So, finally, I am back with a full update. It's taken a while, and I'm sorry for that, but I had a great time. But you guys don't care about my personal life. You care about the Libs. And what a run...
First, the Libs do everything in their power to try and take themselves out of playoff consideration. They lose to Chicago in a game that they should have had, and they were on the brink of playoff elimination. But, thanks to the plucky play of Erin "Muffin" Thorn, the awakened Shameka Christon, and the one known only as Dutch, the Libs came back to defeat the Mystics (a 73-72 squeaker in their must-win game) and Sun (a more comfortable 74-66). The last game was it, and the Libs came out and played... pretty terribly.
Still, they hold of the Sky and come out on top, 58-52. They're in the playoffs and MSG goes nuts. I can't say that I was thrilled with the Libs by the end of the season, but they did finish 6-4 in their last ten games and never gave up. Their lack of passion in the middle of those 10, however, is something to worry about for our final game coming up. But first, some context...
Liberty 73, Shock 51
This game started off like a fight between an old married couple, with back and forth jabs, insults that would sting later, and eventually make-up sex (okay, so that last part was more like make-up free throws). At the end of twenty, the score was 25-25, but that doesn't really do it justice. The tide of the game had definitely swung to the favor of the Shock, and though the New York faithful were doing their best, a bit of wind had been taken out of their sails. This is almost the definition of a spanking.
Thor opened up Mjolnir on the asses of the Shock, shooting 16 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Marvel and Dutch scored 13 each, although both suffered from some defensive lapses (although the Shock were never able to capitalize on either).
The Libs went on an 18-0 run, and if that wasn't enough, then went on a 16-0 run. They kicked the Shock six ways from Sunday and didn't let up until the final minutes. It was a strong game for them, and while the Shock's shock at the Liberty's liberty probably had something to do with it, it was good to see that the Libs were able to pick up the slack when able and not play down to their level.
And let's face it; a team that barely made the playoffs beat the best team in the league. It feels good. But no one can (or should) rest on their laurels, because two days later, it was time for another match-up, this time in the far away fairy-tale land of Detroit.
Shock 76, Liberty 73
Gotta give credit to the Libs for never backing down. The Shock were up by 17 points in the middle of the second half and watched it drain away as the Libs kept pushing and pushing and pushing and please stop pushing I'll give you my lunch money just stop pushing I want my mommy and...
Anyway, so, yes, but the Libs did well (especially in the first and last), but like so many close games that they've played, seemed to lack the passion needed to cap off a victory when they most desperately needed it. With less than 15 seconds to go, the Libs manage to steal the ball on a play that is VERY close to foul territory, and what do they do?
Dutch, with a bit more time than she thinks she has, shoves it down low and can't push it in. She should have pushed the extra mile to force a Detroit foul, or stopped and set up the play again, but instead, she half-asses it and the Shock come up. Nolan makes two free throws and that's that.
But, as Shakespeare said...
Let's get it together. Will this be our last game of the year? Or will it be the catapult to the Eastern Conference Finals and Beyond... beyond... beyond... beyond...beyond...)
You know how it's gonna roll tonight. Detroit. The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Shock Treatment versus the New York "Man Who Shot" Liberty Valance. Detroit isn't exactly beating steel into sword, but they can definitely take care of the Libs. They're entire starting lineup is capable of scoring over 15 points a game, and no one on the bench can be counted out, either. Plus, they're at home, and in front of their zealots, they are like a runaway freight train. They're well-coached, well-disciplined, and well-trained. They can play it hard, play it soft, push, pull, and work around the arc. They have no problems with any team in the league.
Well, except for the Libs, of course. The Shock can't seem to get around the Libs, splitting the season series and losing the first, big game of this post-season. This is not without reason; the Libs are capable of levels of play only spoken of in Myth. Christon, Thorn, McCarville, Kraayeveld, Moore, Battle, Davenport, Willis... all have had double-digit points this season, and all are capable two-way players. On paper, the Libs seem like a complete team.
Unfortunately, paper isn't practice. The Libs are hounded by inconsistency, with only two or three players playing up to their full potential per night. In a year or two, when some of the younger players start to mature, this won't be so much of a problem, but now? It could be the toll of midnight. The Libs are going to have to step it up if they are going to escape Motor City and meet up with the Fever in the Conference Finals.
- Contain Nolan, Ford, and Cash. Even containing one will do. In essence, limiting one of these players to less than double-digit points takes at least five points away from the Shock, and as seen in Sunday's game, sometimes that's all it takes.
- Play more than 8. Lisa Willis, despite only playing in 8 minutes, scored five points. Erin Thorn, in twenty, scored 2. Let's find the pieces that aren't working and switch 'em around.
- Thor and Marvel. Both Christon and McCarville have got to keep up their stellar play.
- Defense. It's hard to pick up a team that has as much firepower as the Shock, but if the Libs play hard and fast, those couple of rebounds and open balls that would be anyone's would instead become a New York fast break.
Get 'r done, ladies.
Indiana beats Connecticut, 2 games to 1
This was a balls-to-the-walls set, with two games going to overtime (including the last and deciding game). Indiana's indifferent fans were apparently the deciding factor as Connecticut continued their inexplicable ineptitude at home, losing in front of a huge hometown crowd, and then barely keeping the Fever in check in the last game before succumbing to a huge comeback (the largest in WNBA history). Catchings? You truly are a Goddess. Douglas? Don't trash talk until the game is over. And Connecticut?
Sacramento took the first game of this series in deciding fashion (86-65), cleaning the floor with the Silver Stars in San Antonio's first ever WNBA post-season appearance. But the Stars steeled themselves against the Monarchs in game two, coming up big in the first half and securing the game in the final twenty, and then brawled it out in the last game to beat the Monarchs by 2 (80-78). Star of the series? Do you even need to ask?
Phoenix soundly thumped the Storm, and is it any surprise? Out of all the teams that made the playoffs, the Storm played like they least deserved the honor. They played horribly down the stretch and were handed their post-season based on the awful opening of the Comets. Phoenix played well, but not as strong in the past. In the end, however, it was enough, as the Storm (despite stong play from Bird, Lennox, Jackson, and Marques) relied too heavily on their starters and found their reserves... lacking.
Janel McCarville won the leagues' "Most Improved Player" Award. Which is nice, but really, she didn't have much of an opportunity until now to show off her skills before this.
That's it for me, ladies and gents. I'm not doing Belles or Nicknames on a regular basis anymore (I only have a couple to do, and they will go up when I get the chance). My comedy troupe's show is coming up this weekend and I will need every available moment during the day to work, memorize lines, and get things done for it. (If any of you are interested in showing up, give me an email).
See ya, Space Cowboy...