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Liberty Start Winning Streak, Down Dream On Threes

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Behind the three-point shooting of Leilani Mitchell and a strong fourth-quarter stand, the New York Liberty defeated the Atlanta Dream 79-74. Cappie Pondexter led all scorers with 26 points, adding six rebounds, while Leilani Mitchell had 18 points, including four treys. Angel McCoughtry led the Dream with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

For odd bounces, quick hands, secrets that are awesome, power, strains, and the sweet sound of "threeeeeeeeee-point goal, Leilani Mitchell!", join your intrepid and hungry blogger after the jump.

Coming to you live from the Prudential Center, it's Saturday Night Live Liberty basketball!

Due to events I'm under a confidentiality agreement not to talk about, I was in the city today, which means that I got to the arena early. It's sort of depressing to hear the quiet in the Prudential Center box office when compared to the Garden box office around the same time. Permission from security to sit on the floor and use the outlet is appreciated, though. I'm hearing bits and snippets of things- someone arranging extra tickets for the Dream, a staffer hunting up a Garden of Dreams bus, a parent of one of the pre-game performers- and it's a little like being backstage.

I may not always like Marynell Meadors's approach to player management, and I may not always like some of the rumors I've heard about her taste in players, but I will say this: when it comes to autographs, her team is the most accommodating and approachable in the league. They leave in an orderly line, they all pay attention, and they're all willing to stop, even when they're past you. (Well, except maybe Angel McCoughtry- she didn't warm up with the rest of the team. Maybe Lori Ann was bored or something. And yes, I'll try to keep the Lori Ann joke to a minimum. Old meme.) Lindsey Harding cracked a joke about "how much money do you have?", but she was grinning when she said it. My response was "no, that's the other Lindsay!" My theory is that this is because Meadors is an inaugural coach, and retains some of that old-school mentality.

Remember, everyone, if the game has started, sit in a seat, then head to your proper place at a stoppage. Less fighting.

I'm 90% sure Eric Thibault is scouting this game for the Sun. That red hair sticks out. (I think he was also wearing his St. John's backpack. Is that an NCAA violation?)

It's Garden of Dreams night, which I don't know if they should have done against Atlanta, so I'm expecting a lot of annoyances and groups who aren't quite sure what to do.

Ref #25, who I think is Michael Clayton, danced with Maddie during his warm-up. It was sort of awesome.

The anthem singer darn near blew out her microphone a couple times, but she was pretty good. Martina McBride is a good role model.

The plus/minuses for the Liberty are very clear on the court. As soon as Kara Braxton and Nicole Powell came in, everything went to hell in a handbasket. (Can I say hell on Swish Appeal?) Essence Carson has been a jolt of energy for this team. Angel McCoughtry and Sancho Lyttle have really great hands. Yelena Leuchanka has lousy timing on rebounds.

Woooooooooooo! That was good. That felt good. That felt like a game.

I like Aneika Henry's hustle, and she's got better rebounding instincts than Leuchanka. She's got to learn to use her body a little bit better, or at least more smartly, but she's a legit player. Ketia Swanier is cute, and she confused our lineups a little bit, but I wish I knew what she said about DeMya's mom to earn that many hard hits. People seemed to like hitting Tiffany Hayes in the face. I don't know why, but Kia Vaughn got in a smack that made me NOT happy. (I do not approve of hitting people in the face, not without a reason. Being a Husky is not a reason.) Hayes didn't really stand out for me in this game. Laurie Koehn did not hit any threes. Cathrine Kraayeveld tried to screen, but it didn't work. She and Koehn were both used near the end as three-point options. Kraay also got a little bit of run in the first half. She didn't seem comfortable, though.

If this game is any indication, this team is going to need everything Angel McCoughtry's got and then everything Lori Ann's got. She was all over the place. She hit some tough shots, she hit some easy shots, she did a magnificent job on the boards, and her hands were very active on defense. She got sloppy a little in the second half, though. I wasn't looking for the trouble that folks reported about Lindsey Harding not being able to feed the post, but I did think she was very disassociated from the rest of the team- a lot of times it was Lyttle, McCoughtry, or even Henry setting up the play. Yelena Leuchanka has a couple of moves, and she moves her hands well on defense, but she doesn't move the rest of her body well at all on defense or on the boards. She got beat around the bush very thoroughly by half the Liberty lineup. Sancho Lyttle did well on the glass and going to the lane, but she hit one jump shot and suddenly thought she was Laurie Koehn. (Well, maybe not that bad. Maybe Tina Thompson circa 2005.) I love to watch her hands on D, and I love to watch her rebound, but she needs to get her butt into the lane. Armintie Price still can't hit a lay-up, and Leilani Mitchell used that to her advantage on one break, leaning back juuuuuust enough to create that seed of doubt.

Nicole Powell had one of the worst first halves of basketball I've ever seen from a human being. In the second, her shot still wasn't falling, though she had a good look at a three that didn't go down, but she was rebounding better, getting her hands down on defense, and she stonewalled Koehn on the last possession to seal the game. If her jump shot is still AWOL, at least we're getting that from her. That's more than I can say for Kara Braxton. I'm starting to genuinely worry about her. Her jersey looks tighter and her effort has fallen through the floor. There are meetings for problems like that. Follow your shot, Kara. I don't think that's too much to ask. DeMya Walker was touch and go on defense, but she was setting screens like nobody's business. One was almost a Screen of Death, but no one fell down. She got popped in the face pretty good by a Henry elbow.

Kelly Miller, I'ma need you to get your act together so Whiz trusts you to play so Leilani and Cappie don't keel over, kplzthxbye.

Leilani Mitchell, the Fluffy Little Bunny with the nasty pointy teeth, was back, at least behind the arc. Defensively, she didn't match up well with Atlanta- Harding was too quick for her and everyone except Swanier is too big for her- but she answered back with threes. We needed her to be the second option tonight, with Essence Carson running into the buzzsaw that is Angel McCoughtry and Plenette Pierson leaving the game in the second half with an injury of some kind (I think). Kia Vaughn got beat badly a couple of times, but did a nice job cleaning up on offensive rebounds, both her own and her teammates'. She had one nasty swat that had the arena rocking. Cappie Pondexter looked like a superstar tonight- maybe she felt she needed to compete with Angel, but I don't care about the reasoning. I care about the crazy one-footed shot that went down and the ice-cold threes and the drives that found the bottom of the net. I care about the rebounds and the floor burns. That's what we asked for, and that's what we got. About the only thing that annoyed me was hitting DeMya three strides too late on a break, but when she plays like that, I really can't object. Plenette Pierson played well in the first half, but in the second she left the game, first going into the tunnel with Laura Ramus, then with a gray-haired woman who I am assuming is a team doctor of some kind; she came back to the bench after that, but didn't go back into the game. So now I'm worried.

It also weirded me out that Plenette seemed to be trying not to interact with Coach Whisenant. She ignored him when he tried to slap her five and didn't seem engaged in the huddles. That bothers me.

I'll be brutally honest here. I think the tide turned with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter, during an Atlanta possession that I think the Liberty committed four separate fouls on without anything being called. It was a close enough game, and enough people hit the floor, and the Liberty got the ball out of it, that I think that slammed the door for Atlanta. The officiating had interesting moments all night, and it didn't help that there were some very slippery bits of the court. We suspected up top that the ice curtain had a crack in it and condensation was seeping up from the Devils' ice. A lot of people seemed to be slipping and tripping in the same places.

Another piece of bad luck: four different threes for Atlanta rimmed in and out, or bounced off the inside of the rim, or otherwise did strange, inexplicable bounces in the second half. It was just one after another, to the point where we were pretty sure the Liberty were meant to win this game.

I skipped halftime to charge my computer and write up the halftime notes. Apparently I didn't miss much.

Shoutout to the people in the rows below us, over to the right- their energy was fantastic and they got us going at some points. (Also, call me a Ducktales fan, but I'm a sucker for identically dressed triplets.) I am less enthused about the people who showed up late and took their sweet time finding their seats. There were many, many, many open seats. Sit in one so we can all watch the game!

This was a good game and we feel good about it. On to the Mystics!