Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 14th, 2017: Chicago at New York

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Another slow start for the Liberty led to another spirited comeback led to another late loss, this time 78-68 to the Chicago Sky. Tina Charles had 23 points and 19 rebounds to lead New York, with Shavonte Zellous adding 14 points and 11 rebounds. Stefanie Dolson had 23 points to lead four Chicago players in double figures.

For long jumpers, forgotten height, not having had nearly enough to drink, and mismatches, join your intrepid and confused blogger after the jump.

Good evening, fellow travelers! It's been a long, strange road trip for the Libs (interspersed with a Sun game I should have hiked up to, but nooooo, I had to be all budget-conscious), but the squad is home and ready to rumble against the Chicago Sky.

Normally I would be doing autographs right now, but I looked through my clipboard and I have everyone who’s out there except Amber Harris, and I’m too tired for this. So I’m working on notes and arguing with the wi-fi. It would be in the wi-fi’s best interest to work.

Y’all did not see Sugar Rodgers looking at her name and number Garden of Dreams tee like she was embarrassed to be seen with it.

Jessica Breland’s been having fun with one-handed shots. I wonder if that explains the extra-deep followthrough on her jumper.

Someone with a WNBA nedia pass appears to have buttonholed Imani Boyette. I don’t know how much shootaround time she’s actually gotten. She appears to have spent a lot of time talking to people and being talked at.

This is a torch night. (It’s also a Timeless Torch night.) I miss Cierra Burdick checking to see if her hair was on fire.

All right, we’ve got a biddy game! Would a Princeton basketball camp call its participants Tiger cubs?

Look, kid, I’m going to need you to stop kicking my seat. Like, now. (Update: kid has stopped kicking seat, but loud video games behind me are also no bueno.)

At halftime, Chicago is up 38-34 in a game that has not exactly been a sterling display of professional basketball by either team. Tina Charles has 12 and 9 to lead the Liberty, but it’s on some dumb shots. Stefanie Dolson has 10 and 5 for Chicago.

Shoutout to the dance troupe at halftime, who not only did a Prince medley, but did so in awesome purple costumes with the big white ruffle in the front. The older ballroom dancers who followed them were good, but not great.

Am pleased to report that the no-fun league has skipped this game; the family in their seats is much better behaved and is at least a little into the game. (Update: my least Yankee fan arrived midway through the third quarter, was quite insistent on taking her seat, talked through almost the entire game, and left early. Seriously, lady, why do you even bother?)

I think I’m starting to see part of the problem with the Liberty: we don’t have a proper point guard. Not one that fits our needs, in any case. Epiphanny Prince is not a natural distributor, and when she does play point, it's slow-down-my-eyes-are-bleeding Rutgers offense. Lindsay Allen is a rookie, who’s still making college mistakes and isn’t ready to take the reins of a WNBA offense. Bria Hartley has been hot trash on a platter and makes worse defensive mistakes than the aforementioned rookie. Brittany Boyd is behind the bench with long hair and a pensive look. We are in trouble.

So let’s talk about Chicago, the team that can’t even tank right. (And maybe shouldn’t be.)

I don’t like Keisha Hampton much, and I have this really strong feeling Shavonte Zellous might not be fond of her right now either. She went in gooning (please don’t step on the back of someone’s knee) and next possession Shavonte got her wiped out by a screen and called for a foul for it. And of course she hit a three on us, because she went to DePaul and that’s what Doug Bruno players do. Imani Boyette shows flashes of such great potential with the way she can create offense, but so much of the time she seems to forget that she’s 6-7 and she makes stupid reaching plays that she doesn’t need to make. You just get the feeling that her head isn’t completely in the game (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing- she’s one of the most globally-minded people in the league). Cheyenne Parker was physical defensively, and her bodying up on the boards was part of why our offensive rebounding opportunities mostly just turned into more rebounds.

I did not know copper had that kind of tensile strength! Kahleah Copper is very bendy- hit one shot at what appeared to be at a very painful obtuse angle. She made a lot of good things happen for Chicago with her slashing and her occasional jumper. Makayla Epps saw brief time at the end of the first quarter to relieve Vandersloot and was unremarkable.

Seeing Courtney Vandersloot on the floor, finding open looks for her teammates on offense and directing her teammates into position on defense, made it abundantly clear that we don’t currently have that kind of a guard, and it makes me sad. It seemed like she couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat, but she did better from the floor than I realized. I think it was the misses that went in and out, or didn’t get the bounces off the backboards, that colored my view of her shooting. Allie Quigley was open more times than she shot, and certainly made herself available for her teammates. She and Vandersloot keep that backcourt running and keep the pace up. Makes it funnier when they miscommunicate (the pass that flew into the endcourt seats, bounced off the top edge of a chair, and ended up about fourteen rows back was especially funny).

I would very much appreciate if Stefanie Dolson would not lead her screens with elbows. (Though when it backfires and she absolutely wipes out a teammate like she did with Copper... funny is the wrong word, satisfying might be closer.) I would also appreciate if she would stop hitting jumpers against my team. She’s a match-up problem in that way. Tamera Young hit two threes, so I think the world might actually be coming to an end, which means I should really hurry up posting these notes before it does. Her interior shots tended to be hilariously off, though. I think she hit every part of the rim but the inside. Jessica Breland kept her motor running, and took full advantage of Kia Vaughn’s inability to dribble.

Bria Hartley came in, committed two stupid fouls, got burned on defense, and was exiled to Coventry. It was particularly noticeable because she came in right after Sugar got pulled for committing a stupid foul. Bria. Bria, you’re not helping. We got better minutes from Lindsay Allen, who is shaping up into a moderately acceptable backup point guard. She’s still thinking like a college player, not yet adjusted to the speed of pro players and some of the quirks in the rules that change from college to the W. Her decision-making is getting faster, though. I like that. Rebecca Allen provided a little offense and a little effort on defense, but not enough for her to be relevant for most of the game.

Amanda Zahui B provided decent minutes, albeit limited ones. She’s still got the back pad whenever she’s on the bench (except when she’s demonstrating dance moves during official reviews) so I don’t know how much more she can be doing. She and Shavonte had a weird moment near the end of the third quarter after Amanda missed a three- it was the right shot and not the wrong player, so I don’t know what Shavonte’s problem was with that. Kiah Stokes was okay defensively, but I expect a lot more out of her than we got in this one. She seems much more passive than she had been in the past, and that makes me sad.

Tina, what are you doing? I know, I’m being rough on someone who was one board away from 20-20. But so many of her failed shots were long jumpers taken with no one in rebounding position, and so many of her successful shots happened when she went hard in the paint. I mean, I’m not a championship-winning coach, but this seems like a fairly simple pattern to discern. Tina Charles plays like a post, she crushes innocents under her heel and makes opponents cry. Tina Charles takes hurried perimeter shots, we lose. I also have this horrible feeling that her teammates were backing off rebounds to make sure she got the record as quickly as possible. That is a stupid plan, people. Kia Vaughn needs to stop bringing the ball down where tiny people can get at it. Go up strong, Kia! You’re really good at it when you just do it and you don’t overthink it! Sometimes I think she forgets how tall she is. (Kia is a sweetheart, don’t get me wrong, and there are times when she’s utterly adorable... but I also think she might be scatterbrained enough to forget how tall she is sometimes.)

I would like to see the more offensively aggressive Shavonte Zellous more often. I really enjoyed watching her and Tina throw double-teams at hapless Chicago ballhandlers, and she never, ever let up on the boards, especially the offensive glass. But she’s got to keep her head in the game and not lose her temper. I love the passion she brings, but sometimes she needs to rein it in before she gets a technical. Epiphanny Prince is the best option we have at the point right now, and this is not a good thing. She’s capable, but it doesn’t play to her strengths, it doesn’t play to her teammates’ strengths, and it bogs the team down. When she’s a point guard, she’s not thinking about shooting, and we need her to shoot. I’m not sure what’s going on with Sugar Rodgers, either. The effort is there, but it seems to be coming to naught. I don’t know if she needs to have her confidence put back together, or to spend more time in the gym, or what.

Why do we act like we’ve never met each other before? Honest question. Paradoxically, I wonder if part of the team’s problem is a fixation on fit, not on who can help the team win basketball games. I’m happy when our players get along, and I’m happy when they get involved with the community (the team got their community assist award before the game), but ultimately they are rather paid to play basketball, and hopefully win games.

Y’all. They’re t-shirts. Like, seriously. Buy them in bulk and they cost maybe four dollars, and that’s including a multi-color screen imprint. I know this because I am a trained professional and Gildan tees are kind of my jam. Y’all do not have to climb on seats, over seats, over each other, and generally act like ants discovering a glass of sugar water for one.

I have met many Sky fans who are lovely people. That doesn’t keep me from side-eyeing the pair of blondes two rows in front of me who got all excited whenever Dolson or Vandersloot or Quigley scored, but couldn’t summon up the same enthusiasm for Breland or Copper. First of all, y’all are on the wrong side of the court, and second of all... do I actually have to spell out “second of all”?

It’s a quick turnaround back in the saddle again; by the time you get to read these notes, we’ll probably be playing the Mystics, or whatever’s left of them. Everything seems so simple from the stands. What am I missing?

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