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Centers come up big for New York

Just the Facts, Ma'am: All-Star once more, Tina Charles poured in 22 points and 12 rebounds to power the Liberty's 64-57 win over Connecticut. Kiah Stokes anchored the middle with seven points, eight rebounds, and a team-record eight blocks. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 15 points. For flexing in a no flex zone, KIAH SMASH, genuflection, inappropriately dressed children, inaudible drums, defense, chess motifs, and MOAR KIAH SMASH, join your intrepid and unworthy blogger after the jump.

Dave Saffran/MSG Photos

This is entirely too quick a turnaround when there are no other home games left in the month, but here we are at the Garden once more, as the Connecticut Sun pay their first visit to New York.

We all know I hate the Q59; your intrepid blogger arrived at the Garden just in time to see Connecticut finish their stretching and run off the court en masse. Props to Kelsey Bone for stopping for the one guy there.

Tonight's pregame entertainment was so wholly inappropriate that the words I would use to describe it would get this blog on an FBI watchlist. I'm tired of having to avert my eyes from these inappropriate gyrations.

There's a random security dude in the next aisle over.

Really, Connecticut? Did you have to come out at the exact same moment the Liberty did?

At halftime, we're down five, and one rim rattling half-court miss from being down eight. Worse, there are small children dressed highly inappropriately and popping body parts they should not be entirely aware they possess.

Connecticut's playing a tough zone that we have few ways of breaking, and shooting well from the outside- a deadly combination that plays right to our weaknesses. Alex Bentley is getting good screens and using them well.

No portion of our offense should involve Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright passing the ball to each other. That interval is where offense goes to die a suffocated, strangled death.

The only thing more adorable than Tina Charles bopping to timeout music is Avery Warley-Talbert bopping to timeout music. And the only thing more adorable than that is watching Brittany Boyd, Sugar Rodgers, and Candice Wiggins enjoy Kiah Stokes's block party, complete with what looked like the "we're not worthy" bow. (Book-smartest guard trio in the league?)

It wasn't always pretty. It didn't have to be. And the Liberty seemed to get stronger as the Sun got weaker.

Chelsea Gray is big for a point guard! And I don't mean that as an insult, or as a statement about her physical fitness. I mean that she has a build that looks more like a modern off guard, or a '90s small forward. That is not to say she shouldn't be playing point guard, either. Her passing is beautiful and fast. She had the prettiest play of the game, with a hot flip pass to Kelsey Bone for a basket. I don't know if she's in the right spot yet, or if Connecticut needs to revamp stuff around her. Kelly Faris gave defensive minutes in the second quarter, and that was the end of her for the night. Shekinna Stricklen set the world on fire in the second quarter, when she scored all 11 of her points. She took advantage of smaller defenders for her first two treys, added a trey and another fast break, then went cold.

I like the physicality that Elizabeth Williams can bring, but I think she was a little cowed by the level of competition she was facing down low. Kayla Pedersen was asked to do a lot on defense, and while she had moments where she stuck hard to her assignment, she often ended up fouling, especially on the boards. I might have gone to Williams more than her.

I'm not used to Camille Little shooting perimeter jumpers this much. I don't know that it's a good look for her. She did a lot more work on the boards than I realized, though I think part of it is that I still think of her as wearing 20 and my brain reboots when I see the 2 jersey. Kelsey Bone looked like she had something to prove to the team that gave her up, going hard to the basket for a lot of her shots. She needs to be careful with those elbows, which you'd think she'd have learned after getting suspended for one; she didn't make contact today, but they were swinging freely. Alyssa Thomas's length was distracting on the defensive end, but she didn't look for her shot all that often- one of her two makes was a clean backdoor cut where her assignment went AWOL, the kind of shot that gets players cut for not taking. (You think I'm exaggerating; I'm pretty sure that's why Shenneika Smith was last cut a couple of years ago.)

Any defense worth their salt will give up shots to Jasmine Thomas all day. I'll grant that she had some of the worst luck in the game- at least two of those shots were good shots that had a legitimate chance of going in. She runs the offense well, and keys the defense well- I think she was the one who came close to forcing an 8-second call on the Liberty. Alex Bentley was the offensive catalyst, but if I were a coach, I'd be a little annoyed that she either backpedals immediately or stares it down. Go at the glass, woman! Follow your shot! I understand that that's not her job- that, perhaps, she only has one job- but that's a pet peeve of mine.

No announcement was made that there would be a block party this evening; no one brought refreshments, nor were the streets blocked off. But Kiah Stokes, beyond a doubt, got the block party started. Jasmine Thomas came at her twice with weak sweeping lay-ups that were rejected with panache and authority. Kiah has no taste for weaksauce. I also like that she was willing to shoot and to score. She doesn't have to be a big scorer, but she needs to be an option. Avery Warley-Talbert got some unexpected run in the third quarter and made the most of it, hitting the boards and picking up a pair of free throws. I do like her rebounding. Essence Carson put in some work defensively, but was outmatched by bigger and faster opponents.

I have concluded that Candice Wiggins has two basketball-related jobs on this roster: to come in when the game is a fait accompli, and to come in when Brittany Boyd needs a teaching moment, because this is the second game in a row where she's subbed in for Boyd after Boyd has made mistakes. She wasn't awful, but I'd still rather have Boyd, mistakes and all. Boyd seemed to be trying to draw more contact than iron. She's still an energizer. Sugar Rodgers hesitated to shoot a couple of times, which is very odd for her. I like that she's rounded out her game more and really intensified her hustle on defense.

Tanisha Wright brings a lot of intangibles. The tangibles were not terribly present for much of the game, especially in the second half. But she leads. She took Boyd in hand after a bad possession even before the coaches got to her; she sweet-talked the refs after a dubious call. I like that about her. Epiphanny Prince has settled nicely into the offense, providing a perimeter threat and helping create for her teammates. The defense keyed on her often, and she took a lot of contested shots. Still fewer than Cappie would have in the same situation, so at least I know it could have been worse.

Swin Cash fought really hard on the boards. You could see the Bad Girl in her, and I'm okay with that- we could use a little more of that. I was surprised to see her step outside for threes, but if she's hitting them and if we need to bust a zone with them, I'm okay with that as well. Carolyn Swords's shot came up a little short, but she put in work defensively and boxed out strong. She got more time early rather than late, because, well, Kiah's block party got started. Tina Charles hit a few of the jumpers, missed a few of the jumpers, and generally was a one-woman wrecking crew on the inside. She just moves with so much more fluidity down there.

We bore down hard on defense late. The switches worked, instead of leaving odd situations like Kiah on a guard.

The officiating had some questionable moments. The most annoying part- not the worst part, because technically they were right- was when they realized they'd lost count of the fouls, and Little should have gotten free throws. Right call, but it took a long time to explain. The worst was when the ball went off Williams twice in a row and still ended up Connecticut ball.

This is going to be a season series that will not be pretty and will be very, very hotly contested. NY-CT is a rivalry, both because of the trade and as part of the Greater Noo Yawk-Bahstahn Hate-Off. I look forward to the rest of it.