Just The Facts, Ma'am: 24 points from Cappie Pondexter and four players in double figures weren't enough for the New York Liberty to defend their homecourt as they fell 92-84 to the Seattle Storm. Pondexter's 24 led all scorers, but Lauren Jackson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Sue Bird had 22 points and 10 assists, and Tanisha Wright had 18 for Seattle.
For random Silver Stars, Jim Butcher references, glass-piercing anthems, and comparisons to lobsters, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.I keep trying to get away from this team. I keep telling myself that I'm not going to get attached, that they belong to Foxwoods now and if the casino wants them, they can have them. I keep reminding myself that Shameka Christon is gone and I don't particularly like Nicole Powell. And yet they keep dragging me back into loving them and wanting them to succeed (even if sometimes I think it's just so I don't have to redecorate).
Le'Coe Willingham is still adjusting to being #34 after years of being #43 on two different teams- she had to pause mid-autograph to remember what her number was. Like many teams, Seattle is very amenable, though Lauren Jackson didn't come out for practice. I was disappointed, and not just for the ink- I wanted to see the red hair up close and personal.
I dropped something beyond the rail in the confusion and crowded space, and Carol Blazejowski was kind enough to pick it up for me. Of course, then she was cruel enough to withhold it until I begged her please. Sue Bird didn't make me beg, Blaze. Is this how you treat all your fans in Liberty gear, or just the ones in black uniforms?
The Garden caught lightning in a bottle once with a twelve-year-old who could sing the anthem well and sound trained about it. Tonight, they did not manage to catch it twice. I appreciate the nerve of a twelve-year-old girl who's willing to sing the anthem at center court at Madison Square Garden, but that doesn't mean I have to like her singing in a tinny voice and forcing every note through her nose. My nose was hurting by the end of the performance.
Has Svetlana Abrosimova always had this chip on her shoulder, or is this a recent phenomenon? She looked like she didn't particularly like any of the people on the floor with her, up to and including her teammates, when she was out there. Her stroke is as pretty as ever. Ashley Robinson played briefly and committed two fouls without scoring a point, thus continuing a long and proud streak. I can't say too much bad about her, though; she was helpful and useful as an intern at WNBA headquarters during the draft. Jana Veselá got in a few quality minutes. Are there any old-school Storm fans who have an opinion on her wearing Kamila Vodichkova's #7? On one hand, Vodichkova was an original Storm player; on the other hand, Veselá is Czech and may well be wearing it because of Vodichkova. In any case, despite the bootleg accent mark (dear WNBA: apostrophe after the vowel is not an acceptable substitute on an official uniform), I like Veselá's game- she's physical enough to bang in the post but has that European outside jumper. Le'Coe Willingham wasn't much of a factor- if nothing else, New York is a very bad matchup for her.
I'm grinding my teeth when I write this, but Sue Bird is the reason Seattle won this game, and the reason that New York lost it. She ran the team well in the first three quarters, with nine assists before the fourth. When the Liberty made a game of it, Bird answered with clutch shots. You can look at the line and know she had a great game, what with the twenty-odd points and the double-digit assists- what you'd need to see from the play-by-play is when three of those field goals came, and that was in the fourth quarter, to salt away the game for the Storm. There was one play where I questioned her maturity, though: she was driving to the basket and got knocked to the floor without a call, which had her so disappointed that she didn't even get up and run to the defensive half of the floor. Tsk, tsk, Suzanne. Camille Little was completely taken out of the game- two fouls in the first two minutes will do that to a player, but like Willingham, her undersized but blocky build doesn't match up well against New York, especially a Liberty team with the addition of Plenette Pierson. Lauren Jackson was Lauren Jackson- it's hard to quantify her game sometimes, you know? She's just there, like a force of nature, grabbing rebounds, hitting jump shots, or powering in lay-ups. She needs to touch up her hair; her roots are showing. Tanisha Wright quietly had an excellent game. She did a lot of her damage in the third quarter, when she shook off Kalana Greene and started canning threes. As for Swin Cash, I admire her skill and her athleticism, but while you can take the Bad Girl out of Detroit, you can't take the Detroit out of the Bad Girl. When she wasn't moving her screens or throwing her elbows and forearms, she was whining about the calls against her and kvetching about the ones she wasn't giving. Bill would be so proud of you, Swintayla.
Brian Agler, please give Lauren Jackson more rest. With the red hair, exhaustion makes her look like a lobster. Lobster is one of the few looks Lauren Jackson cannot carry off properly.
We came to the conclusion that Anne Donovan is not thrilled with the idea of Cappie Pondexter playing at the point, and therefore, Nikki Blue saw extended minutes. This idea might not last very long. While I applaud Nikki's guts in contesting a pass thrown high to Lauren Jackson (and almost snagging it- good on a five-eight guard!), that was the only sterling play I can recall from her. Kalana Greene was off defensively, and in the first half, her offense was also out of sync. In the second half, her shots started falling (as did most Liberty players'), but she was still losing her assignments defensively. Essence Carson's brief cameo had nothing of note. Kia Vaughn had a very nice offensive play against Lauren Jackson, at least until she blew the lay-up. Sidney Spencer's few minutes were nothing to write home about, and a couple of times she looked surprised that the basketball was actually in her vicinity- she did such a job boxing out that she forgot to rebound.
Plenette Pierson gets her own paragraph because she's new. She started slowly, looking very out of place, but heated up in the second half. This will be a fairly common refrain. Already I can tell she has a edge that we're going to need in the paint. I never quite realized how good a defender she was until I saw her completely and cleanly seal Lauren Jackson out of a Storm play (of course, Janel McCarville's failure to seal Swin Cash out of the play allowed Seattle to score, but we take our small victories where we can). I look forward to Tuesday and her further integration into the Liberty's scheme.
I hope Taj McWilliams-Franklin is actually okay, and not just putting on a brave face because she's a military wife and she's determined to be an example for her team. It looked like she dislocated that left shoulder in the first half- it was out of line with the rest of her body and her left arm was completely motionless- but she came back in the second half and swatted a shot with that arm, so I guess it was okay to move. She did a nice job of getting to the line. Leilani Mitchell's play tonight reminded me of a recurring line in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, about one of the characters: "Tiny. But fierce." I don't know what's gotten into her lately, but I like it. She's running this team with authority, she's hitting threes like she's Erin Thorn, and she's willing to grapple with Lauren Jackson. Tiny. But fierce. Janel McCarville started getting the notion in her head that outside jumpers were a good idea, and they weren't always. Foul trouble kept her from being as effective as I thought she could have been, although Swin Cash is a very bad match-up for her at the three/four. Nicole Powell continues to be maddening at best and "why are you here?!" at worst. The urge to scream, "Don't make us want Spencer in the game!" should never come up regarding an All-Star small forward. Again, Cappie Pondexter's stat line looks great, but she took a lot of ill-advised shots against double-teams or superior defenders.
The officiating went to pieces sometime in the third quarter, when Eric Brewton and Denise Brooks inexplicably got their NBA and WNBA rulebooks mixed up. There is no charge circle in the WNBA. Spencer was set. Powell was set. Bird tripped without Leilani touching her- a soccer ref would have carded her for diving. Booing the call with extreme prejudice was sort of hilarious when a Liberty ticket rep was in the section in front of us.
Tasha Humphrey was at the game, sitting a couple of sections down from yours truly.
I don't think Donovan's got as good a grip on the strengths of her team as I thought she would at this point. Some of her sub patterns didn't make sense, and I have the awful feeling she might be using the acquisition of Plenette as an excuse to experiment with a few other things while she has some leeway. I mean, not that it matters what Donovan's doing to this team when she's going to be gone in two months or so. Of course, it also doesn't help that we don't have a go-to player who's as reliable as Bird- or, for that matter, that we don't have players who are potent enough to be threats so that the go-to player can get to it.
It's weird not to be disappointed with a loss in a game I got emotionally invested in. But the Liberty played pretty well, and I like Leilani's development. And it wasn't like I was expecting them to beat Seattle. They gave the Storm more of a game than I hoped. That, in the end, is the best you can hope for when you buy your ticket.