Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and those who prefer not to be constrained by outdated manners or the gender binary! Your intrepid blogger comes to you on her usual tape delay from Madison Square Garden, The World's Most Famous Arena (or so I'm told), as the New York Liberty host the Chicago Sky in a game with heavy playoff implications.
New York looks to put more separation between themselves and the rest of the pack, while Chicago seeks to escape the peloton.
So far I'm feeling good about today, despite the rain-soaked streets transferring their water to my shoes. Free lunch, two smooth transfers (we'll see about the last change at 8th Avenue)- what's not to like.
No word the last I saw about Elena Delle Donne and her ankle- she played through it magnificently on Sunday, as anyone watching on ESPN could have told you, but those things stiffen up and twinge at the slightest excuse, especially in damp weather. (Source: my right ankle.)
I'm looking forward to seeing how Cappie Pondexter's return is taken by the fans, and how Pondexter chooses to react to them in turn. Epiphanny Prince put on a show in her return to Chicago- is Pondexter going to feel obligated to do the same in New York? And if she does, does that take away touches from Delle Donne, to the Sky's detriment?
It's BHA night at the Garden, which means the Liberty will be wearing the pink jerseys. I'm not looking forward to it, and not just because of my long-held antipathy towards pinkwashing- the cut of the new jerseys bothers me a lot, and I don't like the lack of a number on the back. (Plus, I fear that with her coloring, Carolyn Swords is going to look like six and a half feet of pink glowstick, especially once she's been in the game for a few minutes.)
New at the Garden: metal detectors! I blame whichever idiot called in the bomb threat at Wrigley Field. I'm used to them from St. John's, but it's still disconcerting to have things get changed all of a sudden.
Chicago does the Zerg rush that so many teams do nowadays. No sign of Delle Donne so far, but she's listed as a probable starter. Surprisingly little Delaware/Sky blue so far, though one poor girl in a Delle Donne jersey got tickets behind the wrong bench.
Normally I get cranky about tourists asking me to play photographer, but ma'am, you're wearing lots of pink and have no visible hair left, so in this case, I'm honored to help you out.
(I am not wearing pink. I'm wearing a Rebecca Lobo jersey. My husband's wearing an Edna Campbell jersey, with a Shay Doron jersey to change into for gametime. This is how we do BHA. Well, that, and we donate $ at every BHA game we end up at.)
Today's giveaway is a strange bandana sort of thing. It's not going over well. Small child, please do not put the bandana over your face, security has enough of a headache today trying to enforce the general admission policies. (Personally, so long as you're not in my seat, I don't care where you sit. Just don't be a jerk, and try to sit by the opposing bench if you're a road fan.)
No Delle Donne as the teams come out onto the court to warm up, and she's in street clothes, wearing a shirt that's poised between Liberty green and Sky blue. She looks good, but she usually does. She's awfully pretty.
At halftime, it's 45-36 in favor of the Liberty, and it could honestly be more; my math suggests that rimouts have been 10-4 against the Liberty.
Our halftime entertainment has been a nifty martial arts exhibition, followed by a dance exhibition, thankfully by adults.
Jimmy Smits in the house! So is C. Vivian Stringer, sitting on the sideline by the Liberty bench (strange to me, given that her goddaughter is on the Sky).
The defense has been a bit looser than I'd like for the Liberty, but the offense looks sharp. Lots of fun to watch.
Chicago's been leaning on Cappie and the supporting cast. I don't know if we have an answer for Breland. We'll see if rotating more players early helps them later.
I don't think it worked. The Liberty were flat defensively for stretches in both the third and fourth quarters, but Bill Laimbeer used his timeouts really well to arrest the momentum. We got a lot of energy off the bench, and it resulted in points. This was one of those nights where this team was fun to watch, even through the flat moments.
I really think the Liberty should update their charity checks, unless John Whisenant got kicked all the way up to treasurer after he got fired as coach and GM. Still, raising $10,000 for breast cancer research is nothing to sneeze at.
I like Clarissa Dos Santos for Chicago. She reminds me of the role Jayne Appel plays for the Stars, or that Janel McCarville was famous for whenever she played in Minnesota. She's not an offensive threat, no matter how many long jumpers she takes, but I love her tenacity on the boards.
She was surrounded by two, three, four Liberty players in the paint, and she still came away with rebounds. She set a nice pick to free up Pondexter for a jumper, and came up with a stylish block on Carolyn Swords. Cheyenne Parker threw her body around on the outside with screens that were perhaps not legal.
I'm not quite sure if Betnijah Laney is considered inside or outside anymore; she seemed to be taking the jumper more towards the perimeter. I'm wondering if that's the tweener transition at work, or if the inside strength of Dos Santos has taken away the interior space where she expected to work.
Allie Quigley got her open looks, but they didn't go down. I have to look at the play-by-play to determine when she got them, because if they were in the second half, I'd be less surprised. The rim across from the Liberty bench did weird things all night. Jacki Gemelos showed hustle in the brief minutes she played. Jamierra Faulkner showed her speed and her moves in the brief minutes she played. If I'd been coaching Chicago, I might have given her more time; from where I was sitting, it felt like the Sky's offense ran more quickly with Faulkner at point.
Jessica Breland started off hot, but the defense came on her, and the offense moved away from her. She did what she could on the glass as well. Érika de Souza was solid to the point of immobility, or perhaps simple inability to be moved, down low.
I'm surprised she didn't get more touches, or at least I would be if I didn't know the Chicago backcourt. Tamera Young got the start, but Chatman went to Dos Santos early and often; I don't think Young re-entered after she came out in both halves. Her shot was as technically unsound as ever, and the turnover she had was sheer stupidity- the ball fell through her hands on a lay-up attempt.
Courtney Vandersloot never seems to impress me when I see her, but then I look at the box score and see the assists, so I assume I'm missing something. She had some pretty dribbling moves, but I just remember a lot of ill-advised shots, including one that went in.
Cappie Pondexter was prolific offensively, from the second quarter on, but the Liberty were ready for that and swarmed her whenever they could. I'll give her credit for creating space and hitting the shots she got, but I'm not sure if the margin would have been smaller if the shots had been more evenly spread around.
Chicago didn't look lost, per se, without Delle Donne, but they looked like they were simultaneously searching wildly for a second option and smothering any chance they had of developing one because they were so dependent on Pondexter.
I've been really impressed with how Candice Wiggins has come on, or perhaps come back, in the last few games. She's remarkably pesky on defense, she uses her head in possession situations, and she can even hit threes every once in a while. It's really nice to see her doing well- she seems so cool.
Sugar Rodgers was not on her game defensively, but brought just enough offense to be a threat from deep. Brittany Boyd was reckless defensively, which got her in some foul trouble and got into her head a little, but when it came to the end of the game, she put on the afterburners and did her best imitation of her idol, hitting a three with the shot clock expiring, then coming up with the steal and the free throws on the fast break.
Essence Carson still seems to have trouble judging the length of her shots (her three was close enough to the line that Chatman tried to get a review). But she had the mid-range game going.
Kiah Stokes was strong in the middle defensively, though we had issues with her hands, both on being able to catch passes and holding on to rebounds. She wiped her hands shortly after the flurry of issues after halftime, and was solid thereafter. We were agitating for Avery Warley-Talbert to get into the game earlier than she did.
I don't think I've ever seen us survive this minimal a game from Tina Charles. She missed a lot of close-in shots (though I'd have to go to the videotape to determine how many were due to that rim). She was solid on the boards, but it's a good thing we didn't need her offense today. That being said, she was constantly swarmed defensively, and she passed out really well. Swin Cash opened the scoring- she seems to do that a lot, as if to say that she's still here, that Tina's not the only threat in the paint. Carolyn Swords has not adjusted well to starting. She looks a step slow and a step out of position.
Epiphanny Prince cut through the defense for lay-ups and made space for herself to get loose for jumpers. I think she's got something to prove to Chicago, and I'm okay with this.
Tanisha Wright was tough defensively, aggressive almost to a fault, and just... well, tough. Messing with her is a bad idea: Vandersloot knocked her down with no call at one end, whereupon Tanisha came back down, crossed her off her feet, and then did something awesome, but I can't remember what it was.
She also had a couple of nice steals on long passes. T, the Jets are looking for a corner, and you don't seem inclined to punch people in the face for owing you money, so...?
Funny of the day: Swin Cash is apparently afraid of dogs. Which, of course, is why she became a Husky.
Brittany Boyd continues to be endearing and adorable. Long-standing Liberty tradition is for Maddie to lead the "L-I-B-E-R-T-Y!" chant by leaping from letter to letter of the center court logo. Boyd jumped in time with Maddie. She didn't do the full arc the way Kara Braxton once did on the road, but still. I like when players are happy to be here. It makes us happy to have them.
I don't think this was our best basketball... but with no Delle Donne and no second option for Chicago, it didn't have to be.