WNBA Weekend in Review

July 18, 2011 9:34am
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The 2011 season is moving along quickly as the All-Star game is this Saturday. After tonight’s game between San Antonio and Los Angeles, every team will have played between 13 and 15 games.  Besides probably Tulsa, every team still has a legitimate shot at a playoff spot.

Going streaking:

The Phoenix Mercury head into their re-match against the Minnesota Lynx with their league leading 6-game win streak on the line and first place in the Western Conference.  Last game saw the Mercury storm back in the closing minutes to take a 112-105 victory, in the highest scoring game of the season.

The Tulsa Shock have now lost a league leading 9 games in a row. After leading the Sparks for most of Friday’s game, Tulsa couldn’t generate the necessary scoring chances once the Sparks stopped turning the ball over. The Shock will have a chance to re-group as they don’t play again until Tuesday after the All-Star break, hosting the Atlanta Dream.

There’s no place like home:

After a short 1-2 road trip, and two double-digit losses, the Connecticut Sun returned home to the comfy confines of the Mohegan Sun and defeated the Indiana Fever on Sunday. The Sun are undefeated at home, at a perfect 6-0.

Meanwhile the Seattle Storm finish up three game road trip tomorrow at Chicago before heading home. The Storm now stand at 2-5 on the road with their two wins coming against Tulsa and a Mystics team that was missing Crystal Langhorne. Seattle is coming off two road losses including a 69-62 defeat to Minnesota on Saturday.

The bottom of the Eastern Conference:

Although the Washington Mystics are 6 games behind Eastern Conference leading Indiana, they only trail 4th place Chicago by 3 games and have more than half a season left to play.  The Mystics showed lots of resolve in their overtime win over the Sparks, where they mounted the 2nd biggest comeback in WNBA history. Even in the last of their 5 game road trip, and a season full of injuries, Washington showed they should not be forgotten yet.

Just above Washington is the preseason conference favorite Atlanta Dream. Atlanta has been possibly the biggest disappointment this season, but put together their best effort on Saturday. Even playing without Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta looked like the team many pundits believed we would see before the season.

The Silver Stars look to bounce back at home against the Seattle Storm

July 14, 2011 9:01am
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San Antonio started the season better than anyone could have imagined. They were getting quality minutes from their bench and rookies, as well as stars Becky Hammon and Sopia Young leading the way. Suddenly after a 7-1 start, the Silver Stars are looking at a 3 game slide.

Terrence Thomas’ article shares some insight into the current psyche of the Silver Stars players. “It’s not the end of the world,” said Silver Stars guard Jia Perkins. “We still have a lot of basketball to play. We’ve just got to bounce back. (Today) we’ll worry about Seattle, so we don’t have much time to fix anything, but we have to come into practice determined and just go to work.”

Meanwhile the Storm have been great at home but still will have to overcome their struggles on the road, playing without Lauren Jackson for possibly the rest of the season.

Nate Parham explains how the Storm held the Mystics without a single 2nd-chance point in Tuesday’s game. This article gives some insight on why this Storm team might be turning the corner.  ”The Storm showed the type of consistent intensity on the glass that helped hold the league’s best offensive rebounding team to no second-chance points. That alone could be considered a sign that this team is slowly hitting their stride after a slow start.”

The Los Angeles Sparks make the 2nd coaching change of the season

July 11, 2011 9:07am
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Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced Sunday that assistant coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, father of Lakers NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, will replace Jennifer Gillom as the coach of the Sparks. This is the 2nd coaching change this season as Tulsa replaced Nolan Richardson just days earlier.

“This was a very difficult decision, but I felt it was necessary to take the team in a different direction at this point in the season. Joe’s familiarity with the Sparks organization puts us in the best possible position to compete going forward, and should make for a seamless transition,” Toler said.

The Sparks started the season 4-1 before heading to San Antonio, where they fell in overtime after leading almost the entire game. They continued on their road trip to New York where Candace Parker got hurt in a 77-67 loss. Those two games have been part of the Sparks current 5 game losing streak.

“We respect Jennifer’s commitment to the Sparks and understand she has faced adversity with player injuries during her tenure.  That being said, with a short season and playing in the competitive Western Conference, winning games early in the year is critical and the Sparks’ goal remains to contend for a WNBA Championship.”

During their last 5 games the Sparks have lost by an average of 12 points per game and have surrendered almost 1.1 points per possession on defense, the worst of any team in the league over their last 5 games. Los Angeles heads to San Antonio where they fittingly started their 5 game slide with a new coach at the helm in Joe Bryant.

Amber Holt returns for Tulsa tonight

July 8, 2011 5:04pm
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Jessica Lantz with Swish Appeal is reporting that Amber Holt is dressed and in the starting line-up for the Tulsa Shock tonight. She was expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb. Also, Ivory Latta is not in uniform tonight.

The expected starting line-up is:  G Doneeka Lewis, G Sheryl Swoopes, F Kayla Pedersen, F Tiffany Jackson, and F Amber Holt.

WNBA Friday: Links to get you ready for tonight’s game

July 8, 2011 3:03pm
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NEW YORK at SAN ANTONIO

The New York Liberty travel to San Antonio, to take on the Silver Stars in a re-match of New York’s 81-75 victory one week ago. This game will be shown on NBA TV.

Tracey Jucey, of Sports Page Magazine, talks about Essence Carson who has come into her own this season. “Carson is on pace for a breakout season as the Liberty’s most consistent player so far in 2011. Averaging only 3.6 points per game in 2010, her offensive production has more than quadrupled with 14.4 points per game to date.”

One of the many reason for the success of the Silver Stars this season has been the play of their bench. Carolyn Peck, at ESPN W, talks about some of the players who have contributed to San Antonio great start, including rookie Danielle Adams. “After following Adams in the NCAA tournament and watching her lead Texas A&M to a national championship, I have to admit she is a new face who has dramatically captured my attention.”

 

PHOENIX at TULSA

In the other match-up of the night, two teams heading opposite directions will meet for the 1st of their two games in 3 nights, as the Mercury travel to Tulsa to take on the Shock. This game can be seen on Live Access.

Odeen Domingo, of the Arizona Republic, discusses how the Mercury have turned it around after a slow start to the season. Diana Taurasi on the slow start: ”I think in the last few weeks, everyone settled in a little bit, felt a little more comfortable on the court, and knew what we needed from each other to get some wins. Now we just have to continue to work hard and see where it takes us.”

Meanwhile, Tulsa is hoping to turn things around tonight, and one key to a victory is the continued emergence of center Liz Cambage. Jessica Lantz from Swish Appeal talks about the Australian center who ranks in the league’s Top 20 in 24 statistical categories, but has struggled to find her shooting touch. “While her ability to make the bunnies might be a statistical category with room to grow, keep in mind that Cambage is 19 years old. 19. What were you doing when you were 19? Save a very limited few NBA ballers like LeBron James, this is a situation like none other particularly in the women’s game.”

At what point do the Tulsa Shock make a change?

July 7, 2011 12:23pm
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In a league with only 12 teams, it’s rare for teams to make the jump from cellar to contender in only a short amount of time because there is such a consolidation of talent. Aside from a situation in Minnesota where they missed a lot of players due to injury the past couple seasons and were able to draft Maya Moore with the number 1 overall pick, it is difficult to make that leap without a unique set of circumstances from year to year.

Fast forward to July 7th, and the Tulsa Shock are getting ready to host the Phoenix Mercury tomorrow. Tulsa is currently in last place, and hold the league’s worst point differential. They are coming off an embarrassing 30 point blowout by the aforementioned Lynx and now have to face, arguably the league’s hottest team (no pun intended) in the Mercury. As the oddmakers currently have it, Tulsa will be the biggest home underdog of the season. Is coach Richardson making the best of a bad situation? Would Tulsa even be better off making a mid-season change?

Kelly Hines of the Tulsa World, has explored some of the pressures facing coach Richardson as this point of the season. “This year, the Shock has been limited by inferior talent. As coach, Richardson may be getting as much out of the players as he can, but as general manager it’s up to him to find difference-makers. ”

Losing Amber Holt on a team lacking in guards was unfortunate, but I think Richardson has been getting a pass for being stubborn to his system. He obviously does not have the personnel to play the style he wants to play, yet insists on it. While I am not a basketball coach, nor would I advocate coming up with a new playbook in the middle of the season, Nolan’s “40 Minutes of Hell” seems difficult to buy into. Tulsa has the highest TO% (which accounts for turnovers on a per possession basis) in the league and I can only imagine what might happen in the up and down game Phoenix will bring to the BOK Center tomorrow night.

Jessica Lantz of Swish Appeal, touches on some positive changes the Shock have experienced, although sometimes you need to read between the lines of their double-digits losses. “The team is slowly figuring out how to use a 6-8 center down low by lobbing her the ball inside. And Cambage herself is adjusting to where she needs to play on the court in order to be effective against WNBA competition… And something that was sorely lacking to start the 2010 season – chemistry – is actually present in the locker room, despite the magnitude and ferocity of some of this year’s losses.”

While turning the team into a slow it down, half-court kind of team is easier said than done, I can’t help but think a complete emphasis on running everything through Cambage, the tallest player on the court in every game, will pay dividends. Slowing down the game should also combat some of their turnover issues, conserve an already short bench, and keep Tulsa fighting for that much longer in each game. Kayla Pedersen has also really impressed, and continues to get better each and every game. You could make as good of an argument for her as rookie of the year right now as any player in the league.

While maybe a coaching change is not going to make a difference at this point of the year, the role of GM for Richardson needs to be evaluated immediately. If he insists on playing his system, there needs be to be someone in the GM role finding the right players for his system. There are no easy fixes in this league, but go to from 2008 WNBA champion Detroit Shock to the Shock’s current state in Tulsa should not have been this “easy” either.

 

Injury Report