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Mystics force overtime, but Liberty claim win

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It took buzzer-beaters, overtime, and getting back a lead as high as 15 points, but the New York Liberty pulled off an 80-76 win against the Washington Mystics. Tina Charles had 23 points and 12 rebounds, 19 and 7 of those in the first half. Kia Vaughn led Washington with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. For pinkness, transiting, drop passes, Valentines, purple mountain majesties, and staying up past your bedtime, join your intrepid and insomniac blogger after the jump.

Photo by Getty Images.

So it's already one of those nights, one of those crazy old nights, and I've barely crossed the county line, let alone gotten to the Garden, let alone seen the game start. One bus was early, the other one late, and I can think of better things to do with twenty minutes than wait for a bus in the industrial armpit of Queens. My computer's being a brat. I'm running late and highly disapprove of the entire situation.

Once your intrepid blogger successfully drags you through the perils of the MTA, we'll be coming to you in surround sound from Mystics-Liberty at Madison Square Garden. It took over an hour, though it didn't help that security was being obnoxious. (Dude. You have a wand. Wand me and we'll move on.)

BHA night at the Garden, with free towels and lots of pink. The black and pink is not completely horrid.

So, yeah, Alex Montgomery hit her first shot of the game as a running shot from beyond halfcourt that was nothing but net. That just happened. That is a thing that has happened in real life. Go home, Washington. I SAID GO HOME, NOT FORCE OVERTIME WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

"America the Beautiful" was all right until she blipped on "purple mountain's majesty", and then it was stylistic hell from there. Anthem was all right- a bit more operatic than I like.

I'm not a fan of the Valentine's Day look. The pink was so dark that there were a couple of early miscues where people on the court mistook one team for the other. They got over it. (Also, Chardé got busted for rolling her shorts so much that the white lining showed glaringly against the pink.)

On the Mystics

I think Kara Lawson was being saved as a late-game secret weapon. It kind of worked a little. She spent a fair amount of the third or fourth quarter with a large pad on her back. And then she was making with the big shots. All her points were in the second half, and most of those in the fourth quarter. She got a bit physical, too, and I love when she tries to play innocent after delivering a hit that would please the Baltimore Ravens.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt brought some defense, but she seems to think she's a jump shooter. Tianna Hawkins played briefly in the first half as part of the line change near the end of the first quarter, but showed me nothing. Judging from the lack of minutes in the second half for her, I suspect Mike Thibault agreed.

Stefanie Dolson and her cheerful purple hair got much more of that time in the second half and overtime, both at center with Meesseman and at power forward with Vaughn. She's good at getting little things done on the floor, and she deked out Tina Charles with a couple of over-the-shoulder moves. She stretched the Liberty defense and while she seemed a little in over her head at times, she was solid for them.

Bria Hartley has such a fast first step. She's not necessarily fast, but she's quick, and I think that's the first time I saw the stark difference between being fast and being quick. She seemed to start off slowly, but got into a better rhythm as the game went on.

Monique Currie had the jumper going a little bit, but also had the temper going a little bit. She said one of the magic words to Jeff Smith, and the T came in a hurry.

Kia Vaughn had her way with Avery Warley-Talbert, but came up with a bit more trouble on those rare occasions when Tina Charles was the one defending her. She scored in flurries.

Emma Meesseman was a non-factor in the first half, but started the third quarter red hot, cutting along the baseline to get easy shots. She moves real pretty. There's so much potential there, and I hope that she keeps coming back to the US so we can watch her develop it. I just love to watch her work. Ivory Latta didn't impress, but she kept her team steady.

Going to the double-big, and going with Dolson in the second half, and increasing the defensive intensity, really helped Washington turn the corner in the second half.

On the Liberty

Oh my goodness, Sugar Rodgers. She just took over in the overtime period. It wasn't just offense, either. She was intense on defense, forcing two jump balls in the final Mystics possession. There as a point near the end of regulation where she was put in for Plenette Pierson on defense, as part of a small lineup, and we thought it was a bad plan. She promptly stole the ball. She's really developed this year, and I think I like her now. I think. She induces lots of both "OH MY GOD SUGAR YES!" and "OH MY GOD TA'SHAUNA NO!"

Natasha Lacy provided a quick lift whenever she was in the game, driving hard to the basket. Chardé Houston (tonight rocking a mostly shaved head with long braids sprinkled with blue and blonde) brought some of the offense and did at least try on defense. She failed miserably, but she did try.

Swin Cash was ineffective. Decent defensively, but on the other hand, she didn't play much down the stretch, when a more defensive-minded player might have been desired. She made some bad decisions with the ball (I think she was the one who inbounded after the Sugar steal, at which point Washington stole the ball back). Plenette Pierson brought toughness, that odd dolphin-kick jumper, some questionable fouls, and defense.

Tina Charles was a beast in the first half. I don't want to call her unstoppable, because as many points as she scored, she took a lot of shots and missed a lot of shots. But she found her groove and tore it up in the first half. In the second half, she faced much tougher defense and started taking some spectacularly dumb shots. Tina, you are not Kareem, you have not perfected the hook. You are not Katie Douglas, so lay off the modified finger roll.

Avery Warley-Talbert fought so very hard, though the numbers are a wee bit skewed- she got five o-boards on one possession (where at least two fouls should have been called, grar). She was called upon for a lot of defensive assignments that were over her head, but she did well for what she could do. Alex Montgomery hit that fantastic halfcourt shot, but that was all she hit, and in the second half, she took some really, really bad shots, as if she thought hitting a halfcourt heave automatically gave her range to take and hit any off balance shot she felt like taking. She got pulled after a bunch of those, and Bill pulled her back a couple of times.

Cappie Pondexter looked limited by her Achilles for much of the game, though she scored a flurry in the third quarter. She read long rebounds well and led the break. Anna Cruz found her groove again, whether it was with threes (I could have done without the attempt in Hammon-land, though). Or with hard hustling after loose balls, the final game-saving play being the biggest one of those. She recognized that we needed her to do the scoring, so she became more assertive.

Other notes

I just wish we hadn't decided to slow-play the second half. We might not have needed overtime if there was less hesitation in the third and fourth quarters. Yes, Washington swarmed more heavily on defense and forced players out of their comfort zones, but there was way too much passing up of open shots and too much winding down the clock.

This was the same officiating crew as there was in Connecticut on Sunday, and by golly they were tired from the long trip, because they just didn't feel like calling much of anything. There was a lot of physical play, some of it dangerous (Natasha got lucky on the trip that wasn't called) and some of it ridiculous. That favors New York (we are Bad Girls, after all) but I still don't like it.

Skipped the BHA auction. Feel no guilt. The options were not impressive.

Spoon is rocking the 'hawk. She was coaching Alex from the baseline while Alex was on the bench. I think she works for us now.

If that dunker named Ariel was actually A'riel Hampton, I am going to side-eye the Garden forever and three days. Do not use your employees' children in contests.

This was the kind of game we might have lost in June. This was the kind of game that showed why the black jersey mindset means something. Now it's time to hit the road and try not to panic.