Talk about thrilling. Talk about excitement. Talk about... about... about a last second shot at the buzzer that, based upon all prior knowledge of physics and the universe, I thought had no conceivable chance of hitting the rim, let alone bouncing up, up, and in. But we'll get to that in a second...
Anyway, you guys want actual reporting? I can't give it to you straight as, while I was at the game, the box score STILL isn't up. However, I can definitely give highlights.
This game proves that the Liberty can hang with the big boys, if they so choose. Sure, Detroit was tired from a knock-down-drag-'em-out fight with Indiana the night before, but they were playing a full bench and were swtiching up players four at a time to start off the game. They might have been tired, but that's just an excuse. The Liberty found a way to win, and everybody in uniform contributed.
The 1st quarter was a doozy. The Libs grabbed 32 points and, despite some defensive lapses (Detroit scored 28 themselves), made the Shock look tired and beat. McCarville came up with a huge eight points, while several other Libs (particularly Moore and Christon) made big shows and huge moves. It looked like this game was going to be a strong, strong show.
Of course, this is New York. Nothing is so easy. The Shock stormed back and tied it up, went down, then tied it up. Going into the half, the Libs and Shock were tied (if I remember correctly), but momemtum had definitely swung to favor Detroit. They were gaining big, and with Katie Feenstra filling the void left by Cheryl Ford and Swin Cash (both out due to injuries), it seemed that Patty would have to give a major pep-talk to keep the girls on top of the ball.
That didn't happen as well as she had hoped, however. The second half started, and it was all Detroit, all the time. The 3rd quarter was, save for the last few minutes, a travesty on par with the Teapot Dome Scandal.
The Shock start whipping the Liberty like they were a redheaded step-child. Again an again, the Liberty can't seem the bury the ball, and the Shock come up huge and score big. At one point, halfway through the third, the Shock, once down by six, are now up by 13 points. Slowly, the Liberty begin to come back into the game, but can't manage more than an extra point per drive. We're down by 10, down by 8, down by 9, down by 6... you get the idea. Frankly, with the way the Libs were playing, I was happy to get out of the 3rd quarter only down by 4. It was a shit-show, pure and simple, and I thought that, despite the Libs surge at the end of the 3rd quarter, that they were losing steam.
Nothing could prepare anyone for the 4th, however. Deanna Nolan proves why she's an All-Star by scoring 12 of her 19 points in these ten minutes alone. I wish I could go into the details of all of what went on in those ten minutes, but like some Russian epic about the Napoleanic Wars, I would only begin to scratch the surface while leaving you, dear readers, with the impression that I had beswamped you in details.
Some key points stand out, however. Battle making three free-throws on technicals (starting with one at the beginning of the quarter on Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer). Tiffany Jackson making a diving lay-up to keep the game close. Nolan coming up big from the key, then Moore making a three of her own, then Nolan making ANOTHER three-pointer. Dutch scoring a huge two points with 44 seconds left. Barbara Farris, put in for the first time all game, coming up with a huge rebound with less than half a minute to play. The Liberty's time-out, leading to two shots - both missed but both rebounded - and the Libs retaining possession on three OB's. Then, with about seven seconds left, the Libs get one more shot. Around and around they go, before it goes out of bounds, but thankfully, mercifully, the Libs come up with it again.
3.3 seconds left. Time for ONE shot. Dutch (I think it was Dutch; my memory grows hazy with time and alcohol) looks, left, looks right, squeezes the ball through to Thorn with a planck-length of room to spare. The seconds tick down. Thorn is cut off, pushed back. She has one shot. In a weird, twisting, jumping motion, she throws herself into the air and WILLS the ball in the general direction of the net.
The buzzer goes. Time literally slows down to a heart beat as the nine thousand people in attendance hold their breath. It is astoundingly quiet; so quiet that when Thorn lands (before her shot), one can hear the squeak of her shoes echo. The shot arcs, almost wobbling, in a strange trajectory that everyone KNOWS can't be good, but PRAYS will hit the rim.
Bounces on the rim. Off of the backboard. STRAIGHT UP.
And while I'm sure that it never was more than two feet above the rim, in my mind's eye, the ball travels like some homemade rocket before making its descent back to the court.
And then it goes in.
Madison Square Garden erupts. You would have thought that it was a sell-out from the noise. People are dancing in the aisles as Thorn jumps into a throng of her teammates and is lifted onto shoulders. The Shock, upset and dismayed, nonetheless pull it together to shake hands. And, for one second, before anyone knows what the Mystics did, it feels like the Libs managed to beat the odds and take something that no one gave them any credit for. A group of ladies that no one gave any shot at doing anything this year took down the big dog of the league and were winners.
And then, of course, reality set in. There are still four games left until the end of the season, and the playoffs after that. The battle is won, the war continues.
- The Shock outrebounded the Liberty by at least a margin of ten. I wish I could be more exact, but the WNBA's site STILL doesn't have the boxscore up.
- By the way, WNBA's site = horrible.
- The Referees? I wish I could say that the Libs won on their own, but they had some HUGE help from the refs, who made several home-town calls late in the game to keep the Libs in contention.
- Everyone had a hand in this. Thorn? Obviously. McCarville? HUGE first and last quarter. Tiffany Jackson? Her second half was magical. Barbara Farris? Massively clutch rebound with less than a minute left. I could go on and on...
- The crowd? Electric. For the final minute, on those who literally couldn't stand up were sitting in their seats (and even a few of these defied medical science and stood up anyway).
- Martina Weber was on the sidelines. That sucked, but she WAS wearing a nice blue dress number that, allowing me a moment of sexist lust, was smokin'.
So what's that all spell out in terms of standings? Well, to put it mildly, this was probably our most important win all year. We're now a half game behind Washington for the final playoff spot, with a game in hand (we have four games left, they have three). We play each other IN Washington on Thursday (talk about ramifications), while each playing Connecticut once (Washington plays them twice). We play Chicago twice, meanwhile.
Revel in the victory for now, ladies. I still am, frankly. But let's not lose sight of our ultimate goal. This beating of Detroit will only ring soundly if we can manage to overtake the Mystics and hold off the Sky.
Speaking of which... Next Game?
Tomorrow, 8 P.M.
The UIC Pavilion
There's an "ICUP" joke in there somewhere. I know it.
Get 'er done, ladies. Every game's gotta be a win now.
AROUND THE LEAGUE...
Houston 83, Sacramento 75
The Comets still had life at this point, despite a razor-thin margin for error. They took a team that prides itself on their defense and scored 83 points against them, putting their backs to the wall and coming out swinging like Barry Bonds on steroids (a redundant phrase, I know). Tina Thompson scored 24 points, while Michelle Snow grabbed 11 rebounds, as the Comets, while allowing six Monarchs to score more than eight points, did not allow the Monarchs to score more than 20 points in any quarter. I'm glad that Houston could do this and prove to themselves that they had a bit of something left to give. Great stuff.
Detroit 74, Indiana 69
San Antonio 63, Houston 60
Connecticut 88, Chicago 66
Phoenix 100, Los Angeles 83
Seattle 91, Washington 68
Indiana finally played like they had some life, outplaying the Shock in the first quarter (in particular) and the first half (in general), but it wasn't enough as the Shock pulled another game out of their ass and made it six straight wins. Deanna Nolan scored 26 points and almost a dozen rebounds as the Shock held the Fever to just 9 points in the third and 28 points in the second half to win their game and removed the "almost-assured" from the phrase "almost-assured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs".
Yes, Becky Hammon rocks. She led her team to victory, despite some close calls (the game was tied at the end of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter). Houston stuck with it, though, and played like a team desperate for a playoff spot. They couldn't pull it together, however, with only one of their starters scoring double-digit points and no player scoring more than Snow's 11. San Antonio is now a full game back of Phoenix, but have four games left to play, to the Mercury's two. It's going to be a photo finish.
Chicago is still technically in the playoff hunt at this point, being two games out with three games to play. However, with their decisive loss to Connecticut on Saturday, they must win their last three games (including their season's finish IN New York) and hope that both the Liberty AND the Mystics forget the game of basketball and instead take up Professional Bull-Riding. Or the Mystics and Liberty could COMPLETELY implode and hand Chicago the playoff spot. Considering that Jamie Carey of the Sun (a second reserve) scored more five more points than three of the Sky's starters COMBINED, that's a tall order.
The Mercury beat up on a bad team (Taylor- 28, Pondexter- 21, Smith- 16, Taurasi- 12). They scored 100 points in forty minutes. The Sparks (the SPARKS, mind you) managed 83 points against THE team of the Western Conference. This shows one of two things: 1, that Phoenix has come to grips with the fact that their defense is non-existant and 2, the Sparks' death has been GREATLY exaggerated.
Washington played Marv Albert and Betty Lennox (34 points) dressed up as a high-priced Manhattan call-girl as the Storm beat the Washington like they begged for it. Seriously, this game couldn't have gone worse for the Mystics had they just not shown up and forfeited the game. At least then they would have been well-rested. After this, they were shown up, humiliated, and left gasping for air as they took a plane-ride to take on Sacramento the next day. Huge victory for the Storm, who FINALLY secured their spot in the playoffs.
Sacramento 86, Washington 82 OT
Los Angeles 89, Minnesota 80
Washington had to step it up. They needed this win, took Sacramento into overtime, and blew it with several turnovers. They could be a game and a half ahead right now, but instead, they squandered their chances and let Nikki Powell lead the Monarchs to a victory that both teams desperately wanted. I guess a Sacramento team wanting home-court advantage plays better than a Washington team fighting for it's life.
Minnesota's season ended about a month ago. They haven't won a game in so long that they'd throw stones at it if they saw it. Is anyone besides Augustus even bothering to show up to practice anymore, let alone games? Sure, they scored 80 points, but against the Sparks? They were basically spotted twenty at the beginning of the game. At least the Sparks have spirit. They were down and out about two weeks ago, and they're still trying, despite failing. This team, with a superstar and a stauncher defense, could definitely compete for a 3rd or 4th playoff spot. The Lynx? They just depress me.
Shay Doron is helping out with breast cancer. As a man, I can't possibly comprehend the terror of breast cancer for women, but I know prostate cancer, and it scares the shit out of me. Check out the site and bid on some of the things she's putting up for auction, if you're so inclined. It's a good cause.
There's an article up about the Australians in playoff contention. They're missing a few (like Tully Bevilac... Bevel... that one from Indiana), but it's a solid read that doesn't digress into the usual "love letter to Lauren Jackson" kinda stuff.
Sorry about not getting the game preview for Detroit up, but it was hell in the office and I couldn't do it at home.No games today. Which is nice for me, considering that I would have to research them all and I have NO TIME. But that's that for today. Liberty Belle up in the late afternoon. Until then?
See ya, Space Cowboy...