Third Quarter Surge Powers Liberty Over Sparks

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 23-7 third quarter run by the New York Liberty erased a 12-point halftime deficit and fueled a 73-71 win over the Los Angeles Sparks in a game that was closely contested in the end. Cappie Pondexter fell two assists short of a triple-double, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. Plenette Pierson added 17 points and six rebounds (five offensive), while Essence Carson scored 10 of her 14 in the second half. Kristi Toliver's 17 points led Los Angeles, and Candace Parker registered 14 points and 15 rebounds.

For broken rims, nerves of steel, excellent fashion decisions, smuggled barbeque, the power of knowledge, numerology, illicit popcorn, and expert witnesses, join your intrepid and overjoyed blogger after the jump.

It's strange to be seeing Western Conference opponents this late in the season. Usually the last month is virtually reserved for conference rivalries. But I'll take the novelty where I can get it.

Happy birthday, Mom. I know you're reading these, or will read these, at some point. But next time, I think I'm going to schedule lunch for 1:30. :D

I still got there in time to claim some autographs. Jantel Lavender and April Sykes were very nice, though I wonder if Lavender appreciated someone not giving a damn about Candace Parker, or if she was hoping to use Parker as the screen. Penny Toler and Paula Madison are both here- I worked up the nerve to ask Toler for her autograph. I'm starting to think Year 15, instead of Season 15, is the year of the classics.

There's a lot of purple and gold in this building. It makes me very sad. A lot of Rutgers fans are also in their colors, so whatever. If you like April Sykes better than Essence Carson, then I'm not going to comment on your loyalties.

I'm hoping there's enough people watching the end of the Jets game and getting ready to come in here for the tip. Otherwise there's no excuse for a smaller crowd. Excuse my scatterbrains. I'm cross-talking three ways from Sunday.

It's a 12-point Sparks lead at the half, and really, it could be much worse. Of course, it could be better, if it weren't for the five separate shots that spun out of the basket in the first half. That's 11 points right there (one was Leilani's three). Candace Parker is quietly doing her thing, but all the Sparks are beating up on us. They're taking turns. And people are cheering louder when April Sykes gets a basket than when the Liberty are, and that bothers me. Nicole Powell's playing like DeLisha Milton-Jones talked smack about the Monarchs and her mama.

You know, people are going to get the wrong impression when you tell them you picked the finalists for your dance team in Atlantic City. That Chipmunked "Call Me Maybe" doesn't help anything. I'm trying not to watch the halftime show.

National anthem was very good. More impressive was who did it- Mae Ola Bolton. She played at Auburn, but you're a bit more familiar with her younger sister Ruthie. I have all the history squee right now.

Is this dance performance ever going to end?

The people in front of us were scared off. I don't know why. We weren't doing anything out of the ordinary. We didn't even do the Cheese Whiz poster yet. Sheesh.

This College Board promotion is adorable. As long as they don't mention that Cappie was a partial qualifier. Stanford's a good goal, though.

I like Iman Shumpert's Liberty-green shirt. He's a good guy, and I wish him all the best with the Knicks. I love how he got into the game, too. It's rare for someone on celebrity row to be that energetic, and I love it.

I didn't think we were going to win this game until it was Essence Carson who tied it, and until it was 55 that it was tied at. There's more Scarlet in my soul than I want to admit, and I believe in the numerology of 55. When the timeout came at 5:55... when it was Sykes and Carson and Pondexter and Vaughn making things happen... when I saw the swaths of red and heard the cheers for Sykes... I knew this was Rutgers style, and whoever could harness the magic behind 55 would win. And though Ross tried with Anosike, the Liberty prevailed in it.

So we're sitting in the Ice Lounge waiting for the postgame concert to begin, and I don't know who this woman in the Comets jersey is, but I simultaneously want to give her a shoutout and give her a smack upside the head, because seriously, Comets colors at a Liberty game? Not cool. This lady Toshi perfoming? Way cool. Sort of a Tracy Chapman vibe with a lot of call and response, and more cheerful, while still bluesy. And she's a Liberty season ticket holder, so her neighbors are here to cheer her on. Someone liberated the leftover popcorn, too, instead of letting it be thrown out. A friendly, neighborly thing going on right here.

Nicky Anosike played briefly, just long enough to get a foul, a rebound, and her name mispronounced by the announcer. April Sykes was a jolt of energy in the second half that Los Angeles was in dire need of, and I think Ross misused her slightly in the endgame. She was certainly popular among the gathered Cagers, and she had the long-range shot working today. I'm surprised at Ross's use of Jenna O'Hea near the end- I would have thought using her as the defensive switch for Toliver was a waste of her shooting ability, and the shots she did get were in the second half, on the damaged rim. I'd like to see her worked in a little more, though I know it's the end of the season and she was a late arrival. Marissa Coleman had one especially nice rebound that had me frustrated, but she made no mark otherwise. Except for mouthing cuss words and missing one hugely critical free throw, neither did Ebony Hoffman. Jantel Lavender had a burst in the first half where she was going to the hole and tearing down boards like nobody's business, but she seemed to fade in the second half.

Candace Parker was graceful to behold, with the lay-ups and the fadeaway shot working today. It was nice to see her rebound with authority, as a basketball fan (obviously, as a Liberty fan, I'm less than thrilled about that). But she does seem too willing to defer to her teammates, and she's got to realize that sometimes she's got to be the one who takes over. Kristi Toliver brought the long ball and the willingness to just keep shooting. She was more easily held in check than I expected, though. DeLisha Milton-Jones did that thing she always does where by the end of the game, every player on the other team wants her dead. She and Plenette Pierson went at it almost as enthusiastically as she and Nicole Powell did. She seemed to be a little too in love with the long ball, even though I know full well it's in her arsenal. I think she's still at her best when she gets closer to the basket. Alana Beard, whose first name kept getting mispronounced throughout the game (she doesn't answer to a-LAH-nuh, it's a-LAY-nuh), reverted to her Washington shooting ability. Her jumper just wasn't with her today. She still brought the phenomenal defense, but she was an offensive liability to the point where I wonder if her ankle was giving her agita. I would have played Nneka Ogwumike more if I were Carol Ross, since she was moving very well and looked like a veteran even among the veterans. She smacked some gorgeous blocks where she just came out of nowhere and BAM! Maybe they were confused at the mispronunciation of her last name.

Yes, if you couldn't tell, the guy who is not Mike W. managed to screw up Sparks' names every which way from Sunday. At one point he stumbled over Candace. Really, dude?

Maybe I'm wrong, since I don't follow the Sparks and don't know everyone's styles like the back of my hand, but I disagreed with several of Ross's moves in the endgame. If you need a three, why would you have either Toliver or O'Hea on the bench? Just for Toliver's foul count? That went well- she got the fifth foul chasing down a missed shot on offense. And if you need a three, why would you bring Sykes for DMJ? Sykes for Parker would have made more sense to me. But your mileage may vary.

Why would you even play Kelley Cain in this game? Unless Kia Vaughn is hurt, there's no excuse for bringing in a raw, slow rookie in a close game. She produced nothing. DeMya Walker also played briefly, but not long enough for us to get out the dive cards. (Yes, as a matter of fact, we do judge you. But only on a 10-point scale for artistry and results.) I think she helped get the defense back on track, though. It was nice to see Alex Montgomery continue to get decent run as a defensive stopper. I think they could have found her in the corner one or two times, but defense is her primary job, and she helped get it done. Kia Vaughn looked a little like her old self in the fourth quarter, and maybe that had to do with rest, and maybe that had to do with Rutgers. I don't know, but I hope it's a good portent for the future. I disagreed with drafting her, but that doesn't mean I don't want her to do well, be healthy, and be happy. Leilani Mitchell played out of her mind on defense. Any time the Fluffy Little Bunny can set a screen on D-Nasty that actually staggers D-Nasty back a step is a good time, except when Essence misses the open three it created. She was playing tough, good one-on-one defense on players much bigger and stronger than she was- Lavender, DMJ, Parker. It did mess up the rotations, since someone always came and helped, leaving a Spark open, but I love to see that heart from her.

Kara Braxton should have been six of six from the field. All three of her misses were chip shots. One was so open that I could have made it. At the very least, if I missed, it would have been for hurrying it. She was not bright today. Not bright at all. Even less than usual. Plenette Pierson continued that thing where she comes out energized like a fresh battery at the start of the second half and hits a couple of lay-ups early. She played great. She did a great job of grabbing tipped balls on the offensive glass. So did Cappie Pondexter, whose shooting was not all we could have asked, but who played point brilliantly. She was energized and enthusiastic. She was getting the crowd back into the game, exhorting them while one of her teammates was at the line (which was not the best timing, but the only convenient moment, and since it was in the backcourt, it wasn't so bad). This is one of those games she helped steal. Essence Carson's revival in the second half also helped us get the win. She was quiet in the first, and throughout the game it did look like her ankle was bothering her slightly when she was leaving shots short, but she sparked the run that got us the game. And of course she was defensive Essence once again. Nicole Powell played the passing lanes well, and her defense was on point in the second half. She was less afraid than usual of getting physical, which is a change I like in her. If she can be the well-rounded player she was at Stanford, I can deal with losing some of the offensive potency she was known for in Sacramento.

Some of the officiating decisions were a bit questionable, most notably the charge that Alana Beard drew with one foot in the circle while moving under an airborne shooter. To be fair, I thought the double-dribble by Ogwumike was induced by contact. (And it was fun to consult with Ray on some of those calls. Referees are useful!)

Seeing Luis in a non-Liberty jersey was discomfiting. And was choosing the number 20 a subtle "take that" at the front office? The mind reels. I'm also not a fan of the "Luis Grande" segments- they seem so cheesy that I develop lactose intolerance.

(Needs must when the devil drives; one of our Liberty bookcovers is now being used as a mat on the E train. Look, kids, if you're going to puke, could you at least try to get to the station and use a garbage can? Or at least do more than drop two tissues on it before you run off the train?)

College Board sponsored a backpack and supply giveaway. I don't actually know what else is in the bag. I've been a busy little blogger.

Poor kid in the Hot and Cold contest. He almost wandered off the court. At least Maddie found him eventually.

We happened to see Plenette headed out after the game. Ankle-length, loosely-fitted, seafoam-green dress. I WANT IT SO MUCH.

In the long run, winning may be a bad idea. In the short term, I love it, and I wouldn't trade a win over LA for another five combinations in the lottery. The defense was amazing, and everyone played their hearts out. That's all I can ever ask of my team.

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