Monday, August 2, 2010

The Torch Report

The New York Liberty are finally coming into form by winning 5 of 6, and are 3 games above .500 and now in the 4th spot for the playoffs. Good news is they are only 3 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Bad news is they are 3 games from the basement in the ultra-competitive East. Cappie Pondexter is having a MVP type season carrying the Liberty on her back. In yesterday’s game against the Sun, New York had an 8 point lead in the 3rd quarter then 4 minutes later they were down by 8. A 16-point swing earlier this season or on a cap-less Liberty team would have meant a loss and probably a blowout. But, after going down by 8, Cappie literally took the game into her own hands and went coast to coast for a layup that not only woke up the MSG crowd, but more importantly-her teammates. It was clear from that moment the Liberty or I should say Cappie would not be denied. The Lib went onto win 71-67 in a key conference game.

It's tricky to have a good start in the WNBA. Why? Because the majority of the players in the WNBA play overseas and those seasons wrap up literally days before the season begins. Players drafted out of college, new acquisitions and veterans alike have very little time to play together before the season starts. The teams that do are generally a lock to make the playoffs. The Liberty played .500 ball through June and only recently have gotten above the bubble now sitting 3 games over .500. Despite Anne Donovan being a lame-duck coach she’s getting the most of the team. The biggest acquisition this year not named Cappie Pondexter was picking up Plenette Pierson who gives the team a tough inside player. She puts the power in power forward.

Nicole Powell has struggled as a starter this year. Her shooting has been atrocious: 32% from the field and from behind the arc. To make a playoff run she needs to start nailing down shots because the Liberty are going to need more production out her in August as the playoffs are on the line. For now, the Liberty have gotten a free pass from some poor scouting as opposing teams cover Powell, but leave Leilani Mitchell open to knock down the tre’s-and does she ever.

As the Liberty enter the final stretch, Donovan should start Pierson and bench McCarville. Pierson is an intimidating inside presence. The only thing McCarville intimidates is an all you can eat buffet. Too often McCarville settles for 15’ or thinks she can handle the ball and tries to drive from outside the paint only to turn it over. She needs to drop some weight, hit the weight room and take this job seriously. As the season wears on, her numbers dwindle. In May she shot a respectable 53% from the field. In June, 44% and now in July, a boorish 41%-anyone else see a pattern? Fortunately for her, the WNBA usually has at least 3 days in between games as McCarville shoots an abysmal 38% with only 1 days rest and unfortunately for the Liberty their schedule is not kind to them (see below) in August. On top of her poor shooting Janelle doesn’t hustle and takes too many plays off when she's gassed. When she turns the ball over she watches the other team go on a fast break while hanging her head. Rebound: only by accident. It’s time for McCarville to have a reality check and ride the pine for a bit.

As the Liberty enter the final stretch of the season every game will be important. The biggest stretch will be when the Liberty are tested in 5 games a 7 day span playing 3 conference rivals: @Atlanta, Indiana and @Washington. Let’s hope Cappie and the Liberty are up for the challenge.

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