I didn't plan this out in advance. Well, I did. Sort of. You see, it so happens that when I was planning out my vacation days at the beginning of the year, my boss told me to schedule all of them, we could move them around later if needed. So I took a couple of random Fridays, plus my birthday- October 5th. Some did get moved around, but this one stayed in place.
So here I am sitting in Geno's, the only place I can find an outlet anywhere near a chair, with a large Diet Coke and an unimpressive cinnamon sugar pretzel (too crunchy), enjoying the heck out of my mumble-mumble birthday. (Let us just say that in the grand scheme of jerseys, an Elena Baranova jersey would be appropriate.) Things have been wonderful so far- the lovely young lady who gave me my comp ticket made a last second switch and set me up in style on the sideline, third row. Ben and Jerry's definition of a small cone is somewhat more akin to enormous. I have so far managed to make a grand total of four cents, thanks to some spectacular payouts pulling me up from twenty down, though depending on how long my battery takes to charge, I may end up losing more in the slots. But at least I found my old friends Open the Vault and All That Glitters. Ah, cascading slots, the wonder of your multiple chances to win.
A reminder to all Swish Appeal readers: if you are under twenty-one, none of this gambling talk pertains to you. Skip it. I mean it. We're not trying to promote debauchery here.
I'm really looking forward to this game. Two good teams, two teams with history against each other, and a Friday night at a casino. This is going to be a blast.
More pregame birthday freebie notes: the staff at Michael Jordan's was fabulous (even if the 23-layer cake only had nine layers). Props to the staff at Krispy Kreme, who were the only ones to correctly ask for my Player's Club card and ID. I like when people dot their I's and cross their T's. (Granted, the little "today is my birthday and this is all I got, thanks" badge may have convinced most of them.) And thank you to all the random people who wished me a happy birthday. You are very sweet, each and every last one of you.
Anthem could have used a little work. Breathe through your nose, hon. But maybe she was panicking.
I kind of want Lin Dunn's jacket, or at least a jacket that's that color. What a pretty blue!
Jeannette Pohlen did a lot of looking lost and a little bit of getting lectured by Katie Douglas. I suspect she was out of position on a couple of plays on both ends of the floor, in order to get yelled at like that. She wasn't much of a factor tonight. Tammy Sutton-Brown played better than I've seen her play in a long time. She was on point on the offensive rebounds, with one nice tip and one that should have been even nicer, other than the fact that it didn't go down. She actually looked like a former All-Star and a former starter. Why couldn't she have looked that into the game when I was rooting for Rutgers back in the day? I remember being very frustrated at her! Shavonte Zellous shot about as well as she did that one time during Pop-a-Shot when I managed to tie her. Yeah. That good. And I do love when players act surprised that they get called for a foul after hitting someone in the face with their forearm. Zellous pulls that off very well. She's picked up some of Catch's flair for the dramatic as well. At least you can't say she's not fearless.
Surprised not to see Jessica Davenport in this one. Getting a little size on Charles in the second half might have helped.
Forgive the blasphemy, but Jesus Katie Douglas. Until such time as she proves herself to be merely human, I'm going to end up calling her Jesus Katie Douglas. That personal run of shots in the second half was phenomenal, especially the long two with three seconds left on the shot clock that was a heave. No, it wasn't a three, and you don't get points for difficulty, but it was still an amazing shot. And she defended as fiercely on the other end. On the other hand, I really didn't appreciate her trying to ref the game as well as play it, and I don't know if Lin Dunn appreciated her mouthing off during one of the timeouts (it looked like she was trying to say that a miscue on the offensive end of the floor wasn't her fault). Briann January took a lot of contact in this one, and I found it fascinating how well she took her falls. I know it has to do with her martial arts experience, but seeing that kind of... grace isn't the right word, perhaps expertise is... in action, four rows off the court if you count the scorer's table is something else. She should give lessons on how to fall. She had a little bad luck with the rim and a little bad luck with Charles in the lane. I like how she plays coming to the ball on defense, though. Erin Phillips really looks so wrong with a ponytail. She just looks wrong. Judging from the way she played, she might not have felt right, either. The one drive down the lane for the scoop was vintage Sun!Phillips, but they shut her off after that. I love seeing the improvement in Erlana Larkins in person. She's still got the same energy that she had when she was with New York, but she's added a little bit of speed and a little bit of vertical to it, along with a greater willingness to go up against bigger posts. Her problem is always going to be her size and her judgment in using her aggressiveness, though. As energetic as she is, she's still going to end up getting balls taken from her by bigger posts and she's still going to rack up the foul count like she did tonight because she doesn't have brakes. Someone needs to teach her how to set better screens. Since she's always going to be that short and that wide, she might as well put that build to use. Tamika Catchings was herself on defense, and she stole away countless rebounds because of her willingness to do anything and everything her team needed, but her shot was ice cold. Some of them were bad luck with the rim, but she was just taking desperation shots that didn't go in.
In the second half overall, Indiana took a lot of quick panic shots. For players not named Jesus Katie Douglas, those shots generally didn't work well. They didn't work the ball and try to find the open player. Really, in the fourth quarter, the offense should have been "give the ball to Douglas and get out of the way, and if she gives it back to you, find her again after setting screens". The ball went away from her late in that quarter, and while I don't know if that would have been the 14 points, it might have been enough to rattle Connecticut.
The Danielle McCray Experiment, October 5th Iteration, was a failure. I don't know what she was doing, but it was not particularly effective. This time, Thibault recognized it and yanked her before she could make too many mistakes. Mistie Mims came in for her physicality, wondrously incredulous facial expressions, and dirty work. That makes her sound like a goon, and she wasn't really out there for that. She found position in the lane, just didn't get the ball a lot. Most of what she was doing was getting in people's way on both ends of the floor so that her teammates could work in open space. Boxing out, screening, being an option- that was her job, and she did it quite well. Tan White had a great game as a jolt of pure energy off the bench. The corner three was working, and so were her drives down the lane. Her defense was also solid. I think she wanted to make a point to Lin Dunn, and if she did, she made it quite effectively. Renee Montgomery took a lot of abuse in the paint form the Indiana defense, hitting the deck a couple of times and not always getting the call. She made things happen for the Sun, though, especially on the break.
Asjha Jones warmed up in the second half, but mostly took a lot of long shots that put me in mind of the questionable offensive judgment of Sancho Lyttle. If she was trying to open up the inside more for Tina Charles, that wasn't the way to go about it. I'd have liked to see her go into the paint more, and maybe for Connecticut to get her going on some backdoor plays. Kalana Greene started for her defense, and that blocked shot of hers was splendid. I like when Kalana does well. She's still a Lib to me a little bit. Allison Hightower did have some deplorable defensive lapses (how do you leave Douglas open on the left side?) but got the job done when they needed her to. I really like how she handles herself on the floor. I think that's what it comes down to, because I always get a good impression of her when I go to a game, and it's not always one that the stats back up. Kara Lawson did what she always did, with an added dose of defense that reminded me of what the White Line is supposed to look like. She helped a lot. That comes off as a stunningly stupid sentence, but I meant on defense. The offense was helpful too, but she always seemed to be the one switching and moving. And then there was Tina Charles, who came on like gangbusters in the second half. She was rebounding well even in the first, but she got her outside jumper and her offensive putbacks going in the second half. The rim robbed her on two shots, too. There was one that she was fouled on that I was so sure went in that I signaled the made field goal. I think she also had two blocks on one play in the first half. You don't realize how long her arms are until you see her in real life.
The officiating was... interesting, but I expect nothing else out of Blauch and Stevens. Unfortunately, Simpson was the most inconsistent of the three, making a trio of dicey calls against Connecticut that had the crowd enraged. Not that Blauch and Stevens didn't come in for their share of hearty boos, but Simpson was the worst, in my book. Connecticut fans do have a tendency to overreact when the calls don't go their way, but there were some holds that were blatantly missed- if I see the jersey get pulled that taut, it's probably a foul, and I don't want to think about why Erlana Larkins had her hand in a Sun player's crotch.
More dusty yellow towels! No idea what use they are, since they tend to spray dust like a walking asthma attack, but they whirl nicely, and I do like free stuff.
Okay, this guy across the aisle from me is way creeping me out and needs to stop making weird noises before I break my clipboard over his creepy old head. It's midnight, most of the bus is trying to sleep, stop whistling. At least we're at New Haven. I can tell by the way the traffic is slowing down. We're at New Haven during construction season.
Didn't snag a t-shirt, but I got closer to them than usual, and that's awesome. Someday. I can't go on with just one real Sun shirt and my camiseta del Sol.
I absolutely loved the people I was seated with. Longtime fans- I felt kind of embarrassed sitting between a couple of them because they had their rituals on three-pointers and shot clock violations- but they were very friendly and very welcoming. They knew their stuff, they had their favorite players (the guy on my left cheered loudest for Tan White, the lady on my right for Kara Lawson), and either they didn't mind that I was loud or put up with it well.
Seriously, dude, you're deciding to turn on the light and read your paper at 12:02? The guy in front of you is trying to sleep and I think you just woke him up. You are many unprintable things. STOP WHISTLING.
Connecticut's version of the Usual Suspects needs to work on their reaction time. If, by the Eastern Conference Finals, you don't recognize your own players' body language, you need help. I'm just sayin' as an ink junkie.
So tired, but I can't sleep. Sigh.
I'd have liked the rest of the crowd to get as much into the game as the people around me. For a relatively large crowd, it was mostly quiet. Maybe if it goes to Game 3, or if they make the Finals again. I hope they do. I think they will if Dunn doesn't adjust, because I don't think anyone in this league strategizes better than Mike Thibault.