Just the Facts, Ma'am: A slow start for both teams marked the Indiana Fever's 76-63 road win at the New York Liberty. Tamika Catchings led all scorers with 22 points, while Katie Douglas added 15 points and four steals. Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson each had 18 points for the Liberty, who committed 22 turnovers.
For butterfingers, runaway balls, short tempers, people getting hit in the face, shots off the glass, random guitarists on the PATH, and anticipation rewarded, join your intrepid and rocked out blogger after the jump.
It's one of the mysteries of the relativity of time that this two-week road trip for the Liberty felt longer than the Olympic break. I suppose part of it had to do with the Olympics themselves, but on the flip side of that, your intrepid blogger did take a trip up to Connecticut to break the monotony. I majored in English, not in physics.
At halftime, I'm wondering when we got transported back to the middle of the last decade. The shooting has been putrid, especially in the first quarter. The Indiana centers are setting good screens, and Leilani Mitchell has played phenomenal defense on Jessica Davenport. That's not a typo. There are too many unforced errors in this game that are getting credited as steals- the Liberty and Katie Douglas just can't keep their hands on the ball. Tamika Catchings has spent a fair chunk of the last two minutes kvetching to the refs, though I'm not sure why.
The crowd is depressing. Where are you, people? I'm pretty sure the people on the bench can pick specific cheers out of the crowd. Unfortunately, my section does happen to be full, mostly of hyper kids.
Nicole Powell did not start the second half- she's on the bench with Laura Ramus, and I think they're looking at her right leg somewhere.
Sue Wicks appears to be attempting to go in stealth mode. This doesn't work when you're a six-three blonde, just sayin'.
This was a quintessential Liberty-Fever game. It wasn't all that pretty, it involved good defensive plays and steals, the shooting was questionable, and people got hit. It's tempting to leave it there, but there's always more to the game. Please enjoy these game notes with Antigone Rising in the background, as I am currently rocking out to them as they perform on the Pru Center's floor. (I approve this music. Much closer to country rock than I was expecting from what little I knew of them, but I've always been a bit of a country girl, so rock on!)
Jessica Davenport started the game slowly, getting smushed twice by Leilani Mitchell on consecutive possessions in the first half, but she was a rock for Indiana in the fourth. Those lefty lay-ups started falling, and her long arms got into it on the defensive end. She's not very graceful, but she's somehow always there. Erlana Larkins brought a lot of hustle off the bench, and she paid for it dearly when Cappie Pondexter's heave to end the third quarter got her in the head. Fortunately, she came back into the game, so she wasn't that badly hurt, and that's good. I like Lark. Erin Phillips's one made shot was a heave at the end of the shot clock that had no business going in. Otherwise, she was just generally pesky and in people's way. Jeanette Pohlen hit her shots from deep, but I don't otherwise remember her for doing more than confusing me because she wears #32 and is not Katie Douglas.
Katie Douglas is left-handed. Seriously, this is not a revelation. She likes to go left. She shoots with her left hand. She does her best work from the left side. WHY DO YOU LET HER GO LEFT? Two, three, four times, I watched the Liberty defense sag off her when she was on the left side. Why would you do that? Why would you ever do that? Fortunately for New York, a lot of her shots weren't going down, but not through any effort of theirs. Also, running into her is not a good plan if you're Leilani Mitchell. I'm just saying, if you're five-five and slightly built, don't run into Douglas. I kept thinking Tamika Catchings wasn't really a factor, but it's hard to say that with a straight face when she had 22 points. She just sort of happened, like supernatural phenomena. And she kept trying to pick people up off the floor, which is sweet, but I don't think the Liberty were particularly interested in being friendly with her. Briann January has a very nice crossover, as well as a knack for deflecting loose balls. I'm surprised she was only credited with one steal, as I thought she had more. I guess some of her deflections to her teammates were credited to them? Judo-chopping Cappie's shoulder probably didn't make her too many friends in New York. She seems especially good at that high lob pass to the posts, and Davenport and Catchings are the best at catching it. (At both ends. Why were we going over the top to Pierson?) Tammy Sutton-Brown set a couple of very good screens at the beginning of the game, but didn't play much. Still, she's in there to be tall and get in other people's way, so I guess she did her job. I still don't like her, even if she did draw out some of the Rutgers alumnae. Shavonte Zellous was taking some very stupid shots in the first part of the game, but became more of an option in the second half.
Indiana really likes that high pass, and tonight it worked for them. They play the passing lanes exceptionally well, too. It did make us look pretty bad for passing the ball to Katie Douglas, though.
We had two Alex Montgomery cameos, one in each half, and she was not remarkable. I think the second was born of necessity. She did a nice job not screwing up, which is sometimes all you can expect off the bench. I have no idea why DeMya Walker only played four minutes in the first half, committed two fouls, and was pulled out of the game, never to be seen again. It didn't look like she got hurt, and she looked like she was much less into the game than she usually is. The plot thickens? Kara Braxton got good position inside, and hit her shots when she got them; on the other hand, she was woeful on defense, and she suffered from the same klutziness that assailed the rest of the team. Essence Carson was fantastic off the bench, once Whiz realized that he needed to have her in. a little off with her handle, but compared to the rest of the team, she was a veritable genius.
Nicole Powell actually looked like the player we thought we were getting tonight. She hit the open shots her teammates got her, she crashed the boards, and she even screened a little. Her defense was a little off, but I think we've all figured out that we're getting one or the other from her at this point. Tonight, she had the offense, and I'm okay with that. I have found inner peace and serenity, at least until the next time she leaves Katie Douglas open on the left side for a three. Plenette Pierson looked awful. I don't know if her knee was flaring up or she lost a game of the dozens to the Indiana starters, but she had the kind of chip on her shoulder that I thought she left in Tulsa. A lot of little elbows were being tossed, just little jabs, and the expression on her face could curdle milk. She wasn't mixing it up inside as much as she usually does, she was slow on her feet, and she was visibly limping at points. (Which is what makes the benching of DeMya so weird- this is possibly the biggest need we had for her this season, and Whiz went to Powell-at-the-4?) I hope she feels better, and if she doesn't, that she gets the rest she needs. Kia Vaughn got burned pretty badly by both Sutton-Brown and Davenport, and nearly got toppled by an exceptionally egregious sliding dive by Plenette. Leilani Mitchell was her feisty little self, scrapping with the posts and forcing loose balls. It's hard for her to be effective on offense when everyone's bigger than she is, though. Cappie Pondexter was her superstar self, except for the inexplicable fumbles. Seriously, what was wrong with everyone today catching the ball? She had two or three completely unforced fumbles.
When the doubling down works, it works. The problem is that the better teams in this league have enough threats that doubling down results in a player being open who can hit the shot. And Whiz doesn't generally adjust well when his vaunted plan isn't working.
Capsule moment of the first half: Liberty miss a shot. Rebound goes long, clear out of bounds, after hitting the floor once. Ten players watch the ball go out of bounds without touching it. Really, y'all? Get the damn rebound!
Officiating was pretty solid. Small quibbles with clock, but those are within the realm of reason. But we had both Brooks and Grinter, so I wasn't surprised. Billy Smith rounded out a solid crew. The free throw differential was appalling, but that had as much to do with not driving the lane, or with not being able to hang on to the ball if we were in the paint.
If I had to choose between giving the Klondike bar to Dancer #1 or giving the Klondike bar to Dancer #2, I'd give it to Zachara, who was shimmying behind the Liberty bench.
There was a group of suits on the baseline across from the Liberty bench who were making complete buffoons of themselves. I'm not sure if they were Indiana fans, if they wanted to hit on Erin Phillips, or if they were just drunk, but they were noticeably obnoxious. Stop that. It didn't help that the crowd was sparse tonight, so they stood out even more. We almost went into St. John's mode trying to get the crowd fired up. This is not a good thing at a pro game, guys.
All in all, that third quarter and that postgame concert made the rest of the game worth it.