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Pondexter and Carson Carry the New York Liberty

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Cappie Pondexter had 22 points, 20 of them in the last twenty-one minutes of the game, to lead the Liberty over the Los Angeles Sparks 77-67. Essence Carson had 18 points off the bench for New York. Candace Parker led Los Angeles with 16 points and 11 rebounds before leaving the game due to injury.

For bleeding eardrums, that hated color, large servings, hired guns, and Jantel Lavender's penmanship, join your intrepid and air-conditioned blogger after the jump.

Hello and greetings from beautiful, scenic, downtown Newark! Oh, gods, I can't keep that up for fourteen more games. It still doesn't change the fact that it's an hour and forty minutes from my house with a lot of luck.

If you're willing to spend, Brick City Bar and Grill's a nice place for a pregame meal. The prices are a little high ($14 for a burger, up to $30 for an entree), but the servings are big, and the fries are divine. At least one free refill if you're not in the bar, too!

It has just been brought to my attention- as in, we interrupt these pregame notes to bring you breaking news- that we now have a banner up to represent our three Eastern Conference Championships. This wasn't up before, and it makes me feel a little like we're in the sports equivalent of a hotel.

I think the Prudential Center is going to be fairly popular among the older fans for weekend games. Championship Plaza is a nice place to gather and talk to friends. Not so much for night games, though.

They've rearranged the autograph gathering area a bit, so it's less convenient, but it looks like they also have both teams going through the same entrance. And there was a secondary gathering on the other side to mob Candace Parker. Holy hypothetical baby Jesus, I don't envy that woman. She was swallowed up in a crush, and that's before the kid ran into the tunnel to get her autograph. It was insane, and I don't blame her one bit for not stopping at our end. It looks like Tina Thompson has chosen to identify more with the Sparks than the Comets; the LA and Houston logos are next to each other on the shirt we're working on, and she moved it over to sign solely on the Sparks logo.

I'd recommend one more revamp: designate the bottom of section 6 as the gathering place for the people with the Sharpies and the pictures and the shirts. It's close to the tunnel, it's wide enough to fit enough people, and it has the top of the boards for when it's Devil country to use as a ledge. It's not too much of a detour for the players, and it's convenient to the fans, and it's near enough to where security hangs out that they can intervene quickly. If you split it home/road, do the same thing with section 10.

Attendance looks better than it did last game. Unfortunately, a lot of those people are wearing Parker jerseys. Shoutout to the two ladies in autographed DeLisha Milton jerseys. (No, not Milton-Jones jerseys. Yeah, that's old school.) Surprisingly few people with rainbows. I guess they'll be late to this party after that party.

I'm the only person in the arena wearing a Portland Fire jersey, but I'm okay with that. Pride weekend is a good time to bring out the Michele VanGorp jersey, don't you agree? I also have a rainbow bracelet. (I also have a husband. Mixed messages, I send them.)

Halftime, we have an eight-point lead, and I have no idea how, other than forcing turnovers from the Sparks. We can't shoot, we can't pass, and we can't rebound. However, Cappie Pondexter showed up in the last two minutes of the half in true Cappie fashion. If she does this, we're golden. That's all we've ever asked of her.

In retrospect, doing Dads and Daughters Day on the same day as New York Pride may not have been the brightest idea in the world. And it was exceptionally myopic of them to have Sidney Spencer be the player to get the fans up today. Seriously.

Spoon got the crowd going at one timeout, but if that's all they're going to do, that's a waste of having Spoon here. She's a legend and a firebrand. Honor her and have her get the place rocking.

If we lose this game by five points or less, it's Amy Bonner's fault. It's a bad sign when you're already up to "What are you smoking? This is a non-smoking arena!" in the first half. She's fond of ignoring tackles.

So despite everybody's best efforts, the Liberty pulled this one out. I honestly have no idea how they did it, beyond Cappie Pondexter doing what she was brought to the Liberty to do. I just. Honestly. I really don't know.

Latoya Pringle has unfortunate hair. Words cannot express how little Miller-twin bangs work on skinny black posts. I would have pithy commentary on her play, but she didn't play all that much, and didn't do much when she was in. Natasha Lacy has nice hands on defense, and sliced through the lane on offense, but she is where organized offense goes to die. Jenna O'Hea got loose for some threes, because apparently Liberty fans are the only people affiliated with the team who watch game tape and know that you can't leave her open in the corner, and dinged Cappie Pondexter on a hip check. Jenna, this is not Aussie Rules. Kristi Toliver brought the firepower with the four-point play (though we will have words about that later) but was occasionally not aware that this was basketball, not football, and tackling is not permitted. Jantel Lavender didn't look bad. She looked like she belonged in this league, which is more credit than I was willing to give her when she started. Ebony Hoffman has regressed badly. It's painful to watch. She needs to either lose the weight so she can go back to the 3, or develop some power moves and go to the 4.

At this point, there is no excuse for anyone not to know that Tina Thompson has range. Not at all. She's been in this league since the current batch of players were kids. (This goes double for you, Essence Carson, given how proud you are to have been a Liberty fan before being a Liberty player.) You can't leave her open for a jumper. It just doesn't make sense. She doesn't have the power she did in her younger days, but she's still a dangerous player. Candace Parker had a phenomenal first half, but went out in the third quarter with a knee injury. It looked like an ACL at first, with the way she was clutching at her knee, then at O'Hea, but she put enough weight on it that I suspect it was something else, maybe a hyperextension or something with her meniscus. But I am not a medical professional, though I was once mistaken for one on a message board because I used the word "exacerbated" correctly. DeLisha Milton-Jones got the elbows going and the little shoves in the back going, and at one point I thought she and Essence Carson were going to drop the gloves, but they were both smiling at the end. Ticha Penicheiro looked like the master conductor of offense that she is, but her unwillingness/inability to shoot is more of an Achilles' heel than ever. I think half the reason she was able to get as much done as she did was because she was facing an itty-bitty defender. Noelle Quinn was solid, albeit unremarkable. I don't remember much that she did.

And here Whiz was doing so well with putting Spencer in at the right times. The beginning of the second quarter is not the right time to put her in. Not when she has no foot speed and we're forcing defenders to make long runs to the corner to seal off the open three. Quanitra Hollingsworth put in some very nice work today off the bench, pulling down boards and sneaking in for baskets. She looked good defensively, too, which was her strength at VCU. She still needs to work on teammate recognition, but give her time on that. Alex Montgomery actually had offense! I am confused by this! She did her work defensively, but also got into the lane for shots and dishes. And then Essence Carson continued her streak of completely demolishing the reputation of Rutgers by going nuts on offense and slacking off on defense. Slacking off might be a little strong, and it didn't help that she was caught in a lot of mismatches with Milton-Jones or other big players, but she wasn't as strong defensively as she usually is.

Someone needs to fine-tune Nicole Powell's programming. I think she's been infected with a software virus that's affecting her shooting ability. (Yes, I'm going to keep making robot/android jokes about Nicole Powell until she demonstrates emotion, or at least a consistent shot.) She was useless. She was almost beyond useless, except for the steal and the one bucket. We could have had Rebekkah Brunson. We could have kept Shameka Christon. *trails off in incoherent rage*

Incoherent rage complete. Kia Vaughn was, obviously, not nearly as dominant as she was against Tiffany Jackson and Jennifer Lacy, and it didn't help that she was missing a lot of the easy shots that she needs to hit. Plenette Pierson abused the backdoor, and then started hitting outside shots. She needs to lay off the twisting hooks and finger rolls- there are no style points in basketball. Leilani Mitchell tries so hard out there, but it's hard out there for a 5-5 guard going against big guards like Los Angeles has. Toliver was more of a fair match for her, but Toliver plays mean. Cappie Pondexter slept through the first quarter and change, then woke up suddenly in the last minute of the second quarter and gave us the win. That's what we brought her in to do. That's what she's paid to do. That's all I ask of her. Kick butt, take names on the court, and try not to spew stupid comments off it.

The officiating seemed more unbalanced in its failure than usual. There were a lot of ticky-tack calls against the Liberty, while the Sparks got away with two tackles. Amy Bonner was egregiously bad in the first half, but Greene was worse in the second. We also had clock problems, but that's nothing new in this league.

We will not speak of the anthem, or of the unnecessary rendition of "God Bless America". I'm going to have to pretreat my laundry to get out the bloodstains from where my eardrums popped and bled. And both of them screwed up the words, too. Unacceptable.

We've gotten used to Anne Donovan and her staff, and Chelsea Newton representing Rutgers, but it was a pleasant surprise to see Val Ackerman there. Huzzah for our first president!

We really tried our best to give it away in the fourth quarter, but Cappie was enough. This might well be the story of our season. That, and Nicole Powell's sorry excuse for basketball.