Hello again, loyal readers and interested passers-by! We're coming to you in staggered, or possibly staggering, spurts from the Prudential Center on a Friday night that could not be any more welcome if it tried. (Trust me, you don't want to know.) It's the New York Liberty and the Indiana Fever, one more time, one team looking to stave off a tie-breaker, the other to clinch it, both teams looking to their playoff hopes.
Solid national anthem. I could do with less gasping.
Miss Dance of the United States 2013 is wearing a ridiculously huge crown. That thing is about a foot tall. Seriously.
I'm pleasantly surprised that we're only down five at the half. Given that we opened up the game giving Indiana a 12-0 hole shot and generally looking more like everyone was focused on Plenette's birthday celebration, getting it down to manageable levels is a definite improvement. People are coming in too, which is also an improvement.
Play of the game is not in fact Leilani Mitchell's banked-in, shot clock buzzer-beating three. Here's the sequence: Cappie Pondexter is trapped in the corner, hounded by an Indiana double-team. She hurls the ball in desperation to the opposite corner, where Leilani Mitchell leaps up and quickly touches it over to Alex Montgomery, who swings it to DeLisha Milton-Jones for a right-angle three. The crowd WENT WILD, no lie. Which is good, given that you could almost taste the sarcasm coming off the crowd in the first quarter.
That could have been worse. No, seriously, that could have been worse. Other than wanting to smack Kara Braxton upside the head with Cappie Pondexter, I'm okay with this. (No, don't ask me how I was planning to accomplish that feat. Let me wallow in my hyperbole. It's the only thing keeping me from freaking out at these uncouth gentlemen on the PATH train. Only two more games in exile. I can make it.)
Jasmine Hassell... um... there's no polite way to put this. At all. And it's horribly hypocritical, but I'm not paid to play basketball. But Jasmine Hassell appeared to have dealt with the expiration of her seven-day contracts by drowning her sorrows at McDonald's, or possibly Krispy Kreme. She appeared to be close to the girth of Erlana Larkins, though a good bit shorter. I suppose she was able to throw the extra weight around and thus be a peskier defender, but no. Not a good look. Jessica Breland rebounded well, but stupid fouls kept her off the floor more than I think Lin Dunn would have liked. I still think she and Erlana Larkins need to play more together. The last time I saw the Fever, it looked like they had a good chemistry together. Erin Phillips was uncharacteristically off her game. She always plays low, but it seemed like she was much closer to the floor than anything else. And I do not approve of her kicking Leilani Mitchell in the Achilles. I wanted Layshia Clarendon to do well tonight, if only because there was a Bears fan in the next section over and happy Bears fans make me happy (and yes, also because she seems like a fairly awesome human being, and I like it when fairly awesome human beings succeed at things), but her shot was off (even the one she hit got a little help from the backboard) and she had a fumble in front of the Fever bench that could have been very costly.
We kept leaving Briann January open. This was not as bad a plan as I feared. We kept passing her the ball. This was less of a good plan. No, seriously, she played the interior passing lanes well, a fact that the Liberty remained distressingly oblivious to throughout the bulk of the game. She did appear to attempt to use her mad l33t martial arts skillz at one point, which is not a good plan in the game of basketball. Shavonte Zellous had the lane pretty much whenever she wanted it, and she was popping shots from all over the floor. Her help defense in the post was also crucial to shutting down the Liberty attack. Karima Christmas came up with all the things. She's one of those players who can do things, and you don't remember them, but without her the team probably doesn't win. She's growing on me, despite her unfortunate name. (I worked with a Karima who was a raving lunatic. Evil, evil woman. As you can tell, she even spelled it the same way.) Erlana Larkins got in and mixed it up on the glass, and early on she was taking it to the rack with some success. She had fun matching up with Kelsey Bone. And by fun, I mean pain, just to make it clear. Of course, Tamika Catchings was Tamika Catchings- deadly when we decided that guarding her from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter was a waste of time, powerful slicing through the rack, surprisingly effective in boxing out bulkier players, like a bolt of lightning when it came to intercepting passes, and occasionally reckless with the body. That's Catch. That's how she rolls.
Leilani Mitchell is getting a lot of positive fan support. Almost too much. If she were blonde, it would worry me more. But there's a roar and a cheer from the crowd whenever she gets in the game. She played all right- the two big threes make her look better than she was overall. It does worry me that she's getting shoehorned into that three-point shooting role; yes, it's one of her skills, but I don't know if it's one of her strengths, and I'm not sure if it's because she's looking for a way to contribute so that Bill doesn't forget that she exists, or if it's the only thing that her teammates think she can do anymore. Alex Montgomery kept taking long twos, which is frustrating, but it's a habit that the entire team has gotten into, which annoys me. She defended, she rebounded, she hustled. If her shot were more consistent, she'd probably be starting; as it is, she's been playing the lion's share of the minutes at the three. Kelsey Bone had a fantastic game off the bench, especially the third quarter. She was aggressive on the boards and went hard in the paint. We had been worried that she was picking up Kara Braxton's bad habits, which are legion, but apparently that's not the issue. That's a relief. DeLisha Milton-Jones was solid- good deflections, okay shooting, nothing remarkably stupid that I can remember off the top of my head.
Plenette Pierson relied entirely too much on her jumper for my liking. Granted, she was being doubled in the post (like pretty much everyone), but I'd have liked to see her take it to the hole with a little more force. Kamiko Williams got the start as a formality, but she only played the first couple of minutes before returning to her seat on the bench. If she could shoot, she might have a shot at sticking on a roster, but she's not a good shooter, and unless there's roster expansion next year, there's no room in the league for a player with only one skill. Katie Smith wasn't great, though she had one big shot that should have been a lot bigger. We'll get to that in a bit. Cappie Pondexter was clearly bothered all night. She can't get lift on her shot, which means that she can't get her shot off, which means that she goes for the foul instead of attempting to make the shot. The next to last possession for the Liberty was a complete debacle. She got the ball and never relinquished it, which ended in disaster. I mean never relinquished it. I mean, the ball did not leave her hands until the shot went up, despite the fact that her teammates were open. It was bad. It was embarrassing. That possession, and Plenette allowing Zellous to go to the rack on the Indiana possession, sealed the game. Kara Braxton, except for one brief and utterly unexpected stretch in the fourth quarter, was a hot mess who deserved nothing more than to be sworn at repeatedly. Throwing shots at the rim without caring whether they were actually shots, fumbling, not catching passes... and then there was a spurt in the fourth quarter where she was hitting shots, rebounding with authority, and even being sneaky by knocking a ball out of bounds off Briann January's back. Then she remembered that she was Kara Braxton and went back to doing stupid things, but it was nice while it lasted.
I don't know why the officials didn't review Katie's shot from the corner. I thought it might have been a three. Taj, Barb, and DeLisha all thought it should have been reviewed. Nothing. And then they decide to review Christmas's basket at the end of the game. Because that totally affects the outcome, y'all. There were a lot of shaky calls in this one- missed on both teams, to be fair, but overall, the three gentlemen calling this game seemed to be anticipating fouls instead of calling the action as it happened.
Crowd got into it as the game went on. Defense was strong for most of the game. Offense just went AWOL. We'll be okay. I keep telling my neighbors to take deep breaths and think of Chiney Ogwumike.
No, seriously, I'm down for shutting down everything with five games left. The tragic number approacheth. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with regrouping next year and not having to go to Newark more than twice this year.