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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