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. Érika 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 Beyoncé’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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