Liberty leave Newark behind with a loss to Phoenix

USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts, Ma'am: DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree each had 18 points to lead the Phoenix Mercury to an 80-76 win over the New York Liberty in New York's last home game of the season. Diana Taurasi added 17 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Katie Smith led New York with 17 points; Plenette Pierson had five points, six assists, and 15 rebounds. For the end of the road, shirts, overcoming adversity, squeaky children, and appropriation, join your intrepid and unburdened blogger after the jump.

Barring a perverse application of the word "miracle", this is it. This is the last time I will have to shake my fist to the heavens at the Q59 being fifteen minutes late so that I miss the intricate network of connections and fall into disaster like a misplayed line of dominoes. This is the last time I will rub the head of the little sculpture that stands at the top of the stairs leading to and from the L train platform. This is the last time I will have to cram myself into the Newark train, the last time I will have to fight with the SmartLink reader. If there is mercy in this world, this is the last home game for the Liberty. I'm tired. I'm done with this trip. Eighteen, and eighteen, and eighteen, and I'm done.

We didn't even get a perfect attendance award this year. The on-court photo was open to all season subscribers. I don't do cameras, and it's postgame, so... no. I want to get out of Newark as quickly as possible and leave the years of exile behind.

Don't get me wrong, the Prudential Center has grown on me as an arena. For an autograph hunter, it's well laid out. The lounges are nice. The seats are comfortable. But I miss my Diet Coke, and I'm tired of people not reading signs, and I'm ready to go home.

Today's commute, which has so far taken me an hour and just barely gotten me to World Trade Center, is certainly not doing New Jersey any favors. I missed the anthem (though apparently I didn't miss much; Kym's really lost her voice) and I missed the start of the ceremony to honor Katie. I saw the framed jerseys from the Lynx and the national team, and I saw the check that Cappie gave to the scholarship fund in Logan, but I don't know what else there was. They were down to the medium shirts by the time I arrived, but I think I know how to offload one of those.

There are distressingly sparkly preteens performing at the half. I try not to watch that kind of thing. It tends to lead to nothing but trouble. It's a miracle that we're only down two, given that Cappie's not playing. (She could look worse. She doesn't look bad. The lipstick is a bit much, but that's looking for trouble.)

We're currently seeing a slideshow of Katie Smith being awesome, which has a bejeezus lot of Team USA pictures. Haven't spotted any Quest pictures in there, though they went all the way back to Ohio State and her very unfortunate collegiate hair. Gee, I wonder why.

Katie did manage to sneak in one good shot during the ceremony- "thank you for coming, those of you who made it". Or words to that effect. But it came off as "LOL empty seats".

We're having a bit of an issue getting a hand in DeWanna Bonner's face. I know it's usually good strategy to let her bomb away from quarter-court, but if she's hit two of them, perhaps you might want to consider guarding her. Of course, Diana is being Diana and hitting jumpers in stride.

Nothing says front-runner louder than a Griner jersey and a color-coordinated Heat cap. GTFO, kid.

I don't care that we lost. It didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But we fought to the last possessions. We took a full-strength Phoenix team down to the wire. I'm okay with losing so long as we fight, and we fought, even without Cappie- maybe especially without Cappie.

What happened to Chardé Houston? I missed the story behind the facemask, but I blinked and she was wearing it, and I assume that she didn't magically generate it by twitching her nose. Despite the extremely memorable facemask, I don't remember what she actually did. Jasmine James saw a fair number of minutes in the backcourt, and it looked like Taurasi was taking the kid under her wing a little bit. There were a couple of teaching moments. She definitely looked like a rookie and like a midseason replacement, but she looked like she might find a way to belong if she goes overseas and works on her overall game. Lynetta Kizer was extremely physical, especially with Plenette- there were a couple of points near the end of the game where I thought Plenette was going to make some very pointed suggestions on where Kizer could go at her earliest convenience, in addition to perhaps derogatory remarks directed at Kizer's ancestry and preferences. She kept trying to extend her shooting range, and I'm not sure she has that range. Alexis Hornbuckle threw a wicked tackle on Leilani on the fast break- right move and everyone knew it, but it was still a hard hit. She was there for her defense- nothing more and nothing less. Krystal Thomas gave good minutes in relief of Brittney Griner. Obviously, she's not nearly the inside presence that Griner is- she doesn't have the reach and she doesn't have the height, even with the hair, but she gets the job done. She has a bit of the Mercury tendency to whine, but she's the only one of the bench players for whom that is a major problem. I had forgotten how much I enjoy watching Penny Taylor play. She's workmanlike yet graceful. She accepts her fouls, moves on, and hits the big shot. She doesn't give up on what she sees as an opportunity- if she sees a ballhandler who looks uncomfortable bringing the ball up, she'll take a couple of extra swipes before heading back up court. It's good to see her back in the game.

Again, if DeWanna Bonner is hitting the long threes, you might want to change up your defensive scheme and prevent her from getting them. I mean, I don't get paid for this, but it only seems logical. To be fair, the first time Bonner tried to go for one of those deep ones in the second half, she got swatted. She nailed one in the fourth quarter that sealed the game, for all intents and purposes. I do wish she'd use that frame of hers a bit more than just setting up as a spot-up shooter. Oh, and she needs to stop complaining every time a foul is called on her. Brittney Griner mostly wasn't looking for her shot, as near as I could tell, especially in the middle of the game. The Liberty defenders were playing her pretty tough. But she gave it back just as hard on the other end. And when the attention came to her, she did well finding her teammates- she had an awfully pretty drop pass to Briana Gilbreath. Gilbreath was often used in offense-defense substitutions, and to make lineups difficult for the Liberty to defend. Candice Dupree was smooth, especially in the fourth quarter, when she lit up the Liberty with paint jumpers. She's awfully pretty to watch. If I liked Phoenix more, I could watch her and Penny Taylor in the frontcourt all day. Diana Taurasi was Diana Taurasi. She fired away with no hesitation and no need to set her feet. She drove the lane hard. She set up her teammates. She ran her mouth at Plenette Pierson, which is generally not considered among the world's greatest ideas. She got Alex Montgomery good in the face, hard enough to spin her into a ref; she also got Alex with a shoulder to the chin very late in the game, one that was not called anything. She kvetched a lot to the refs. I can't bring myself to feel bad for her potentially missing an irrelevant game.

Kamiko Williams came off the bench briefly to spell players on defense. She failed pretty spectacularly on offense. That should have been a fast break lay-up, and it turned into a botched rebound and a turnover. We finally got to hear Mike W. give the proper cadence for DeLisha Milton-Jones's name, though she did seem to be trying to deny him that pleasure. I don't know if I would have gone to her for the last shot, not at this time in her career. She should have been a more effective matchup than she was. Kelsey Bone needs to follow her damn shot. She looked scared of Griner (which doesn't make sense, didn't they play against each other at some point?) and didn't find her mojo until late in the game. Alex Montgomery fought for every loose ball and stuck tight on defense. She was great. She's grown a lot on me this year. She saw an opportunity to make her mark, and she took it. I hope

Toni Young started the game off looking fearless. She went right at Brittney Griner on the boards, using her incredible leap to steal away rebounds from the taller center. (Reminded me a bit of how Amber Thompson from St. John's played against Griner at the Maggie Dixon a couple of years ago.) She was also trying to extend her shooting range, which wasn't a bad experimental idea if Bill really wants to transition her to the three. She tipped out a lot of rebounds. Plenette Pierson picked up most of them. The rims were not kind to her. But she was fighting hard on both sides of the floor and absorbing a lot of contact. I can't be mad at her. Leilani Mitchell was not practical in this game. I don't mean that as anything about her, but Taurasi was regularly the shortest Mercury player on the floor. You can't put Leilani on the floor against that lineup. She's just too adorably tiny. Kara Braxton had flashes of decency, punctuated by using her... er... assets as a very successful distraction against Bonner, before returning to steady states of apathy and indolence. In other words, she's Kara. Katie Smith's shot was on tonight, but in a twisted way, that might have set up the end of the game- pretty much everyone knew the pass was going to her, which resulted in a turnover. But it was a great way for her to leave New York behind.

You know it's been an injury-plagued season when even the team surgeon has been down for a while. Okay, so she was fighting cancer and kicked its butt, so she's awesome, but still. She got a round of applause and a personalized jersey from the team.

Refs can take a long walk off a short pier as far as I'm concerned. Lots of contact going uncalled, and a lot of issues with getting the out-of-bounds calls right- there were three or four hotly contested questions of possession. I thought Bill was going to blow a fuse. And then you wonder why people are getting hit in the head.

It's over and I'm relieved. The season's not technically over, and you won't be rid of me for another week yet. But there's nothing left but pride and development. There's a freedom in that, a weight lifted.from my heart, perhaps a beat skipped at the thought of having a lottery pick in reasonably capable hands. The merciful blow has come.

So goodbye, Newark. Goodbye, ridiculous hike from Penn Station. Goodbye, creepy street people who cluster around the benches and eye us as we enter the station. Goodbye, extra train ride. Goodbye, Pepsi. Goodbye, stupid people standing in our line of sight. Goodbye, lousy signage. Goodbye, three years of failure and churning. Goodbye, Prudential Center.

The years of exile are over. Next year, at the Garden!

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