Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty used balanced scoring and strong defense to beat the Indiana Fever 87-72 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series and even the series at one win apiece. Indiana's Katie Douglas led all scorers with 20 points, but she and Shavonte Zellous, with 13 off the bench, were the only two Fever players in double figures. Nicole Powell's 19 points led five double-digit scorers for New York.
For three-point goals, stylized anthems, unexpected lacks of scoring, and entirely too many free tickets, join your intrepid and sated blogger after the jump.
I love marching bands. I love traveling fans. I love the postseason atmosphere. Boomdeyada! Boomdeyada!
Sorry. Some openings you can't resist, especially when there's a band on the court for halftime. And I don't really love traveling fans when they bring flags. Or when some flaming genius sits a girl in a Katie Douglas Fever jersey right behind the Liberty bench. That's just the height of bad etiquette.
The plan of giving season subscribers freebies has backfired spectacularly. Most of us have no one to give them to because all our friends are already there! And then we get irked when we realize that there are so many tickets being given away to paper the place that they might as well have a small floral print on them. And then you end up with huge swathes of empty seats in prime position. Bad planning. Very bad planning.
Nice anthem, by an actual professional singer and everything. Very impressive.
The Torch Patrol has pulled out all the stops to get the noise going in here. Very clear that we're defending our house. I think that was the right tack to take with Newark; there's a lot of pride in the city by its residents.
Kym Hampton is working the lower echelons of the room. She's also hosting a get-together at Brick City after the game. I may go to that. Obviously, by the time you read these notes, you'll already know if I'm there.
It's 50-41 Liberty at the half, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable. I mean, okay, I'm never comfortable with a Liberty lead, but too much of it is built on threes. Live by the three, die by the three; she's a fickle mistress, and she has a long history with Katie Douglas. Katie Douglas irks me because she keeps hitting shots, and I'd greatly appreciate it if she'd stop doing that at some point in the near future.
I'd also appreciate if these refs would call St. Tamika on some of her crap. If Nicole Powell picked her up and slammed her into the stanchion, she wouldn't be completely unjustified. (I do not recommend this course of action, Nicole. You have enough back problems as it is.) That non-call right before the half was crap. Or, to be topical, craaaaaaaaaaaaaaap.
Hello, Shyra Ely! It feels like a long time since we've seen you. Nice passing there! Nice shooting by Jeanette Pohlen, whose hair whip seems to have tragically shrunk. I'm looking forward to seeing how her hair's Twitter explains that one. I do wish someone would guard her when she lines up in the corner. You'd think Nicole Powell would have warned someone about Cardinal alumnae's propensity to shoot that corner three; she does have some experience at that. Shavonte Zellous is easily rattled. It was fun watching her miss free throws. But I sort of already knew her shot from there was not as automatic as one would assume from her offensive prowess- I've played Pop-a-Shot against her. She reverted to the Zellous from Pitt, who was all offense and the rest of the team can go hang. Jessica Davenport did well in the later part of the game. Would someone please remember that she's left-handed and therefore has her strong side where most people have their weak side? But I'm biased towards Jessica Davenport when she's not playing New York. I accept that and welcome it. Just not in this series. Shannon Bobbitt got low for some great defense, and made even our section ooh and aah with some fancy dribbling near the end of the game, but she couldn't hit those shots that she killed us with on the 9th.
Tamika Catchings put all her energy into defense. She just didn't have it on offense. When she's missing free throws, she's just not with it. I was not amused at the foul she should have been called for against Nicole Powell at the end of the first half- it looked like a trip, and the official sitting in front of me (hi, Ray!) said it was a reach-in. (See, that's the useful thing about having a referee in front of you- you can ask him for technical advice and confirmation of your impressions!) But I can't recall a game I've ever seen where Catchings was held scoreless for so long. Katie Douglas burned us in the first half. We couldn't stop her. We couldn't get in her face, we couldn't get a hand up, we couldn't do anything. We managed to contain her a little better in the second half, which was key to getting the win. Erin Phillips took a lot of hits, to the point where I do genuinely wonder whether she likes it or not, and was pesky on defense, but called her number a little more than I think she should have. Nice little floater, though. Have I mentioned lately that Tammy Sutton-Brown gets me angry? Because she does. Not in any meaningful sense of the word, but she's a constant irritant. She did a better job than I'm used to on the boards, though. Tangela Smith seems to think she's Tina Thompson with the jumpers. Go towards the hole, Tangela. Just not against us.
Hey! It's an Alex Montgomery sighting! Nice of Whiz to remember his future defensive ace. Offense is not her strong suit, but she made up for it by covering three-point shooters. Kara Braxton's line is deceptively low- she was a presence in the middle, and one of those missed shots spun in and out- she did nothing wrong on it. If she's one of those players who feeds off the crowd and gets better as the arena gets louder, we better find a way to hang onto her until we get back to New York, because she'll blossom there. Essence Carson turned on the offense at the start of the fourth quarter, just in case Indiana tried to force the door open. She did a nice job snagging bad passes, but threw a few of her own. Quanitra Hollingsworth continues to be a rebounder and a defensive player who really needs help on offense. Actually, so do most of our bench players. I think I detect a trend here. Sydney Colson made a cameo near the end of the game and did nothing worht mentioning. She did, however, give the opening speech to get the crowd pumped up. We're 3-0 when she has the mic; I've already heard suggestions that she steal the mic in Indiana to get us the Game 3 win.
I was worried about Nicole Powell before the game. She looked like she might have had a sleepless night, which made me think her back or her knee was bothering her, which meant that we wouldn't have been able to count on her, and since Nicole is the wild card that pretty much decides whether we win or lose, I figured we were toast. This is why I don't have a doctor in front of my name. Nicole did hers and then some. She was red hot in the first quarter, and she kept up the rebounding and got her hands in the passing lane. For once, I will forgive her inability to get out to the corner. For once. Leilani Mitchell's threes got the crowd fired up, and when she stuffed Katie Douglas (yes, the box says Plenette, don't believe it, that was Leilani's play) the place went off. Tiny but fierce! Cappie Pondexter actually played more of a point for long stretches of the game- judging from how horribly off a lot of her early shots were, I think her ankle may have been acting up again. And hey, even if it wasn't, she's going to say it was. I think she saw the crew and thought she was going to get superstar calls, and she doesn't realize that she doesn't have that cachet when she's on the fourth seeded team. Go for the shot, not the foul. I like the give and go two-man game she's got going on with Nicole, though. Kia Vaughn didn't get a lot of touches, but she made them count when she did. We're going to need her to be big at Indiana, though. Smith and Sutton-Brown had too many easy shots and chances for putbacks. Plenette Pierson was steady. I really wasn't sure if she could hold up playing starter's minutes, but she's proving me wrong, and I'm okay with that.
As much as I have screamed about Whiz being dogmatic and set in stone about his rotations, I have to give him credit for being a lot more flexible today. He went to his bench early with Quanitra and Essence, he got Kara a fair number of minutes, he remembered the existence of Alex Montgomery, he played with match-ups- he looked like a coach who could win a title. It was refreshing to see him trying different things.
Lin Dunn, burn that jacket when you return to Indiana; maybe then the afterimage of it will fade from the backs of my eyelids. You shouldn't be coordinating with Cappie's ill-planned fashion ventures!
And then there was the officiating. No one I've spoken to or read anything from knows how or why Cappie got the technical; when we saw Michael Price signal T for #23, we started cheering because we thought it was on Douglas for chasing the ref! When they announced that it was on Cappie, the place turned ugly. There were a lot of late whistles, and the calls tightened up considerably in the second quarter and thereafter. (And again, I had this assessment confirmed with a referee. Thanks, Ray!) I was starting to wonder if Byron Jarrett had something against Nicole Powell, the calls she wasn't getting. But we forced Indiana to be stupid. That's useful.
It was a late-arriving crowd. A distressingly late-arriving crowd. As in, there were people still trying to find their seats with gameplay going on in the fourth quarter. Frankly, I was freaked out at how many free tickets were being given out, and I actually approached my rep after the game and said, "Why did I bother paying for playoff tickets when everyone's getting them for free?" (This is one of the reasons I tend to refer to him as "Chris, the poor unfortunate bastard who has to deal with us"- we're high-maintenance subscribers.) I'd say a good half of the crowd didn't show up at tip-off, and even factoring in the many and myriad reasons to be late- PATH issues, NJ Transit issues, traffic, trouble on 21- a good quarter of the seats weren't filled until the third or fourth quarter. It seemed pretty damn sketchy that that many people were coming in late. Combine that with the wads of tickets that were being handed out by both Liberty staff and the city of Newark (this latter assessment coming via a fellow season subscriber), and the fact that a fair number of these people took their sweet time finding their seats once they did show up, and we were a bit affronted. We missed several sequences because people wouldn't sit down, or were arguing with people who were in their seats, or in one case, because security was in front of us trying to get people out of seats that weren't theirs. And then they got mad at us when we asked them to sit down so we could see the game! I suspect that the Liberty actually deflated the attendance number; there were more than 8508 tickets scanned and more than 8508 people in the general vicinity of seats, but I'm willing to bet that 8508 matches up with the tickets sold and the ones given away to season subscribers.
Maddie needs to do the trick with the ladder and the flag again. That was nervy. And the "This is our house. We will not lose" banner was made of win.
Cory Booker, Newark is not the New York Liberty's home. I realize that you're required to say that as part of your job, but this is not your team and this is not our home. This is an exchange program. This is an extended-stay hotel. This is the place we're staying while home is being renovated. We'll defend it, but you can't claim it as yours. Back off.
I think we have a chance in this series. Do I think Tamika Catchings will go 1-7 from the field with 6 turnovers again? No. Do I think Nicole Powell will go off again? No. But I think we have a legitimate shot to make Game 3 competitive, and if we can do that... well, that's why they play the games, isn't it?