The Daily W, 07/04/2014


Tulsa Shock 96 @ Connecticut Sun 83


Lineups: No changes for either side, despite both having lost their last three games.


Story of the Game: Connecticut had one good quarter in this game – the second – and otherwise got outplayed for most of the night. They started atrociously, with a series of bricks and turnovers featuring consecutive travelling violations by Kelsey Bone, while layups and free throws helped Tulsa to the first 12 points of the game. Odyssey Sims got off to a hot start in what turned out to be her best game so far as a pro, hitting from the perimeter but also doing a lot of work at the rim. She’s had some of the same problems as a rookie that teammate Skylar Diggins had in her first year – the ability to get past people and into the heart of a defense but then missing a lot of shots among the trees once she gets inside. In this game she was finishing almost everything, including several floaters from a few feet beyond the rim, completing the play without having to directly challenge the opposing posts.

But the Sun finally woke up in time to even the game up in the second period, with Alyssa Thomas’s size from the wing and Renee Montgomery’s quickness off the bench helping drag them back into the game. Bone was also managing to finish plays inside rather than taking four steps before putting the ball on the floor, and Tulsa’s poor interior defense helped as well.

But that second quarter proved to be a brief respite. With Sims leading the way and Diggins joining in, plus the tandem of Glory Johnson and Courtney Paris dominating Connecticut on the offensive glass, Tulsa were in complete control for virtually all of the second half. The Sun briefly threatened a comeback when Katie Douglas got hot from outside early in the fourth quarter, but Jordan Hooper answered with threes of her own and the Shock were quickly back on track. Tulsa’s defense wasn’t that great for much of the night, but with the way their offense was ripping the Sun apart, it made little difference.


Key Players: Sims finished the night 11-17 for 30 points, and it was nice to see her as the primary weapon for once. That was the idea when they drafted her – that between her and Diggins in the backcourt, opponents would have trouble guarding both and at least one could explode in any given game. But it’s been Diggins doing most of the work on the offensive end, and drawing all the plaudits. This time it was Sims’s night.

Douglas and Thomas were easily the most effective offensive players for Connecticut, with Thomas quietly becoming more effective as the season progresses. Her jump shot’s still very much a work in progress, but her size, strength and athleticism from the small forward spot makes her dangerous even with limited shooting range. Connecticut’s main problem in this game was their complete inability to slow the Shock down. Also, why Anne Donovan took so long to give Montgomery a chance to help in the second half was mystifying. She woke the team up in the second quarter but didn’t get much of a chance to help in the second half.


Notes of Interest: For the second time this season, Kelsey Griffin lost a shoe during play, and carried on playing with just one. And again, the opposing team recognised it and attacked her. But unlike the block she pulled off against Penny Taylor earlier in the year, Glory Johnson managed to draw a foul while driving at her. She should probably tie her shoes a little tighter.

Thomas lost something during play as well, but dealt with it rather better. The face mask she was wearing to protect her recently injured nose was flapping behind her head while she completed a transition layup early in the second half, then she kicked it to the sidelines before grabbing a steal and leading the break for another layup for her team. All the sequence really needed was some dramatic music as she revealed herself to be someone else under the mask.




San Antonio Stars 84 @ Minnesota Lynx 91


Lineups: Minnesota were without Seimone Augustus for the second straight game due to left knee bursitis, so Monica Wright started for them again. Danielle Adams continues to start ahead of Sophia Young-Malcolm for San Antonio at power forward, while Jia Perkins is still out due to her hamstring injury.


Story of the Game: Minnesota hit several threes early on, including three from Wright, which covered up the fact that there wasn’t a lot of flow to their offense. By contrast, San Antonio – a team that often lives and dies by the outside jumper – didn’t take many threes in the first half, but inched their way ahead on layups and mid-range jump shots. The Lynx defense still isn’t where Cheryl Reeve would like it to be on the interior rotations, although they did do a decent job of extending to San Antonio’s shooters in this game, making those outside shots more difficult.

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The Daily W, 07/02/2014


San Antonio Stars 74 @ Connecticut Sun 71


Lineups: Same again for both teams, with Danielle Adams and Alyssa Thomas continuing to retain their spots ahead of former starters Sophia Young-Malcolm and Allison Hightower. Thomas was in a face-mask after breaking her nose in practice the day before.


Story of the Game: An utterly forgettable first half saw Connecticut lead for most of the 20 minutes, but not by much. The advantage they had was that a significant portion of their points were coming at the rim, by running out in transition or working on the offensive glass. San Antonio were relying more on jumpers, which typically produce a lower rate of success even with the shooters on the Stars roster.

The third quarter was thoroughly dominated by San Antonio. When they’re in full flow they’re a lovely team to watch on offense. Endlessly unselfish, always willing to give up a good shot for a great one, they took apart a Connecticut team that looked like they’d taken a nap at halftime and not woken up in time for the restart. Becky Hammon, Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride were the key players doing the scoring, moving the ball beautifully and exploiting Connecticut’s overplaying defenders by getting in behind them. With everyone on the floor a threat to score, bar Jayne Appel, San Antonio have the luxury of not having to run plays for anyone in particular. They can put all the pieces in motion, watch the defense bend or break, and then take whatever gap opens up. Connecticut both left shooters open and gave up lanes to the basket in the third quarter, and San Antonio moved ahead by double-digits.

But it wasn’t quite over. Katie Douglas played the central role in dragging Connecticut back into the game, attacking the basket on drives rather than settling for jumpers. San Antonio had become a little too one-on-one offensively, losing the team flow from earlier, and a Kelsey Bone layup eventually tied the game with under three minutes to play.

Then it was San Antonio’s turn to bounce back. They scored the next seven points of the game, on a rare Appel post move, a McBride three off a nice staggered-screen play drawn up by Dan Hughes in a timeout, and then free throws once Connecticut started fouling to extend the game. At the other end, San Antonio’s 3-2 zone had the desired effect of slowing the Sun down, forcing a 24-second violation. Then Bone barreled over Young-Malcolm on a post move for another turnover, and the Stars were back in charge. Between Hammon, Robinson and McBride they were 8-8 at the foul line in the closing moments, helping San Antonio hold on despite some late threes from the Sun.


Key Players: The perimeter trio of Hammon, Robinson and McBride did most of the work for the Stars, especially in their push in the third quarter. That’s two wins out of two for San Antonio since losing Jia Perkins to her hamstring injury, both featuring strong performances from the remaining perimeter players. It’s a small sample-size to this point, but they’ve stepped up when they needed to without the usual burst of scoring from Perkins off the bench.

Douglas and Bone were the main weapons for Connecticut, although Bone would’ve been more efficient if not for several missed layups. It was a disappointingly quiet night for Chiney Ogwumike, and she’s had a couple of those lately. It’s always hard for rookies to keep playing to their absolute potential throughout their first professional seasons. They’re not used to playing this often, or against this level of competition night-in and night-out.


Notes of Interest: Bone was drawing a double-team from the Stars in the low post, which was interesting. There aren’t too many players around the league who gain that kind of respect, but clearly Bone’s offensive game is starting to earn it for her. The defensive end is still where she needs to put in the most work.




Tulsa Shock 74 @ New York Liberty 90


Lineups: As expected for both teams. Riquna Williams didn’t even travel with the Shock due to her knee problem. Anna Cruz was playing with strapping on her left hand after dislocating a finger during New York’s previous game.


Story of the Game: The opening stages were a joy to behold for Bill Laimbeer and Liberty fans – this was the Tina Charles that they’d been waiting for all season. Charles was in the low post, demanding the ball, and then making aggressive moves towards the basket rather than drifting away from it. That led to baskets, fouls, free throws, and general positive outcomes for New York. Tulsa made things a little easier by trying to single-cover her most of the time, but the effort and method of attack was all Charles.

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The Daily W, 07/01/2014


Connecticut Sun 65 @ New York Liberty 67


Lineups: Both teams used the same starting lineups we’ve seen in recent games. So Allison Hightower continues to come off the bench for Connecticut since returning from her knee problem.


Story of the Game: This was not an offensive showcase, by any means. Credit the defenses to some extent, but basically both teams struggled to hit shots all afternoon. Connecticut in particular had problems knocking down anything from more than two feet, but compensated to some extent by working harder than New York in transition and on the offensive glass. It was a little embarrassing for the Liberty how often Connecticut produced layups simply by beating their opponents down the floor.

After her first ever zero-point game in the WNBA on Friday night against Chicago, Cappie Pondexter still wasn’t afraid to let fly, and hit a few shots in the first half. Also, with the addition of Charde Houston and incremental development of Sugar Rodgers, for the first time it seemed like New York had a bench group that might help them rather than lead to a collapse. It all balanced out to a fairly even first half.

New York crept ahead by as many as nine points in the third quarter, without seeming to do anything particularly special. Connecticut still couldn’t hit a shot unless they were right at the rim, so breakaways and offensive rebounds remained their only forms of attack with any real success. Tina Charles was drawing all kinds of attention whenever she touched the ball in the low post, but still not seeing enough of it down there. New York need to realise that even if she doesn’t score, when the ball reverses out of there they’ll generally get great shots. They often seem to start games and second halves by looking for her inside, and then she drifts away as the play progresses. But she did at least produce a few finishes for the Liberty to help the offense in the second half.

With Katie Douglas and Alex Bentley finally starting to make a few shots – Douglas’s first bucket came on a deep three when New York ignored her, and she almost seemed to shoot out of disgust – Connecticut made it a game in the fourth quarter. It was a one-point game for almost the entire last two minutes, while both sides traded misses. A dismal ‘play’ from Connecticut in the final seconds saw Bentley go nowhere, eventually reverse the ball to Douglas, who had to force up a three that never had a chance. After Anna Cruz added a free throw for New York, another Douglas heave was nowhere near at the buzzer, and New York had clung on.


Key Players: Pondexter and Charles led the scoring for New York with 14 apiece, without either playing particularly well. Plenette Pierson and Rodgers had productive appearances off the bench. But the game was won with their team defense and the awful shooting from Connecticut.

Chiney Ogwumike finished 8-14 for 22 points and 17 rebounds, including 8 offensive boards. Between her and Kelsey Bone the Sun thoroughly outworked New York on the glass and in running the floor, but it just wasn’t quite enough without their teammates being able to hit anything from outside. Ogwumike herself repeatedly turned down the mid-range jumpers that New York were offering her all afternoon. She’s extending her range – as all posts working under Anne Donovan are generally tasked to do – but for now she’s much more comfortable doing her work right around the rim.


Notes of Interest: Essence Carson didn’t make it off the bench at all, drawing her first ‘Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision’ for a long time. While Anna Cruz and Alex Montgomery have started to become more effective offensively as role players, the complete lack of production from Carson this season has been a major problem for New York. She was meant to be the third wheel for Pondexter and Charles, even if she wasn’t entirely back from her ACL tear. Instead she’s gotten progressively worse, and finally fallen off the end of the rotation. Hopefully she rebounds next year.




San Antonio Stars 73 @ Washington Mystics 65


Lineups: Dan Hughes changed up his lineup for the first time in a while, with Danielle Adams supplanting Sophia Young-Malcolm in San Antonio’s starting lineup. Adams has been finishing plenty of games ahead of Young-Malcolm, but it still sends something of a message to remove the veteran from her long-established starting spot. Coming off her own ACL tear, Young-Malcolm hasn’t been as poor as Essence Carson in New York, but there hasn’t been that much in it. The Stars were also without key reserve Jia Perkins, who’s out for at this road trip after straining her hamstring in the game against Atlanta on Thursday night. Washington opened with the same group we’ve seen in their recent games, and had Kara Lawson available again off the bench after missing one game due to dehydration/flu.


Story of the Game: The main difference for much of this game was simply shooting. Emma Meesseman produced some points early for Washington, while Ivory Latta drives and Stefanie Dolson finishes added on later in the first half, but San Antonio consistently out-shot them from the perimeter. The ball movement to create the looks for the Stars was pretty good, but having people like Becky Hammon who are a threat to drill threes as soon as they cross half-court was the key element. She had four triples in the first half, three of them from so deep that normally you wouldn’t worry about the player letting fly. But Becky Hammon isn’t exactly a ‘normal’ player, even in the midst of – for her – a pretty mediocre season.

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The Daily W, 06/27/2014


Atlanta Dream 81 @ San Antonio Stars 79


Lineups: Both sides went with the starting fives we’ve come to expect. Matee Ajavon played for the first time in weeks for Atlanta off the bench, albeit very briefly. Swin Cash didn’t play at all, but as far as anyone reported that was only a coach’s decision


Story of the Game: San Antonio started so poorly that Dan Hughes called a timeout after only 70 seconds of play, and subbed out four of his starters. Danielle Robinson was the only player to escape the cull. Having made his point, he sent them all back in three minutes later. Regardless of which group was in the game for the Stars, Atlanta were the team playing with pace and energy early on. They were repeatedly finding their way right into the heart of the San Antonio defense, and converting at the rim. Erika de Souza was the main threat in the paint, but Sancho Lyttle was an option as well, with Angel McCoughtry making her presence known as always by attacking off the dribble.

San Antonio came back into it largely by figuring out their own offense, rather than improving their defense. Once they started playing with more mobility and creating good looks at the offensive end, it slowed down Atlanta’s offense because they had to pull the ball out of the basket. It’s much harder to run when you can’t get stops. Shoni Schimmel’s wide open three at the first quarter buzzer summed up how the Stars had played defense – but it only extended Atlanta’s lead to seven points, rather than the blowout that looked imminent in the early moments. The pattern continued in the second quarter, where San Antonio continued to slide back into the game by hitting shots and finding their own gaps in Atlanta’s defense, draining much of the Dream’s momentum. Atlanta were up by just three at halftime, despite shooting 51% from the field.

But the Dream reasserted themselves in the third quarter, and took control of the game again. San Antonio had gotten stagnant on offense, leading to breakdowns and turnovers. Apart from occasional forays by Danielle Adams, the Stars really don’t have a threat in the paint that they can toss the ball to for a good look inside, which means that when they stop moving their offense can end up looking horrible. They also got painfully outworked on the glass in the third quarter allowing Atlanta to push their lead back out to double-digits. The only things that even kept San Antonio within shouting distance were a couple of Jia Perkins threes, aided by some shoddy transition defense from the Dream. The shine was taken off that when Perkins appeared to pull her right hamstring in the waning seconds of the period, while simply dribbling the ball upcourt. Considering Shenise Johnson has already missed several games this season with hamstring problems, it makes you wonder whether the Stars stretch properly before games.

This game looked pretty much over, and appeared to be drifting to a conclusion as the perimeter of Celine Dumerc, Shoni Schimmel and Tiffany Hayes offered energy and creativity that extended Atlanta’s lead to 14 midway through the fourth quarter. But once Angel McCoughtry came back in, and the Dream started firing quick, forced shots and acting like their work was done for the night, the Stars made a charge. Most of the comeback came on threes from Shameka Christon, hitting one of her all-too-rare hot streaks from outside. Becky Hammon nailed a triple as well, and had a trademark spinning layup in the closing seconds. Christon’s third three in the final two minutes made it a one-point game, but with just two seconds left on the clock. Hayes went 1-of-2 at the line, but without timeouts San Antonio had to try to push the length of the court to answer. Robinson was fouled by Dumerc (with Atlanta’s foul-to-give) to slow her down, and then her heave came after time expired on the ensuing inbounds (and wasn’t close anyway). The Stars had run out of time, and Atlanta had just barely clung on.

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The Daily W, 06/25/2014


Washington Mystics 81 @ San Antonio Stars 70


Lineups: The starting groups were the same as in recent games for both teams, but there was also some good news among the reserves. Rookie center Stefanie Dolson was wearing some protection on her right knee, but she was ready and available to play after an awkward looking fall in their game on Sunday night in Seattle.


Story of the Game: This one was pretty close for most of the first three periods. Danielle Robinson was hitting her mid-range jumper early on, as a key part of San Antonio’s offense. Once Kayla McBride stopped firing up bricks from outside and started attacking off the dribble a little, she joined in later in the game. Meanwhile Washington ran a lot through the post, with Kia Vaughn the early beneficiary and Dolson increasingly involved as the game progressed.

The Mystics pulled in front in the second quarter, hitting some of the mid-range shots that opened up once San Antonio started sending extra help into the paint to keep them away from the rim. But the Stars were hitting enough to hang around, and a trio of three-point plays from Sophia Young-Malcolm in the third quarter helped San Antonio turn the tide. Washington countered with three threes from Ivory Latta, one in transition and two from so deep that the defense was understandably a step off her. They were mostly those “No… no… no… yes!” shots that Latta tends to specialise in on her good nights.

So the game was decided in the fourth quarter. San Antonio missed some good looks, both inside and out, which ground their offense to a halt. They also went away from what had been working – we saw very little of Robinson attacking with her speed, or McBride getting to the rim. The star of the closing period was Dolson, who scored on whichever San Antonio defender happened to be near her in the paint. Kayla Alexander, Danielle Adams and Jayne Appel were all victims, as the big rookie converted on post moves and putbacks for her most productive offensive sequence as a pro. San Antonio were also dominated on the boards in the final period, which isn’t a new experience for them. The Stars couldn’t come up with any answers, and Washington eased home for a much-needed win.


Key Players: In the fourth it was mostly Dolson for Washington, but Latta made the big shots in the third and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was effective in spurts for most of the afternoon. It won’t work against everyone – many WNBA teams are better at defending the paint than San Antonio – but the interior attack gave Washington a grounding throughout the game. Even if the points ultimately came from outside, it often started by getting the ball inside.

McBride and Robinson were the most effective offensive weapons for San Antonio, although it was nice to see Young-Malcolm finishing through contact in the third quarter. As we’ve seen over the years, the Stars have a tendency to live or die by the jump shot, and 2-15 from beyond the arc was too much to survive in this one


Notes of Interest: San Antonio switched to their 3-2 zone early in the fourth quarter, a common move by Dan Hughes to try to unsettle opponents. The interesting thing was that Washington appeared to have a set intended to force a defensive three-seconds violation, and it worked. It earned the Mystics a free throw, and pushed San Antonio to switch back to their man-to-man the next time down the floor. We’ve so rarely seen opposing teams try to actively force those issues against zones since the rule was introduced last season, so it was nice to see a counter-move work exactly as planned.




Seattle Storm 57 @ Los Angeles Sparks 65


Lineups: Both teams started the same units that had begun their previous games. So Temeka Johnson was in the lineup again for Tanisha Wright, still out due to her bruised knee, while Los Angeles once again went big with Candace Parker at small forward and point guard Lindsey Harding on the bench.


Story of the Game: This was a game that LA led almost from beginning to end, but never managed to put to bed until the final moments. It was an odd kind of game, considering Seattle’s offense has been working fairly well in their recent outings while LA have been trying to fix their leaky defense – the Storm ended up having great difficulty scoring despite a painfully slow-paced game that was exactly to their liking.

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The Daily W, 06/23/2014


Tulsa Shock 105 @ Chicago Sky 99 (OT)


Lineups: Same starting groups for both teams, although Riquna Williams was available again for Tulsa off the bench. She didn’t play much after two hideous turnovers late in the first quarter – both on pathetically lazy underarm ‘passes’. Maybe she wasn’t really ready to play, although the problem looked like it was more in her head than her knee.


Story of the Game: The defense in the opening stages of this game was flat-out embarrassing at both ends of the floor. Chicago were repeatedly giving up dribble penetration right into the heart of their defense; Tulsa’s rotations to cover after simple picks and passes were desperately slow or occasionally nonexistent. It provided a lot of points for the national audience on ESPN2, but some dismal viewing for the basketball purist.

It didn’t get a great deal better as the game wore on, although the teams tried to cover up their holes. After Roneeka Hodges had been smoking hot from outside to open up a lead for Tulsa, Allie Quigley starting draining threes for Chicago to turn it around. It helped that the Shock were barely bothering to even recognise she was on the floor, never mind defend her. Chicago led by 10 at halftime.

The Sky had Jessica Breland back in top form, being left in far too much space and adding some one-on-one moves to the free throw line jumper she’s been hitting all season. Pokey Chatman also got her team to start overwhelmingly collapsing into the lane to cover for the dribble-penetration. If you drop five defenders into the paint whenever anyone even looks like being beaten off the dribble, at least there’ll be a lot of traffic in the way when they try to get to the hoop.

With Skylar Diggins pushing the offense, and Glory Johnson picking up some scraps in her battle with Breland, Tulsa kept hanging around in range in the second half. They couldn’t quite get enough stops to complete the comeback, until the last few seconds of regulation. Jordan Hooper hit a three for Tulsa, Johnson finished off a nice feed from Diggins, and then Johnson drove from the elbow through contact for a three-point play with 19 seconds left. That tied up a game that Chicago had led for every second since early in the second quarter. It also picked up Breland’s fifth foul. Chicago had a chance to win it, but Epiphanny Prince’s pullup jumper off a high Markeisha Gatling pick was short, and Breland’s putback attempt hit the side of the backboard. Extra basketball.

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The Daily W, 06/20/2014


San Antonio Stars 87 @ Seattle Storm 82 (OT)


Lineups: As normal for San Antonio, but Tanisha Wright was out for Seattle with a right knee contusion. That was a significant loss for them, as she’s been playing well lately attacking the basket and providing their main penetrator from the perimeter. She’s also their first option as a defender on guards, and would’ve taken Danielle Robinson in this game. Noelle Quinn came into the starting lineup, while Sue Bird had the difficult task of covering Robinson for most of the night.


Story of the Game: The opening stages were pretty ugly offensively, with Seattle in particular unable to hit a shot. San Antonio led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, thanks to Jia Perkins bombing from outside and some unusually effective minutes from backup center Kayla Alexander. Seattle’s ball movement wasn’t that bad, but the Stars were doing a better job defensively of sticking close to shooters, making it much tougher for the Storm than they’d found it in their game against the Stars a week earlier. Seattle cut the gap down to eight at the interval largely thanks to a little transition offense – it’s harder to miss when you break away for a layup without defenders anywhere near you.

Seattle were much better offensively in the second half. San Antonio had been mixing up their defenses throughout the evening, using their ‘wheel’ zone (that’s my name for it – I have no idea what they call it) to complicate Seattle’s offense. That zone starts off as a 3-2, but rotates around with the ball to become a 2-3 when it needs to (hence ‘wheel’). The Storm started doing a better job of cutting into the seams to find space and scoring against it in the second half, with Camille Little leading the way. It was also an impressive offensive outing from Sue Bird, more aggressive in attacking off the dribble than we’ve seen for quite some time. She clearly recognised that without Wright they needed her to step up as a scorer, and produced. There were at least three Bird drives that went right to the rim, which has been more like a month of work than a single evening for Bird in recent times.

But San Antonio kept coming up with answers. Seattle would pull close, and then Robinson would knife to the rim on a drive, or Perkins would drill another shot from deep. Seattle even took the lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, only for San Antonio to produce a 10-0 run to take it right back.

So Seattle came again. Shekinna Stricklen produced a pair of huge threes to assist Bird and Little, while Alysha Clark had a backdoor cut for a layup and Bird added a big three of her own in the final minute. Nicole Powell went 1-of-2 at the free throw line to give the Storm a three-point lead with 18 seconds left in regulation. San Antonio set up a play that basically broke down. Becky Hammon tried to get open through a double-screen, but was caught in traffic. She penetrated and kicked to Robinson, who re-penetrated a swung a pass to the corner, where Hammon and Danielle Adams were almost standing on top of each other. Adams caught it, stepped back, and drained the three to tie the game. Exactly how they drew it up, honest. Out of timeouts, Seattle tried to push to answer, but Perkins poked the ball away from Bird and time expired. Overtime.

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The Daily W, 06/15/2014


Los Angeles Sparks 74 @ San Antonio Stars 101


Lineups: As expected on both sides. At time of writing, Kristi Toliver is preparing to tip-off for Slovakia in Wladyslawowo, so obviously she still wasn’t available for the Sparks last night. The ‘professional business overseas’ excuse for her absence that commentators keep regurgitating is getting tiresome, but at least it’s more factually accurate than the ‘professional business in Russia’ the Sparks originally tried to spout.


Story of the Game: Neither side had much success stopping the other in the first half. As always, LA tried to push whenever they could to avoid playing halfcourt offense, but they were fairly successful in slicing through San Antonio’s defense even when forced to set up a play. Their only real difficulties came with turnovers – some offensive fouls, some sloppy passes. When they managed to hold on to the ball, the scoring was highly efficient.

But San Antonio were getting it all back at the other end. Danielle Robinson repeatedly went streaking by Lindsey Harding, leaving the Sparks point guard in her dust. Occasionally it led to baskets for her teammates, but mostly it resulted in layups for Robinson herself. It’s far too simplistic to blame Harding. Robinson’s lightning quick, but everyone on the floor knows that her main threat is the drive, and if she’s forced to shoot jumpers or pull up in the lane, you live with it. LA’s help defense behind Harding just wasn’t there in time, and it’s a fairly common failing with the Sparks. There needs to be a more collective responsibility in their defense.

The Stars also shot 19 free throws in the first half (and made all 19), a sign of reaching and late-arriving defense (and admittedly some bad luck with the officials). As a result of both that and the offensive foul issues, both Alana Beard and Nneka Ogwumike were in foul trouble and spent much of the first half on the bench. LA shot 58% in the first half and still trailed by five points at the break.

The game was decided in the third quarter, when San Antonio kept scoring but the Sparks could no longer keep up. Robinson had developed so much offensive rhythm and confidence by this point that she was knocking down shots from 15 feet with ease as well as the layups, and her teammates were joining in. Kayla McBride made a living all night by hanging out at the three-point line, watching her teammates force the LA defense to collapse, and then drilling shots when the ball was kicked to her. LA’s rotations weren’t even close to fast enough to challenge her shots and make her miss.

The Sparks tried some zone in the third to change the momentum, but their zone really is a last resort. Becky Hammon immediately nailed a deep open three over the top of it, then hit another one moments later when LA quickly quit on the zone. The Sparks missed a series of layups in the third quarter, which only helped San Antonio build momentum, but the major problem for LA was the ease with which the Stars were scoring points. San Antonio led by 18 at the end of the third.

The fourth quarter was largely garbage time, with LA playing five different kinds of defense simultaneously even before they totally quit and cleared the bench. The Stars and their fans enjoyed it immensely of course, and everyone was delighted when rookie guard Heather Butler made her first field goal as a pro, taking them over 100 points for the night.

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The Daily W, 06/14/2014


Chicago Sky 68 @ Washington Mystics 79


Lineups: Chicago had the same major injury problems as Tuesday night, with Elena Delle Donne (illness related to Lyme disease) and Jessica Breland (shin) joining Sylvia Fowles (hip) as absentees. Gennifer Brandon started at power forward again, while Epiphanny Prince got her first start of the season after her strong finish to the Seattle game on Tuesday. Allie Quigley went back to the bench.

Washington promoted Monique Currie back into the starting lineup, moving Tierra Ruffin-Pratt back to the bench.


Story of the Game: It was a scrappy first half, with Washington eventually developing a small lead via a few transition baskets in the second quarter. Emma Meesseman’s interior passing was an early highlight, while Kara Lawson came in and got the ball where it needed to be later in the half. Her shooting touch is still proving pretty elusive, but she’s an experienced guard who can run the team as well.

Chicago had Prince breaking down the defense early on, but it failed to result in many points. Quigley hit several shots once she came off the pine, which kept the game close. Washington weren’t really moving the ball well enough as a team to exploit all the holes in Chicago’s defense that Seattle had illustrated in their previous game.

Mike Thibault keeps talking in interviews about how they need Meesseman to be a more forceful player offensively, to look to score and be a central figure for them when they have the ball. She’s young and doesn’t have the selfish personality to make her naturally want to do that, but maybe Thibault reinforced the message again at halftime. We saw more aggression from Meesseman in the second half, finally going right at defenders like Brandon who really can’t guard her. When Brandon sat, Tamera Young was the emergency power forward, which gave Chicago even less chance of surviving inside.

The Mystics finally started to take over the game early in the fourth quarter, perhaps awakened by the scare from Chicago taking a brief lead. Washington used Meesseman and Tianna Hawkins together in the post for that stretch, a pair we haven’t seen much this season (they usually sub in and out for each other). They were both too big and too quick for the Chicago options. On the perimeter Washington had rookie guard Bria Hartley providing a scoring balance, and also ran a couple of plays specifically designed to get shots for Lawson – and she actually knocked them down.

After growing tired of the ineffectiveness of both Courtney Vandersloot and backup Jamierra Faulkner, Chicago had Epiphanny Prince playing as a virtual point guard for much of the second half. Just setting a high pick for Prince and letting her try to make something happen was typically a better option than trying to run an offensive set. It worked for a while, but didn’t hold up in the fourth, and Washington held on for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

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The Daily W, 06/08/2014


Indiana Fever 71 @ Connecticut Sun 88


Lineups: Tamika Catchings was still back in Indiana, but Briann January returned from her ankle injury and Shavonte Zellous’s knee issue from the previous night wasn’t serious enough to keep her out. So Indiana’s lineup looked the same as it has for most of the season. Connecticut started the same group as in recent outings.


Story of the Game: A desperately scrappy first half was largely brightened up by the performance of Sun point guard Alex Bentley. Her gunning from the perimeter gave the Sun the offense they needed and carried them into the lead. Katie Douglas also did a better job of attacking off the dribble rather than settling for outside jumpers (very few of which have been dropping for her this season).

The box score told you at halftime that the Fever had shot 58% from the field in the opening 20 minutes, but it certainly hadn’t felt like it. The reason for that was turnovers, which had flooded the Fever’s performance and constantly broken up any flow they might’ve developed. They had 17 turnovers in the first half alone, struggling to handle any pressure Connecticut exerted on the perimeter, or keep hold of the ball inside when surrounded by collapsing defenders.

Indiana looked like they might make a game of it a couple of times in the second half, with rookie forward Natasha Howard crashing the glass and finishing putbacks, then backup post Lynetta Kizer hitting several shots when Howard picked up her fifth foul and had to sit. But Connecticut always had an answer, through Bentley, or Chiney Ogwumike inside, or a nice little run from Chiney’s fellow rookie Alyssa Thomas. Out running the break, Thomas is a lot of fun to watch, and hopefully we see more of that as she settles in as a pro. But she’s also a strong, athletic finisher inside, and a useful rebounder from the small forward spot. She hasn’t exploded onto the scene quite like some of this year’s rookies, but give her time.

The Sun eventually held on without too much trouble in the final period, and on the second half of a back-to-back Indiana didn’t have the energy or the drive to sustain a comeback. Although they at least took slightly better care of the ball in the second half.


Key Players: Bentley was the catalyst for almost everything good that happened for the Sun, and now that Anne Donovan seems to have settled on her at the point and Renee Montgomery as the regular backup, it should help both of them. Players are always more comfortable when they know their spot in the rotation, even if there’s some flexibility depending on who plays well on a given night. It was also a good sign for Connecticut that they managed to put a decent performance together despite Ogwumike being in foul trouble early on, forcing other players to step up. Kelsey Griffin made some hustle plays coming in for her off the bench, several players drew contact for all the fouls the officials wanted to call, and they came away with a solid win.

Rarely will you shoot 53% from the floor and lose a game by 17 points, but that’s what Indiana managed. All those turnovers killed them, and while it was partly how the referees called the game, all the fouls were partly down to tired players reaching rather than playing proper defense. But the Fever will settle for 1-1 on their weekend Eastern road trip.




Chicago Sky 59 @ Atlanta Dream 97


Lineups: Same again for both teams. Chicago had Epiphanny Prince in uniform again, ready to finally make her debut this season. Atlanta continue to start Jasmine Thomas at the point, with Celine Dumerc and Shoni Schimmel snapping at her heels from the bench.


Story of the Game: Chicago got run off their own floor by Los Angeles the night before, and Pokey Chatman would’ve been hoping for a response from her team. She didn’t get one, unless an even more dramatic capitulation counts as a response.

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