Good afternoon, everyone! It's gameday at the Garden, as the Liberty face the daunting task of beating the Minnesota Lynx. (At least it was, before the site and I had some issues with each other.)
Your intrepid blogger's loyalties are not fully torn, but they are a bit frayed. I recognize that Nadirah McKenith has induced a mild case of Our Girls Syndrome in my heart, but with treatment and Liberty wins, it's being managed. We got to say hi to her at this one, unlike last year's run in Washington where the rookies were all but kept sequestered. The Lynx come off in a neat, organized fashion, convenient to autograph hunters. Janel McCarville seems to bear no animus towards Liberty fans (we weren't sure, since the circumstances of her departure were somewhat acrimonious, or at least the seeds were).
I believe the gentleman in the University of Miami jersey may be somewhat temporally displaced. Tulsa was several days ago, San Antonio was last month, and Tamara James has long since left the building.
Spoon working the room, as she does.
Lots of Lynx fans around, and not all of them Husky fans in Maya Moore jerseys, either. (And after that debacle at the Mystics game, I'll even take UConn fans who know who Maya Moore is.)
Sure, everyone can wear shirts for Hoops for Troops. (Which is a noble and worthy cause, but I'm still pissed that the league backed down on the Pride shirts.)
Chardé, seriously, everyone knows that is not your hair. Obvious weave is mad obvious.
Premature Lynx is premature. I think that was Peters. (There are only so many times I can spell Ms. Peters's first name in my life. I prefer to stockpile them.)
Katie Smith is working that little blue dress and needs to contact the assistants at Seton Hall as to where she got it.
At halftime we have a martial arts exhibition and a tied score. It's been all kinds of intense in the last couple of minutes- Anna Cruz bore down on Lindsay Whalen during the final possession like Debbie Black on Teresa Weatherspoon, only with nobody getting slapped. Tina Charles has 24 out of 48 for the Libs; Miss Maya started red hot for the Lynx, with the first seven points, but she's only got 11 at the break. Lynx attack has been pretty balanced, with the sense that they could break out at any moment.
On the Minnesota Lynx
Seimone Augustus is not in uniform, but a nice black shirt and a crisp pair of brown pants. The belted look works for her.
(Yes, of course ten Lynx are active and nine have played, with no points to the reader for guessing who has not yet seen time. Helps with managing the OGS, I'll say.) (Ten Lynx were active and nine played. Coach Reeve, you're not gonna make friends with your intrepid blogger this way.)
That was exhilarating in ways I haven't felt about my team in quite some time. Yes, I know the Lynx are missing two Olympians and haven't been able to adjust quite so well as they would like. But we buckled down hard on defense, and came up with baskets when we needed them, and I think that got into Minnesota's head a little bit.
Asia Taylor gave physical minutes down low. We would all appreciate if she did not pull people's jerseys hard enough to show their compression undies, though. She boxed out well. Tricia Liston is more substantial than I remembered, but she didn't use it as much as I would have expected. She had a couple of pretty threes, and I was surprised that Reeve didn't put her in late in the game when Minnesota needed some outside shooting.
Devereaux Peters committed fewer fouls than I expected. She's very good at being tall. That's not necessarily damning with faint praise- if you're going to be a reserve post in the WNBA, you need to take advantage of your minutes and do the little things, and she hit shots when she was open and boxed out on the inside. Tan White served as an offensive catalyst, but I did have to question her on a couple of shots. She got beat pretty bad on defense, too.
I know Minnesota wants Janel McCarville taking long jumpers to stretch the defense and make everyone question their life choices, but I'm going to turn around and question that decision right back. Sometimes you need to go to your strengths first, then fill in around those, and she did not have the long shot going today.
On the other hand, she bailed Lindsay Whalen out after Whalen got into a little trouble, taking a rifled pass strong to the basket. She facilitates, but she did not necessarily help her team today. Lindsay Whalen looked strong, but she also looked bothered by Anna Cruz's defense. She was markedly more comfortable when Anna wasn't on her, and that was when she could get more ball movement going, when her teammates set screens to give her space.
Monica Wright was surprisingly good at setting those screens to make space. She got hot early in the second half to get Minnesota going out of the tie, but I think we closed on her well to shut her down. She also needs to remember that just because she wears #22 and went to Virginia, that does not mean she can or should flop like DeMya Walker. She did a fair amount of diving. It was obnoxious. I was surprised by how much both she and Maya Moore brought the ball up even when Whalen was on the floor.
Maya Moore started the game looking like she was going to completely obliterate all things in her sight, and some things did get obliterated in her wake (I am thinking of a specific Alex Montgomery shot here), but she seemed to be taking too much of the offensive burden on herself later in the game and forcing shots that no one but Moore would even have a chance to make. Maybe she was feeling it, maybe she felt like no one else was going to contribute anything, but she forced the matter and that helped us pull off the win.
I actually almost forgot to write about Damiris Dantas, but that's because she looked like she was in over her head. She did a lot of little things well- I remember I kept saying "nice screen by Dantas", or "nice play by Dantas", but couldn't find her feet against the veteran posts.
On the New York Liberty
Chucky! It was nice to see Chucky Jeffery get on the court, even if it was for thirteen utterly irrelevant seconds. To be honest, though, I think she needs a little more time on the bench. Chardé and DeLisha still need to work on her dance moves.
DeLisha Milton-Jones had the jumper working, but not so much the defense. She's cooled down noticeably since she started the season looking so rejuvenated. Does anyone have any magic cheese?
Chardé Houston wore her hustle hair today (if you're going to make it obvious that your hair is bought and paid for, I am going to make jokes about it)- she fought two different Lynx players to force a possession and got the timeout to keep it. Obviously, she got burned by Moore on defense, but everyone does. She has really been a sparkplug for this team, not just on the court, but on the sideline. The bench looks much happier and looser with her on it, keeping everyone entertained and involved. Sugar Rodgers gave a little bit of offense and a little bit of hustle.
Plenette Pierson did work down low at the basket, cutting to the hoop and boxing out. She's looking stronger and stronger, but I agree with Bill's decision to have her come off the bench. Don't waste her early so you can have her late.
Avery Warley-Talbert was a non-factor. I would have liked to see her be a little more aggressive against the reserves, but I'd have to look at the tape to determine how much of her time came against the reserves. Alex Montgomery had a nice defensive game- you could tell the difference in Moore's approach when she was on the floor versus when Chardé was on the floor. She didn't do a lot of scoring, but she didn't need to.
Tina Charles was on fire in the first half. She went strong to the hoop, she did work on the glass, and then she started going to the outside. She cooled off a little in the second half, but by then the rest of the team had joined the party and it was a much more balanced attack.
Cappie Pondexter was cold to start, but turned it up in the second quarter, and came up with some big buckets down the stretch- but she was much more influential on the game on the glass and on defense. She did a phenomenal job reading the angles on long rebounds, which fed the break, which either led to easy baskets or to more controllable offensive possessions in the halfcourt. She was the scoring lead guard, general of the offense, in charge of the attack.
Anna Cruz was the general of the defense, in charge of holding the line, and the line was held. She hassled Whalen in ways I haven't seen from a point guard in ages. She locked down. One of my posse said she reminded him of Debbie Black, and that's exactly it. She was in Whalen's space both physically and mentally. She wasn't afraid to look for her shot today, either, and she was hitting in the second half, if not the first. She had a couple of miscues with the rim (as did Cappie), but I like when she's attacking on both sides of the floor.
I was not happy with the officiating, especially early in the game where the Lynx were getting away with a lot of holding (protip: it is really obvious when someone as pale/ruddy as Janel McCarville is holding all up on someone the medium brown of Avery Warley-Talbert, just saying). Poor Anna Cruz takes more hits and gets called for being hit than anyone I've ever seen in the W. She and Briana Brown need to start a club or something. On the other hand, stepping on McCarville is not cool.
What I enjoyed about the evolution of this game was that it started with a transcendent performance from Tina Charles, then turned into more of a defensive stand combined with team effort on offense. Both of our superstars came up big in this one, but at different times, which is the way the seesaw is supposed to work (not on a game-by-game basis). And Anna... as amazing as Tina was, and as great as Cappie was, I would say that Anna put her stamp on this game more than either of them.
Good crowd, and one that got into the game. I think a lot of these people will be back again.
I'm now very worried about Essence Carson. DNP-CD when Chucky's inserted into the game? I would have expected to see her as a defensive specialist, or even just get the pity seconds that Chucky got. Please be all right, Essence. You've been one of my favorites. Please be okay. (Shanece McKinney also did not play her usual three minutes in the first half, but I'm willing to chalk that up to match-ups.)
Let's get this done in San Antonio! Are we rolling, or is this just an illusion?
And when do the makers of the Cappie Patch Doll and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj Doll come out with a Chardé Houston version? I would buy that, as I would have bought a Cappie Patch Doll from Phoenix and the Hair-O-Dynamic Taj Doll.