Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 29th, 2008: Phoenix at Connecticut

The Game Notes have this disconcerting feeling of being in a parallel universe when Connecticut fans boo Taurasi and a Rutgers fan cheers against Pondexter.

Madam President was at this game, and for the sake of Mike Thibault's blood pressure, I hope she takes some action against the officiating team, Diana Taurasi, and Corey Gaines. But we'll get to that in good time. I'm still a bit in shock at the sound of several thousand fans booing the living hell out of Diana Taurasi in the state of Connecticut. Somehow it seems bizarre, yet soothing.

I think that's what I enjoyed most about the game- the building was full to the brim with Connecticut fans- not UConn fans, not Sun fans, but Connecticut fans. I think that was what I've been waiting for from the Sun, a way to bring together both fans of "their girls" and fans of other players. See, college and pro fans can coexist. Good, loud crowd- probably a sellout, though there were some empty seats. What I found fascinating was the way the fans around me shifted from being all about Taurasi to being all about the Sun as the game went on.

I would have liked the anthem a lot more if they'd done it as a group the entire time, instead of breaking each guy out into a solo and then bringing them all together at the end. Kind of like my Liberty, no one piece works alone, but the group effort is magnificent.

Diana Taurasi is an unbelievable basketball player, a world-class talent who moves with the ball like it's part of her body. But she'd be a lot easier to put up with if she could play with a gag in her mouth. The constant complaining got on my nerves in a hurry, and it didn't help that she was getting the calls *anyway*. I recall one play where she shoved Carey and then looked at the ref like she was wondering why Carey hadn't been called for the foul. That spurred a lot of the booing- the superstar calls, I mean. While Thibault tried to play the matchups by starting Swanier and putting her on Pondexter, it didn't work all that well, and clearly Cappie heard the people calling for her to pass. I thought she was distributing well, but I dind't realize how well until I looked at the box. Miller had a quiet game, but she's an unbelievable rebounder for a guard- strong, tenacious- the Bangs of Steel probably helped Phoenix take the edge on the boards. I thought Willingham had herself a nice little game- it was fun watching her and Whitmore get into it, though I'd put money down on Whitmore coming out the victor in that contest. Tangela Smith has a funky release- I know this is not news, but that's the kind of thing I've been noticing more lately- but it works for her, and she was really tough on the offensive boards. So was LaToya Pringle- I like the way she works on the boards, very athletic and sneaky. Mazzante also seems to have been reading the boards. Really not impressed with Gaines's demeanor, though. He never seems to be into the game until he's about to flip his shit.

IMO, Whalen did not put her stamp on the game, and whether that's a matter of trying to get everyone else involved or a defensive effort on Phoenix's part, I can't be certain. But I felt she didn't take enough shots that she should have taken, because it seemed like when she shot, good things happened. Holt was a non-factor, or a negative factor. One of those. Swanier was a firestarter, and while I wouldn't keep her in the starting lineup, I'd definitely give her a healthy whack of minutes- she works better as a change of pace player, as someone who can kick things up a notch instead of starting off at high speed. Whitmore had fun whacking around Willingham and Smith, but that was about it. Jones had a lot of great shots, but a lot more stupid shots. Carey had a lot of nice shots, which made up for Anderson not being in the groove. Turner drew the short straw and had to defend Taurasi when she was in, and that had a lot to do with Turner's foul count. I finally got my first look at Gruda- in build, she reminds me very much of Sancho Lyttle, all long limbs without the feeling that someone stretched her on a rack. And yeah, she's raw, but she'll be a very good post in this league as long as she works with a coach who knows how to use her. Raymond made a brief cameo, declined to go up with an offensive rebound, and ran to the bathroom during the game.

The refs completely lost control of this game, IMO. The shoving match between Willingham and Whitmore really pointed that up, but they let Phoenix get away with a LOT of talking. The boos were magnificent. Very uneven calls.

It looks like I wasn't the only Board Junkie at Geno's who noticed Kelly Miller. The Bangs of Steel are unmistakeable, except for The Other Bangs of Steel.

For some reason, neither the arena hosts nor the Solar Power dancers understood why I was telling them that they might not want me on camera when we had a chance to be part of the "Let's Make A Deal" game. I don't know about you, but I thought it might be tacky for someone in a Rebecca Lobo Liberty jersey to be part of the Sun promotion. Seriously, I can understand not knowing the other teams in the conference, or about the rivalries, but is basic literacy a lost notion?

I think this was the first time I was actively rooting for the Sun, instead of for selected Sun players. I found myself cheering when Swanier knocked it away from Pondexter. I found myself screaming at Whalen to shoot. It was very disconcerting. Fun, though. :D And then I won a nice little chunk of change, so woo. I may actually turn a profit on my partial plan when all is said and done.

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