WNBA Today, 06/20/2012: Eastern Promise

It was an all-Eastern affair in the WNBA last night. The significantly more appetising game of the two available was in Connecticut, where Indiana were the visitors. While Indiana have lost a few games lately, and Chicago’s hot start has pushed their name into the conversation, the Sun and Fever remain two primary candidates for the Eastern crown. They’d already met once this season, and on that occasion hot shooting from Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas hadn’t been enough to hold off a balanced Connecticut attack. Given the significant possibility that these teams might see each other in the postseason, Indiana won’t want to allow the Sun to dominate the regular season series and build up a mental edge over them.

Erin Phillips was back from her European trip with the Australian national team, but Briann January retained her spot in the starting lineup. For Connecticut it was once again Allison Hightower and Kalana Greene ahead of Danielle McCray on the perimeter.

As in the first game between these teams, Connecticut’s balance gave them an advantage early on. It was 11-2 midway through the first, and each of the Sun’s starters had one basket apiece. Catchings was trying to shoot her team into the game from outside early on, and while Catch can get hot out there, that’s rarely going to be a good choice.

Both of these teams thrive on creating offense from their defense, turning poke aways and steals into quick points back the other way. It kept the pace of the game high while everyone looked to sneak in front and take the ball away. The Sun dominated much of the first half, receiving a surprising level of scoring from players like Hightower and Greene to complement the usual sources. But a late run for the Fever was ignited by defense and January’s scoring, and allowed them to trail only 45-39 at halftime.

The Fever kept hanging around in the second half, with Douglas and Phillips hitting some big shots, and Jessica Davenport carrying over her solid play from the Fever’s previous game (the last one was against Chicago and Fowles, this one versus Connecticut and Charles – maybe Jess just needs a real challenge every night to excel). Phillips hit a deep three late in the third quarter to give Indiana their first lead of the night.

Still, the Fever’s most effective method of offense remained creating turnovers, so when Connecticut managed to take care of the ball they were typically in control. Continue reading

Advertisements

WNBA Today, 06/19/2012: Sparks prove a pain in the Nnek for Mystics

Sometimes, single-game nights in the WNBA can be especially useful and interesting. It allows the focus to narrow for specific concentration on just one contest and two teams, without having to split your attention. On other occasions, it means there’s only one awful game to watch, and nothing else more deserving of your time to concentrate on. Suffice it to say, this won’t be one of the longest WNBAlien columns since the inauguration of this website.

The easy storyline coming into last night’s game was how ridiculously comfortable both teams should’ve been with facing each other. On the Los Angeles roster, Alana Beard, Marissa Coleman, Coco Miller, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Nicky Anosike are all former Mystics. For Washington, Noelle Quinn, Natasha Lacy, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and Shannon Bobbitt have all previously played for the Sparks. The Mystics also have LaToya Pringle on their suspended list, and Marianne Stanley and Jen Gillom on their coaching staff, all of whom were also once employed by last night’s opposition. These teams knew a hell of a lot about each other before we got started.

The important news for LA was that Nneka Ogwumike was back, after missing Saturday’s game in San Antonio in order to attend her graduation ceremony at Stanford. She went right back into the starting lineup in place of Miller. After finding a way to beat Indiana on Friday night with an altered starting five, Washington unsurprisingly stuck with that group, featuring Jasmine Thomas and Matee Ajavon in the backcourt.

It was a desperately, pathetically ugly first quarter. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 06/18/2012: Backwards Day in the WNBA

Some days, the world just goes a little bit topsy-turvy. Cats make friends with dogs, a politician tells the truth, bookies lose money – you get the idea. Yesterday was one such day in the WNBA. We at WNBAlien bring you all the details below, via the Bullet Point Breakdown.

 

Connecticut Sun 75 @ Atlanta Dream 73

  • The big pregame news was the Atlanta’s star Angel McCoughtry would miss the game with a sprained left MCL. Given that she was benched for the previous game for a ‘team rule violation’, then protested that she hadn’t violated any rules afterwards, I remain a little dubious. Angel may well be hurting, but it might also have been an unofficial ‘suspension’ by head coach Marynell Meadors to show McCoughtry she means business. Either way, Atlanta had to make do without their leader for this contest, and McCoughtry remains day-to-day for future games (which means nothing). Tiffany Hayes again replaced her in the starting lineup.
  • Connecticut kept the same starters as in their previous game, with Allison Hightower and Kalana Greene on the wing ahead of Danielle McCray.
  • The vast majority of the first half was dominated by Atlanta. Defensive pressure from the likes of Hayes and Armintie Price was creating steals and breakouts for the Dream, and causing the game to be played at their pace. Too many lazy passes from Connecticut, and too many unnecessarily quick perimeter jump shots, were allowing Atlanta to dominate.

WNBA Today, 06/17/2012: Potential Playoff Primers; Prince in Pain

Just two games this Saturday in the WNBA, but both with potential playoff implications down the line. Both could even be early previews of matchups we might see in the 2012 postseason.

The first game to tip off was Chicago’s trip to Indiana. The Sky held the prettier record heading into the game, but Indiana are the team with the history of making and advancing in the playoffs. All this winning is new to Chicago and they’re going to have to keep proving themselves as the season goes along. The Fever had lost three in a row, including a disappointing performance in Washington the night before. They needed a bounce-back performance to stop this losing streak from lingering and causing serious consternation.

Chicago made a switch to their starting five, noticeably trying to match up with this year’s smaller Fever starting lineup, featuring Tamika Catchings at power forward. The Sky slid Swin Cash to the 4 to guard Catchings, bringing Tamera Young in as an extra perimeter player and moving Ruth Riley to the bench. With Riley out there, Sylvia Fowles had been forced to guard Catchings in their previous game against the Fever, which puts added pressure on Big Syl. The change allowed Fowles to take Tammy Sutton-Brown as her initial assignment, and offer her standard help defense wherever else it proved necessary.

Unfortunately for the Sky, the lineup change ultimately proved something of a waste of time. Twice inside the opening three minutes of the game, Shavonte Zellous drove around Courtney Vandersloot, who bumped her as Zellous tried to shoot. Both occasions drew fouls on the Sky point guard, Sloot went to the bench, and Riley was back in anyway. So much for the new lineup.

Despite having their pre-game plans disrupted, Chicago were flowing nicely in the opening quarter. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 06/16/2012: Blowouts, a squeaker, and a little bit of history

It was another heavy evening of action in the WNBA on Friday, with five games taking place in one night. Fortunately for me, the teams decided to take it easy on us poor writers and offer up an array of blowouts. Some of them even would’ve benefitted from a WNBA version of the mercy rule. Nonetheless, there were still some interesting moments, and one game that went down to the wire, so let’s get to it: WNBAlien Bullet Point Breakdown-style.

 

Indiana Fever 66 @ Washington Mystics 67

  • Tammy Sutton-Brown returned to the starting lineup at center for Indiana, after being losing her spot to Jessica Davenport for one game. Briann January continued to start in place of Erin Phillips at the point, with the Australian still in Europe with her national team.
  • Washington switched things up, with Jasmine Thomas, Matee Ajavon and Noelle Quinn starting on the perimeter. Dominique Canty was waived earlier in the week, and Monique Currie went to the bench. Mystics coach Trudi Lacey was clearly trying to avoid the horrendous starts her team has made a habit of lately, and was opening the game with the lineup that keyed Washington’s comeback in their previous game. She also had Canty’s replacement, Shannon Bobbitt, as a new point guard option off the pine.
  • The fresh starting lineup seemed to work for the Mystics. They avoided digging their typical first half hole, and even built a small lead in the second quarter. Indiana’s problem was that when they couldn’t get out and run off steals or long rebounds, their halfcourt offense wasn’t creating anything. There was very little going to the rim, resulting in a lot of jumpers, very few of which were falling.

WNBA Today, 06/14/2012: Parker puts on a show; Sky box out the Storm

So there were two WNBA games taking place last night, one on national television, and one available for live viewing virtually nowhere. So we likely had one of the most watched games of the regular season, and one of the least watched, taking place simultaneously. Fortunately, the one on ESPN2 was the significantly better spectacle. We here at WNBAlien, of course, play no favourites. Full coverage of both games follows, and yes, every minute of both games was witnessed. Just not live, thanks to those silly blackout rules.

Let’s start with the big game on the ‘Worldwide Leader’. Both Connecticut and Los Angeles came into this matchup with only one loss, but due to the teams they’d beaten and some late escapes the Sparks generally weren’t considered as impressive. This was their chance to prove themselves against a real test. LA had guard Alana Beard back in the lineup after she missed their previous game with a hamstring injury, but now had backup post Ebony Hoffman missing thanks to an ankle sprain. Connecticut had no injury issues, and head coach Mike Thibault stuck with Allison Hightower in his starting lineup ahead of Kalana Greene.

It was a scrappy start from the Sun, who were making too many passes that resulted in turnovers or at least tips by the Sparks defenders. LA are a long team – DeLisha Milton-Jones at small forward is far bigger than any of Connecticut’s wings, and Beard is pretty big for a guard as well – and it took the Sun a while to adapt. Meanwhile, although the Sparks were firing away a little too freely from outside, Nneka Ogwumike was doing her typical yeoman’s work on the offensive boards and cleaning up the leftovers.

Out of a timeout only six minutes into the game, we got a taste of what was to come for much of the night. The Sparks came out in their 2-3 zone – a zone which several other teams have found almost pathetically easy to score against this season – and Connecticut immediately gave up a 24-second shot clock violation. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 11/06/2012: Eastern Conference follows suit

So after an all-West double-header on Saturday night, the schedule threw up a pair of all-East clashes on Sunday afternoon. Just to maintain the symmetry, the Eastern games followed the same pattern – the leaders keep winning, and the stragglers continue to struggle.

We open in New York, where the Liberty came in with a three-game winning streak that had finally given them some hope for the 2012 season. However, their visitors were the Chicago Sky, who arrived as a 5-1 team who’ve been finding a way to win games this season – instead of give them away as they have in previous years.

New York once again had Plenette Pierson in the lineup, despite an injury that’s finally been disclosed as a hyperextended knee. She was ready to give everything she could, but clearly wasn’t playing at 100%. Chicago are at nine players for now, with Ticha Penicheiro still out due to her calf injury, and Shay Murphy in Europe to represent the Montenegrin national team.

The opening stages were worrying for New York, because their ‘white line’ defense was getting picked apart with ease by simple passes over the top to Sylvia Fowles under the hoop. Even when the Sky couldn’t get the ball in to her and fired up jumpers from outside, the fronting involved in the defensive system left Fowles with immediate position on the offensive boards, making her the favourite to put the ball right back in.

The Liberty were at least keeping in touch early thanks to an aggressive Cappie Pondexter – who looked like she was determined to produce against fellow Rutgers alumnus Epiphanny Prince, who’s had the more impressive start to the season – along with some solid interior passing. The problem was that as the first half progressed, New York ran out of ideas against the Chicago defense. Continue reading