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Sun Hold On To Knock Off Mystics

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Strong performances from the post rotation anchored the Connecticut Sun as they defeated the Washington Mystics, 76-67. Tina Charles and Asjha Jones led all scorers at 17 points apiece, with Charles adding 14 rebounds. For Washington, Crystal Langhorne led the way with 14 points and seven rebounds.

For free stuff, optical illusions, fun facial expressions, more primal screaming, and excessive use of parentheses, join your intrepid and belated blogger after the jump.

You'll have to excuse the unusual brevity of these game notes- it's amazing what happens when people go crazy and traffic is backed up and you manage to oversleep so you're working with just a few stolen minutes before it's off to the daily grind and you're still wondering what possessed Mohegan to schedule a game at 5PM on a Sunday. (Well, they started brief. Then I got a little spare time.)

I shouldn't speak too ill of the pink uniforms, as I keep being reminded that they're for a good cause, but the dark red borders on the yellow numbers kept giving me the illusion that the numbers were falling off, and since that's happened before with Connecticut uniforms, I was a bit concerned. Like Chicago, Connecticut also used their road template for their home pinks. (With the league's standardization of team name at home and city name on the road, it's a bit more obvious now.) The team gave out cute little pink pins at the door. At least they didn't turn the logo pink. I'm sorry, but some things are just sacrosanct.

Mohegan usually does a good job finding anthem singers, but wherever they found this kid, they need to send her back. If she hadn't been tone deaf and hadn't tried to sing through her nose, she might only have been tolerably bad; as it was, I could feel the earwax in my left ear building up as protection against some of those high notes.

Brief Ashley Houts cameo, and she continued to press the defense the same way she did against New York. (She must also just not like MSG, because she was more than willing to sign at Connecticut when she ran off the floor three different times in New York. Strange.) Matee Ajavon continued to press her offense in semi-garbage time (recycling time?); unlike when New York had the big lead, her shots weren't falling with any frequency, which didn't help her team all that much; she also drew the first delay of game warning by holding the ball after a made basket (and we'll get back to that as soon as I remember how to stop using parentheses). Jacinta Monroe's tenacity continues to impress me, and giving up points and rebounds to her still causes me to vent in the form of primal screams. Marissa Coleman was missing her shots during shootaround, so I logically extrapolated that she was saving them for the actual game, and the numbers would seem to bear me out. Maybe if she'd gotten a few more touches during the Sun's big lead, the lead would have been smaller, but that wasn't likely to happen with Ajavon on the floor. Nakia Sanford shows all signs of being ready to earn the nickname Sharpie, with physical play and that unfortunate last name. I'm not going to complain, but a couple of her rebounds were more properly team rebounds or deflections.

Crystal Langhorne's positioning was a little better against the Sun posts, and she was especially physical against Charles, so I'm starting to think that my theory of "she plays better against taller people" might hold water. Chasity Melvin did a wonderful job of missing easy shots for Washington. I'm still amazed at how much vertical Lindsey Harding has for someone with a history of knee trouble. I swear she can fly, between the speed and the height. (Interesting battle of the former Lynx point guards today, wasn't it? I'm starting to think that the best Linds*y for that Minnesota squad might not be Whalen.) If anything, she needed to call her number more often. With Katie Smith's vision hindered by the mask, she wasn't as able to set things up as she normally was. And while I have an almost Zen sense of completeness when Smith is handling the ball, that didn't necessarily result in anything happening for Washington. Monique Currie was her usual reckless self, for good and for ill for the Mystics; her drives got her points and got her to the line, but she also got tagged with a couple of charges. I find her facial expressions fascinating during a game.

There was a brief Kerri Gardin sighting, for what I presume was defensive purposes, but I don't recall her doing much else. Sandrine Gruda played heavy minutes as, essentially, the only post off the bench for Connecticut, and seemed to lean on her outside shot even more than usual. I was also taken aback by her free throw shooting- I had always been under the impression that she was better from the line than the average post. She helped make the game a little more interesting than it had to be. I don't think coming off the bench agrees with Tan White. She didn't have the same oomph that she did when she was in the starting lineup. This, of course, could simply mean that she's all out of oomph, not that her oomph can only come as a starter. Anete Jekabsone-Zogota did warm up with the team, but she didn't get into the actual game. Neither did DeMya Walker and Allison Hightower. Hightower doesn't surprise me so much, because she went flying headfirst into the rookie wall, but Walker usually gives the Sun good minutes. That makes me wonder if she's injured, or if she just fell off the same cliff that's claimed so many players from the classes of 1998 and 1999 this season. Given the presence of veteran posts in Melvin and Sanford, Walker would have been a good matchup for the Sun.

I love Kelsey Griffin's hustle so much. Full body sacrifice, night in and night out. Seriously, what do I have to do to get her in a Liberty uniform? I'm not fussy. I'll do a lot of things. I think she could benefit from a little more work on her shooting form if she's serious about transitioning to the three, and defensively she's still a little inexperienced, but shooting form can be fixed and lack of experience usually fixes itself. We were sitting in the endcourt, so we got to see firsthand how much contact Tina Charles was absorbing, and she didn't seem all that comfortable with it. I think the compaction of the schedule is finally getting to her- yes, she played more games in her college season, but they were a lot more spread out, and she played far fewer minutes in those games. There were at least two plays for Connecticut where she was slow to roll on a pick and roll, and it cost the Sun on at least one of them. She's still an incredible player, don't get me wrong, but she's starting to show that she's only human. And you know what? That's all right. I wish I could make those kinds of excuses for Renee Montgomery, but she really needs to realize that she's not going to impress her defenders with her slick ballhandling. Her shot selection was abominable, and the offense didn't run smoothly with her trying to do too much herself and not enough with her teammates. Kara Lawson showed random bursts of speed that I certainly wasn't expecting from her, but if she's there as the point guard while Montgomery is making with the lousy shooting, this lineup is not going to strike fear in anyone's heart. Asjha Jones looks somewhat recovered from her injury, and her outside shot is falling, but she still doesn't seem to be the body in the paint that the Sun really need. Hint, Connecticut: your most physical player should not be the one you're trying to convert to a three, and your next most physical player should not have a physiological age closer to your coach's than to your starters'.

I have this conspiracy theory that for whatever reason, the Sun players are trying to get Mike Thibault fired. (Which I'm totally cool with. Every coach has a shelf life in a particular area, so I think he's worn out his welcome in the Nutmeg State- but he's a Northeast guy and I can't see him pulling up stakes for a random opening in the Midwest or wherever- but hey, there's a team a few hours down I-95 that's going to be in need of a coach next year...) I think that's the only rational explanation for why it suddenly looks like the five on the floor are playing about four different games, with occasional interaction among Charles and Montgomery, or Griffin and everyone, or Lawson and someone. There were too many possessions where I saw one player with the ball, maybe one player setting a screen, and three players doing their best impressions of garden statuary- and I have to tell you, decorative is not a good look on the court. I'm starting to think Thibault has lost this team, that they're not listening to anyone anymore. THAT IS BAD. Just in case it wasn't obvious.

I'm really not sure what got into these refs. Mystics fans have a reason to be angry at the offensive foul calls that went against them when similar plays were ignored on the other end of the floor. On the other hand, Crystal Langhorne should probably have fouled out of the game, given how enthusiastically she was holding Tina Charles. And you can't blame the refs for Matee Ajavon holding the ball or Nakia Sanford encroaching on the inbounds. I would have expected more discipline from Julie Plank's team- she seems to be a no-nonsense sort of coach, even though she's got some very nonsense players on her team. (Ajavon, yes, I'm looking at you, and have been since your days at Rutgers.)

Our seats were inconvenient for immaterial things like trying to watch action in the paint at the other end of the floor, as we were directly behind the stanchion, but they were sure nice for catching things. I've been going to Sun games since 2003, and this was the first time I ever got close to one of the Contessa coupons from the blimp (we gave it to the guys behind us, since they seemed rather excited about the product, I'm not a big seafood person, and I don't even think Contessa supplies New York City). And then we caught a shirt! Well, it bounced off someone's hands and landed in my boyfriend's lap, but that counts as a catch. Finally, we both have something to wear to Sun games! (so maybe now he'll give me back the Kara Lawson jersey he gave me for Christmas but has worn more times than I have, what do you mean I have boundary issues?)

But wait! There's more! (Isn't there always more with the Game Notes of Doom? Isn't that why you read them?) We were in the next section over from the lucky autograph section, and since we would have at least an hour to kill before our bus home, we hoped to swap stubs with anyone who had to leave immediately and couldn't stay. Why let the offer go to waste, after all? But as we climbed up towards the exit, I noticed a ticket stub lying on the floor in lucky section 21. I have no shame, so I ran over to pick it up- and discovered that it had a friend. Unlike MSG, back when the Liberty used to do autograph sections, there was no additional voucher handed out- the ticket stub was sufficient proof. It took a while for Renee Montgomery and Sandrine Gruda to make their way out of the locker room, and the signing was pretty quick after that. Montgomery is very charismatic, in a sweet way. Those big beautiful eyes and that bright smile do wonders for a room.

I presume you're not interested in our odyssey home, or the crazy people that deluged us, so this is a good place to leave off. The Eastern Conference and all its flaws are an endless source of fascination for any WNBA fan- certainly more interesting than the slop that's passed for the middle of the Western Conference through this point of the season.