Detroit 71, New York 70
The first quarter was marked by a sense of passion mixed with desperation by the Liberty. In the two and a half minutes alone, they had taken five shots (making two threes) and even though the Detroit defense forced the Libs to the outside for awkward shots, Kraayeveld was there under the basket to pick up three rebounds. However, after Christon made a turning jump shot at 7:16 in the quarter (making it 8-2 in favor of New York), the Libs wouldn't make another basket for six minutes, as Detroit rallied their troops. The Libs missed eight in that time frame, while the Shock spread the ball to Braxton (2), Ford (4), and Smith (4), until Tiffany Jackson went to the line and sank two. Erin Thorn grabbed a rebound off of Swin Cash's jump shot and passed to Loree Moore, who threw the ball in for two to tie it at 12 with 35 seconds to play. Both teams tried twice more to grab the lead before the end of the quarter, but the time ran down, and the second quarter was on.
Detroit continued with their poor outside shooting in the second ten, missing two 3's and several long balls while allowing the Libs to creep ahead. Tiffany Jackson scored four quick points, with Battle, McCarville, and Farris each adding a jump shot to make the score 22-16 with half the quarter finished. The Liberty defense held strong, and although the offense couldn't keep pace for a few minutes as Detroit threatened to overtake them before the half (22-20 Libs after a Deana Nolan jumper), New York wasn't down for the count. Jackson grabbed four more points, as did Thorn, while McCarville started it off with a driving layup. The Liberty had opened it up in the final minutes to go lead by ten going into the locker room.
"O, how this spring of love resembleth/The uncertain glory of an April day"
The first half had been dominated at different corners by both teams. The Libs had shifted from shooting from the outside at the beginning of the game to moving to a more flow-and-go game by the end of the first twenty. Tiffany Jackson led the team with ten points of her own, while also grabbing seven rebounds. Detroit, on the other hand, couldn't seem to build any momentum in their game. They had several sparks of glory, led by Cheryl Ford's 10 points, but their shooting beyond the arc was atrocious (a single 3 made in the half, at 11 seconds left) and their defensive, while strong, had collapsed near the end under strong play by the Libs.
But as any follower of the Liberty knows, a ten point lead isn't enough. The Shock weren't out, and they proved it by going shot for shot, piece for piece, woman for woman down the stretch of the third quarter. It was mostly equal throughout (mostly), save for a couple breakdowns on the Libs end (Kraayeveld in the lane for 3 seconds leading to a Shock basket, Farris forcing a pass that leads to a jumper, etc.). When the smoke cleared, the Libs were still in the lead, but the score had been cleaved a bit, to the tune of 49-43. The Shock weren't going out without a fight.
"So wise so young, they say do never live long."
They come out on an 8-2 run, scoring jump shot after jump shot and making it seem like the Libs were a practice squad. Three missed shots and a Kraayeveld foul put the Libs behind, playing catch-up, but thankfully, the Shock once again can't find the throttle and stall. The Liberty drive again, and though they can't come through on all of the shots, they go ahead 55-53. It's back and forth, miss and foul, each team coming up big at clutch situations. Detroit goes ahead, but McCarville won't have any of it. With 18 seconds left, she scores a sick layup to tie the game at 62. Detroit takes a timeout, then goes on the warpath, but the Libs hold down the fort. Nolan goes for a shot, but it's ugly. The Shock come up with a rebound, but the buzzer has sounded and the light has gone off. And you know what happens next...
Season on the line. Five minutes. Is there anything more exciting in sports, save for the occasional streaker? Five minutes will decide who moves forward, and who goes home.
Could it be anything less than a brawl? Kraayeveld comes up big, grabbing the jump ball and throwing it in for two. Detroit gets the ball and misses, then rebounds. Then misses, then rebounds. Then misses. And finally, the Libs come up with the ball, leading to Christon swishing it home on a jumper to put the Libs up by 4 with 3:48 left in the game. But Detroit gets the ball backs and plays their game again, shooting and rebounding, and this time, there is no savior. Kraayeveld fouls, and Ford goes to the line, sinking two and shifting the tide.
Detroit seemed to get their second wind after that. Kraayeveld would get another basket, but the Shock controlled the game, rebounding and passing and keeping the ball out of their end. They scored seven points in a minute and a half, and thanks to a shot clock violation by the Libs with 45 seconds left, managed to keep the ball almost the entire time. Score? 71-69.
With eight seconds left, Coyle calls a timeout. The Libs are down by two. One basket, no chances. Get it deep, drive it hard, take the shot as you should, take a foul if you must, and keep the game (and the season) going on life-support for another five minutes. The ball goes in, and the Libs try to find an empty gal, but Pierson fouls, and McCarville goes to the line with three seconds left. The season is on the line for the former 1st overall draft pick, awoken and playing like the everybody thought she could down the stretch, with the weight of her fans desires and passion on her shoulders.
Maybe history could repeat itself. As when the Davenport drilled home that layup to boost the Liberty over the Mercury, 83-82. Or when, so recently, Erin Thorn had taken an awkward end-over-end wobble soaring on little but hope to take down this same Shock team and keep the Libs in the playoff hope. McCarville scored one basket, and all of the fans of the Liberty held their breath as her last shot sailed through the air. It had happened before.
"But not here, not now, nor never hence,"
McCarville's second shot bounced off and into the hands of the awaiting Shock. A timeout and a pass in led to a foul, and though Nolan missed both, there was no time left. Literally, the clock had run out, both on the game and the New York Liberty's season. No more last minute gasps for this team, for as the buzzer sounded and the confetti rained down, the Liberty were out of rabbits to pull out of their hats. Detroit rushed the floor, and all of the hope and love that New York had for it's Belles burst, washing away the adrenaline and sweat from the game and the August heat. All the wins and losses and cheers and heartbreak added up to this moment, a moment of realization that once again, the curtain has been closed on the Liberty's summer. No championship, no finals. Just the door, and our memories.
Both sides had heroes. Detroit only featured three players that scored double-digit points - Nolan with 22, Ford with 17, and Smith with 12 - while only two other players scored more than two (showing just how strong the Libs were playing in their own end). New York had four players with 10 points or more (Kraayeveld - 16, Jackson - 14, Moore - 11, McCarville - 10), with Christon adding a further 9. Defensive player of the game? Tiffany Jackson, with 10 total rebounds (Dutch had more defensive rebs, but also had a couple more lapses). All in all, New York started stronger, but Detroit found their groove and were able to substitute players as needed, while New York stalled a bit in the later half (either through exhaustion or inability to adapt to Detroit's shifting game-plan).
Had this been at any other point in the season, I would have chalked it up as a good learning experience. Yes, the Libs let a ten-point lead fade away into nothingness, but they also were neck-and-neck with the best team in the league and almost scammed their way into the second round, despite finishing 16-18. It was the season finish, however, and that always leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Oh well. As the Cubs said, and the Red Sox before them, and the Brooklyn Dodgers before them, and back to the time when the first fan watched his or her team get defeated and awaited for the turning of the seasons that would mark the coming of the new season, like a harbinger of spring...
- Patty played only eight players. :::shakes head:::
- Crowd in Detroit? Electric.
- Overall Play by the Libs? Superior, with a couple moments of breakdown.
- Sad ending, but the Libs played well. They just couldn't pull it off.
- All photos from this post from the WNBA's official site.
It was good to see the Belles one more time. Next year, there will be different faces and different times, but this will be the season that I remember. I'll be doing a full recap of the season next week, as well as posting the various odds and ends that I have to do (Belles, Nicknames, etc.). I will be updating everday; however, if there isn't a lot of news, I won't be doing big updates. We'll talk more about the off-season after the Finals. Until next time, oh faithful few?
See ya, Space Cowboy...