Just the Facts, Ma'am: The New York Liberty opened the game on an 11-0 run and never looked back in a 87-59 win over the Phoenix Mercury. All eleven Liberty players played at least fourteen minutes and scored at least three points, with Plenette Pierson leading the way with 17. DeWanna Bonner led Phoenix with 20 points, while Alexis Hornbuckle and Diana Taurasi each had 10; they were the only three Mercury players in double figures.
For shame, ball movement, ice cream, the chairmanity, angry turtles, balance, cheering for bench players, tall Virginians, and the jig being up, join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.
Halftime at the Prudential Center, and this excuse for basketball being played by people in Phoenix Mercury uniforms is an insult to the franchise. Jennifer Gillom, Michele Timms, Bridget Pettis, and the rest of the fine, classy players who have played for the Mercury ought to rise up in protest- and those fine players do include Diana Taurasi, who looked like the only Mercury player who wanted to give winning the game a shot, or at least get some style points during it.
The PATH was messed up, and the crowd is sparse, for a given value of crowd. I think too many people got the memo that Taurasi was out most of the season, and decided not to show up; the balance are getting ready to watch the Giants. (Or they're my mother, who's on a business trip. Hi, mom!)
There are young people dancing during the halftime show. I'm hiding in the Ice Lounge so as not to be mistaken for someone watching people too young for her.
It's a bad sign when the Twitter widget that the Liberty use retweets one member of the media, one season ticket holder, and the COO of the Phoenix Mercury. (Who did y'all think MercuryMaven was, guys?)
Mercury at Liberty was my first-ever game; this revisiting of it is sad.
I missed the anthem, as well as what was apparently step-dancing by one of the dance troupes. I regret nothing. The little timeout sideshows were amusing, but who's going to clean up all the popcorn from that staged little show with Maddie chasing the vendor? Or the Silly String that he went after the guy in the Prahalis jersey with?
It's hard to talk about this game, because there are so many people I believe have merited a good whack upside the head.
Avery Warley made disappointingly little impression in her limited minutes, as Gaines decided this would be a great time to give Kizer and Sanford their run. I was expecting a little more out of someone wearing #23 for the Mercury, even in response from the Liberty. Lynetta Kizer was aggressive to the point of anger management issues. She looked like she was trying to get into it with any former ACC player she could get an arm on. DeMya Walker gave as good as she got; Alex Montgomery was not so fortunate. She couldn't shoot straight, though. This was a problem for most of the Mercury players. Nakia Sanford was getting into it a lot with Kia Vaughn in what we dubbed the Battle of the Kias (clearly we needed Kia Wright as guest referee for that match). She threw her body around quite a bit. Charde Houston went on a little run in the fourth quarter, but then resumed taking bad and often contested shots. It's hard to yell at her for being a non-factor on defense, though, since most of Phoenix was. I'm fairly certain Michael Price gave her the benefit of the doubt on an out-of-bounds call because he felt kinship to her hairstyle, though. (Which is not to say I don't think Houston's decision to honor her mom is awesome, but I have to make fun of Price somehow.) Briana Gilbreath got the bulk of the minutes at the guard spots, and she didn't look like a raw rookie out there. I liked her hustle after loose balls, though her shooting form leaves something to be desired. I understand why she's getting so much love recently, but I don't know if she's a high rotation player for a full-strength WNBA team.
O HAI DIANA TAURASI. How are ya? Nice to see you! She played the few minutes she was granted with her usual panache and her usual will to win. During this whole debacle for the Mercury, I have never doubted that Taurasi wants to be on the court and wants to win the game when she's on the court. She looked a little more bothered by Essence Carson's defense than I would have expected, but she was starting to solve it by the time she was pulled out of the game. Samantha Prahalis played very briefly before being pulled in the first half and never seen again- post-game research says she had a shoulder injury, but I might have missed it. I'm not surprised; it got physical and ugly fast. She did not look good in those brief minutes, though. Had her shot rim out and her passes batted away like butterflies. Maybe she would have gotten her feet under her as the game went on, but that didn't happen. At halftime, I was ready to commend Alexis Hornbuckle for being one of the only Phoenix players who looked like she was playing to win the game. And then she got an arm into Leilani Mitchell's throat and cross-checked Alex Montgomery into the Phoenix bench, and I didn't like her anymore. There's a difference between playing hard and playing stupid, and she crossed that line at ludicrous speed. As a paying fan of basketball, I appreciated her willingness to attack the lane and crash the boards, but as a Liberty fan, I would have appreciated if she stopped beating my team up. Krystal Thomas didn't exactly make any friends in New York, either, and she appeared to have missed the memo that the ball must enter the cylinder from above, not below. There was one play where she appeared to be trying to bat it up through the net. It doesn't work like that, Krystal. Poor DeWanna Bonner is going to end up either broken or tied in a knot by the end of the season if she's not careful- there was one second-half play on defense where it looked like she was trying to entrap a Liberty player in the Gordian Knot. She warmed up more in the second half, but it still came as a surprise to look up and see her mounting point total.
Corey Gaines looked like he didn't care. I've seen more animation from Whiz. I've seen more animation from Vulcans. I'm genuinely not sure if he's calling plays. He's certainly not keeping an eye on the game enough if he starts pulling his team back to the bench for a timeout before it's actually been granted. If this team isn't trying to tank, then Gaines needs to be shown the door before he can wreck any young players' careers.
Katelan Redmon! Nice to meet you! We realized this was going to be an embarrassment when we saw her come in during the first quarter. She's not a rotation player, but she plays good defense, she gives chase to every loose ball, and she finds her way to the rebound, even if her teammates aren't expecting her to be there. Her shooting form could use a lot of work, especially her footwork, and she can be a little too aggressive sometimes, but I understand why Whiz thought she was worth drafting and why she was worth bringing back. Kelley Cain also got some good minutes, and she mixed it up inside to get some baskets and pull down the boards. I'm worried about her hands, though; she's not a great catcher of passes. Also, watching a rebound go out of bounds is unacceptable. Alex Montgomery got extended run, much to the gathering's delight. She brought the defense and finished on a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass from Cappie Pondexter. The yen for three-shooting in the second half to get her into double figures was weird, but either that was Whiz trying to not run up the score or Alex wanting to work on her shot. I'm not sure, but I'm glad she hit double figures, and I'm glad she got quality minutes. Leilani Mitchell played well off the bench- I think my favorite of her plays was the one where she darted into Bonner and came away with the steal like she was escaping the minotaur's labyrinth. I like it when Leilani can fire things up, and when she gets imaginative with the left hand. Kia Vaughn spent most of the game banging with Nakia Sanford, but she doesn't look like herself- about the only negative that can be found in this game for the Liberty. I'm worried about whether she might be hurt or something. Be okay, Kia! DeMya Walker played sparingly, and was mostly unremarkable, except for the fouls that displeased her and the one odd dancing dive that resulted in her going to the line. We only had to get out the dive cards once. (They're DeMya approved. We have proof.)
Nicole Powell's three-point shot has returned! She kept getting called for strange fouls, though; I didn't realize that running alongside a player was now considered a foul. She was being especially careful with her left hand on the bench, to make sure she didn't do anything else to those bandaged fingers. Essence Carson got the start again, and spent most of her first half energy hanging on Taurasi like a favorite blanket. Her stats won't show it, but she played well. Cappie Pondexter didn't have to be the star of the show, but I think she wanted to prove something to the Mercury. She had a little more flash and style to her game than usual tonight. Maybe it was because it was her former team, maybe because it was a team that didn't care, but she was able to whip up some beautiful passes, especially the one to Alex. Plenette Pierson also had a pretty play with a nifty pass with DeMya Walker. She tore the Mercury up in the first half, then scored two more baskets to start the third. It's nice to see her intensity up again. Kara Braxton was a force to be reckoned with in the middle. She found her spots, got the ball, and finished, for the most part. Starting seems to agree with her. And for all that it seemed she shot the ball whenever she got it, she did rack up a few assists. Pardon the bad pun. It wasn't even intentional, though she was using an old Andrea Stinson trick of distracting offensive players with, er, moving objects. If, um. You know what I mean. I can't go any further, this is a family show!
I should be happy with the amount of time that the bench players got to develop and show what they had, but it bothers me a little that Whiz was able to go to Kelley Cain and Katelan Redmon in the first quarter. It bothers me that the Liberty could treat this like a preseason game or a scrimmage, like something that doesn't matter. There are only 34 games in a season. You shouldn't be able to take 3% of your season for granted.
Refereeing was merciful to the Mercury. Hornbuckle's lucky she didn't get tossed.
A moment of silence for the half row of chairs that Alex knocked over in one of her pell-mell loose-ball plays. Our cohort at SportsPage snapped a picture.
Klondike bar eating competition. The prize? More Klondike bars. That's just evil. I still want a Klondike bar. It's hot on this train.
Anne Donovan took in the game, and chatted with Taurasi afterwards. Taurasi is a very chatty sort- she was talking with Laura Ramus during the mess that eventually became a timeout. Husband o' mine also spotted Quanitra Hollingsworth getting credentialed up.
To the person who was attempting to disconcert Katelan as she went for her first point of the game at the line: someday, you will be doing something very important to you, and someone will wreck it for you, and at that moment I will cackle with laughter without knowing why. And the universe will be balanced once more.
Phoenix is a really loud team. Between the lack of crowd and the lack of crowd noise, we got much more of the on-court sound than usual. Hornbuckle is especially loud.
Our neighbors were very pleased with this game, and a lot of people were jubilant at the 28-point margin. Me? I can't help but think that Chicago on Friday is going to be a lot more difficult, and I don't want them to gain false confidence. I don't want this to be fool's gold. I look at what's left of this Phoenix team, and I shake my head at the coaches and management that have let it happen. I bear no ill will towards their players, except for Hornbuckle's urge to play rugby and Kizer's unresolved issues with the rest of the ACC.