You know how these articles often seem to start with some declaration about how they’re going to be shorter than usual, then end up being a million words long anyway? Well today’s going to be different. I promise. There were three WNBA games last night; two of them were pretty dull, and the third was essentially invisible to anyone outside Chicago’s Allstate Arena, due to the vagaries of WNBA.com’s LiveAccess portal. So we’re truly, honestly, absolutely going to keep it short today. Really.
We’re also going to the Bullet Point Breakdown, for extra brevity.
- The expected fives started the game, meaning Washington actually opened with their best players for a second consecutive game. Matee Ajavon only played 11 minutes in the end, for some reason, but she did start. The Mystics had Natasha Lacy available again on the bench after recovering from concussion-like symptoms.
- The first half was utterly forgettable. There was rarely more than a few points in it; San Antonio, playing the second half of a back-to-back, looked a little fatigued; and the Mystics are still the Mystics. Michelle Snow did have one of her better halves of the season, for what that’s worth. The Silver Stars led 36-34 at the break.
- Both teams shot exactly 50% in the first half, which just about summed it up – neither good nor bad, but right in the middle and utterly mediocre.
- Much maligned Mystics head coach Trudi Lacey at least provided some entertainment, sticking with her hockey-style ‘line change’ substitutions. There’s always something comedic about a coach switching five new players in simultaneously.
- San Antonio made their push in the third quarter, largely behind the offensive talents of Sophia Young. She’d been completely invisible in the first half, but Dan Hughes had apparently used the interval to point out that it’d be helpful if she’d join in. A series of tough jumpers, usually after some kind of convoluted spin move to create space for herself, helped break the game open. She threw in a couple of layups off nice feeds from Becky Hammon and Danielle Robinson as well.
- Washington had no answer, and were their usual mess offensively, regardless of which lineup Lacey threw out on the floor. San Antonio led 48-46 heading to the fourth.
- And in that final period, the Silver Stars simply seemed to want the game more. Despite playing the night before, they were the ones reacting to loose balls first, or making the extra effort when it was called for. Washington could never pull the gap below 9 or 10 points until the final minute, by which time it was too late.
- Both these teams are ‘deep’, but with important key differences. Hughes knows who his key players are, and while he’s got 8 or 9 players who can have an impact on any given night, there are three or four he’s going to consistently rely on. Beyond just about realising that Crystal Langhorne is her best player, Lacey often seems to be playing it by ear. Or throwing stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks. Or coaching in the dark. Pick your favourite analogy. It’s not particularly pretty, whatever angle you take.
- It was San Antonio’s sixth win on the trot, and while they didn’t exactly blow the moribund Mystics off the floor, they got the job done. Although they could probably use a couple of days off to recuperate from all their recent games, this is one team that could probably do without the Olympic break. They’ve found their rhythm, and when one or two players don’t have it on a particular night, someone else is stepping up to fill the gap. We’ve all known for years that they’re not strong in the paint, but they’re playing well enough in other areas to compensate. Plus Young’s greater focus on rebounding and Jayne Appel’s recovery from bust to mildly useful has helped them down low. Now they just have to keep this going for the long haul.
- The Shock had to make a change to their starting lineup, because Karima Christmas was traded to Indiana last week so was no longer an option. Amber Holt was promoted, with Roneeka Hodges in uniform on the bench for her first game with Tulsa. Connecticut opened with what’s become their regular lineup.
- The first quarter was all Connecticut, as their vastly better record in the standings was reflected on the floor. They weren’t pushing the ball inside where their obvious advantage should’ve been, but with a variety of Sun players making shots from outside it didn’t matter. Tulsa’s offense was an exercise in futility whether they went inside or out, and the Sun led 25-10 after the opening 10 minutes.
- Ivory Latta exploded for the Shock in the second quarter, and suddenly they had an offensive gameplan – watch Ivory score. Less than four minutes into the period, Latta hit her third three and tied the game up at 27. It’s safe to say that Sun coach Mike Thibault wasn’t happy when she was left wide open to nail that last one.
- But Latta couldn’t stay that hot – largely because head coach Gary Kloppenburg sat her on the bench – and a combination of Tina Charles and Kara Lawson quickly reestablished Connecticut’s lead. They were back up 46-34 by halftime.
- It was a weird second half, in that Connecticut always looked the better team, but never seemed to want to exert themselves more than was absolutely necessary to prove it. So Tulsa occasionally drew close, but the Sun always had enough in their locker to pull away again. Whenever they did remember that one of the best centers in the world plays on their team – and she deigned to enter the painted area – they scored with ease.
- The second half did at least offer a few more flashes of the versatile skills of Kayla Pedersen. That’s the second time I’ve said that about her in recent weeks – maybe she’s on her way back.
- The gap was never bigger than 13, and never smaller than 7 in the fourth quarter. The game just meandered to a finish, and the better team won. It was that exciting.
- Charles finished 10-15 for 24 points and 10 boards, reaching her customary double-double. Asjha Jones and Kara Lawson had 14 each in support, and Connecticut won a game they’ll barely remember by now. But then that’s what you’re supposed to do in games against teams like Tulsa – secure the win, don’t make a big fuss about it, and roll on to the next one. Especially when you’re playing in Minnesota 24 hours later.
- Latta was 9-14 for 24 points (6-7 from beyond the arc), but didn’t receive much offensive help from anyone. It is fun watching rookie post Glory Johnson fight it out with the likes of Charles and Jones, though. 6 points and 7 boards didn’t remotely reflect the battle she put up in the paint, and the fact that the Shock were +6 in her 27 minutes on the floor was no coincidence. She’s a physical, athletic specimen, and she’s got a mean streak in her. She’s already suggesting that she can be one of the rocks that they build this franchise upon.
- As mentioned earlier, this game was unwatchable on LiveAccess, so all information and coverage found here is based on the play-by-play and the boxscore.
- Kia Vaughn joined Plenette Pierson on the sidelines for New York due to that strange concussion she suffered in their last game. That left DeMya Walker and Kara Braxton as their starting frontcourt, with rookie Kelley Cain and an out-of-position Nicole Powell as their backups off the bench. Chicago stuck with their expected five, still shorn of Epiphanny Prince.
- Walker was in quick foul trouble, and Powell spent 15 minutes in the first half playing the 4. Yet Chicago apparently couldn’t do much with that advantage – not a surprise to anyone who’s watched them struggle to work the ball inside this season – and trailed 38-31 at the half.
- The Sky at least managed to turn their greater post presence into a big rebounding edge in the second half, grabbing 11 offensive boards and holding a 24-15 advantage on the glass. They even took a brief lead midway through the fourth quarter. But they still couldn’t make enough shots to take over the game. Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson’s scoring balanced out what Chicago got from Fowles and Tamera Young, and that was enough for New York to pull out the victory.
- Free throws, free throws, free throws! Following this game along purely in text form, you started to wonder if there was some kind of gale-force wind blowing through the arena. New York finished 6-9 at the line, which isn’t great (primarily because it means you didn’t get there enough). Chicago ended the game 6-21. 6-21! That’s not a misprint. A professional basketball team, without even Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain or Dwight Howard to help them along, missed 15 of 21 uncontested efforts from 15 feet. That’s flat-out embarrassing. Fowles was 2-6, Ruth Riley 1-2, Young and Sonja Petrovic both 0-2, and Courtney Vandersloot a miserable 2-8. Those are pretty poor numbers if they were taking threes. Shooting freebies like that as a team should draw some kind of fine.
- New York will certainly take it. Powell played nearly 30 minutes, essentially all of it at power forward, and finished 2-2 for 6 points and one rebound. That’s a little ridiculous, and you wonder if they could’ve found someone to help them in the post more than Katelan Redmon will. Nonetheless, they took home the win, and somehow the Liberty are only a game outside the playoff spots in the East. That says rather more about their competition (and how easy it is to make the playoffs in this league) than it does about New York’s 2012 season so far.
The Spanish women’s national team played in Germany today, and arrived there without Sancho Lyttle. So she may well have already hopped a flight back to the US to help Atlanta close out their road trip. For those counting, that’s about a 10,000-mile round trip to play one game (which her team lost). Bizarre. Spain beat the Germans without her, cementing their spot in next year’s EuroBasket Women in France. So we’ll be going through all this again in about 12 months.
Today (Saturday July 7th):
Chicago @ Indiana, 7pm ET
Connecticut @ Minnesota, 8pm ET
Atlanta @ Phoenix, 10pm ET
Seattle @ Los Angeles, 10pm ET
Tomorrow (Sunday July 8th):
San Antonio @ New York, 4pm ET
Washington @ Tulsa, 4pm ET
Atlanta @ Los Angeles, 8.30pm ET
Phoenix @ Seattle, 9pm ET