Just the Facts, Ma'am: A 12-0 second half run broke a 45-45 tie and propelled the Connecticut Sun to a Game 1 victory over the New York Liberty, 65-60. 17 points and four blocks from newly crowned MVP Tina Charles led the way for the Sun, with Asjha Jones just missing a double-double at 10 points and nine rebounds. Cappie Pondexter had 14 points for the Liberty on 3-of-16 shooting; New York overall shot only 26% from the field.
For questionable decisions, taunting leftovers, low quality towels, unexpected company, endless construction, large shiny objects, and tough decisions, join your intrepid and delinquent blogger after the jump.
True story: Tuesday afternoon, my supervisor and I are chatting about a day she needs to take off in October, and I mentioned that I'd give her one of my days if I could, since I probably wasn't going to use them. She encouraged me to take them, since I was entitled to them. I come home that night and my husband has Thursday off and Mohegan is providing comps.
"Hey, Angua, mind if I take Thursday off?"
So here I am in the bus lobby of Mohegan Sun, writing up notes on a game I didn't expect to either see or be so close. My leg's a little numb and there are a lot of Sun season ticket holders passing through. But it's okay. I'm surprisingly okay, all things considered. The music is good, and I think we covered the spread. Not that I gamble, but it's a good way to determine if your team was over or under expectations. And we did a lot better than I was expecting, given how we play on the road.
Not a lot of Liberty fans made the trip, but there were a few scattered Usual Suspects. It's a Thursday night. Not much of a surprise. Fewer fans than usual in general, but again, a late night on a school night.
Anthem by an acoustic guitarist and Chubby Checker. He briefly flubbed one of the words and got a wee bit overdramatic for my liking, but heck, you've got Chubby Checker doing the anthem. Score. There was one adorable moment during a timeout when the PA blared "The Twist" and got him to come on the court to dance; Mistie Mims wore the age-old expression of "oh, God, my dad is doing something embarrassing in public, make it stop", though that might be because it looked like Jessica Moore was taunting her mercilessly about it. (Our seats, courtesy of Mohegan, were behind the basket that sits in front of the home bench. Got to see lots of facial expressions.) At the end of the game, he was adorably pointing her out, as if to say, "Yeah, that's my kid!"
I don't know how thrilled the Sun fans around us were at being presented with two be-hatted, lei'd, jersey'd, loud New York fans, but they held up pretty well, and I appreciate the courtesy. Also, my thanks to the patient usher who did let us keep the rally towels. I even asked, "Are you sure you want us to have these?"
It's kind of awesome- one of the guys who came up on our bus got comp'd for the game and was talking enthusiastically about it with us. He's more of an NBA guy, apparently, but they offered him tickets and he decided to take them. That's one of the nifty things about the Mohegan comps- the freebies get people interested in the league that maybe hadn't heard about it anymore, and since they're there anyway, what the heck. And we've got a reporter behind us on the bus- didn't see what outlet she was from- ah, she just gave me her card, hello WBAI- but I'm a little jealous of her press pass. But only a little. I like the fan experience. And I have a towel. It's bright yellow, and it sheds like a yappy little dog, and some Liberty fan graffitied theirs, but it's a free towel!
Leilani Mitchell continues to decrease in value and usefulness. I'm sorry, Leilani. It's not that we don't like you- I wouldn't still rock the lei if I didn't. But a small, slight, slowing point guard is a liability if she can't hit her shots, can't see over the defense, and can't stop committing holding fouls when she attempts to defend at the other end. I like her enthusiasm on loose balls and offensive rebounds, but with an eleven-player roster, everyone has to bring more to the table. Alex Montgomery played well- a lot of hustle, a lot of work on the boards, a lot of defense, good quick hands, one hard slip and fall that left her holding her elbow and out for a couple of minutes. She's not my first choice for the corner three, but she's not my last choice, either. Kia Vaughn was aggressive on the boards, and sitting five rows up under the basket let me see how hard she was working against the Connecticut posts. She tore those rebounds down. I like seeing that out of her. I'd like a little more accuracy on the chip shots, but there are days when I think we're cursed when it comes to those. DeMya Walker only came in for- as near as I can tell- defensive purposes, and she was so-so on that. I hate to say it, but I think she was mostly there as a goon- not in the full-on "hit somebody!" sense, but to body up and wear out the Connecticut posts so that her teammates would have an easier time of it.
I think someone messed with Essence Carson's glasses, because that's the only reason I can think of for her to suddenly play so completely awful in the second half. We had a chance when the game was tied, and Essence began fumbling and taking bad shots. She was just not right. I should never have to tell Essence not to do the Show The Ball Trick. (For those of you not familiar with Liberty history, the Show The Ball Trick is something Tari Phillips used to do, when she would inexplicably hold the ball out some distance from her directly in front of a defender. It's sort of an exaggerated handoff, only it's usually with no teammate in sight. No, I don't know what the purpose of it is either.) I also don't know whose idea it was for her to run the point when Leilani was on the floor. It's the only thing Leilani can do at this point- if you have someone else running point when she's on the floor, she's a fluffy little liability. Kara Braxton continues to be frustrating. Stop throwing the ball over the basket. Scoring doesn't work that way. I'd also like to see her hold on to the ball on the rebound instead of tipping it out- most of those tips did go to her teammates this time around, but that's as much a function of the laws of chance as it is skill and court awareness. They're not always going to work out. Nicole Powell actually shone in this one- she had her shot working from the outside, and it's not her fault her teammates couldn't or wouldn't find her when she was wide open in the corner and waving her arms like a drowning woman. (The short sharp word that flew out of her mouth was uncalled for, though.) I think she also brought the advantage of knowing Kara Lawson better than most of her teammates- she stuck very closely on her and anticipated her moves well. Of course, then you end up with a mismatch and someone ends up with an open shot. I think Plenette Pierson's knee was bothering her more than she's ever going to admit. She was a lot slower to react than usual, wasn't cutting as much, wasn't recovering as fast, and was flat-footed more than a few times. For all of that, she still fought hard for boards and on defense. (Cappie's foul upon Tan White's person was actually Plenette's. No idea where they got that one from.) The ridiculously high arc of her shot still thrills and terrifies me. I have random flashbacks of K.B. Sharp. I'd like to see her not have to take as many outside shots, because I love it when she makes that one long step into the lane for the finger roll or the scoop. Cappie Pondexter came down with a bad case of what Mike Lupica once termed "Wanna Be the Man Disease" in one of his novels and started taking mind-numbingly stupid shots. Hurried, off-balance- she's going to end up kicking someone in the crotch with that high kick on the fadeaway, I know it- early in the shot clock with no rebounders in position. She played hero ball when we needed team basketball. She took advantage of lackadaisical Sun ball-handling in the first half, nabbing a couple of quick steals.
Whiz, if you tie the game at 45 and then the other team keeps scoring, perhaps not waiting until the run gets up to 12-0 to call the timeout would be the course of wisdom. I'm also not sure why he went with Essence as long as he did when she was not providing anything that would be vaguely considered beneficial to the ultimate goal of scoring points and preventing the other team from scoring points.
Mike Thibault performed the Danielle McCray experiment again, bringing her in for one stretch, concluding that she would not be useful, and putting her back on the bench. I love watching him do that- not watching him mess with a player, but watching him try out personnel combinations. With him, I get the sense he's doing it for a reason, most of the time. Tan White hustled hard and hit the lane. Happy birthday, Tan. For your birthday you get to be knocked into the stanchion by Plenette Pierson. Isn't the life of a professional athlete wonderful? (Since they won the game, she might answer yes.) Mistie Mims gave as good as she got in the paint from DeMya, Kia, Kara, and Plenette, with hips and shoulders and elbows and things somewhere in the general vicinity of hips but a little further back. She cleaned up the boards well. It always feels like she's more of a presence on the offensive glass than she really is. I hate her when she plays against teams I like. I like her when I'm rooting for her team. Renee Montgomery brought the fancy, as she always does, but I don't think she took advantage of her match-ups as well as she could have. She's stronger than Leilani and faster than most of our guards- assuming she got a screen from one of the excellent screeners on her team, I'd drive to the basket every time and twice on Sundays.
Kalana Greene may have one of the fastest sprints to and from the bench in the league. Not that that's an official stat or anything, but when she comes on and comes off, she's ready. She didn't really play long enough for me to get an impression of her, other than generally being defensive and hitting her one shot very early in the game. She does that. Have I mentioned lately that I really like Allison Hightower. She plays great on defense and when she brings the offense, she can really bring the fancy stuff. Her spin move, which spun her defender (Carson, I think) into another player out of confusion, was the play of the game for me. Beautiful stuff. Tina Charles stifled the Liberty with her blocks, then got going in the paint and from the elbows. Seriously, guys, you just watched her get handed the MVP trophy, you could perhaps consider staying on her no matter what? She's a force of nature, and a well-deserved MVP. Asjha Jones makes things happen. She's not quite the scoring threat she once was, but she sets her teammates up well, whether it's with the right pass or the wicked screen. She's always been the player who does what her team needs her to do to win the game, and I think that actually shows more when she's not the first option. Kara Lawson continues to be a driving force- there was one drive where she was running for the basket like she was back in pee-wee football and if Plenette didn't get out of her way, too bad. She annoys players, she aggravates them, and then she scores on them.
Overall, Connecticut's quick ball movement against the Liberty defense was beautiful. The double came and the ball went. Wash, rinse, repeat until a score.
Can they please fix this stretch of I-95 through New Haven? My back feels like someone took my vertebrae and shook them around in a Yahtzee cup a few times.
The officiating was about average. I still don't know why they called Asjha Jones for that foul that sent Alex Montgomery to the line, though.
The crowd was well-pleased by the announcement of the 2013 All-Star Game. So am I. It doesn't conflict with my dad's birthday this time! An ongoing problem in mid-July.
My backpack smells so good right now. You have no idea. We went to Big Bubba's BBQ, and at the advice of the waitress, we ordered the Pigout. It's supposedly for two people. We walked out with three takeout boxes of leftovers that I hope won't kill me after three hours in bag check and four hours of travel time. But they seemed to still be at original temperature at the halfway mark, so I'm hopeful. If I don't report on Game 2, you'll know why. If I die, Nate can have my Kim Barnes Arico bobble-head.
Whoever did that cover of "Respect" that the Sun senior dance team performed to should not be allowed near a microphone. Whoever created the mix should not be allowed near a music studio. It was bad, and they should feel bad for doing it. The dance number wasn't too bad, but the performance of the song itself was awful.
Someday the folks who do the music for the Sun will remember to remove "Car Wash" from the rotation when they play New York. Either that, or they just like to hear the L! I! B-E-R-T-Y! chant that every Liberty fan will launch into automatically as soon as they hear that song. This time, they remembered until the fourth quarter. Then they played it, and we chanted.
I do like the Wheel of Mystery that selects autograph sections, and that it's one large slice of the arena both lower and upper. Hey, Liberty, remember when you guys used to have autograph sections? Instead of giving away thundersticks and a chance at a t-shirt?
I'm looking forward to Game 2 in Newark, and MOAR barbeque. I'm just glad we competed well and stayed close for most of the game. No shame in losing to a better team.