Just the Facts: Sue Bird hit the big 5K, Tina Charles dropped 29, and the Liberty clamped down on defense to beat Seattle.
For song lyrics, a perfect storm for an imperfect Storm, the island of misfit toys, big numbers, bling, CAROLYN SMASH, absconding with the beer, many fans, accomplished missions, cute kids, and contentment, join your intrepid blogger after the jump.
As the song goes, today was a good day: a good game, milestones for two remarkable guards, then the company of good friends, good food, and missions accomplished.
I don’t think MSG is prepared for larger-than-average crowds. I’m not sure if this is a product of miscommunication or if they’ve simply decided that there are only so many resources they’ll allocate to a Liberty game no matter what. But on a day like today, with so many pieces falling into place for a big crowd- good weather, but enough heat to make air conditioning a pleasant notion; a good Liberty team; UConn fans coming to see Bird and Mosqueda-Lewis; foreign tourists coming for Bishop and O’Hea or for Tokashiki; of course, the Ring of Honor ceremony for Becky Hammon- more than half the security desks should have been manned and more than a scattering of concession stands should have been open. The upper deck was opened, for heaven’s sake! Because of that, people were still getting to their seats in the second quarter, and concession lines were insanely long- there were people who went at or before halftime and didn’t make it back until almost the end of the third.
Today’s giveaway was a very cool ring with the names and numbers of the six players the Liberty have honored. A “Ring” of Honor, geddit? I’m not sure they should have used Bill’s fingers to size it, though. My thumb’s the only finger it doesn’t fall off of, and I have fat fingers.
At last, pre-game entertainment that I can look at without feeling like a sicko! The first round was Camp Broadway, in camp-issue tees and shorts, doing a dance routine; the second round was some kind of dance fitness thing with middle-aged women looking vaguely like something out of the 80’s. I’m okay with this. At least they’re old enough to know better and old enough to decide they don’t care.
I forgot how good Seattle could be with autographs. Most teams have adopted the zerg rush approach to leaving the court- everyone goes at once and you have to scramble for one or two. Atlanta’s the worst at that. But the Storm leave pretty much one at a time, and they’re friendly. Ramu Tokashiki left with her translator. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis got held up by a couple of elderly gentlemen on the sideline, and chatted with them for some time… and then got accosted for pics from a youth group. Were it not for security and common sense, she might still be down there taking pics with three or four at a time of a group of nearly thirty. I don’t think she realized what she had gotten herself into.
Lovely rendition of the national anthem. We got “God Bless America” too. Yay.
Abby Bishop was first off the bench for the Storm. She showed some nice outside touch, going deep for threes and a long two. She seemed to pick up a lot of mis-matches on defense- I think Candice Wiggins was on her at least once. Markeisha Gatling cleared a lot of space down low with her size. She needs to work on her finishing with contact, but I see why Seattle claimed her off waivers. I just don’t know if this is the right team for her to flourish (unless they call Lin Dunn in as a consultant or something). Quanitra Hollingsworth was the last player in, and her first action was to lay out Candice on an illegal screen with no discernible reason. Unresolved issues from the Lynx days?
Angel Goodrich got a lot of time off the bench, sometimes spelling Sue Bird, sometimes taking the point so Bird could swing to off-guard. She’s got a lot of vertical for a little bitty guard, and plenty of speed. We overlooked her more than we should have, both literally and figuratively, and she got a lot of open looks. Jenna O’Hea converted her opportunities, but didn’t take a lot of them. I think Boucek was looking for her as a change of pace, size-wise, but I’m not sure if the plan worked. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was actually set to check in near the end of the first half, but didn’t make it onto the floor until the second half, whereupon she missed her one lay-up extremely short. She looks nowhere near ready to be a WNBA player, whether it’s in terms of conditioning, vision, or skill set. She might get there, but I think she has to take a long look at herself and realize that all her three-point records and collegiate accolades mean in the WNBA is that she gets chances other players might not.
Crystal Langhorne did her thing, as she’s done since the dawn of time, or at least 2008. She takes jumpers, and they go in. She converts lay-ups. She pulls down rebounds. She’s not flashy, but she’s got the soothing consistency of a metronome. Ramu Tokashiki seemed a little shot-happy, especially from the outside- it’s one thing if they go in, it’s another when they don’t. She needs to work on her footwork if she wants to succeed steadily in the WNBA; she slides the pivot foot constantly, and someday crews will start calling her on it. I see why she’s been a successful pro player, and I see why Seattle brought her over and kept her, but I don’t know if she has a position. She seems like she should be, and could be, pulling down rebounds and doing more work in the paint; maybe she and/or Boucek changed up the game plan with the big dogs lurking own low. But then again, I didn’t realize how young she was.
I admire Alysha Clark’s defense- she’s really made herself a tough defender and one not easily shaken. I’m not sure if she wasn’t looking for her offense, or if that’s been the trade-off for her improved defense. She’s always been a tweener (which, actually, you could make that argument about with half her teammates, come to think of it). Jewell Loyd looked like the rookie that she is- a step slower than just about everyone, a moment behind the play, a foot out of place here and there. The athleticism is there and can be trained, but right now she still looks like she’s trying to make the plays she made at Notre Dame, against a much higher class of opponent, and they’re reading her far better than college kids can. Sue Bird was missing a lot of good looks. Her passing is still lovely and she finds great angles, but she doesn’t seem to get to that second level of vision that she used to. Near the end of the first half and into the second, she really looked like she was forcing her offense just to get to 5000, and I don’t think that’s her game. (that all being said, congrats on the milestone, Sue!)
The bad news for Seattle is that their starters are not that much better than reserves, for the most part. The good news for Seattle is that means there’s very little drop-off when they go to the bench. They’re an oddball collection of parts, of players who are the wrong position for their skills or have the wrong skills for their position- but it works, in a strange, strange way. They’re going to need their lottery picks, this year’s and the next one or two, to develop quickly, though. They can’t afford a bust. And I love their defense- very tenacious.
Monica Wright traveled with the team, wearing a lovely orange dress with a white top/jacket/thing.
Avery Warley-Talbert sighting! She did good work on the boards. It’s always good to see her get some time; it usually means the win is secured. Kiah Stokes menaced people out of the paint. I’d like to see her finish better at the rim, but you take the defense and you take the rebounds. Essence Carson looks like she’s found her offensive stroke, though she did take yet another loooooooong two. I don’t know the numbers, but it feels like she takes more of those shots with a foot on the line than anyone else in the league.
Brittany Boyd brought speed and desperate energy, but none of it was harnessed effectively on offense. She was a wrecking ball defensively, but no matter how hard she attacked the rim, nothing went in, whether it should have gone in or whether it should have gone up at all. This was one of those frustrating nights where she looked like the rookie she was, and I think Bill recognized it too- she seemed to be on a very short leash. It helped the breaking of the maverick colt (to borrow a phrase) that Candice Wiggins had the best game I’ve seen from her in years, on both ends of the floor. She was on Bird like a burr, keeping pace with her on defense and even shaking her off once on offense (though then she wussed out on taking the shot). I don’t think her confidence is entirely back, but I’d like to think that hitting the different kinds of shots she hit today, combined with her defense and with Bill’s faith in her, will go a long way towards breaking down the block that seems to have plagued her since she injured her knee all those years ago.
Swin Cash brings tenacity and grit to the floor, but I’m not sure we wouldn’t be better served bringing her off the bench with that. On the other hand, Bill has a tendency to reward players who’ve played well off the bench, and he does like to have that super sub (exhibit A: why someday Sixth Woman of the Year has a 33% chance of being named after Plenette Pierson). She started off the game hot, but tapered off quickly. The reverse happened with Carolyn Swords. Carolyn started the game slow, getting pulled quickly for Kiah, but she came on like gangbusters in the second half. She pulled down strong rebounds, pursued balls, and delivered a vicious block on Tokashiki. Tina Charles had herself a night. She’s still a little too addicted to the long jumper for my liking, but she did a better job of attacking the rim than before. She had one pretty shot go high off the glass and in, but my favorite was the putback on Swin’s waaaaay long and high shot.
Tanisha Wright brought the defense. That’s really all I can remember on the court. Epiphanny Prince could get nothing to fall in the first half, then erupted in the third quarter, outscoring Seattle all by her lonesome for a long stretch, and for a moment, a great and wondrous vista opened before me of what the future could hold. Then Bird hit her three and got 5K, and it was back to life.
Michael Price is not good at getting out of the way of jump balls; perhaps the duty should be delegated to another official. They let a lot of things slide today, especially early on, but clamped down a little harder in the second quarter before really kicking back. At least it was balanced.
Loved the energy of the crowd. Saw a lot of old-school fans I hadn’t seen in ages.
The first video tribute to Becky actually ran during one of the timeouts. I loved seeing the highlights. So many old friends in there. So many teams I miss- the Rockers, the Sting, the Comets, the Sol (oh, my Sol). And of course, tiny rookie Becky and her unfortunate bangs. SO YOUNG. I thought it was really sweet of Dan Hughes to record a message for the tribute. Loved the gifts she was given- doing the painting on site was a nice touch. I kind of felt like everything was hurried along, but overall it was classy and solid, and I do understand the time pressure. I recall either Sue Wicks or Rebecca Lobo saying she was going to be brief, and then going on until everyone was back out on the court.
The only thing that irked me: right before the half, a couple of the young ladies from the Torch Patrol came through our aisle and earnestly told us that Becky Hammon was getting an award, so they’d like for everyone to chant her name. Well, if you know me, you know I’m about as likely to do that as Donald Trump is to win the Democratic nomination for president, and you know if someone tells me to do it, it’s as likely to happen as the aforementioned Trump taking a Mexican lesbian as his vice-presidential nominee. More to the point, you knew some kind of Becky chant would be forthcoming from the crowd without being prodded. In fact, I think trying to organize an official one wrecked any chance of an organic one happening. We’re really not stupid. You don’t come through a season subscriber-heavy section and condescendingly ask us to shill out for you.
(For the record: I admire what she’s done as a player and especially as a coach, but I was off the bandwagon before most people were on it. I loved the trade and I almost wore my Davenport shirt under my jersey today. She absolutely deserves to be honored by both her franchises. Doesn’t mean I have to like her. I’ve never been big on superstars- the hype backlash hits me hard.)
Also didn’t mean that we didn’t show up to the post-game season subscriber event at Liberty Bar. That was really nice, though it was stifling at first- the venue wasn’t quite big enough for everyone who showed up, and it got hot in there. Becky was there briefly, leaving to catch a flight after about twenty minutes or so. I think some of the latest stragglers actually missed her. As people left, it eased up a little bit.
Plenty of the grande dames came through. Of course, Kym Hampton, Teresa Weatherspoon, and Sue Wicks were there to charm and dazzle the crowd. Barbara Farris put in an appearance too. There was a woman who looked like Kalana Greene perched on a stool near the door, but she looked shorter than Kalana (then again, she was sitting). I also thought I spotted Markeisha Gatling in a darling polka-dot number and a couple of friends wandering in and out. Mr. Thomas made an appearance, schmoozing and smarming his way through the crowd. I dared not speak to him, lest I be tempted to do my best Ronda Rousey imitation. Herb Williams had an adorable little girl with him. Kym’s daughter A’riel looks like she’s gotten her mother’s height. I loved Candice’s white dress with the gold seams, and Tina’s red jacket. Tanisha looked really different with a hat on. There was lots of mingling, but I’m not good at mingling, so it mostly happened to other people. I finished off the hat as much as can be done in this hemisphere. Autographed Hammon jerseys were raffled. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. My head knows that Kristin took the cooler bowl of beer cans to the players and staff dinner, but I still prefer to imagine that she bogarted it all for herself for the purpose of shenanigans.
It’s nice to have a piece of the olden days and the old ways, even if only for a night.