Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty started the second half of the season in decisive fashion, with a 79-66win over the Connecticut Sun. Cappie Pondexter's 24 points led all scorers, while Plenette Pierson made her return to the Liberty lineup with 16 points and four rebounds. Connecticut outrebounded New York 39-30, but committed 17 turnovers. Renee Montgomery's 16 points off the bench led the Sun; Tina Charles was 1-of-7 from the field, but had 12 rebounds.
For mixes, Paul Oakenfold, bouncing, frenetic activity, many happy returns, screeching Husky fans, and the miracle of the White Line, join your intrepid and steadily cooling blogger after the jump.
Ready, steady... go!
Watch the clock, tick tock, put on the playlist, watch the boss go out the door at 5, unbutton blouse, untuck Liberty t-shirt (going 50/50 tonight, nothing else is clean), pull out Lobo jersey, pack up everything to be ready to fly out the door, close down at 5:25, make a pit stop, clock out at 5:27, speed down two blocks of dirt and rocks and broken glass, run for the 5:29 bus, watch and wait and calculate...
Ready, steady... go!
Down the stairs at Grand, swear at the Manhattan-bound countdown clock, watch and wait and pace, cram on board with the giant bags around me, stand and stand, ears popping under the river after Bedford, stand until Union Square (that screaming kid better be going uptown), two stops to 8th Avenue and the exodus, that momentary pause before the doors open as the signals get cleared, into the flow of traffic, around the downbound crowds and in with the upbound crowds, rub the statue's head on top of the bannister for luck in one quick hurried movement, catch a blocker and fly down the stairs to the E, swear at the silhouette of a departing train passing the front of the station, be relieved that it's a C, snag a corner seat on the E (sorry, tourists, been commuting since Brooklyn, don't care about your kids), watch the clock, signal problems, train traffic, wait, wait calculate, desperately wanting, gliding into World Trade, everyone up and at 'em, the slight pause as the conductor gets ready to go...
Ready, steady... go!
Out the turnstile, dodge the stockbrokers, up the narrow stairs where the mirrored Towers loom, slalom around the tourists, pitter-patter down the escalator, through the turnstile, OW WHY DID IT HIT ME, down the stairs, into the narrow gap, away we go around the curve out of WTC, ears pop as we cross the Hudson, warning about the doors not opening at Harrison, the long haul from Journal Square, chatting with friends in the corner, last stop Newark-Penn Station, out the turnstile, down the escalator, through the skyway, twist and turn, stifling tunnels, bursts of air conditioning as Skyway Center closes for the night, except for the Subways, a woman in a Leilani Mitchell shirt reminding me I don't have my lei, down the escalator, run across the street, unzipping my bag and never breaking stride across Championship Plaza, up the escalator and halfway around the arena-
It never stops, frenetic movement to get from southern Queens at 5:30 or so to Newark at 7. It leaves me breathless and sweaty in two layers of Liberty gear, and I'd only trade it for home sweet Madison Square Garden. This is how it is for me every weeknight game.
(And of course as soon as I theme the opening to the second half to "Ready Steady Go", which was the music from the opening video this season, they do a new video for the second half. I am cursed. Cursed, I tell you.)
We're up by four at the half on the backs of Plenette Pierson, some great defense that's leading to steals and fast breaks, and a Cappie Pondexter buzzer beater three that was as perfectly timed as I've ever seen in my life. It's really good to have Plenette back in uniform. (It is less good that my word processor keeps crashing as I try to type these notes. If they devolve into keyboard-smash, that's why.)
Nice anthem singer- not fantastic, with one awful screech at the end, but solid. I was still coming in when she sang, so I didn't have as much of an opportunity to gauge as I usually do. I do wish the first game back wasn't Garden of Dreams night, because the first game back- the quasi-home-opener- should have had Mike W. doing the introductions, but it is what it is.
Where did Jessica Moore's shoulders go? She looks so much thinner that I'm almost worried for her. I think when Kia Vaughn hip-checked her like a shuffleboard puck, she might have wished for those extra ten or fifteen pounds back. She looked really overmatched and out of place against all the Liberty posts. Danielle McCray was brought in in short spurts, as if she was meant to be a quick fix- presumably for the defense- but whatever Mike Thibault wanted her to fix, she was not fixing. Kelsey Griffin saw extended time as the first player off the bench, and did a nice job of finishing the open shots that her teammates set her up for, as well as scrapping for loose balls. As a basketball fan, I like seeing her revert back to her old form. As a Liberty fan, I was less than thrilled to see her do so. Tan White hit the floor more than I expected, but while I remember a lot of activity and exertion, I don't remember a lot of results coming from them. Renee Montgomery came off the bench like a firecracker in the second half, trying to spark her team. If she could drag them to a win by her teeth, individually or together, she would have. I'm not sure why she didn't start- whether it's some kind of power play or some kind of disciplinary issue or Thibault just decided to smoke some of the good stuff before the game, I don't know, but I think it's lit a fire under her. I'm just not sure if it's a good fire or a bad fire. The answer may determine whether Connecticut has home court or not.
Asjha Jones was not in uniform for this one. I liked the beige jacket, though I probably wouldn't have buttoned it if I were her. I don't know what else she wore with it.
I don't know if Tina Charles was exhausted from the transcontinental travel, or if she was playing possum so she could go for 30 and 20 on Saturday, or what, but she didn't look like she was trying to impose her will on the Liberty posts. It didn't help her cause that the Liberty seem to have finally figured out how to play the White Line. Something just looked off about her most of the night. Allison Hightower killed us from outside early, and just quietly got things done. I really like her, though I like her less when she's playing against my team. Mistie Mims destroyed us inside. The stats don't necessarily show it, but she was getting whatever position she wanted, whenever she wanted. She did the physical work, stepping up to Plenette Pierson and more than holding her own. I don't know why she was so angry, or why she decided to mess with the logo, but I can objectively appreciate that kind of blue-collar work. Kara Lawson was in many places- getting the boards, landing on the floor, setting up outside, doing whatever she could to help her team win. I don't know what got her the technical- honestly, when I saw the aftermath, I thought the tech was on Mims because of her facial expression. Kalana Greene, despite a couple of athletic drives and daring baseline plays, stood out so little for me that I almost forgot to include her in the notes, and had to go to the box score to figure out which starter I was missing.
It looked like Connecticut wanted to speed the game up, since they didn't have Jones in the middle, and they weren't able to figure out the Liberty defense until the end of the game. This doesn't bode well for Saturday. Also, Coach Thibault, I'm going to have to ask you to remember that assistants are not allowed to jump up out of their seats and wander towards the edge of the coach's box the way you are. Please tell Coach Hawk to take a seat. Thank you.
Alex Montgomery got two stretches of playing time and did nothing badly memorable. The crowd roared when she hit the last shot to get on the board as the shot clock expired. Bonus points for helping Renee Montgomery up, because that's all kinds of confusing, #21 Montgomery and #21 Montgomery. Kara Braxton was not completely awful, though her amazing tendency to oscillate between being very good and very bad showcased itself within the game instead of going from game to game. Within the space of two possessions, she would go from tearing a rebound down with authority to bringing a ball down to her knees and fumbling it. She did what we needed her to do and a little more. I can't complain too much about that. Essence Carson came on in the second half with renewed energy and did work. I'm not sure what the thing off the bottom of the backboard was, though. DeMya Walker garnered a run of perfect 10s on the Dive-O-Meter, along with a 2.2 (you get the call, you get higher scores; you don't draw the foul, you lose points for execution). She was rotating well on defense and causing a lot of disruption.
So that's what the White Line is supposed to do! Look at all those dangerous double-teams and interrupted passes!
Hi, Nicole Powell! Your facial expressions when driving coast to coast are hilarious, but the steals are fantastic. I'd still like to see her stroke come back, but I'll take defensive hustle, quick hands, and rebounding ability if I have to. (I mean, I'd rather have all of the above, but then I'd probably have Tamika Catchings. Which is not a bad thing, but rather out of the realm of possibility.) Cappie Pondexter chose her moments. The shooting percentage wasn't great, but she seemed to hit a lot more shots than she missed. I'll take 14 misses if the 9 hits come at the right times. She was also working the passing lanes like a demon, like someone had found afterburners and strapped them on her shoes on a couple of plays. That's a pleasant surprise. I can live with that too. :) Leilani Mitchell quietly did her job, hitting threes and taking care of the ball as it came up court, even if Cappie did most of the actual playmaking. If we keep winning with it, I can live with that splitting of responsibilities. Kia Vaughn was solid in the middle- maybe not as assertive as she could have been, and maybe a bit more personally offended by the very existence of Jessica Moore somehow (at least, that was what her body language said from my reading up in Section 9), but she had one beautiful offensive rebound on a short scoop shot that was a little too short, saving not only the possession from ending, but the two points we needed at that point in the game. To me, the woman of the hour and the player of the game was Plenette Pierson. It was so good to see her back in uniform again. She was working the little shot in the lane, though with an even more pronounced jackknife motion than usual, and making it easier for her teammates to get shots. She was a presence on the defensive end and a physical presence in the paint. I think she inspired the team, more than the points and the rebounds did.
Your dashing guest reporter had brought up a point earlier in the season that seemed to ring true tonight- he was less worried about the second half of the season than your intrepid blogger was, because he recognized the month off as time that the Liberty could use to get more comfortable and familiar with the White Line. It certainly looked like it was working tonight. More than the steals, there were a lot of passes being slapped out of bounds or otherwise disrupted. I don't think we have a chance to pass Chicago if Epiphanny Prince is back and healthy, but we're going to look better than we did.
Moment of the game: Cappie's primal scream on defense that did eventually lead to a turnover. It's not that I haven't heard primal screams on a basketball court before- Katie Douglas comes to mind immediately- but it was the first time I'd heard her do it. I'm easily amused, what can I say?
The officiating was pretty solid, as I would expect from Denise Brooks, Kevin Sparrock, and Daryl Humphrey in combination with those two. I questioned a couple of out-of-bounds calls, but overall, there wasn't anything I could have made a convincing argument for or against in terms of things being missed or mis-called. And Brooks has said that out-of-bounds is the hardest call in the game.
Dear Liberty front office, or marketing people, or league marketing people- whichever group of you encouraged the "Liberty Choo-Choo"- please make it stop. It causes pure chaos in the stands, takes forever to get the kids off the court, and looks to irritate coaches and officials alike. Tonight's endeavor also included some troublemakers who took the opportunity to run onto the court while people were supposed to be clearing off. The officiating crew showed great mercy in not calling a delay of game warning, as long as it took to get those kids cleared up. (As Kara Lawson's technical was announced right after the choo-choo, I do wonder if it was related.) If you must do this, take notes from Seattle: have the kids lined up well before the timeout starts, delineate the times properly, and make it very clear that the kids have to get off the floor NOW, instead of politely chiding them the way you do now.
Kym Hampton was in the stands for this one, instead of behind the mic; Sue Wicks was also in the house, which was a good sign. She hadn't been to a game in a while.
NBC and the New York Times have decided to pick up sponsorships, so maybe we'll actually get media coverage. Sorry, NYT home delivery shill, but I'm not interested in buying your paper if you're not going to cover my team. College Board also had a table, so we got a Leilani Mitchell bookmark.
We gauged the crowd at announced-7K, so 5805 sounds like an accurate assessment of posteriors in the general vicinity of seats.
It was good to see the whole gang again, and even better to see a win, and best of all to see them play the kind of defense that we know they're capable of. This is the kind of team I wanted to see; the result is almost irrelevant. Almost.