31 points from Cappie Pondexter, and 11 team steals, helped the New York Liberty hold on in overtime to take out the Connecticut Sun 88-87 in the regular season finale for both teams. Nicole Powell added 14 points and eight rebounds for New York. Tina Charles led Connecticut with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
For special guest stars, fangirling by grown women, and the hottest new craze sweeping the nation, join your intrepid and techno-thumping blogger after the jump.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you finish a regular season. You play with everything you've got, you give the fans their money's worth, and you come out with the win and homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
As regular readers of the Game Notes of Doom- in either their home on Swish Appeal or on their mirror at my blog- know, I've been to every home game this season; even the preseason game on a May morning, even the Camp Day game that I needed an unpaid day from work to attend. Because of various bureaucratic idiosyncrasies, I ended up being late, then having to sweet-talk my way in, so I was part of the last group. But that was all right, because that meant I got to watch Essence Carson give Cappie Pondexter bunny ears for one of the team pictures.
Once my group was called, I immediately slipped to the back. See, I despise being photographed. I will flip someone off if they're trying to take my picture, or at least hide my face. I like being in the background, and trying to spot myself in the background- my userpic on Swish Appeal is a crop of me from a SportsPage photo. If the perfect attendance award didn't come with a chance to get in the gates an hour early, or if it didn't take place on the Garden floor, I wouldn't be so insistent. I don't care about the picture. I couldn't tell you where my last couple of pics are. But to be on the Garden floor... to be standing next to Taj McWilliams-Franklin as she cuts everyone up... no, why would I want to move closer to the front? It's being there that counts. Our group was special- we got Kym Hampton in our shot when Taj belted out, "KYMMIE! KYMMIE, GET OVER HERE!"
So the players dispersed, Taj started bossing people around from the trampoline from the Dunkyard Dogs' routine, and we settled in to wait. Except that there was another picture to be taken. "Oh, look, a VIP," I said, disgust dripping from my voice.
"Yeah, that's Walt Frazier," the guy next to me replied.
Yeah, I guess it's okay for Clyde to get a picture with the team by himself. After about seven pictures, the team dispersed again. Then Taj ripped off her sneaker, grabbed a Sharpie, and ran up to him to get an autograph. After he signed the shoe, she held it close and ran around the floor sort of like a six-year-old on a sugar high who, well, just met a famous basketball player. She wasn't letting that shoe go for anything, not even when Leilani wanted to see it. Kia got her shoe signed too, and I think she actually wore it through the game. Essence looked like she was going to cry for joy when she got to talk to him and shake his hand. It was sort of awesome. He was also gracious enough to sign for a few of us. I'm not a big NBA person, but there are some things a girl's gotta do, you know? That's going next to the replica banner.
I sort of assume that Anete Jekabsone-Zogota keeps her good manners with her sneakers? The sneakers were stolen, and she was quite cranky about it- and that translated into blowing people off four different times. Ma'am, I didn't take your sneakers, trust me. If I had, I would have put them on, because mine have holes in the bottom. She and Janel McCarville spent a good twenty minutes to half an hour chatting, including some play-wrestling. GET A ROOM.
Guess who won the trivia contest? Not my phone, but all that time spent idly paging through the Guide and Register paid off, as I was able to clue the boy in on Nikki Blue's real first name. We got some leftover goodies from previous years as our prize. Yay, freebies!
As always on Fan Appreciation Day, Kym Hampton provided the anthem. I love Kym for what she did in New York, but she's going to have to choose between singing and doing public speaking. Her breath control and vocal control get worse every year. She still has a beautiful voice- she just can't take care of it if she's going to do PR and be working the room every night.
Oh, hello, game notes. I was wondering where you were. Tan White provided a nice spark off the bench for the Sun, though her shots weren't falling the way she was expecting them to. I wonder if she's going to be what Renee Montgomery grows into- headstrong, but in control of herself more often than not; more willing to sacrifice herself on both ends of the floor to make the big play. Sandrine Gruda's presence in the paint was sort of an inconvenience on defense, but she was looking for her offense outside more often than not. Jekabsone-Zogota shook herself free for a pretty trey, but whiffed badly on another one. Nice rebounding from her. I still have no idea why DeMya Walker is in Mike Thibault's doghouse, unless she suffered an injury that the team can't admit to for whatever reason- I think she'd have been a good matchup for Connecticut against our posts.
I really don't know what to say about Renee Montgomery anymore. Sometimes I wonder if she's aware that she has teammates, because she tries so hard to do everything herself that she loses control of things. Sure, she hits a lot of amazing shots, but sometimes you have to not go full tilt and take NBA threes early in the clock. If the refs were actually calling procedural violations in this game, she'd have had a lot of turnovers against her. Kara Lawson looked like she had found her stroke again, but her speed killed her against Pondexter on both ends of the floor. Kelsey Griffin played the first half, but she was in over her head and everyone knew it, so Thibault went small in the crunch. I don't think she was ready for this, even though Connecticut's out of the playoff picture. Asjha Jones still looks like she never really recovered from the Achilles, but I expect her to be back at full strength next season. She just couldn't get anything going, and she didn't look like she was even thinking about her shot selection properly. Tina Charles showed flashes. Yes, look at the numbers, look at the statistics. And even then, she still showed weaknesses in her game. We kept leaving her open for that little free-throw-line-extended jumper that she likes, and she kept hitting it, which was annoying. Congratulations to her for sewing up just about every single-season rebounding record that there is to own, though!
I regret to inform y'all that Kalana Greene did not have a great game. She hustled, and her defense was all right, but I would have liked for her to be able to get a couple of fast break lay-ups or something. Essence Carson has her groove back and life is good when Essence is grooving. This is one of those times when veteran experience does beat rookie talent to hell and back again. Kia Vaughn... I officially give up. I give up so hard. She's beyond the "what is this I don't even" meme. She's beyond facepalming and headdesking and all the other smushwords of frustration that the Internet has perfected. How in the world do you go out there in a sneaker autographed by a Knicks legend and proceed to play such an awful floor game? How can you miss so many easy shots? I'm sorry. Kia's a very nice kid, and that mile-wide smile can light up a room, but she's not a WNBA center and needs to undergo some major changes in her game to be one. Plenette Pierson got her shoulder wrenched pretty hard, and even when she came back into the game, that right arm wasn't much good for her. When she wasn't playing, it was dangling at her side like spaghetti, and when she was, it was bothering her on defense and on trying to shoot- she was pushing the ball instead of shooting it, which meant that she couldn't get any lift on it, which meant that the arm couldn't go up.
This was the game we went out and got Cappie Pondexter for. Maybe not the specific matchup, but the game when damn near everything is on the line and someone needs to step up to make the big plays on both ends of the floor, that's the game you go out and get a superstar for, and that's what Cappie did. The off-balance shots started going in late in the game, and her hands were exceptionally active. I will always nitpick the weird leg kick in her shot, but I can't argue with the percentage. Nicole Powell was wonderfully active on the boards, and didn't seem to be pressing her offense on more than one or two shots. Defensively, she was a bit of a liability, but there's only so much you can do about that at this point in her career. Leilani Mitchell did the job that was asked of her, and her threes were well-timed, giving us a little breathing room when things got hairy in the third quarter (before they went completely pear-shaped in the fourth, WTF). Renee Montgomery did sort of beat her up and take her lunch money, though. I think she was grateful to have someone her own size to pick on for a change. Taj McWilliams-Franklin got whanged pretty good in the face. We were not amused by that. You do not thwack Mama Taj. She wasn't having a great game before that, but she gets a pass, because if she wasn't concussed, she was close to it. Wasn't pretty. I hope Janel McCarville is suffering from, uh, flu-like symptoms, because then I can extend her sympathy and chocolate instead of WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING WITH HALF THOSE SHOTS AND THE STUPID BOTCHED HANDOFFS. She was lackadaisical and really looking like she didn't have her head in the game, and I think that's a really bad place to be right before the playoffs. I mean, I'm just an untrained amateur who commentates from the sidelines, but it seems like common sense. Come on, Janel, get it together, because we really need you and Taj to be the glue. Kia's not going to be able to step it up for you.
Usually, Mauer, Brewton, and Brooks run a good game. There seems to be a league moratorium on any calls that involve referees having to count, so no travels, no three-second violations, and no five-second calls were made, though there were plenty of travels to go around. I thought there were a few fouls that could have been called, but the most egregious mistake was on the play where Plenette got injured. Coach Donovan called timeout as soon as she saw Plenette writhing on the floor. The referees couldn't be bothered to acknowledge it, so Nicole had to commit a foul to get the stoppage. Then they almost didn't even give us time to get Plenette out of the game. Have you guys never heard of injury timeouts?
So let's think about happier things. Let's think about the discovery that the makers of the Cappie Patch Doll have come out with a new line of collectibles, the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj Doll! Each with a different classic Taj hairstyle, they're stylish and collectible. They are also awesome and I will give up or do unspeakable things to get one. We nearly died laughing during the commercial, where various team members were discussing the value of each one and the day she wore the hairstyle. The Nelly Jelly hair gel was a classic throw-in.
(Seriously. My first-born child. Or a murder of your choice.)
Very cool that Danilo Gallinari was at the game, and seemed interested to the end.
And then we went for barbecue after the game, and as we were leaving, Leilani and Janel were entering. Fortunately, we managed not to hit Leilani in the face with the door. Can't take that boy anywhere...
It got closer than it needed to be, and I did wonder if there was scoreboard-watching going on. But we won, and there is a Taj doll, and life is good. Now I'm going to bed. Good night! On to the next one- beat Indiana! Then beat 'em again!