Good evening, everyone! Your intrepid blogger is currently in the bus lobby at Mohegan Sun, chatting with an Atlantan who keeps saying "you know, that white girl" and "you know, that black girl" when trying to remember the existence of a WNBA player. It's sort of cringe-inducing. At least he knows the existence of the Atlanta Dream.
It's probably not a good sign when the tickets for the bus are mssed up- someone double-sold seats. Fortunately, there were enough seats for all parties involved, but it left me shaking my head.
Good solid anthem, though I don't like repeating phrases at the end. Seems like cheap drama.
It really bothers me when it sounds like Kelly Faris is getting more applause than Tina Charles from a Sun crowd. I know Charles has been pretty awful lately, but what has Faris done in a WNBA uniform? Then again, there's something discomfiting about the tenor of a Sun crowd when a big UConn alumna is in town, period. All the issues Mike DiMauro is known for bringing up seem to combine with the Nutmeg State's chronic case of Our Girls Syndrome, and it gets really weird.
We skipped the halftime show, though it didn't sound like we were missing much. Being compressed in the upper deck meant it was time to get out and stretch our legs. The place was pretty full, and our section was crowded, but it was mostly older folks who hardly reacted to anything during the game. They applauded their Huskies at the start of the game, but that was about it.
Ladies and gentlemen, Penny Taylor has returned to action. This is not a drill. She did look like she was dragging her leg behind her a bit, but the last basket she hit looked like she was deliberately telling her critics where to stick it- lots of lateral action on the injured leg. She acts very much as a stabilizing glue force when she's on the floor, from the looks of it. Almost a psychological effect. Alexis Hornbuckle fired off open threes like she was Erin Thorn or something, and performed open field tackles like she was trying out for the Arizona Cardinals or something. Subtlety is not exactly what I'd call her strength. Chardé Houston still wears the shorts hiked all the way up until she has saddlebags at her hips. She looked like the one person who wasn't adjusting well to the return of Taylor- near the end of the game, she was back to her black hole, all-offense tendencies. I don't know what caused her to go down in a heap in the second half, and we all thought it was bad when she was holding her leg and slapping the floor, but when she limped off the floor and went to the bench, she didn't get any kind of medical treatment that we saw, not even hydration in case it was a cramp. I still hope she's okay, just in case. Krystal Thomas was in to rebound and make Tina Charles's life miserable. She succeeded admirably at both. Her two fouls at the end of the first were stupid enough to make me wonder out loud how she got into Duke, though. Lynetta Kizer got a few minutes when both Thomas and Griner were in foul trouble, and I thought she did well with them. (Part of me wants her to end up on the Liberty if only for the Cheesy Musical Hook possibilities. Yes, I'm shallow sometimes.)
Briana Gilbreath looks like the bargain-bin version of DeWanna Bonner or Brittney Griner- all arms and legs and awkward socks. I don't remember much of what she did. I'm sure there are reasons that she starts, other than Gaines's lack of faith in Prahalis, but if there are, she didn't demonstrate them in this game. Candice Dupree did work on the low block- she's lost a little bit of the incomparable smooth grace she had in Chicago, but she still works pretty. DeWanna Bonner started off slow, taking bad shots, but got going later as Phoenix established both their fast break game and their game closer to the basket. Diana Taurasi did all the things- okay, that's a bit of a terse assessment, so allow me to elaborate: while bearing the bulk of the responsibility for bringing the ball up, she fired off threes as easily as breathing, drove the lane hard, fought for physical rebounds, found her teammates with the ball, played dramatically to the crowd, and chatted with officials (without getting a technical!). In other words, she did all the things. Brittney Griner's job seemed to mostly be making Charles's life miserable and blocking whatever came into her vicinity. She has a truly weird shooting motion- I realize it's a side effect of her height and the length of her arms, but it's still weird. When she's pushing the ball towards the basket, she reminds me somewhat of those machines where you put in the money and try to pull the toy out of the pile. (The claaaaaaaaaw... no, not that one...)
I was starting to wonder if I was in a parallel universe in the first half, because the Phoenix Mercury were playing defense. Like, actual defense with planning and everything. Griner or Thomas stuck to Charles like glue, then one of the guards would come and double. The defense broke down a bit more in the second half, but by then Connecticut seemed to have given up on trying to score baskets, instead determined to demonstrate every way in which it was possible to miss a shot.
Either Kelly Faris is running away from shooting threes because she doesn't think she can, in which case she's making a mistake, or Anne Donovan is telling her not to shoot them, which would be a stupid plan. In either case, someone is being stupid. And while she's a better defender than the average rookie, she's not up to the task of Taurasi yet. She took a lot of contact, though there was a play where I thought attempting to bum-rush two Phoenix players would get her a foul. Mistie Bass was not effective in trying to do the little gritty things that she normally does. She had a pretty putback off a Sydney Carter miss, to the point where I thought Carter deliberately shot it just to get rim and come down to Bass for the rebound, since the shot clock was running down- getting iron was the important part. Kayla Pedersen seems to be adjusting well to the change in scenery, or maybe Phoenix just didn't bother scouting her. She was pretty solid. Sydney Carter was a spark in the first half, playing the role that Renee Montgomery on a good day would normally play. Phoenix adjusted to her in the second half.
Tina Charles needs to get her act together. She rebounded well, though some of those were against Phoenix posts who were in foul trouble and not able to react to her. But her shot has gone to hell in a handbasket. Not all the shots she took today were ill-advised, just a fair number of them. She needs to leave the fadeaway jumpers to Cappie Pondexter. (Actually, no, I'd rather she not leave 'em to Cappie- I don't want Cappie taking them either.) Kelsey Griffin hustled hard on the offensive boards- she kept a Connecticut possession alive twice in the first half with her hustle and hands. I'm really not sure why she was called upon to defend Taurasi, though. That doesn't seem like one of those things that's going to end well for the defending team. Kalana Greene was virtually invisible, and when she was visible, it was because she was getting fouled with no call. Poor KG. I still love her, despite the whole Connecticut thing. It takes a lot for me to look past that. Iziane Castro Marques threw things at the basket in the hope that one of them would go in at some point. The hip check she threw right at the end of the game was uncalled for, and she almost got checked into the scorer's table in retaliation. Do not taunt happy fun Merc. Allison Hightower showed flashes of offense, and defensively she did well enough for being stuck on larger players much of the night (while Griffin was on Taurasi, Hightower was on Dupree, and no, it wasn't just because of screens; if you can explain that one, I'd love to hear it).
Short. Long. Off the front of the rim. Off the glass. Off the back of the rim. To the left. To the right. Over the basket. Underside of the rim. Spiiiiiiiiiiin and out. Off the front of the rim and the back of the rim to the left. To put it mildly, the Sun had shooting issues. Good thing the Mercury posts kept committing stupid fouls to get the Sun to the line so the game could look slightly less like a blowout than it was.
It seemed like there was a spate of whistles in the third quarter, but I think it was a good idea- the game was getting a little chippy, and any game with Diana Taurasi has the potential for someone (not necessarily Taurasi) to say something about someone's mother (not necessarily Taurasi's). Wasn't fun to watch, but needed to be done. Phoenix didn't adjust.
I realize that being a Liberty fan and a proponent of Laimbeer will make me sound like a hypocrite saying this, but I find Corey Gaines to be a whiny little conniver, and I don't like the way he coaches his players. Lots of unnecessarily physical play in the post- more holding and grabbing than the norm. Phoenix has the talent to win games decisively without this nonsense. And when I can hear Gaines complaining and yelling from the fourth row of the upper deck in the opposite corner of the arena, he might be running his mouth a lot. I do not like that man. And he makes it very easy to dislike the Mercury.
If you had told me there was a dedicated row cheering for a Mercury player in this game, I would probably have come up with nine names before Krystal Thomas's, but there were a whole bunch of signs for her. I don't know if they were friends or family or the Duke alumni association or what.
Kara Lawson's dress suited her. Dark pants and light tops are a peeve of mine, so I have to give Tan White a thumbs-down. Renee Montgomery's outfit was boring but passable. Rebecca Lobo somehow got away with rocking old-school Mercury orange and silver.
Have you had the beef taco bowl at Geno's yet? Best value in the food court by far. Fills you all the way up and then some.
I don't know if the Sun are going to have another shooting night like this, when even the good shots they get just don't go down, and it's true that three of their top four guards were out injured. But this was not a good sign for the Sun. Donovan looked outclassed by Gaines, and I don't know how much faith her team has in her. Strap in- this might get crazy before it gets better.