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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