Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Rutgers alumnae saved the day for the New York Liberty, as Cappie Pondexter led the way with 30 points, while Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn came off the bench to add 11 and 13 respectively in the Liberty's series-clinching 77-74 win over the Indiana Fever. Katie Douglas led Indiana with 24 points, while Tamika Catchings had 21 points, six boards, and three steals.
For free-range rotini, bad manners, snazzy ties, cute kids, and a lot of screaming, join your intrepid and sleep-deprived blogger after the jump.
Survive and advance. That's what it comes down to in the last game of a series. Survive and advance. And we survived, somehow. I'm worried about how things will be, of course, with Janel's injury, but I'll take the win.
It was lovely to have the Garden full and rocking again, especially at the end where it seemed like everyone up to Ronny Turiaf was on their feet screaming. Unfortunately, they let in some riffraff with the rest of the fans, and I wish nothing but agony and humiliation on the... gentlemen... in the next section who decided to root for Indiana just for the sake of being contrary and acting like jackasses. DO NOT BOO MAMA TAJ. Don't append "sucks!" to the end of the L-I-B-E-R-T-Y chant, especially not during "Gotta Get Up". Did I mention DO NOT BOO MAMA TAJ?
Shoutout to the two guys in Douglas shirts, though. I like dedicated fans who travel to support their team and cheer hard. I can respect that. But don't cheer on the opposition when you don't even know who they are.
Good music. I approve.
Shavonte Zellous was pretty much just a placeholder while Douglas and Catchings got their well-deserved rests. She had one defensive play that I thought was going to turn the game; fortunately for my sanity, it didn't. I'm not sure Jessica Moore knows how to set a legal screen. Her feet always seem to be moving. She was supposed to be in for defensive purposes, but I wasn't impressed with her. Jessica Davenport at least tried to bring offense, but she was unusually passive, even for her. She'd been more aggressive lately, and I thought she would bring more of that for them. (Not that I mind that she didn't. I like Jessica despite her affiliations, but not against my team.) Briann January is an enigma wrapped in a black belt. She could have won the game for the Fever; you could make an argument that she lost it for them with her questionable decision-making and lackadaisical ballhandling. She really needs to get control of her game and her emotions, or she's going to find herself out of a job.
Dear everyone: DO NOT LEAVE KATIE DOUGLAS OPEN THIS IS NOT COMPLICATED WHY DO YOU LEAVE HER OPEN? She was even peskier on defense than usual, too. There was one play where Taj warned her off with a half-lowered elbow, as if to say, "Katie, I know we go way back, but the next time you try that, I'm breaking your face." Not that anyone ever wants to lose, but she REALLY didn't want to lose. Tammy Sutton-Brown was obnoxious in the paint, but ineffective. That makes me happy. She sort of annoys me. I admit that it's fun to taunt her at the line, though. But then, making fun of Canadians is an old family tradition you didn't need to know about. Ebony Hoffman was really trying too hard. She was forcing her offense and being over the top on defense. I wonder if Plenette got into her head. She wasn't Captain Popularity by the end of the game, I can tell you that. Neither was Tully Bevilaqua. Save the drama, mate. Leilani's smaller than you are. She did her job in bugging the daylights out of our PG, but offensively, I don't think she was able to get the Fever properly set up to take advantage of the night Tamika Catchings was having. Of course, Catch has the advantage of being rarely called for the fouls she commits while she's rushing headlong for the ball. Her flops are getting more and more frustrating. I love to watch her move, though.
Kalana Greene- ahem, All-Rookie team member Kalana Greene- made a brief cameo at the end of the first half for defense. The way Essence Carson has been playing, that's not a bad decision- not that that's anything against Kalana, but Essence has some experience in the playoffs, while Kalana just has the NCAA tournament, which is a different beast. Essence cracked a little under the pressure in the second half, but her first half was superb. She was the spark plug we needed off the bench, since that role couldn't be played by its usual performer. Kia Vaughn stepped up admirably when we needed her. She hit the shots that she usually misses, she caught most of the rebounds that she usually drops, and she wasn't afraid to use her body. I was glad to see her do well, and I hope she continues to prove me wrong throughout the playoffs, because I think we're going to need her more than ever.
Why, you ask? Well, we all freaked out a little bit when the woman three rows in front of us asked, "Hey, where's Janel?" And sure enough, far too close to tip-off for my liking, out limped Janel McCarville on crutches. Yes, she dresses very snazzily, and I get the feeling she should be in an alt rock band or something like that with that look, but I'd much rather see her in uniform getting ready to unleash pain and short jumpers on the opposition.
So Plenette Pierson got the start, and she does take time to get warmed up. She had a nice offensive game, but I was very disappointed in her rebounding. I know Indy was pulling her off the ball a lot, but I expect fiercer out of Plenette. Taj McWilliams-Franklin was the reverse: she cleaned up on the boards, but her shots kept going short. I'm starting to worry that she's really running out of gas now that we're at the end of the season. I love Mama Taj, but I don't know how much she can take. Nicole Powell's been abducted by aliens again and replaced with a really awful Pod Person. Either that, or the emotion chip she had installed last month has started to malfunction and she's going to make like Data in "Descent", and yes, I'm a Star Trek nerd. I don't expect a lot of defense out of her, but I do expect her to be able to hit the broad side of a barn, or at least look for the barn so she can attempt to hit it with something. I wasn't expecting her to keep up with Catchings, but again, I expected her to at least make a go of it. No such luck. She didn't even start the second half, Donovan had such little faith in her. Leilani Mitchell still looked frazzled by Bevilaqua and the Fever fouling, though she started the third quarter looking like someone had lit a fire under her. We're going to need more from her next round. As for Cappie Pondexter- well, there were a lot of reasons why the Garden was serenading her with M-V-P. She started the first half on fire, then went cool when Dunn adjusted the defense and Donovan gave her the two minutes of rest she gets every night. Then the fourth quarter came and so did crunch time, and she rose to the occasion. I was wrong before. This was the game we brought her in for. She knew this was her time to shine.
Lots of luminaries in the crowd. Seems like half the Knicks roster showed up. I was tempted to pass along word to Patrick Ewing, Jr. that there was a guy in a Reggie Miller jersey in the upper deck so that someone would take out the garbage. (I mean, really. That's tacky on so many levels.) Ronny Turiaf was enchanted by one of the cute kids who exhorted the crowd to make some noise. I think he wanted to take her home and give her cookies. Danilo Gallinari was probably bummed that he couldn't get any hair care tips from Janel. They have very similar styles.
I don't want to get started on the referees, because I had a very nice night and I don't want to have an aneurysm. I don't object to fouls being called that were committed. I object to fouls being committed and not called. And when the fouls on one end are called and the fouls on the other are not, eyebrows go up. Of course, that reversed in the last minute, and you don't know how many times I crossed myself in that final minute of game time.
They made a point of announcing that Tina Charles was here to root on the Liberty. Given that she and Kalana were four-year teammates, and given that the only Husky on Indiana was class of '05, I didn't need that confirmation, but I understand why they did it. Kept the Rutgers fans off her back. External sources confirmed a lot of semi-random and random WNBA players at the game. Me, I thought I saw Renee Montgomery, but she doesn't seem to have been there, so I might be going crazy. It's the playoffs. Insanity is always an option.
The people in front of us are taking the playoffs extremely seriously. They have cowbell, as well as bike horns. I approve of this message.
Basically, I came to the conclusion that the lack of offense that people find at Rutgers has to do with a time warp that channeled it all to this game. That's the only explanation I can find for Kia's sudden brilliance.
Go Liberty! Beat Atlanta!