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Sunday Afternoon Fever: Franchise-Record 40 Not Enough to Stop Indiana

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<strong>Just the Facts, Ma'am</strong>: Cappie Pondexter's franchise-record 40 points weren't enough for the New York Liberty to stave off the Indiana Fever in overtime at Madison Square Garden, 84-81.  Tamika Catchings had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, while Katie Douglas added 21.  Leilani Mitchell had 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc for New York. Box score, recap, and play-by-play here.

For autographs, the awesome that is Katie Douglas, missing All-Stars, and three-point shots under review, join your intrepid and slightly hoarse blogger after the jump.

Never have I seen such powerful greatness countered and defeated by such epic failure. I was at the Portland game in 2000 where the team got booed off the court. I was a season subscriber all through 2003, the Year That Hammon Tore Her ACL And It Was All Downhill From There, and all through 2006, the Year Of Unmitigated And Undiluted Fail. And I don't think I've ever seen a game where I could pinpoint so exactly where things went wrong and who to pin the blame on so squarely.

And it started off so well, too. Indiana does a great job of reminding their players to be friendly and approachable. The eight players who came out for shootaround were all ready and willing to sign. Tully Bevilaqua was hugging people. That sort of thing. Special mention has to go to Jené Morris' winning personality. She sparkles. Gauging from that and her playing time, she may be in the wrong business.

I may have been the only person in the building wearing a Jessica Davenport shirt. Well, other than Jessica Davenport, but she would sort of be a given.

The anthem singer was all right. She had a nice voice, but she didn't seem interested in training it professionally, just enough to sound halfway decent. I have little or no talent for music, but I know what to listen for.

Briann January played a lot of second-half minutes, and that surprised me. I really didn't think of her as Indiana's back-to-the-wall, gun-to-the-head time point guard. She's gotten better about finding her teammates, but I still question her court smarts in Lin Dunn's system, and her ballhandling is still suspect. That was a vulnerability we failed to take advantage of that we could have. Jessica Moore was a long defensive presence, but more of a double-down presence than a post presence, if that makes any sense. She wasn't stopping our posts (they were doing a pretty good job of that themselves) but she was there just in case anyone thought going towards the hole was a good idea. Jessica Davenport disappointed me. I always hope for her to have a breakout game at the Garden and show the brass what kind of mistake they made by letting her go, but she always seems a step slower here, and never seems able to put the chippies down. She did have a beautiful shot to end the first quarter. That's the Jessica I know and admire despite her being an Ohio State alumna. She showed an unexpectedly nasty edge on defense, though. She clocked Janel McCarville pretty good with an elbow to the head, and she was all up in Taj McWilliams-Franklin's grill like she wanted to start something. Starting something with Mama Taj may not be the brightest thing you can do. Shavonte Zellous was instant offense for Indiana, but her judgment was occasionally lacking. Committing a tag foul after losing the ball, then complaining to the ref about it? We all saw you do it, Z. Come on.

NEWSFLASH TO THE WNBA'S DEFENDERS: Katie Douglas is sort of good at shooting three-pointers. You might have seen this skill at, oh, I don't know, Mohegan Sun as she shellacked the competition in the three-point shooting contest. Or over the last nine years in the WNBA. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to leave Katie Douglas open beyond the arc. Of course, she wasn't just canning threes, although one of the early ones she hit had us oohing and aahing as the net didn't even quiver. She had some incredible drives where she just flicked the ball up and it went off the glass as the shot clock expired. What I really admired about her game was her ability to pressure the ball. She never let up. Indiana never does in general, but it's so easy to get blinded by Douglas's offensive prowess that her defensive play gets lost in the shuffle. Ebony Hoffman was lighting it up from downtown, and she took advantage of her build to set some great picks for her teammates. Tamika Catchings wasn't her usual reckless self- I only saw a few bodies go flying, and the ball only went wild once or twice- but she was just as effective as ever. She hit the boards hard and was unusually accurate, as compared to her career numbers. Tammy Sutton-Brown was... Tammy Sutton-Brown, the player fans across the Rutgers sphere of influence have learned to know and despise with wails of despair. Tully Bevilaqua, in the seemingly limited minutes she played, was as pesky as you could ask for from a small Australian point guard- all up in her opponents' business and unafraid to go toe-to-toe with even the big girls. Besides, I can't help but love a point guard who throws up a hook shot and gets it in off glass.

Sidney Spencer hit a shot, and managed to keep her assignment from hitting their first two shots- first Catchings, then Douglas- but Catchings exposed her total lack of foot speed, and I do think she was a little hesitant to shoot when she could have. There were still points when we were yelling at Anne Donovan to put her in the game. There's a reason for that, but you've probably noticed that I do reserves, then starters. Kia Vaughn wasn't much of a factor, and that disappointed me. I thought this was a matchup she could get up for, but apparently going up against a former Rutgers center, a former Husky, and the woman she was fighting for a job with last year wasn't enough. Essence played briefly, mostly as a spot defensive player and didn't do much worth noting. Plenette Pierson hit the boards, and I think she was starting to get into the Indiana players' heads a little bit. She was always in the middle of things. Kalana Greene was one of our best players again. She stepped up defensively, and all her plays came at the right time and were the right move. We wouldn't have been in that game without you.

The imposter claiming to be Nicole Powell struck again, unable to hit even the most open shot, though she was at least able to snag a few rebounds in between bricks. Nicole, wherever you are, we miss you- send up smoke signals if you need a rescue! We're here to help! Taj McWilliams-Franklin had one of those games where she looked like a woman well past 39 and hurtling towards the big 4-0 with inexorable speed- and while her big block could have been the play of the game, she blew it by missing her assignment on the out-of-bounds play and letting Tammy Sutton-Brown get a lay-up. Janel McCarville put up a good line, but I'd really like for her to remember that she's six-two and broad-shouldered, and should perhaps use those traits to go towards the basket instead of settling for little jump shots. I don't mind it so much when the jumpers are going down, but it still irks me. Guards and reserve forwards should not be matching the starting power forward in rebounding. Leilani Mitchell wasn't as feisty as I had come to expect (though there was the following exchange after a play: "Did she just challenge Sutton-Brown?" *nods* "Isn't she five-five?" "According to the media guide..." "Isn't Sutton-Brown six-four?" *nods* "Tiny. But fierce!") She chose an excellent time for her one rebound. Cappie Pondexter tried to win the game single-handedly, and I know people are going to think my bias is showing if I start to critique her lack of court vision and her questionable time management skills after she put up a franchise-record 40 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds. Near the end of regulation, though, she really didn't see her teammates- it was almost as if her tunnel vision was too narrow, like she thought the only thing she had to do was go to the basket. Yes, I know Donovan's game plan is to go to Pondexter, but sometimes the pass wins the game just as well as the shot does.

Youth About Business, you have a LOT of explaining to do. Under no circumstances do you do the Wave while your team is shooting free throws. Those geniuses disconcerted Pondexter for the only missed Liberty free throw of the game, a shot that would have tied the game. I blame them partly for the loss. Not that the bulk of the blame doesn't fall on Nicole Powell looking like she would have been hard-pressed to compete in the Big West, or on Anne Donovan for not noticing how badly Powell was playing, or on Taj for missing easy shots and not knowing when to get out of the way, or on Janel for not hitting somebody, but come on, guys, it's not rocket science!

Referees did an unusual amount of reviewing shots- I think there were four announced reviews during the game. As always, there were a few calls that made me scratch my head, and a few times when I wondered if they knew how to count, but it seemed to cut both ways- if anything, we got the benefit of more sketchy calls than they did, so I shouldn't complain about the officiating.

It's a bad sign when you're just grateful that the people in the tic-tac-toe contest are neither ringers from Bowling Green nor completely unaware of the basic defensive strategies of the game. Someone actually remembered to block!

Tasha Humphrey was in the house, and had warm hellos for Plenette and for Shavonte Zellous. Once a Bad Girl, always a Bad Girl, I guess.

I have to say, this is the first time I was actually into a game this season. I've been trying to disengage myself from this team, because it doesn't feel like my team and because it doesn't seem like they want fans to be emotionally attached to them, but for the first time in a long time, I was chanting along and cheering for them. (Well, most of them.) Tuesday's game on ESPN2 is going to be huge. Enormous. Giant. Crucial. Critical. Etc.