Hello again from beautiful, scenic, and somewhat ammonia-scented Newark! Today's game features the undefeated Atlanta Dream and the New York Liberty.
Word came to us officially today about Essence Carson's ACL, which makes us all very sad. Essence managed to bridge the distance between the Rutgers fans and the rest of the fan base pretty well. Also, she's awesome.
PATH is not exactly popular with your intrepid blogger and her dashing cohort right now, since the SmartLink machine decided to eat his money. $21 is not something to trifle at. Three different people asked me for help at three different times. I DO NOT WORK FOR PATH. I do not wish to be affiliated with people who steal my husband's money.
Sancho Lyttle set an excellent screen for Alex Bentley during autographs. Well, at least we know what all their rookies look like for the return trip. I nearly busted up watching Angel McCoughtry shimmy to the pregame music. Break it down, Angel!
The in-game giveaway was a very nifty photo collage of Toni Young on her way up for a dunk. I'm not a big fan of dunking, but it does make for some very cool photo ops.
Cheryl Ford is in uniform, no idea whether she's going to play. With Laimbeer, it's hard to figure out who's doing what when. No sign of Essence at all.
There's a woman a few rows down from us who looks weirdly like Barbara Turner. Weird because I thought Turner was still overseas.
They're doubling up on the roster cards- this card of Toni will also be used for the Connecticut game. That means that there's no room for the alma mater/country on the opposing teams, so I'm prepared to answer more questions than usual.
The arena staff seem to be having fun with their new toy, the "Oblivious Cam"- find people really aren't paying attention and see how long it takes them to notice that the camera is trained on them. They've had a couple of good ones so far.
The ribbon board thinks that Kamiko Williams went to Louisiana Tech. The main board correctly states that she went to Tennessee.
I've never heard "y'all" used as a possessive before, but Toni did: "get on y'all feet".
A gentleman with a truly spectacular beard just walked past us. I salute your playoff beard, sir. May you have enjoyment of all your sports.
We're only down one at the half, which is a pleasant surprise. 33-32, with Kara Braxton and Plenette Pierson carrying the bulk of the load. Katie Smith got the start for Essence Carson, a move that I'm not sure I agree with. There's been a lot of quick defensive moves in this game, which should surprise no one. Kamiko seems to be trying to out-fancy the Dream, which is not a plan that will end well.
One of the small yet nagging worries I've had on my mind was resolved- they showed Kara's son on the big screen. I was starting to wonder if something tragic had happened that the league didn't want getting out, or she had misplaced him in a bar, or something. It's just so unusual for a player's motherhood not to be discussed, I assumed something bad had happened.
There seem to be an exceptionally stupid number of people in today's crowd. A lot of late arrivals and people who don't seem to realize that standing in the aisle during play is incredibly rude and blocks other people's view of the game. Also, if you touch my bag, I reserve the right to go Elaine Powell on you. If it's in your way, ask me to move it. Do not take it upon yourself to move my bag (with my computer). Do not get pissy if I get annoyed at you moving my personal belongings without my express consent.
Well, that was a heck of a turnaround in that fourth quarter. That's Liberty basketball at its finest, even when the ball goes off the back of the backboard.
Anthem singer was very hockey-esque. I liked, though he did have a couple of rough patches and made the frequent "for" instead of "o'er" mistake.
I mostly remember Le'Coe Willingham for her bright pink eyeshadow and the lipstick I could see from the 19th row. I'm sure she did things at some point, but I don't remember what they were. One good boxout, but that's really all I can think of. Alex Bentley looks less squarish now that she's out of Penn State colors, but she does seem to think that she took Maggie Lucas's shot out for a joyride. From what I've seen of her, both in college and the one game I've seen of her in the pros, I think she's caught between positions, and I don't know if she can adapt to one or the other at the pro level before her number comes up and she gets pushed off the roster. Tiffany Hayes fell down a lot- she ended up in the front row seats once and in what appeared to be a compromising position with a photographer once. She took a couple of tumbles on the hardwood, too. Got a lot of free throws out of her headfirst style and took advantage of all of them. Aneika Henry was omnipresent in the minutes that she played, hitting the boards and boxing out. She's a superb reserve post, and an excellent complement to Lyttle and de Souza. I'm not sure she'd be as good if she weren't complementing them.
Armintie Herrington showed a tendency to get all up in people's business. When she hit a midrange jumper in the third quarter, I thought we were done for- since when does Herrington hit outside jumpers? I think that's actually one of the codified signs of the apocalypse. Her speed was killing us, too. I think Cappie tried to outrun her. This is not a good plan. Jasmine Thomas was kind of a ninja- I kept forgetting that she was out there, and she ended up with 11 points. Go figure. But it's probably not a good sign for Atlanta that she's not getting involved in the team's ball movement. Angel McCoughtry got hot in the third quarter and very late in the game, but I don't know that her head was completely in the game. She got into a spirited argument with the entire officiating crew when she forced a held ball on Kelsey Bone- I have no idea what she was kvetching about, but as long as it went, I was surprised they didn't call delay of game on her, since she refused to return the ball in a reasonable amount of time. The threat of her defense also stopped the Liberty cold at least once; she was on Leilani Mitchell and Leilani had no way of throwing a pass over her to get to the open post behind her. Érika de Souza was a rock in the middle at both ends- she got smothered by the Liberty defense later in the game, but when they looked for her and she got the ball, it was going in. She had more of an impact on defense. That's not a woman I want to try to move around easily. Sancho Lyttle was spectacular, though she was also a prime example of why the right matchup matters, but we'll get to that later. She slapped a shot over two rows of photographers and nearly took out a reporter in the first half. She rebounded pretty much all the things and even started hitting those threes that make Dream fans tremble in fear. When she's on, I love to watch her play, and it's been so rare that she's been on the last couple of years that I was cheering a couple of her defensive plays even though they were against my team.
Talking about the right match-up: it took a while, but Laimbeer came with Toni Young against Lyttle, and it worked pretty well. Toni has the kind of athleticism and build that can counter Lyttle, even if she did get dinged for fouls doing so. Overall, she looked less scared than she did in the first few games. Now, part of her apparent increase in comfort level might be that Laimbeer is forced to use her at her old 4 spot instead of continuing to move her to the perimeter, and therefore she can play the game she's used to playing instead of having to adjust to a new position and role in the offense. We'll see if that lack of stage fright holds if/when the experiment continues. Alex Montgomery was solid- did a lot more ballhandling than I'm personally comfortable with, but she seems to be getting the hang of it, so more power to her. I like the way she's finding her teammates, too. Kelsey Bone looked a little slow on the boards and on defense, but her two assists were absolutely beautiful. I don't envy any rookie the responsibility of going up against Lyttle and de Souza in her first month in the big leagues. Leilani Mitchell turned up the defense and the rebounding in the fourth quarter. Fluffy Little Bunny showed her nasty pointy teeth when she sneaked in for low rebounds and deft steals. (And I think the official scorer shorted her a rebound; she came up with the ball twice on one Liberty possession in the fourth quarter, after she left a three-pointer short on the first shot and recovered after a scrum on the second shot.)
Cheryl Ford dressed but did not play. Not amused, Bill.
Katie Smith was all over Angel McCoughtry, and all up in her head, too. Granted, McCoughtry's an easy target, but if anyone knows psychological warfare in basketball, it's Katherine May Smith. She hit her three early in the game, and almost had a second on a heave to beat the shot clock- it got glass and front rim before going wild. Katie was in solely for her defense and for her ability to throw the hard pass. Kara Braxton had her usual array of dumb moves, but she stepped up with three big shots during the big run in the fourth quarter. She went strong against de Souza, and I have to give her props for that. Plenette Pierson took the load of the offense on her shoulders for much of the first half, scoring on drives and little outside jumpers. (Honestly, I think the "let's turn a 4 into a 3" trick might work better with Plenette than Toni. He's talked about that too.) Kamiko Williams started, but didn't play a lot. She kept trying to get cute around the Atlanta defenders, and you can't get cute when it comes to Atlanta, or they will strip you like a Best Buy shelf on Black Friday. She's going to have to get used to that kind of pressure, but I can understand why Bill decided not to make her do it today. Cappie Pondexter stepped her game up in the second half, both on the scoreboard and finding her teammates. I don't think she should have fouled out; I thought the foul they gave her for her fifth was rightfully Plenette's, which would have made that bone-headed sixth foul only her fifth. I think Bill has to determine whether she's going to be more of a distributor or more of a scorer- and has to be aware that either he has to make a choice or he has to radically change the way Cappie thinks. The latter may be somewhat more difficult.
Officials were all right, for the most part. A couple of holds went unnoticed (Kara, it's kind of obvious when you yank on someone's jersey) and Herrington and Alex got into a wicked collision that both seemed to feel should end with a foul on the other.
Dark humor moment of the game: the big screen showed a fitness tip about learning how to land in sports that involve a lot of cutting and jumping. Cut to Essence and Cheryl looking at each other like "yeah, right, that'll help".
D'awww moment of the game: it is a recent Liberty tradition that Essence Carson gets in the middle of the huddle and fires up the team with really enthusiastic, energetic dancing. What with being on crutches and all, she's not currently capable of doing so. So Maddie jumped into the huddle instead and took over with the dance moves.
Halftime was a Tic-Tac-Toe game with fathers and daughters and lay-ups and spinning. I think the one guy was very fortunate he didn't need to use the helmet he was wearing.
Mama Taj continues to be 100% flaw-free.
Essence cleans up nicely. I just wish she didn't have to :(
Entirely too many late arrivals for my liking. The start of play is not your cue for you to start down the stairs and block people's view of the game they paid for. Grah.
It was Dads and Daughters Day, so there was a lot of emphasis on the father-daughter dynamic. It's hard for me to get into this theme, since the sports in the family comes through the maternal line (sports conversations with my dad tend to include a lot of translating and apologizing for bringing up sports in the first place; either that or Serie A, and I don't like soccer all that much).
Lots of former Knicks in the house: Allan Houston, John Starks, Herb Williams, and Larry Johnson.
That fourth quarter pleased me greatly. The defense was tough, the big shots came at the right time, and the ball movement was great. That's the kind of thing I like to see. Onward to Connecticut! Seek vengeance for thine first loss!