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!

No comments: