Just the Facts, Ma'am: Cappie Pondexter's 24 points led all scorers as the New York Liberty defeated the Connecticut Sun 71-67. Leilani Mitchell added 15 points and four steals for New York. Asjha Jones led the Sun with 18 points, while Tina Charles notched another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. New York takes over fourth place from Connecticut, and clinches the season series with their third win out of five total games.
For awesome jerseys, sign language, rousing speeches, unconfirmed rumors, and hyperactive bench players, join your intrepid and slightly optimistic blogger after the jump.
Phew. These Libkids are going to kill me one of these days. I can't do this. My family has a history of heart trouble. I can't take these games where they get up and then get down and then fight back, all in the fourth quarter.
Got to the game a bit later than my wont, so no exciting stories from pregame. If I had gotten there around 2:30, I might have been able to corroborate the story that was going around from the Usual Suspects about Cappie Pondexter blowing off fans, but since I wasn't there, I can't fairly report on it. I did get the chance to tell Mike Thibault that some of us wouldn't mind if he decided to move a bit further down I-95 once Anne Donovan moved on to Seton Hall.
Beautiful rendition of "God Bless America" to start pregame festivities- I hope they bring that guy back to do the anthem sometime. The anthem, in turn, was performed by two trumpeters and "sung" in American Sign Language. (Is sung the right verb for ASL? I honestly don't know about Deaf culture to know the word usage.) I think it might have been smarter to keep the camera on the woman signing, so those of us behind her could see her, instead of on the guys with the horns, but what do I know?
I'm giving another shoutout to the Monarchs fans sitting courtside, because judging from the Monarchs logo on one woman's leg, they came out from Sacramento for this game (and I'm glad DeMya Walker was able to get out of her own little world enough to say hi to them). I would have loved to say this in person, but MSG security was exceptionally anal retentive today and wouldn't let me go over to say hello. Really, do I look like that much of a threat?
At this point, I also have to give proper respect to the woman in the Kim Perrot jersey. That wins pretty much every "my jersey is more awesome than yours" contest possible.
Allison Hightower looked a little more comfortable defensively than she had before, though I don't envy her Pondexter as an assignment. The corner three was pretty too, but she still looks like she's trying to find her way. Renee Montgomery should probably stop trying to do pretty tricks with the ball and work on her passing. She drove the lane more aggressively than I'd seen her in the last game, and she hoisted fewer threes. Someone must have explained that that might be a better move for her. I wonder if she was running her mouth, though, because she hit the deck an awful lot, even for a player who was primarily driving the lane. I don't know what we did to frustrate the Sun posts, but it really took Sandrine Gruda out of the equation. She was boxing out, but she wasn't really grabbing rebounds or getting good shots, which was a surprise, given that she's taller and has a longer wingspan than our posts. Kerri Gardin had a block, but otherwise had the role of "hi, how are you still in the WNBA?" on lock. I almost moved on to the starters and forgot that DeMya Walker played, so you can tell just how much of an impact she had on the game.
Whatever we did to the Sun posts really had an effect on Tina Charles. She executed a couple of beautiful drop steps and moves in the paint, but she couldn't adjust to the defense we were throwing at her, and she only had a few really good stretches. Asjha Jones was able to get her points on outside jumpers and a couple of shots that defied the laws of physics to go down. By the end of the season, she'll be 100%. And our last game is against Connecticut, and Thibault adjusts well. Oh, expletive. Kara Lawson's leg must still be giving her trouble, because she looked awful today. I know Leilani has an advantage on shorter-than-average and slow guards, because she's about as low to the ground as they are and her hands are faster, but Leilani Mitchell should not be shutting down an Olympian. Tan White wasn't able to get a lot of touches, which might have been a bit of the problem for Connecticut. And again, I was sitting here trying to remember who the fifth starter for Connecticut was, which is rather embarrassing for Kelsey Griffin, but she was really in over her head today.
When Kalana Greene's shot isn't falling, holy sweet Toledo is it not falling. My God, some of those misses were epic in their inaccuracy. She made up for it on the boards and the defensive end, though. Essence Carson played for a few minutes and didn't do anything notably good or notably awful, except that she really needs to stop showing off her ballhandling skills in games. Yes, you can cross someone over, that's very nice. Do you want a cookie? Or would you prefer to take the shot and hit it instead of crossing yourself over? Plenette Pierson brought some of the physicality we needed, but stop dropping the ball, Plenette. I've come to the conclusion that if Plenette's not your team and you're not hating her with every breath in your body, she's not doing her job right.
I'm genuinely beginning to wonder how Nicole Powell got into Stanford. On the court, she appears to possess neither the basketball talent nor the intelligence to be of interest to them. Seriously, I'm assuming this Nicole Powell is a Pod Person, and one of these days the real Nicole will show up and kick four kinds of hell out of this fake one. I refuse to believe someone like Nicole Powell wouldn't recognize a fastbreak lay-up opportunity when she sees one. Janel McCarville suffered a frightening ankle injury that put her out of the game for a while, so I give her a pass. I will say that she was a critical part of the defense that gave Connecticut such fits. When she was out of the game, that was when Tina Charles started to get hot and hit shots. For the same reason, I'll excuse Taj McWilliams-Franklin's small offensive line, because she was working hard on defense and she had to double-shift because Janel was injured and Coach Donovan wasn't about to trust Kia Vaughn in a game of this magnitude. Cappie Pondexter had a solid game- yes, I do expect these sorts of numbers from her, that's what we brought her in for and that's what she thinks she can produce- and I congratulate her on her milestone. We don't win this game without Leilani Mitchell, though. We don't win without her making Kara Lawson's life miserable, or without her hitting big threes, or without her running a solid game and taking care of the ball.
Spoon's rousing fourth quarter speech didn't cause us to screw up! This is good! This means they're getting it. When Teresa Weatherspoon exhorts you to get up and get it together, you get up and you get it together, or you will hear it from her, loudly and with interesting language. I really miss Spoon.
There was a tall guy in a red shirt sitting in the place of honor by Spoon's name on the floor. Later reports tell me he was Wilson Chandler, but if he was, they didn't tell us that at the game.
The referees for this game were pretty pitiful. I saw more jump balls in this game than I've seen all season, and I think about a third of them had to do with not knowing on whom a foul should be called. Also, please note, Amy Bonner, sometimes when a player goes out of bounds, the posterior of the opposing power forward is the reason why. There were more than a few late whistles and a few calls that seemed to be on the wrong players. Thibault was livid after a couple such plays, and for good reason- at one point, Tan White took a pretty good whack from Janel and there was no foul, despite the fact there had to be a timeout because there was blood on both players.
The bench players are so adorable in their enthusiasm for this team! Spencer's always up and applauding, and I think Kia had a flashback to her college days when she started joining the "DE-FENSE!" chant from the bench. After one play, as the timeout was called, everyone ran across the court, and I think at least three of them were across halfcourt before you could say Jack Robinson. It looked like the team was warned about it, too, because one of the refs went up to Laurie Byrd, and then she was laughing about something with Lisa White, and since the trainer also plays a semi-official role on the bench, I figured White also needed to be told that "no, you do not let the bench players run out there like kids on the last day of school".
Very satisfying to get that win. On to Indiana to win in an arena that's never been friendly to us. We can do this, right? Time to show what kind of mettle you're made of, kids. Are you New York? Or are you just a bunch of mercenaries in uniforms with a casino name across them? The time is now.