Good evening, everyone! It's a Saturday night special here in Newark, as New York faces Indiana.
Indiana's sweet. I don't know if it's the old-school sensibilities of Lin Dunn and Mickie DeMoss, or just a good collection of personalities, but everyone who was asked to stopped and signed, either coming or going.
Normally, players are off the floor by 35 minutes before the clock ends. 30 is the usual max. The Liberty events people brought on a dance performance at about the 29-minute mark. Briann January and Erlana Larkins were unfazed and continued practicing their pick-and-rolls even as people in turquoise tank tops did strange gyrations. (If January can hit free throws with both the basket and the floor vibrating. I don't think we can disconcert her.) Then January came off and Larkins shot alone. She finally came off at the 23-minute mark. That kind of work is why Briann January has made one of the best post-ACL comebacks the league has ever seen. That's why Erlana Larkins is back in the league. That's why they both have rings. Indy may not have all the talent, or all the explosiveness, or the other pretty things, but they have indomitable will and one heck of a coach.
Very sparse crowd so far. 19 minutes to go, but it's an odd start time.
I want my full "Start It Up", Libs. I don't think that's too much to ask.
Why "God Bless America"? And why didn't they just have her do the anthem? Because the anthem was lousy and the "God Bless America" singer did a fantastic job hitting the high notes.
It's been a close game throughout, and I just wish more of the people showing up late had seen all of it. Alex Montgomery has been phenomenal on the boards, clearing pretty much everything and forcing disruptions when she can't just pull down the board. Plenette Pierson went on a scoring tear in the first quarter like she wanted to prove a point. Toni Young also looks good. This is going to be a humdinger of a finish.
Seriously, the place really started filling up in the second quarter, like everyone forgot what time the game started. That's one thing I'm not going to miss about the Prudential Center- lots of late arrivals getting in people's ways.
I'm impressed that Karima Christmas recovered from that open-field tackle by Kara Braxton to start the second half. She looked like she wsn't sure where she was when she initially got up.
Aaaaand so much for that theory about it being a humdinger of a finish. We utterly fell apart in that third quarter. It was quite infuriating. We actually booed at the end of the quarter. At least the kids played with more intensity in the foruth to make it look somewhat less utterly humiliating, though by that point the damage was done.
Sasha Goodlett's first basket came on a gorgeous spinning pass from Tamika Catchings. She brought the physicality, if not always the smartest plays. Layshia Clarendon was missing shots in practice that I know are usually automatic for her, but she was more successful with them in the game. She gave good minutes, though I don't appreciate her knocking over Leilani Mitchell on a drive late in the game. Erin Phillips is back to being Erin Phillips, diving for loose balls all over the floor and hitting sweet jumpers (though I'm not used to her shooting threes like she was Katie Douglas or something). She made our ballhandlers' lives miserable. Jasmine Hassell... um, I liked her hair? I know she played, and played a fair amount, but about all I can remember is when she committed dumb fouls.
Tamika Catchings barely had to play and she still wrecked any kind of game planning Bill Laimbeer did. Her defense was on point, to the point where Toni Young couldn't be an offensive factor if Catchings was on her, no matter what our guards seemed to think. The only thing I would worry about if I were a Fever fan is her struggles from the three-point line. In the long run, that could affect moving Catch (back) to the three, but given that the first step would be to acquire a center somewhat taller than Erlana Larkins, I think that's a much more long-term issue. Briann January ran a solid offense and was deadly from the corners. Can we not leave her open? Would that be too much to ask? I guess it was. Karima Christmas did work on the boards, fighting for every ball. She is truly, impressively tough. She brought the defense, too. Shavonte Zellous had the green light to shoot, and the rim got her a couple of times. Right now, her role on this team is to score. Unlike most of Indiana's players, she doesn't seem to be expected to bring the blue-collar lunch-bucket hard-working clichéd defense. That's not to say that she's getting special treatment or anything, just that she has a different role. And someone's gotta keep the scoring up. Erlana Larkins did work on the inside. She stepped back for a couple of jumpers, but most of her baskets came deep in the paint. She went at it hammer and tongs with whoever was on her and whoever she was on.
(Remind me never to take the 33rd Street train at Journal Square again. This train is full of children, and one of them is not wearing any pants. Diapers are not appropriate outside garb, lady, put some pants on your child. Also, hey, if you just got your carriage kicked out of the conductor's operating position, your response should not be to go stand there as soon as the conductor moves into the next car. Too much stupid today. Cannot COPE OMG.)
Kamiko Williams looked like she was in over her head the first time she came into the game, though she adjusted somewhat in the fourth quarter and looked more comfortable aggressively driving to the basket. I'm not sure if Bill was happy with her decision-making, though. Plenette Pierson was a sparkplug in the first half on the offensive side of the ball. She was ripping Indiana up with drives and jumpers. But in the second half, she was much less effective, and her inability to move properly on defense was much more evident. Two straight plays, Catchings demolished her and she stood there. There was a loose ball in the third quarter that she would normally be rolling for, but she took two steps and backed off. If it's that obvious from the 19th row, maybe Bill needs to take a good look at her. Avery Warley did a nice job drawing fouls on Fever defenders in the first half. She's a useful part, and I can see why Phoenix kept her around last year when they were desperately seeking mediocrity. Leilani Mitchell played very briefly in the first half (we were wondering if she was injured, since Laura Ramus was stretching her out like a rubber band) but got much more time in the second half. She kept getting called for fouls when she got knocked over. It was very unfair. Alex Montgomery was all over the place. I love the way she goes for loose balls. Love it. She was the only one consistently bringing effort out there.
Kara Braxton is as dumb as a brick, but this doesn't surprise anyone by now, I hope. She used her height well on the boards, especially when Larkins was on her (she also seemed to be using her, er, other assets against Larkins, but that might be a bias in perception). Kelsey Bone was solid, and again I have to wonder if she ever played club volleyball- she knows how to keep a ball in the air. I'd like to see her hit the bunnies with more consistency, but I can accept that from a rookie so long as I can be certain that that rookie will develop. Toni Young reminds me in a weird way of the Slinky dog from Toy Story. It's something in the way she moves. She's developing surprisingly fast at the three, in the lineup with Kelsey and Kara. Her athleticism is a sight to behold. Katie Smith got the toughest assignment of the night, guarding Tamika Catchings to open the game, and it wore her down fairly quickly. Didn't help that she couldn't really get a lot of shots because her teammates were having issues finding her over and through the Indiana defense. (To demonstrate the importance of Catchings to this team, I almost called it the Tennessee defense.) She got pretty frustrated about that. Cappie Pondexter's judgment was even worse than usual tonight. She took a lot of bad, quick shots and botched two end-of-quarter possessions by not paying attention to the clock. If that's the lead guard she's going to be in Laimbeer's system, we're in a lot of trouble.
I don't know what happened in that third quarter. Maybe it was a confluence of all kinds of events that spelled disaster for the Liberty: Lin Dunn making halftime adjustments like a boss, Plenette's knee acting up, Cappie deciding to put everything in her own hands, increased intensity from the Fever, a good run of bad luck, an inability to shoot the ball, bad decisions. But it was ugly and relentlessly so. Bill used two timeouts and Mama Taj looked ready to chew sand and spit glass. By the end, it was a 28-point deficit and the crowd was starting to boo- those who weren't leaving, that is. (To the family who decided to leave in the middle of play: really? You're going to make me get up with a laptop on my lap, while the game is going on? You can't wait two minutes for the quarter break? I would say obscene things to you, but it's late and I'm tired.)
The officiating didn't help, but I'm not going to pin everything on them. It sure seemed like Indiana was getting the advantage on calls, even in the first half when the game was still exciting.
Too many dance groups today, including little girls in shiny short skirts that made me extremely uncomfortable. I really hate the outfits some of these troupes wear. Feels too much like something I should be watching in a trenchcoat.
Nothing more to be said. Regroup, heal up, and be ready for Chicago.