, it’s been Rebekkah Brunson who’s taken my breath away. She still carries herself like she has the coiled-spring power and athleticism she had when she was younger, but she’s replaced much of it with cunning. She knows where to be and when to be there. She’s extended her game over the years. She’s amazing and I wish the Liberty had picked her up when we had the chance. Either time. (Sorry, Shameka. We love you dearly, but Bekky’s still in the league...)

The Lynx are probably the loudest team in the league. That’s not necessarily a statement about their on-court demeanor. Their bench is very communicative. It reminds me of college, in a way; I half expect them to start the “DE-FENSE!” chant when the other team has the ball.

Jordan Hooper played briefly. I still don’t know why Connecticut acquired her, unless they have some kind of fetish for Nebraska forwards that I have yet to understand. Danielle Adams has become a folk hero in Connecticut; the crowd’s noise rose and fell with her fortunes. They were not good fortunes, for the most part. I’m not entirely sure the clear-path foul was a clear-path foul so much as it was the inexorable result of gravity, that harsh mistress. Lynetta Kizer shone on the fast break. She takes advantage of her opportunities very well. She’s not a star, but she’s the kind of player you want on your team. Brionna Jones is still a work in progress- physical, to be sure, and solidly built, but she still hasn’t mastered running backwards, and she has some moments of being lost on the floor.

Rachel Banham also seems to have been chosen by the crowd as one of their heroes; they certainly seemed to enjoy her hitting shots and going to the line. She needs work defensively, but she’s not bad offensively. Courtney Williams brings offense, though it’s wild and inconsistent. She almost had a fantastic block on Natasha Howard, but at the last minute the officials called it a foul. The masses were displeased. Shekinna Stricklen set up beyond the arc, but it sort of felt like she was where ball movement- such as it was- went to die. She committed some very stupid fouls, too.

Jasmine Thomas got lucky she didn’t get called for all the reach-ins she was committing. She’s got a good head for the game, but I think she was letting frustration get to her at times, especially after turnovers. There’s something missing from Alex Bentley’s game. Maybe it’s just that she’s a shooter, and when she’s not shooting well it affects the rest of her game. And her shot was off, very badly.

Jonquel Jones showed flashes of her fantastic ability, both at the basket and from the perimeter, but was limited due to foul trouble (she already had two first-quarter fouls by the time I arrived and was out of the game). If she can stay out of foul trouble... but that’s really the issue for Connecticut as a whole, isn’t it? Their reaching on defense is a team-wide thing. Morgan Tuck was solid- had some nice moves on the left side. Alyssa Thomas was mostly neutralized. Minnesota matched up well with her slashing, driving style.

What really got me about this game was the rebounding. Minnesota was all over the boards. By the third quarter, Connecticut’s body language was that of a team that had given up. That extra level of oomph was missing. It was easy for Minnesota to get whatever they wanted. The Sun’s bench recovered against the Lynx’s bench in the fourth quarter, but by that point I don’t think anyone except Cheryl Reeve was emotionally invested in the outcome.

I have no idea how Rebekkah Brunson didn’t get called for pancaking one of the Sun guards. I mostly agreed with the wrath of the Sun fans who booed several calls/non-calls; on the other hand, there were plenty of things that could have been called on Connecticut.

Connecticut has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure the pieces fit together. I’m not sure Bentley fits with this team, and I think they’re going to need to move on from Jasmine Thomas. Jones and Tuck are a nice nucleus to work from.

Minnesota’s ready to go out in a blaze of glory. If they win the title, I can imagine pretty much every one of the older players retiring in one fell swoop.

On a holiday weekend, the precious taco bowls are available. Om nom nom.

It was exhausting, but it was fun, and I like getting a somewhat neutral view of other teams. (And being amused at the disengagement of Sun fans. T-shirts drew louder cheers than pretty much anything I heard.)

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 18th, 2017: Minnesota at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Minnesota Lynx found their footing after the first timeout and won going away over the New York Liberty, 90-71. Maya Moore had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists to lead the Lynx. Sugar Rodgers had 20 points to lead the Liberty.

For forgotten forks, lackluster stars, catastrophic injuries, jackass kids, ditzes, unseasonable weather, and concerns, join your intrepid and exploratory blogger after the jump.

Another day, another seventy-eight cents (at least I think that’s the current differential between white women and white men on the wage scale), another night at the Garden. I’m assuming the Minnesota Lynx will provide more of a challenge to the Liberty than the Stars did, if only because they have their full roster on hand.

I didn’t expect Maya Moore to stop when she was running off, so I didn’t dare go down. Such is life. Rebekkah Brunson took off running even faster, pursued by an assistant.

I think I would enjoy the pregame dance performance if it looked like the kids were having fun. But too many of them look like they’re going through the motions. This should be fun for them, right? They shouldn’t be doing this if they don’t want to, right? The second group seems to be enjoying themselves more.

The wi-fi isn’t teleporting my dear drunken avatar to Puerto Rico anymore in Pokemon Go. Instead, she’s doing laps of the Garden like Usain Bolt on a Red Bull and Mountain Dew cocktail. GPS drift will gain me soooo much distance, yessss.

We scared off another ticket rep. We’lll miss you, Morgan, you poor unfortunate soul. I wonder what M name we’ll get next? (So far, our last four ticket reps have been Morgan, Melissa, and Megan- oh, and Chris. He was sort of the odd man out.) Good luck to you whatever you happen to be doing, Morgan!

I don’t like the new mashup for “Strike It Up”, but I don’t like “Strike It Up” mashups in general.

The Lynx are very late out- we’re at 15:30 and there’s only one team on the floor.

I wonder if Amanda Zahui B got some kind of warning about her hair. It’s tied down more than usual, looking no more beware-worthy than Nayo or even Brittany.

Solid choral anthem.

At halftime, the Liberty are down 43-40, and it could have been a lot worse. The defense has been intermittent at best. I am not a fan of the officiating, though I recognize that I am also biased. Sugar Rodgers is single-handedly carrying the team with 19 points. Minnesota’s scoring is more balanced; the big stars have been Augustus and Brunson.

Oh my God I want that red top Swin Cash is wearing, I don’t care that it’s a maternity top, it’s brilliant and it’s flowing and I want it.

Rebecca Allen has so far been the only Liberty player who hasn’t played. I don’t know if she’s still hurt or if she’s in the doghouse.

Shoutout to the trio of Lynx fans in the endcourt. You’re kind of obnoxious, but you’re passionate about your team, and that Augustus shirt tells me y’all aren’t just UConn fans here to cheer for Miss Maya or Sun fans who just can’t let Whalen go. And I see you, other dude in the white Augustus jersey. Hardcore and awesome.

Well, that got worse in a hurry. The switching was a hot mess, and right when Brittany Boyd started dragging us kicking and screaming back into the game, she got hurt, and it was bad, and the postgame reports are saying season-ending. I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS.

The more often I see Minnesota, the less I like them. Unnecessary physicality, ridiculous flopping, and an awful lot of attitude. It might nto be bragging if you back it up, but it’s rubbing it in when you do it after the game’s already been decided.

Alexis Jones entered the game and promptly hit a deep three, because that’s the way things went on this hot, heavy, unpleasant, uncomfortable evening. Temi Fagbenle committed a foul and promptly tied our PA announcer’s tongue in knots. I think someone forgot to give him the pronunciation guide. Natasha Howard got good minutes in the first half, and did a nice job mending broken plays. She’s a nice, well-rounded player.

I know Plenette Pierson shoots threes, but I’m not used to her taking quite so many of them. Defensively, she was up to her old tricks, hooking ‘em like she went to Texas instead of Texas Tech. She drew that T on Tina Charles by hooking the arm and not letting go until Tina had to throw her off. Jia Perkins still has the pretty jumper and the driving moves, but I’m going to need her to skip the dance moves when the Liberty call time out. I’m also going to need Renee Montgomery to lay off the flopping- there was one play where she almost went into the “oh God my knee” position to draw the foul, and especially given what happened later in the game, that’s a cheap play. She brought good speed on defense.

Maya gonna Maya. When she makes a decision, it is swift, efficient, and merciless. She makes one move and bam! There’s a three-pointer, or a midrange jumper. She didn’t have to be the star of the show, but that just made her superstar moments stand out more. Sylvia Fowles got the benefit of the doubt from the officials much of the time, which was frustrating, because I don’t know that she really needed it. She muscled her way along the baseline for nifty reverse shots. Her screens were tough, too. Rebekkah Brunson started off hot, and we should have realized it was going to be a long night for the Liberty when she hit the three in the second half.

I think Lindsay Whalen’s lost a step somewhere- our guards did a surprisingly good job keeping up with her. Her strength and physicality, as a guard, are still hard to match. She took control of the game in the second half for the Lynx. Seimone Augustus has been hitting that pretty little crossover step-back jumper for just about half the league’s existence, and I don’t think she’s going to stop doing it any time soon. She’s so smooth.

We were all rooting for you, Nayo. Bria Hartley set her up for a basket, and our PA announcer absolutely loves her name. (He enjoys long names, somewhat exotic names, and names with long vowel sounds, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe qualifies on all fronts.) And then she fumbled the ball and had to pass off. Amanda Zahui B played a few uneventful minutes in the first half, punctuated by one particularly stupid foul. That might have explained why she didn’t play in the second half, even when the bench was emptied in the waning minutes. Kia Vaughn has got to stop telegraphing her moves- there were one or two plays where she hesitated, double-clutched, and missed a shot she probably could have hit on the first try.

Cierra Burdick, we need to have a talk about the stupid fouls. Not that I don’t love her hustle, or her ability to hit the three, and not that guarding Maya Moore is an easy task- but in some situations, you have to be subtle about the contact. Rebecca Allen does exist! She’s a couple of steps slow on defense, and I don’t remember her shot release being that slow before, but it’s good to see her back and it’s good to see her being somewhat of a perimeter threat. Bria Hartley was unmemorable. Epiphanny Prince had good looks and blew them. The rim wasn’t fond of her on a couple of jumpers, but I expect more from drives in the lane. She had a golden fast break opportunity and blew it late in the game. I like her defense on the ballhandler- she’s shown a knack for knocking the ball loose.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Kiah Stokes, but I don’t like it. She’s a step slow on defense, so instead of making the big, crowd-pleasing play, she commits the foul. She’s missing bunnies at the rim. We need her to have a breakout year, and she’s regressed. Shavonte Zellous got physical on defense, and often paid the price with fouls. I think we’re going to need her to find some of the offense she left at Pitt. And while playing with passion and emotion is important, I think we’re also going to need her to maybe not wear her heart on her sleeve quite so blatantly in-game. Tina Charles looked lackluster. I assume she’s seen triple teams before in her life, so it was a bit of a surprise when she didn’t seem to know how to handle them. She perked up a little bit in the second half, but not enough. She needs a physical post next to her, I think and neither Kia nor Kiah was really supplying that enforcer material.

(We had about two minutes of Kia-and-Kiah action, brought to you by KIA Motors.)

I was wondering when Sugar Rodgers was going to arrive this season. Her shot was back on point, and it was beautiful. She picked up a lot of loose change rebounds, whether it was on deflections, raw hustle, or beautiful boxing out. And Brittany Boyd was having the game of her life before she went down in the fourth quarter. She pretty much took the game over in the second half with fast drives and utter intensity. Her jumper was working. Her pell-mell drives were working. She would not be denied.

And then she hit the floor. And her ankle rolled. She tried to get up... and crumpled again. She tried to get up again. She tried to shake off her teammates. Tried to shake off Rosie. Tried to walk it off before she finally admitted she couldn’t go. On-site, at the time, we thought it was just a bad ankle sprain.

I think the officials were in a bad mood from the get-go because the clocks kept turning off in the pregame. They were inconsistent, and letting a lot of contact go by Minnesota. I’m not going to say that this led to the Boyd injury, but when a game gets physical and contact isn’t called on one team, maybe they start playing a little more physically than they even normally do.

To the group of half a dozen young punks who migrated to the section next to ours, started rooting for the Lynx for no discernable reason, and apparently knew Kia Vaughn well enough to call her on the bench: why? If Kia’s your girl, why are you rooting for the other team?

(And Kia, you dear sweet ditz. You are so lucky that Bill didn’t see you turn around and have an exchange with people in the stands during play.)

It was bad, but I keep thinking that it could have been worse, given how badly most of our stars played. Tina’s not going to play like that too much more often. Neither is Piph. Granted, we’re probably also not going to get those kinds of nights from Sugar on a regular basis, but I think we can get a reasonable amount of offense from her on a regular basis.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

May 13th, 2017: San Antonio at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Balance carried the day for the New York Liberty in their opening day win over San Antonio. Tina Charles led six Liberty players in double figures with 12, adding seven rebounds. Monique Currie had 23 points off the bench to power the Stars. Isabelle Harrison added 15 points, while Alex Montgomery led all rebounders with 11.

For spinning, rally rags, shirts, new neighbors, a familiar lie, proper technique in the wrong sport, dubious life choices, and confrontational players, join your intrepid and culinary blogger for chocolate chip cookies and lemon delights after the jump.

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen, and nobly mannered non-binary folk! We’re coming to you on tape delay from the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, for the New York Liberty’s home opener against a sad excuse for the San Antonio Stars.

It’s raining something fierce out there, gray and dull and unrelenting. It’s a good day to be indoors with a few thousand of our closest friends and the team that has shaped who I am.

The unpleasant gentleman and his daughter who plagued us for a couple of games last season appear to have moved their seats; the two seats were being marketed as vacant when we passed them. We moved as well, but two rows straight down isn’t much of a move. (Amusingly, the couple who took our seats moved up from the row we’re now in.) I’m annoyed that they haven’t fixed the seat from when we told Morgan about it during the college season (you may recall that your intrepid blogger did the St. John’s double-header at the Garden this past season).

Sweet summer children. Players who promise to come back never come back. Kelsey Plum did that. She says the ankle’s fine, even as she’s tromping around in a walking boot. Okay, I get it, don’t ask obvious questions.

Long reunion between Spoon and VJ. There was hugging. We miss you, VJ. F--- Blaze.

The kids’ dance troupe wasn’t bad, but I feel wrong for scouting pre-teens for the St. John’s dance team.

Both of the injured Stars looked very nice. (Look, if you have to be in street clothes, be in nice street clothes.)

Very long anthem. Beautiful voice, but she tried to do too much with it.

At halftime, the Liberty are up 37-28, in a half that ended with a couple of long reviews. I don’t think Coach Johnson is happy with the results.

We’re currently enjoying Rob Base sort of singing “It Takes Two”. I can’t tell if it’s live or lip-synced. Finished with a Steam sample… that the organist picked up on and finished.

Very physical game. VJ appears to be coaching turn of the millennium Liberty defense, with mixed results. Isabelle Harrison has been a very bright spot.

Worried about Rebecca Allen for the Liberty- so far DNP and stayed out of warmups. Everyone else has played. Shooting needs work, but defense is on point. I mean, okay, we’re playing a very short-handed team, but I love the hustle.

Play of the day: that Cierra Burdick spinning lay-up doe.

There’s something about the cut of VJ’s suit that isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it’s the flare of the jacket, or the way it falls across her shoulders, or something, but it could look better.

The wi-fi at MSG seems to share an address of some kind with a museum in Puerto Rico. My Pokemon Go avatar keeps jumping back and forth between San Juan and New York.

That was closer than I would have liked it to be, but a win is a win, and I love what our defense is doing. San Antonio had very little to lose for this game- after all, everyone knows that their starting backcourt is not going to be Sydney Colson and Sequoia Holmes.

Kayla Alexander was inserted in the second quarter, primed to slide into position for rebounds- and then she got two quick fouls, which put her right back on the bench and made sure she didn’t have a groove to get into. She added one more in the second half for good measure. I kept overlooking Nia Coffey, and apparently I wasn’t the only one; I don’t know how she got those rebound numbers. I don’t know if the long-range shot is going to work for her, but can’t judge on one day, right? Isabelle Harrison stole the show inside. She’s going to be brilliant, if she isn’t already. She’s physical and tough, not afraid to get down low. I like the arc on her jumper; I don’t usually see post players arc it so high. (I wonder if practicing against Griner has that effect on players. If you’re going against 6’9” on defense regularly... I’ll need a larger sample size.) She boxed out well and got good position inside. Really great work.

I like Monique Currie as a person off the court. I do not like Monique Currie as a player on the court. I do not like Monique Currie as a person on the court. I do not like Monique Currie with a midrange jumper. I do not like Monique Currie running her mouth. I don’t know how this turned into a Green Eggs and Ham parody. She was the offense for San Antonio, drawing contact early and going to her jumper late when the defense shied away. And then there was the mouth. She and Shavonte Zellous were jawing for much of the game, and eventually it exploded, but we’ll get to that later. Haley Peters is tall, and I get the feeling Coach Johnson wanted to use her as an outside threat, but she wasn’t getting into position.

Has Sequoia Holmes always been this jittery? That’s the only word that comes to mind when I look at her. Her movements are short, sharp, and jerky, whether she’s backpedaling on defense or smacking away a pass. I wasn’t expecting her to have this good of a shooting day, and I get the feeling her jumper is heavily based on luck. Sydney Colson brought speed, and she and Alex Montgomery were a really good double-team on defense, trapping along the sideline. Montgomery brought the defense, and rebounded well underneath. She seemed to be one of the few players willing to shoot when the clock was running down, which is a bit of a surprise.

Dearica Hamby has yet to learn that the pell-mell drive to the lane that ends in a low scoop shot is not going to work in the WNBA the same way it worked at Wake Forest. Either she’s got to get up more, she’s got to get the shot up more, or she’s got to do a better job of drawing contact when she does it. Defenders in the WNBA are bigger, stronger, and faster, and they’re going to disrupt that shot, or at least ensure that you don’t have the angle that you want when you take it. She’s still a work in progress, to put it politely. √Črika de Souza is not terribly mobile, and when officials catch it, it leads to 3-second calls. When officials don’t catch it, it can lead to points. She’s still a whole lot of woman down low, even after all these years. (After remembering how young she was when she started, it’s sort of jarring to realize she’s one of the oldest players in the league.)

San Antonio, once they have all their parts in place, seems like the kind of team that can sneak up on a more talented team and ambush them for a bad loss. The kids are going to be all right, Isabelle Harrison can ball, and when all else fails, they have the crafty veteran to come up with baskets (or tackles).

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was last off the bench, and she still needs some work to be fully on the W level. But I like her smarts and I like her hustle. She does, however, need to realize that the Canadian step is on par with the American step; it’s a travel any way you slice it. I’d like to see Amanda Zahui B be more offensive-minded- there were a couple of plays where she had position on the low block and passed out of it. She’s got to realize that we need her to be a low-post player, especially if Tina Charles isn’t in the game. Kia Vaughn is still entirely too hesitant for my liking, but she’s been in this league since 2009, so I don’t think she’s going to speed up any time soon. I like her physicality, and her strength down low on defense.

I need Epiphanny Prince to remember that she is no longer at Rutgers; this means that a) she only has 24 seconds to get into the offense, 14 off an offensive rebound, and b) if she keeps running the shot clock down to three seconds, someone’s going to strangle her and it might not even be me. Her work in the passing lanes was beautiful; she had some great steals that got the fast break offense working. She drew contact well, too. Clock awareness is key. I like what Cierra Burdick brings to the floor; she’s heady and she’s aware of the game, not just what’s in her immediate vicinity. Her jumper was working today, but the play of the game was this beauty. Her defense needs a little work, but on the other hand, getting caught in a double-team of Currie and de Souza is not something I’d wish on a player with limited experience.

Tina Charles was strong in the first half; for a rather large chunk of it, she was our only consistent offense. She took an awful lot of off balance shots and contested shots, and I wasn’t sure she needed to take them. She’s a little slow on the boards, but it’s early and she’s still awesome. Kiah Stokes was a disappointment on the offensive end- she had easy shots in the lane and blew them. Her defense was solid- she had a nice block on Sydney Colson. But if she’s going to start, she needs to be a target on the inside. If she doesn’t score, she shouldn’t play. Shavonte Zellous kept busy on defense, and I’d love to have heard the jawjacking between her and Currie. It looked intense.

Sugar Rodgers continues to display the shot selection she showed in her early years with the Lynx. I know she has to step up, but part of stepping up means not putting the team in a bad situation with a bad shot. Her defense is improving, but I don’t know if that’s a tradeoff I want to make. Someone on this damn team needs to be a long range threat. Brittany Boyd made good passes, though perhaps a little too hard much of the time. She had a strong stretch in the fourth quarter where her speed, ability to draw contact, and defensive intensity all came together in a hurry. And then she lost her temper juuuuuuust a little bit.

So late in the game, that happened. As mentioned above, Currie and Z had been doing a bit of talking. I suspect there was some chatter between Currie and Boyd too. So Currie and Boyd went for a tie-up on a loose ball, and after the whistle blew the play dead, Boyd snatched the ball out of Currie’s hands. Currie took exception to this. Words were exchanged, with some heat. It took a couple of Libs to persuade Boyd, with a bit of force, to exit the confrontation. What made me think there was more to it than Boyd completely losing her head was the fact that her teammates gave her low fives afterward. (On the other hand, this was followed by Spoon grabbing her and having a head-to-head talk right in her face. So I’m thinking Spoon thought this was a terrible idea, though given that it is Spoon, there is a non-zero possibility that Spoon was giving her tips on technique.)

The intro video this year, to Beyonc√©’s “Freedom”, is amazing, and is a fantastic choice of music on multiple levels.

Monique Currie tackles better than half the Giants defense and three-quarters of the Jets defense. Great follow-through, full wrap-up, she finishes the job all the way through to the ground. I mean, you’re not supposed to do that in basketball, and they did eventually call the foul (but not until she had Nayo all the way to the ground- I guess process of the catch applies to opponents too?).

Officiating was inconsistent, wavering between complete anarchy and calling touch fouls. And then there were three reviews. It took a while to get through everything.

Cierra Burdick has no fear. She stood next to the big torch during intros and didn’t even flinch when the flames roared up.

This should have been a bigger win than it was. But a win is a win. We’ll need to be better against Minnesota.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 7th, 2017: Connecticut at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Sloppy, physical play doomed the New York Liberty in their 79-57 loss to the Connecticut Sun at Columbia University. Tina Charles led the Liberty with 20 points and nine rebounds, but no other New York player mustered more than nine points. Morgan Tuck had 20 points to lead Connecticut.

For bleacher creatures, the wrong entrance, lost Connecticut fans, sloppy play, distressing starters, and offensive concerns, join your intrepid and peripatetic blogger after the jump.

Is it Mother’s Day? My family’s celebrating next week, but I honestly can’t remember if it’s this Sunday or next Sunday. In either case, felicitations and joy to all the moms out there, just for the heck of it. (Especially you, Mom.)

We’re on our way to the Liberty’s last preseason game, their only home preseason game (for a given value of home), as they take on the Connecticut Sun. It’s a few more stops on the C than usual. All right, it’s 10 more stops from Penn Station to Levien Gymnasium. Good thing all my batteries are fully charged.

Things I learned today: there’s another entrance to Levien! I’m spinning this as a positive, but it was a bit hairy at moments. Maybe letting people know which entrance to use, or at least leaving a note with the Columbia kid manning the gate at the usual entrance, would have been helpful. People who have been to Columbia games (which, granted, is a farily small subset of Liberty fans) are going to automatically go in the way they always have, not through the entrance at the other end that says NO ENTRY.

Court was cleared fairly quickly. I only even saw one Sun player. (I’m assuming Connecticut brought more than one player.)

Good to see the Usual Suspects again (and shoutout to the proud Johnny who greeted us in the stands).

Y’know, I’ve been to Levien before. I have GNoD to prove it. I should really have remembered to bring seat cushions.

Protip: if MTA’s trip planner tells you to take the C and walk across, do not do this thing. Trip Planner does not take elevation into account. So many stairs. If you like stairs, however, Morningside Park is very pretty.

I’m not sure how I feel about Amanda Zahui B’s hair. I think she needs to freshen it up.

At halftime, it’s 37-27 Connecticut, and that’s after the Liberty recovered from a hellacious first quarter where we had no field goals. Tina Charles basically decided in the second quarter that she did not approve of these shenanigans and scored 15 of her 18 points. The offensive schemes need some work. A lot of work. At the very least we need to not pass into triple-teams. Connecticut is being very physical and very handsy.

Fantasy game at halftime, coached by Sue Wicks and Kym Hampton. And I’m pretty sure someone with a quirky sense of humor put A’riel Hampton on Sue’s team... I guess that’s one way to make sure the coach doesn’t play favorites.

Anthem by one of the Knicks City Dancers, accompanied on keyboard by the Garden organist. Or, as I like to call it, the easy listening version of the anthem.

Sue is really into coaching this fantasy game. It’s adorable. She’s hamming it up. Kym has gone for the more stoic approach.

I really want one of those Liberty warm-up jackets. The new design is fire emoji.

That could have gone better. I suppose it could have gone worse, but I’m a bit hard pressed to figure out how. Two of our projected starters looked like hot trash on a platter, one looked like she didn’t care for two quarters of the game, and I have no idea who’s going to be on our bench. And if I were a Connecticut fan, I might still be slightly worried about the overly physical play. (I might also be wondering why Williams is starting over Banham.)

Brionna Jones got all her run in the in the second half, and she brought physicality down low with those shoulders. She had a nice putback off a miss from the corner. Danielle Adams showed some of the outside touch, and surprising mobility for her size. (And for all of her legendary flopping expertise, I think the charge she took was legit. Nayo got leverage on her. Shoulder right under the breasts. I winced in sympathy.) Reshanda Gray needs to work on her ballhandling, or the post equivalent thereof- she had a lot of trouble holding on to the ball. I like her hustle on the inside, but I think she’s going to be on the outside looking in with this roster. I think the Sun are very happy to have Lynetta Kizer back, both for the power she brings down low on both ends of the floor and the midrange jumper she flashed. She never stops, and I admire that about her.

For all her shooting woes, I thought Rachel Banham actually had a pretty good game. She looked like she was settling into a lead guard position, and her defense was better than I was expecting. It probably didn’t help her that the vagaries of switching defense often left her with a faceful of Zahui, the one player on that court who probably knows her better than any other. Kelly Faris brought a lot of good, scrappy, hustle defense; somehow it seems appropriate that with a game like this, she came up with the final rebound. Shekinna Stricklen’s height caused problems, and she’s still in love with that three. Jessica January did not impress, except in the sense that she made someone else look worse.

Courtney Williams is a little waterbug, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Like Betty Lennox once did, she can juke and slice her way through a defense. She’s aggressive defensively, sometimes to a fault. She might be a little more headstrong going to the basket than her coach would like. Jasmine Thomas didn’t call glass on the three, but since this isn’t the playground it doesn’t matter. The hand-checks were getting called on her. She’s got to be smarter than that, especially with Banham breathing down her neck.

Jonquel Jones is a freakin’ beast. She barely played and she still stole the show, rebounding by sheer force of will and wingspan. She had a monster, perfectly timed and executed, block on Nayo. That trade with LA is starting to look really good for both teams. Alyssa Thomas can be a one-woman fast break, but she didn’t need to be. She had trouble with the defense closing in on her. Morgan Tuck was solid, taking advantage of horrific baseline defense to cut to the basket. She drew a lot of fouls and hit her free throws. She looks recovered from the knee surgery.

If I’m Connecticut, based on the three games I’ve seen, my last three cuts are Gray, January, and Adams in that order, depending on the cap. (Sorry, Too Tall. Love you, but you need more seasoning overseas.)

Ameryst Alston brought a little offensive pop in garbage time. I don’t know if she has what it takes to make the regular season roster, but I like how hard she works. Lindsay Allen did not impress. She’s got good speed, and she’s willing to work on defense, but a point guard has to be able to pass, and I’m not seeing that passing eye from her. (My favorite-in-the-sarcastic sense play was the one where she essentially turned the ball over twice on the same possession, first passing it right at Faris, getting the bounce off Faris’s hands, then throwing it away towards Amanda.) Brittany Boyd has got to hit those free throws she draws, but I love her hustle. Her defense was good, and she’s really mastered the art of drawing contact (though to be fair, Connecticut was fouling everyone at every time). That woman deserves all the ice baths.

If Jacki Gemelos wants to make this roster as a three-point specialist, she needs to hit three-pointers. Barring that, she needs to bring it on defense. You can’t get caught with your hands down on a shooter. I remain utterly unimpressed. Kai James should have finished a lot more at the rim- she got some beautiful looks (including one from Lindsay) and either handed them off (resulting in turnovers) or took soft shots as if she were afraid to take contact (resulting in turnovers). If she was supposed to prove anything in this game and in the DNP-CD of Kia Vaughn, she didn’t. Cierra Burdick hustled, but not much else. Getting crossed over by Kelly Faris and then owned on the glass by a rookie is not a good look for a bubble player. Amanda Zahui B was inconsistent on the offense, not taking post shots she should have taken and surrendering to the urge to take the outside jumper.

Sugar. Sugar, we need you to take better shots. Too many of them were ill-advised quick shots (including that one-armed heave from the sideline with, like, seven seconds left; it looked like a terrible life decision from my angle, but I’m not sure if she was falling out of bounds or not). I don’t know what to make of her, especially with the repetitive offense we were running. Maybe she’ll be all right when we have more of the post offense installe dand she isn’t under as much defensive pressure. Bria Hartley took her turn at the lead guard, and she was all right offensively, but mostly in terms of looking for her own offense, not in terms of setting up other people. She might be effective as a three-point threat, which is something we really don’t have.

Rebecca Allen was a hot mess, and I’m worried about her. She’s not moving effectively on defense, and she didn’t look to shoot at all. If she’s going to start at three, she’s going to have to shape up right quick. Tina Charles woke up in the second quarter, looked around, and decided to impose her will on the game. Then she got bored with that, and she didn’t play most of the second half. We already know what she can do in the high post. I’m still annoyed that her rebounding was lackadaisical. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe showed strength on the boards, but I’m not happy with her timidity on the offensive end, or her ability to hold on to the ball.

The offense was a disaster. I almost said hot mess, but I don’t like being repetitive. There are so many times you can pass into the teeth of a triple team before I start doubting the entire team’s sanity, including the coaching staff. Yes, you have to install your sets, but you also have to recognize when that set might not be working and maybe tinker with it a little more before you unleash it on unwitting opponents.

I suspect we’re going to keep Lindsay Allen just so we can say the draft wasn’t a complete waste, but I’m not seeing what they’re seeing in her. I still think Cierra Burdick and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe are the last survivors of the cuts, but we’ll see what goes down at the deadline. Trader Bill and the crew have pulled last-minute magic before.

The officials called a lot of touch fouls and a lot of cheap fouls. I don’t think either side was thrilled. Curt Miller spent a lot of time expressing his opinions of the matter at halfcourt.

What was up with the Sun staff all wearing red sweaters? They looked like some kind of demented Christmas photo.

The Columbia-Subway concession connection remains intact, and the Liberty provided vouchers for what was essentially a value meal. I like when we get free stuff.

Despite the fact that this was supposed to be open only to New York Liberty season subscribers, there were a couple of people there in Connecticut Sun gear. I don’t know if they cadged tickets off friends, or they were related to Sun people, or if they’re two-timing their teams, but they should not be able to catch our shirts.

I’m not going to completely panic yet, since we don’t have one of our starters and one of our best interior defenders, and Kia Vaughn was a DNP. But I’m going to worry just a touch. I don’t know who’s going to start alongside Tina in the front court, and I don’t think Rebecca Allen came in ready to play.

I’m looking forward to real action. See you on Saturday!

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