Liberty Can't Hang On, To Ball or Halftime Lead

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Atlanta Dream took advantage of 26 New York turnovers to come back and claim a 74-64 win. Angel McCoughtry's 23 points and eight rebounds led Atlanta, while Sancho Lyttle added 19 points and five steals. Leilani Mitchell had all of her team-high 16 points in the first half for New York. Kara Braxton came off the bench for 14 points and 13 rebounds.

For frustration, lottery balls, spinning balls, the breaking of commandments, a shirt-related revelation, and Morse code, join your intrepid and heat-prostrate blogger after the jump.

I always have mixed feelings about Dads and Daughters as a theme day for WNBA games. I understand that Mother's Day doesn't traditionally fall within the WNBA season and Father's Day does, that there's always been an emphasis on bringing in the male demographic, that the alliteration advertises well. I think it's the background I come from; my dad's sports are Italian soccer, ballroom dancing, ice skating, and show jumping, while my mom is the traditional Big Four fan. The WNBA isn't something I can share with him. So to me, it feels like a force-feeding of the "nuclear family" concept, with a dose of dismissing the bond between mothers and daughters.

The fact that the Liberty have a tendency to do it the same day as New York City's Pride Parade doesn't help, either, except for that subset of daughters who have two daddies.

A hundred thanks to Anita, one of the Liberty season ticket reps, and not the one who has the misfortune to get stuck with us- she was helping escort through one of the performing groups, and allowed us to come in early with them. We had plenty of time to get in position so that I could work on getting my jersey signed and my husband could work on his new-old hat. (And of course, to see what there was to see.) We helped orient some kids in the right direction, identified players, and generally tried to be good neighbors. At least they got Kelley Cain.

Lindsey Harding warmed up with the Dream, as did Angel McCoughtry. We'll see if either of them plays, and how much they play.

I would not have pegged Plenette Pierson for floor-length flowing skirts, but I sort of want the orange one she's wearing. (When not in a Rebecca Lobo jersey and a giant lei, I like long flowing skirts during the dog days of summer.)

Adorable three-generation moment: DeMya Walker bringing Zachara over to Papa Walker for babysitting duty.

There's a lady at the game who looks distressingly like a worn-out and well-aged Deanna Nolan; if it weren't for the stroller she's been hauling around, I'd be really freaked out. May also have seen Tiffany Hayes before the game; there was a young woman in a Dream t-shirt and a UConn backpack wandering around the box office well before the game, and Atlanta's always had a thing for the front door. The front door is especially convenient to the floor at the Prudential Center, too, so it makes even more sense.

Nicole Powell's kind of a ninja. Leilani Mitchell's good at misdirection. You can run, but you can't hide, Fluffy Little Bunny! You will sign the jersey, and it will be framed.

The Title IX shirts appear to only be in kid sizes, which gives me great sadness. I may not be an athlete, but I did attend an institution of higher learning that received federal funding. Title IX is part of my life too.

Looks to be a good crowd today; lots of people waiting for tickets before the game, looks to be pretty healthy traffic.

That was not as close as it looked; that was not as bad as we thought. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's happening when two teams play who don't necessarily have everything invested in winning the game.

Very good anthem, better than I was expecting from rehearsals. She was a little pitchy during rehearsal, but hit the notes when it really counted.

Lindsey Harding came off the bench and really shouldn't have played in this one. Except for one good, sharp penetration, she looked hobbled all the time that she was in. I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't play against Indiana next game. Cathrine Kraayeveld only went in when all the Dream posts had ridiculous foul trouble in the first half, and I don't remember her doing anything of note. Laurie Koehn came in near the end of the first half as a three-point specialist, and that's pretty much it. She wasn't even used effectively as a decoy. I think Meadors is still trying to figure out what to do with Tiffany Hayes, which is odd, since she was a good pickup for that position in the draft. Maybe she's having trouble getting the hang of the system? I don't know. I do know tht Yelena Leuchanka was doing more work for the Liberty in the post than our power forwards did. I'm not completely sure where her head was at, but it wasn't in this game. The hands that were so good in the last game against us failed her. She was less easily boxedo ut than she had been, but she still needs to assert her size. (I think Kara did disconcert her with her... huge tracts of land, though.) Jessica Moore's most memorable play was her look of absolute confusion after she got called for a foul she thought was sketchy.

I'm glad Ketia Swanier is okay after that nasty elbow she took to the head from Kia Vaughn- or at least she went back into the game a little while later. She was running that offense very smoothly in the first half- I remember looking up at the scoreboard in the first half and being surprised that she had five points and five assists. Sometimes, all you have to do is pass the ball and get out of the way. Sancho Lyttle came alive in the second half, canning threes, getting on the boards, and working those big hands of hers into steals and one beautiful fast break in the second half. Aneika Henry was solid in the middle- didn't necessarily make a statistical impact, but got the job done. Armintie Price still can't hit lay-ups, but that was more than made up for by her pulling two jump shots out of her hat. And of course there was the posturing and smooth moves of Angel McCoughtry, who kept Atlanta in the game in the first half and broke it open in the second. You could tell the Liberty were getting either tired or stupid. There's no way you leave Angel McCoughtry open for the midrange shot.

(This actually got me in trouble with the guy in front of me. Apparently he felt "JESUS HYPOTHETICAL CHRIST!" to be such inappropriate languge that it was necessary to get an usher. I told the usher I didn't realize blasphemy was included in the list. The guy moved.)

Kara Braxton played like a woman aware that a high lottery pick would put her job in danger. She was going hard for boards, using every asset she had to her advantage, and eventually powering many of them back up. It wasn't a perfect game for her, but it was better than most I've seen her play in a Liberty uniform. That's the Kara everyone keeps hoping they'll get, ever since Andy Landers. Kelly Miller played briefly, proved that she could muscle up Lindsey Harding, and did nothing of note. Kelley Cain played a couple of stretches when the rest of the posts weren't doing so great or needed a rest, and while it's embarrassing to see Jessica Moore beat someone off the dribble, she wasn't as bad as she's been. Alex Montgomery was a good matchup against Atlanta, and maybe the fact that I don't remember her play is a good sign; isn't good defense the kind of thing you don't notice? Nicole Powell continues to amaze me with how many different kinds of stupid decisions she can make on a basketball court. Bad shots, bad defense, bad positioning to get fouls- the third and the fourth came very close together, and while the fourth was a bit sketchy, I can't blame them for calling it on her. She's got to get her act together, because she's the only true small forward we have, and her failure to provide much of anything puts way too much of a strain on Essence for my liking.

I mentioned Plenette's skirt before, but I forgot to mention the orange and green nails. They too are awesome.

Kia Vaughn did a great job on the boards. She fought, she boxed out, she put herself in position over and over again. But the shots... those were bad. Those were way bad. I'm not sure how she managed to miss that many shots inside, but she did. Essence Carson wasn't exactly lighting it up, either, though she had to expect a lot of energy on defense (guess who drew the Angel card?). The problem is that in the WNBA of 2012, Essence is not a small forward. She could have gotten away with it in the '90s, and maybe even into the early 2000s, but she doesn't have the build for it. In this league, she's a two, and she should have an opportunity to be the super sub, the swing woman, the one who keeps the ball rolling when someone has to sit. And I lay that on Powell. Cappie Pondexter was a marked woman, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Telegraphing your passes is not smart. Fumbling the ball when Sancho Lyttle and/or Angel McCoughtry can get at it? Not smart either. She tried to make plays, but she was double and triple covered more often than not. Do I think she could have tried harder? Always. But that's as much on my opinion of Cappie Pondexter and my own bias as it is on Pondexter herself. DeMya Walker found her way to the basket more times than we realized, but did look a bit slowed up, and that inbounds violation was inexcusable.

DeMya and her dad gave the pregame speech. Papa Walker started telling what was sounding like an embarrassing story, at which point DeMya started encouraging the crowd to get up and make noise. Awww. I wish I could get several thousand people to start cheering to shut my dad up whenever he starts telling embarrassing stories.

In the last DeMya-related Game Note of Doom, we debuted the dive cards today. Keep an eye out the next time you're at the Pru, and maybe you can help judge DeMya's next flop!

Officiating was a bit sketchier than usual today, and the game got a little chippy, highlighted by Kia Vaughn casually dropping Ketia Swanier with an elbow after the play. It did seem harder than she had intended- Kia was the first one over there, with body language that could best be described as "oh crap are you okay I didn't mean for this to happen". If either of these teams had a deep investment in this game, or liked each other a touch less, there might have been a fight.

As mentioned above, Dads and Daughters Day coincided with New York City Pride (along with the celebration of Title IX). Most of the emphasis was on that... except for two shirts. One was a giveaway to the first five hundred or so fans, a Title IX shirt that seemed to mostly come in kids' sizes. The other was a Liberty shirt, logo dead center, with a rainbow border around PROUD. And that's a step that means a lot to a lot of Liberty fans.

Digression into Liberty history: yea these many years ago, when the league was shiny and new, when games were on NBC, when Val Ackerman still despised the notion of a team in Connecticut, when the Finals always seemed to come down to Houston and New York, there were a lot of gay players on the Liberty. Sue Wicks discussed it in Time Out New York; Michele Van Gorp later listed her spouse Kyleen in her playerfile. There were a lot of open secrets and a lot of easy guesses. This being New York, the fan base was pretty jampacked with lesbians too, even more than most teams. The front office and ownership... despite the GM parading her wife and kids around... was not exactly thrilled about this. Outreach to the gay community was minimal, especially when compared to the efforts of other teams. At times, it edged towards homophobia. Gay Liberty fans from the black-jersey era probably know more about it.

Fast forward to 2012, and there is a shirt with the rainbow and the Liberty logo, being sold at the Prudential Center, under the auspices of the New York Liberty. It's not an adidas item, either; it doesn't appear to be a league initiative that the Liberty are reluctantly following along with. One of the women in our section had tears in her eyes when she talked about it.

Those are the kinds of changes we've noticed with the new front office. The marketing's been constant, and they're acknowledging one of the major segments of the fan base. I can't speak for the pride that gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or otherwise queer fans feel for their team, or how they feel to have their existence acknowledged instead of begrudgingly put up with for the sake of money. But I can be proud that the team I love has finally decided to live up to its name.

So there's a dose of good feelings to get past the trainwreck of the third quarter, and the running theme of "seriously, what's wrong with Plenette's leg?" (one source says that the trainer said right knee strain, the box score says calf strain, this is starting to look suspicious)

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