Hello, fellow Swish Appeal type people! (What are we, anyway? Swishers? Appelates? I feel like I've made this joke before, too.) It's gameday at the Garden, and the Liberty have the daunting task of facing down the Phoenix Mercury- oh, and the Mercury need one win to clinch the West and pretty much seal up homecourt all the way through the Finals. No pressure, Libs.
(My expectations and hopes for this game pretty much boil down to "no one get hurt". I'll be euphoric if we win, but I can't bring myself to believe in anything more than not dying.)
I'll be getting to the game early today, as I took the afternoon shift volunteering with Operation Backpack. It's my third year doing it, and it's a worthy cause. (There are several drives across the country- see if your area has one! Won't someone please think of the children?!)
DeWanna Bonner was really happy to see Anna Cruz. I don't know the degree of separation there. She was last off the floor, and for a while I think she lost track of time, because she suddenly ran off the court like a bolt of greased lightning, then stopped to talk to some Mercury fans and returned to normal socializing speed.
Brittney Griner received Skittles. She got a lot of attention at the Mercury end of the court, so she ran off in a hurry through the tunnel. I'm annoyed/regretful, but not mad. She was swarmed. Her sleeve is prettier up close than in pictures, but I think I still like Seimone Augustus's better.
There is a lot of purple and radioactive orange in the building tonight, most of it Taurasi and Griner themed (as opposed to general Phoenix stuff). It distresses me, but on the other hand, you have to expect it. Griner is a cultural phenomenon, not just an interesting opponent.
There appears to be a lonesome scout in the upper deck.. Either that, or someone really got screwed by the ticket office.
Do not adjust your Liberty bench. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.
You didn't get a halftime report because I had a tape dispenser to deliver to my mother and an Anna Cruz jersey to get 30% off on in the team store. I skipped the dance routine. I do not feel like anything of value was lost in my life. Unfortunately, I had to sit through the pregame Simon Says game, with that annoying host.
That went better than I was expecting. Phoenix is much more talented than we are, but we came at them consistently through most of the game, except for a brief patch at the end of the second quarter. We needed that intensity, and we needed to remember that there are four quarters in a game as we hit the stretch run. I'll take it.
Tiffany Bias is adorable and clearly has decent cojones, if she's going to walk into Phoenix and take that 23. She came in at the very end of the game, along with Ewelina Kobryn. Kobryn was a little handsy, but honestly, it was, like, the last two minutes, I don't think anyone actually and truly gave a bother. Anete Jakobsone-Zogota was a late insert in both halves, as a spot-up shooter and a defender of questionable skill. Phoenix hid her on Essence Carson whenever possible. Mistie Bass did Mistie Bass things- physical defense, tough screens to free up her teammates (occasionally illegal ones), and boxing out. Mistie Bass is, to me, the quintessential intangibles post- she will make you better and you will like it, though it will not be pretty. Shay Murphy brought the defense (Murphy's latest law: if there is a mid-air collision between two bench players, the foul will be on the player who appears least likely to have initiated the contact). Love her work. Erin Phillips seems to have gained back her speed, along with her shot when she was left open repeatedly beyond the arc. She was tenacious on defense, though perhaps sometimes to her detriment- she did get away with at least one trip.
DeWanna Bonner is really tall and skinny and kind of long-armed. For once, she wasn't launching ill-advised threes, and she seemed to be everywhere on defense. As a basketball fan, it's nice to see her using her height. Diana Taurasi seemed to have a chip on her shoulder for most of the game, starting with her deliberate lingering on the logo during Maddie's pre-game routine (yes, try that again, Diana, Maddie will step on you) and through her demeanor on the floor throughout the game. She didn't seem in control of herself for much of the game, with bad passes and bad decisions. She still had the long ball working with no hesitation and no fear. Penny Talor had a lot of shots altered by Liberty defenders or changed by the rim, but she sure is pretty out there. I love the way she moves. She sets their break off well. Candice Dupree is so smooth. No fuss, no muss, just efficient and smooth both in the paint and just outside it. And no one notices her because there are so many other players to notice. Brittney Griner is ridiculously tall and even skinnier in person. I love her little hook shot. She dunked in warmups, but not in game play- though she did almost put up some basket interference with her fingers in the net on Alex Montgomery's three. She is not very good at down. Up, she's good at, but down appears to be more of a challenge. Up allows her to influence shots even without touching them.
So many weapons. It's not fair.
Shanece McKinney saw second half minutes, presumably to save Plenette Pierson and continue the physical defense on Griner. She was somewhat less successful than Avery Warley-Talbert. Chardé Houston was inserted a couple of times in hope that she would provide some offense. She didn't. On the plus side, she seems to have corralled all the braids that she bought, as opposed to having one try to escape. We actually got to see a lot of Essence Carson tonight, both because the options around her were not of great use and because she looked like a fair amount of the rust had flaked off. She could still be relied upon for the Plinko shot (you know the one, that shot that goes so high that it bounces off the top of the backboard and rattles around the supports before falling through), but her defense was back and she was hitting some jumpers. Nice to see her back. Sugar Rodgers is still in regression to Georgetown mode- firing up so-so shots and playing so-so defense. She had a nice little hustle play gong for a loose ball. Plenette seemed more offensive-minded than defensive-minded for this game, floating around the outside and throwing up jumpers. She gave some toughness inside, but overall seemed to be marking off time to the end of the game. Alex Montgomery played some defense and hit a big three, along with a lay-up along the baseline that she almost traveled on.
Tina Charles, oh my goodness. She just had her way with Griner in the first quarter. It was a fine example of a savvy veteran using her size, strength, and knowledge against a younger player with a height advantage. She moved around those long arms and got the job done. Avery Warley-Talbert defended Griner well, making her uncomfortable in space and forcing her to change her moves constantly. The shot she hit was off the offensive rebound, on a nice play. Swin Cash was up and down all night, from hard-nosed hustle to plays that harked back to the "Crackhead" days in Detroit. I don't know if I like her as a starter here. I would have liked more of Anna Cruz in the fourth quarter, since I think she could have contributed more offense than Sugar and kept the play moving faster than Essence could (I love Essence, but when she's running point, she flashes back to Stringer's system, and then I want to gouge my eyes out as the universe grinds to a halt). I understand the logic, but I don't agree with it. Cappie Pondexter came up with midrange jumpers for most of the night. She looked partially like her old self. I missed that.
The intensity was there for New York, which was a blessed change from the last couple of hot messes that the Garden has seen. We faded a bit near the end of the first half, and I think that clinched the game for Phoenix, but the Mercury didn't look quite as juggernaut-esque as they have most of the year.
Auriemma was in the house, two seats over from Sue Wicks (fortunately, Sue's time at Rutgers predates the RU-UConn rivalry, so there was no bloodshed).
I cannot even with the officials, and we're lucky no one got hurt in that regard. (Both sides, to be fair.) Lots of holding and grabbing by both teams in the first half, lots of holding and grabbing and ticky-tack calls in the second.
Survive and advance. Survive and advance. That's all there is to it.