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Liberty vs. Sun Game Notes: New York's Superstars rise to challenge

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It got tight right at the end, but the New York Liberty came away with the 67-65 win over Connecticut. Tina Charles and Cappie Pondexter each had 14 points to lead the Liberty. For the Sun, Chiney Ogwumike had game-highs of 22 points and 17 rebounds. For odd comparisons, a lack of hair style, rookie bonding, the travails of the 12th player, bad shots, good defense, and delays, join your intrepid and digressive blogger after the jump.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, loyal and patient readers! (What should I call you, anyway? Doom-bots? Swishers? Appelates? {No, those are Jayne Appel fans.} Masochists?) It's a warm and somewhat humid Sunday in the City That Never Sleeps, so I'm glad to be in the Garden for the Liberty's game against the Sun. I think we're done with them now, though that might just be an infernal illusion and in truth this is like that Star Trek episode with the guys with the painted faces, and we're doomed to eternal warfare against the Sun. We have never been at war with Washington. We have always been at war with Connecticut.

Either Tina misses Renee, or Renee misses Tina, or it's just a UConn thing, because they came out together, with Chardé following close behind. I'm getting a little weirded out by our team getting buddy buddy with the opponents on court, on game day. I feel like we're missing some focus here.

I think SuperJudy has swapped out her wig for a hard hat. DO NOT WANT. I like the different, colorful wigs.

Today's theme is Maddie's birthday. I passed up on the poster, because if I want a team poster, it's going to focus more on the team than on the damn mascot.

Dude, don't fight with the usher, I don't care if you're old-fashioned enough to wear a Champion shirt.

I think there are tourists behind us. I don't know if they've ever been to a basketball game before, either. This could be awkward.

Spoon is glad-handing, as she does so well. There are very few people who know how to work a room like Teresa Weatherspoon, and few who are as good at working such a large room. And if you want to add a little extra drama to the day, I'll note that she came over and chatted with both Katie and Barb, and that Barb went to go say hi to Spoon's new arm candy. (Who is cute, but that's par for the course. Spoon got game.)

Essence Carson is still wearing the Pride shoes, which I definitely approve of. At least someone in this league has the courage of her convictions.

I normally don't question players' tattoos, those are their business, but Cappie, what on earth possessed you to tattoo a hickey on your neck?

Quiet but powerful anthem. I like.

I'm really sorry that being loud offends you, dude, but this is my team and I care about them and I support them. Deal with it.

At halftime, New York is up three, 34-31, despite clock management that would make Herman Edwards blush and Tina Charles's phenomenal ability to take the worst possible shot in any situation where she has the ball. The defensive intensity has been great.

Air Maddie, I don't think the Josh Groban thing is working for you. You are one of my favorite things, but this is still not a good look.

Kelsey Griffin, can you not with attempting to choke out Sugar? Wanting to choke Sugar is Liberty fans' job, let us take care of it.

Despite really lousy clock management and shot selection at the end of the game, we pulled this one out. Superstars did superstar things down the stretch, and we made defensive plays. But if I'm a Connecticut fan, I'm very intrigued by the Thomas-Ogwumike duo and the way they work together, and I'm almost waiting impatiently for Katie Douglas to retire.

Connecticut ran heavy with their starters, and had a really tight rotation. It's nice to see Allison Hightower back in action, though she doesn't seem to be fully integrated back into the offense; the work that Alyssa Thomas did in her place certainly doesn't help that situation.

Renee Montgomery seemed to be trying to run a faster offense than Bentley did, and than her teammates were ready for. She really seems to have been off her game lately, though I don't know whether that's because she's coming off the bench or because there's something else going on. (Renee, if you miss Tina, tough luck. We don't need you and we already have a Montgomery who wears #21 and hits big threes.)

Kelsey Griffin really seems to have some kind of chip on her shoulder when it comes to playing New York- she seems to be more physical against us than she is other teams. I know we have two masters of the art of psychological warfare on our roster, but you don't expect to see the results so starkly. Kayla Pedersen played very briefly in the first half, saw no time in the second half (or if she did, it was of such little import that I don't remember it).

No, seriously, Connecticut asked their bench for diddly and pretty much got squat.

Katie Douglas had the back radiator on a lot of the time when she was on the bench- saw it coming off a couple of times when she was checking into the game. I think the back must have been bothering her, then, because that would explain why none of her shots were falling. There was a moment after she drained the one trey that I thought it was going to be like the other game against Connecticut, where she was ice cold to start then got hot late. But she stayed cold, with the shots that she normally hits going wide, or off the rim, or otherwise not landing in the basket. She still has the defensive instincts, though- she single-handedly smothered a 2-on-1 fast break for the Liberty, shutting down Sugar Rodgers like an angry computer user smashing Ctrl-Alt-Delete.

Alex Bentley started a little cold, but really got hot in the fourth quarter. You can't give her space. You certainly can't give her the entire baseline like we did on one play. Alyssa Thomas had a lot of great passes to Chiney Ogwumike- seriously, if I'm a Sun fan, I'm really excited at the potential of the two of them together. (You're welcome, Connecticut.) Her strength is remarkable- she forced a lot of jump balls and stole rebounds away. Tough kid. I would have loved to have her (but I'm happy with Tina too, don't get me wrong, I think that's a win-win choice).

Kelsey Bone missed free throws, which we mocked her for mercilessly, but played tough, physical defense, and hit most of the shots she was asked to hit. Some, she had no business taking. Chiney Ogwumike doesn't seem to like us very much. Maybe part of it was how DeLisha welcomed her to the league that first weekend, but she played like she had a chip on her shoulder today. I admit, I didn't see the flagrant- my attention was on another part of the court. But she got in a couple of hard shots that weren't flagrant. She also completely owned the boards, especially down low. She and her teammates swarmed the offensive boards, and she was usually the one coming away with the ball once they were done swarming. She's so good. She's so good down low. I'm trying very hard not to like her, because she's not ours.

Shanece McKinney played briefly in the first half to absorb contact, fouls, time, and other inconveniences that posts higher in the rotation wouldn't want to have to deal with. That's what she does. I'd like to see her do a little more of it, but it is what it is.

Chardé Houston, bless your heart, we didn't hire you to play defense, and it's clear why. She seems to have gotten some of the hang of the offense, and I like her hustle on defense, but she's just not very good at that whole other-team-has-the-ball thing.

That being said, she's a much needed infusion of both offense and joie de vivre- I think we've seen more dancing out of the team in the last two games than we have all year. (Not that we don't have dance-inclined players- Plenette especially likes to get her groove thang on at the slightest provocation- but they've been much more inclined to show it during pregame and during intros.) (Also, obvious Photoshop is obvious when her pic on the big screen is bald and she's currently sporting about two inches of new growth.

Chardé is not a Chia Pet. That might be a tie-in product from the makers of the Cappie Patch Doll and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj, though.) DeLisha Milton-Jones had the jumper working, as well as the long arms of tangling doom. We needed good minutes from her, and we got them.

Sugar Rodgers was very active on defense. The kid is growing on me again, and I really hope I don't need to get out the Round-Up. She does stupid things, but she seems to be doing fewer stupid things, or at least there is a reason for the stupid things she does. And of course, she shoots pretty good too.

Plenette Pierson seems to have found her groove again, cutting to the basket for easy hoops or getting the jumper to fall. I could have done without a lot of her flopping all over the floor, though. Don't make us get out the memorial DeMya Walker Flop-O-Meter cards. (Somehow, I don't think Plenette would be as good a sport as DeMya was about them- DeMya even signed one.) I know it's part of her job to sow chaos, mayhem, and dissension among our enemies, but sometimes she takes it too far.

Tina. Tina, Tina, Tina, Tina. Whoever is telling you that you are the combined female incarnation of Kareem and Dirk is lying to you. The hook is not working. The fadeaway is not working. The long jumper is not working. Going to the basket, that was working. Being tall and big and tough and getting position on younger defenders, that worked too. She found her groove a little more in the fourth quarter, and came up with a big tip and basket down the stretch. I'd like to see her be a little more practical with the shots she takes, but at least she's not taking everyone else's stupid shots.

Avery Warley-Talbert is going to kill me with this hyphenation one day, aren't we only allowed one hyphen per team? got the start, but I think the pattern is to start her to conserve Plenette, and because Bill prefers to bring Plenette off the bench anyway. Not great hands, but she gets the job done.

Alex Montgomery hit a couple of threes to set the tone early, then hit the boards to corral stray possessions and brought the hammer down late on defense. Her jersey needs to be in the team store because I need to buy it. I love the way Anna Cruz reads long rebounds- it's the same knack that endeared Leilani Mitchell to us, and the same knack that helped make Becky Hammon an all-around threat. She showed a lot of grit coming back with the hand injury, though I really hope Laura Ramus is brushing up her Spanish- it looked like they were having some communication issues. Si necesita alguien para tratar de traducir... anyway, I love having her at the point. Cappie Pondexter held down the fort in that regard, and had a good game on both ends of the floor. It was nice to see her hitting jumpers again after that hot mess on Friday.

Things I did not like: no one having the common sense to take smart shots in the last few minutes. We should have had that game a lot more comfortably. Special mention goes out to whichever idiot tried to lead Anna with a hot pass to her left. You know, where her fingers were taped together. Not the world's greatest idea, kids.

I expect one of these huddles to start with Chucky Jeffery yelling something along the lines of "Will you guys please stop [mess]ing up? I am SICK of Bill venting at me because you guys are doing dumb [stuff] out there! I don't even play and I get lectured for dumb [stuff] that you [guys] are doing!" Poor kid never plays, but she sits right on the spot on the bench where Bill likes to vent his frustrations at whatever ill-timed shot or errant pass has raised his ire. She and Essence shared a couple of aside glances after Bill ranting.

The birthday thing mostly involved putting kids in positions of power and having a couple of guest mascots visit. If the Rutgers mascot stayed in our section much longer, I was going to have my husband burst into a round of the Seton Hall fight song to make him go away.

I came out of that game with a very strong feeling of relief. We held on through grit and determination, certainly not through offensive beauty. I don't know if we can sustain that when Tulsa comes to town with their dynamic guards. But it's something to build on.