The Daily W, 06/06/2014


Washington Mystics 74 @ Connecticut Sun 66


Lineups: Rookie guard Bria Hartley got another start in the backcourt for Washington, maybe hoping she’d be energised by returning to play in front of many of the fans who loved her in college. The Sun stuck with the same lineup from their previous game, which meant the Chiney Ogwumike/Kelsey Bone pairing remained in the post, even though Kelsey Griffin was available again after her illness.


Story of the Game: Washington were on top for most of the first half. Kia Vaughn and Emma Meesseman were the post pair having the most success, and their developing chemistry could be a big plus for the Mystics in the future. Mike Thibault likes to mix and match his lineups, but if he notices a particular unit working well together he’ll use his rotations to make sure they’re on the floor together as often as possible. Meesseman has the all-round game and mobility to be effective in various areas, Vaughn has the size and work rate to fight in the paint and a pretty reliable mid-range shot. They gave Ogwumike and Bone problems.

Their teammates were chipping in as well, and the Mystics shot a high percentage in the first half to stay in front. The primary source of points for Connecticut was Ogwumike, who continues to impress. She gets those same hustle points off energy plays and offensive boards that we’ve been watching her sister Nneka pick up for a couple of years, but she’s also a focus of their offense within sets (something Nneka’s never been given a chance at in Los Angeles). With a lot of jumpers that weren’t going in from the rest of the Sun players, their deficit would’ve been a lot more than eight at halftime without Ogwumike’s efforts.

The Sun came back into the game in the third quarter. They were much more active and energetic on defense, the Washington offense stalled, and the scoreboard evened out. Connecticut also benefitted from a run of scoring from Alex Bentley. When your point guards are Bentley and Renee Montgomery, you have to accept that you won’t always run a perfect offensive set. They’re both prone to breaking off and looking for their own points at times, rather than playing the classic distributor role at the point. But sometimes that’s what you need to kick your offense into gear and wake your team up. Along with drives to the hoop and an answered prayer for three as the shot clock expired, Bentley tossed in a behind-the-back pass to Allison Hightower for a three. Connecticut were right back in the game.

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The Daily W, 06/02/2014


Atlanta Dream 76 @ Connecticut Sun 85


Lineups: Connecticut’s Kelsey Griffin was out with what was worryingly reported as a gall bladder problem. That made the decision for Anne Donovan in the post, although she later said that Kelsey Bone would’ve started at center alongside Chiney Ogwumike anyway. Kelley Cain was also available again off the bench after her foot injury. Atlanta went with the same five as in their previous game, and the absence of Inga Orekhova on the bench proved to be a telling sign of who was being cut to make room for Celine Dumerc’s imminent arrival.


Story of the Game: The two young Sun posts bookended the first half for Connecticut, Bone getting them off to a strong start, and Ogwumike dominating the closing stages. The Sun led for most of the opening 20 minutes, with Atlanta’s only consistent success coming via the offensive boards. Both teams displayed some terrible transition defense at times, but Connecticut were more consistent in attacking with pace and taking advantage of Atlanta’s lapses. Renee Montgomery got another chance to make an impression after her strong finish to their previous game, and gave the Sun the burst of speed and scoring that’s always been the central positive to her game. It’s still not entirely clear why Donovan has left her stuck to the bench through most of their early games.

Both teams were sloppy in the second quarter, as turnovers started to dominate the action. Angel McCoughtry was having a tough time getting anything going, with both Katie Douglas and Alyssa Thomas doing a decent job on her defensively. But Angel tends to be her own worst enemy at times, and she started to force things and make it worse. She was 0-9 at the interval, and Connecticut led by double-digits.

It didn’t get much better for the Dream in the second half. They cut the gap to six early on, but the Sun quickly pushed it back out, and were fairly comfortable for the rest of the afternoon. After some poor displays so far this season, it was a nice respite for Connecticut, and they’ll be hoping it’s a sign of things to come.

Atlanta were frustrated, and started losing their heads. McCoughtry screamed about a defensive lapse – that was her own fault – and was benched. Michael Cooper picked up a technical of his own. And then Matee Ajavon added her second tech of the game to get herself ejected – she’d been a disaster on the floor anyway, so it was no great loss. To add injury to a fairly insulting performance, Tiffany Hayes picked up a painful knock while running into a screen with only three seconds left in the game.


Key Players: It’s hard to pick out anyone worth mentioning for Atlanta. Hayes and Erika de Souza were the most effective scorers, and Shoni Schimmel had a few decent moments when Cooper used her – which wasn’t all that much – but no one had the best of days. For all of Cooper’s talk about wanting to play even faster than the Dream have in the past, Atlanta haven’t been earning as many points off turnovers as in previous seasons. The loss of Armintie Herrington hasn’t helped in that area. Without those steals and breaks to ignite their play and provide cheap points, they lack the electricity that this team possesses at its best. In fact, they’re giving up more points off their own miscues than they’re creating via takeaways. But Cooper’s still settling in, Dumerc’s arrival will help, and they’re in the East – they’ve got plenty of time to improve.

Ogwumike and Bone, the post pairing many of us have been begging for since opening day, was the bedrock for this performance and should be for the Sun going forward. Kelsey Griffin is a nice player, but she’s a good energy backup. Bone’s a 23-year old true center, and the partnership she might develop with Ogwumike could be their core for a decade.

The Sun also look better with Alex Bentley or Montgomery as the ‘point guard’, allowing Allison Hightower to help out with initiating the offense but putting another creator next to her. It may mean they need to be a bit more creative to find minutes for Alyssa Thomas, but it’s far from impossible.


Notes of Interest: This was the promising, potential-laden Connecticut Sun that many of us wrote about in the preseason. If they can play like this more often, Anne Donovan might save her job yet.




Los Angeles Sparks 84 @ Washington Mystics 92 (3OT)


Lineups: With Kristi Toliver in Slovakia representing her recently-adopted nation, Armintie Herrington and Alana Beard started on the wings for Los Angeles. Candice Wiggins was still out with her swollen knee – more on that in the ‘League News’ section at the end of this article – so the Sparks were looking thin on the perimeter. Especially as Carol Ross doesn’t really trust young Swedish backup Farhiya Abdi. Mike Thibault tinkered with his starters again, bringing Kara Lawson back in while Jelena Milovanovic went back to the bench. That slid Tierra Ruffin-Pratt to small forward, while Lawson joined Ivory Latta in the backcourt.


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The Daily W, 05/31/2014


New York Liberty 60 @ Washington Mystics 68


Lineups: New York stuck with the same five, but Mike Thibault made significant changes to his starting group. Kara Lawson and Monique Currie were both benched, with Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Jelena Milovanovic coming in on the wings. In Ruffin-Pratt’s case you could see it as a defensive switch, bringing in someone who could cover Cappie Pondexter more effectively than Lawson. Considering Essence Carson isn’t playing well enough for a defense to need to adapt for her, Milovanovic for Currie was a straight coach’s decision. Neither Lawson nor Currie has been playing well enough to really have any complaints.


Story of the Game: Washington were the team on top for most of the first half. Kia Vaughn was their primary offensive weapon in the opening quarter, finding space inside off simple plays for high-low feeds from Emma Meesseman. Then Vaughn started hitting her jumper from the elbow, and even added a layup in transition after running the floor hard. The Mystics were the more active team in general in the first half, more willing to push the ball and look for quick offense, and more attacking in halfcourt sets.

The Liberty managed to stay in touch, largely because Pondexter was having one of her more accurate shooting nights and point guard Anna Cruz was hitting from outside. Their focus on stuffing the ball inside to Tina Charles gets them in trouble sometimes, because the team becomes too focussed on feeding her, which leads to turnovers because the passes are so obvious. They still rarely show evidence of having enough ball movement or perimeter shooting to take advantage of the attention she draws down low. And the Liberty also got destroyed on the glass in the first half, which didn’t help. Charles was being outplayed by the opposing posts.

Washington’s lead hit 12 in the third quarter, before Pondexter led the comeback charge. She was raining jumpers from outside, had a drive-and-kick for a Cruz three, and basically dragged her team back into the game without a lot of help. This was the superstar Cappie we’ve seen too little of in the last couple of years.

The ridiculous Liberty bench unit lacking Pondexter, Charles or Carson was in evidence again at the end of the third. They survived for a couple of minutes, just about.

The fourth quarter stayed tight until the final five minutes, although Pondexter saw little of the ball and Charles remained as ineffective as she’d been all night. Then Ivory Latta took over for the Mystics. She drilled a three, had a couple of driving layups while Cruz just waved her by, and then sealed the game in the final 30 seconds with another step-back three – she fired that last one way too early in the shot clock, but once it went in no one cared.


Key Players: Vaughn early and Latta late was enough for Washington, along with the collective effort throughout. Just like last year, this is going to be the most balanced team across 10 or 11 players all season long, as Thibault uses everyone to get the job done. In many ways that’s the reverse of how the Liberty have been built, but ironically it was the starting center and combo-guard who led the Mystics to victory in this one.

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The Daily W, 05/29/2014


Tulsa Shock 79 @ San Antonio Stars 82


Lineups: San Antonio started their regular five, while Tulsa head coach Fred Williams made the seemingly obvious switch I talked about in yesterday’s mini-preview – promoting Odyssey Sims into the starting backcourt alongside Skylar Diggins, allowing Riquna Williams to return to her bench-gunner role. San Antonio’s bench was a little shorter than usual, with Shenise Johnson ruled out due to a strained right hamstring.


Story of the Game: Both teams were insanely hot from outside in the first half, combining to hit the first 11 three-point shots attempted. There were under four minutes left in the half when Shameka Christon tossed up the first missed three of the evening. The star of the show amongst the floor-wide bombing was a former Notre Dame guard – but not the one who tends to get all the press. Kayla McBride was smoking hot from the perimeter, not afraid to put the ball on the floor to create easier looks, and even made a couple of nice passes along the way as well. This is why Dan Hughes took her #3 in the recent draft, ahead of players like Alyssa Thomas and Natasha Howard who might’ve filled a more obvious hole on his roster.

McBride’s former college teammate Skylar Diggins was producing pretty nicely as well, continuing to look vastly more confident – and competent – than she did last season. Between Diggins, Sims, Williams and Jennifer Lacy firing from outside, and the interior of San Antonio’s defense looking shockingly soft when the Shock attacked it rather than firing away, Tulsa shot 65% in the first half and led by as many as nine points in the second quarter.

But with both teams turning the ball over far too cheaply, no one managed to maintain control of the game for long, regardless of the shooting. A late run for San Antonio, capped off by yet another McBride three, cut the Stars’ deficit to four points at the break.

Danielle Adams started the second half for San Antonio in place of Sophia Young-Malcolm, which was a little worrying considering the knee injury Young-Malcolm is still working her way back from, and the heavy knee brace she’s wearing to support it. But she re-joined the action later in the period, so maybe it was just a coaching choice from Hughes.

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The Daily W, 05/26/2014


San Antonio Stars 62 @ Los Angeles Sparks 83


Lineups: San Antonio started the same group as on Friday night in Phoenix, likely to be their starting five for most of this season, barring injury or Dan Hughes deciding he needs more size than Kayla McBride at small forward. Los Angeles had Nneka Ogwumike back from her lower back strain, but this time it was Alana Beard’s turn to miss out, due to a mild ankle sprain. She was replaced in the lineup by Armintie Herrington. Candice Wiggins was still in street clothes due to her swollen left knee.


Story of the Game: LA flew out of the traps and dominated the early stages, scoring the first 13 points of the game and leading by as many as 16 in the first quarter. When they’re active, aggressive, and playing with pace, the Sparks can be very difficult to stop. Kristi Toliver’s jumper was dropping, Ogwumike was cleaning the glass, Lindsey Harding was attacking off the dribble and then Sandrine Gruda and Jantel Lavender came off the bench and kept them rolling. It was like trying to hold back the tide for San Antonio.

But everything swung back around in the second quarter. The Stars threw in a little 2-3 zone to mix things up, and once they started hitting some shots it slowed LA’s transition game and their offensive flow dissolved. But halftime a game that initially looked like a mismatch was practically dead even again.

The dominant figure in the second half was Candace Parker, who was the main player in rebuilding LA’s lead in the third quarter, then pushing it out again after it dwindled to five points early in the fourth. Jayne Appel – with plenty of help – does the best she can against Parker, but the Sparks star’s array of skills makes her difficult for anyone to handle. Appel has the size and physicality to compete with her in the paint, but not the footspeed or agility to handle her off the dribble or in transition. And Parker’s range forces her to extend out further than she’s comfortable with. The LA commentators would’ve had you believe that Candace was walking on water by the end of the game – she wasn’t quite that good – but she helped carry LA to a comfortable win.


Key Players: Parker was clearly the central piece for the Sparks after they let San Antonio back into the game, although Toliver and Lavender continued to provide scoring support. Ogwumike was her usual self, quietly filling the complementary role and doing all the dirty work.

The LA defense still looks just as volatile as it did last year. At times, their sheer size and mobility creates turnovers or swamps opponents, then it feeds into their offense and becomes even more destructive. On other occasions their help defense in particular is absolutely dismal. Parker stunting towards Hammon when the Stars guard was about to finish a layup, basically letting her score so she could jump back to cover someone else, was the most egregious example. But there were several others. It’s these fluctuations that sometimes come back to haunt LA in the postseason. Being consistently very good is usually a better idea than being exceptional for long periods and poor for others. They struggle with that.

Jia Perkins was the main player that dragged San Antonio back into the game, and then kept them afloat in the second half and made it a contest for as long as possible. Dan Hughes did what he could with funky small lineups and different defenses, but in the end his team couldn’t keep up. More of his players need to show up offensively on a night-to-night basis. Sophia Young-Malcolm hasn’t done much yet after returning from her ACL tear, Shenise Johnson is still flattering to deceive, Kayla McBride is still trying to work out the pro game, Shameka Christon is basically decomposing before our eyes – the list goes on. Organisation and collective production can only go so far against an opponent as talented as LA.


Notes of Interest: As many of us suggested coming out of the draft, McBride really does look like duplication of what San Antonio already has on its roster. If she develops and becomes really good at her perimeter-based scoring game, she may live up to that #3 overall pick. But in terms of helping the Stars win before Hammon retires, it’s looking like other selections would’ve been more useful.




Indiana Fever 82 @ Atlanta Dream 77 (OT)


Lineups: Angel McCoughtry returned after missing the previous day’s game with a rhomboid (shoulder) strain, replacing Matee Ajavon in the lineup. Shoni Schimmel and Jasmine Thomas continued as the starting backcourt (Schimmel’s playing the point guard role the vast majority of the time). Indiana went with the same five again, still missing Tamika Catchings due to her bad back. On the bright side, backup point guard Sydney Carter was available again off the bench after recovering from her ankle sprain.


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The Daily W, 05/24/2014


Seattle Storm 59 @ Connecticut Sun 71


Lineups: After two dismal performances last weekend, Seattle made a change to their starting lineup with Alysha Clark replacing Noelle Quinn at small forward. Replacing one mediocre wing with one of their eighteen other mediocre wings was never going to make much difference, but why not? Connecticut stuck with the same group that had started their previous two games.


Story of the Game: On the bright side for Seattle, they didn’t get taken apart to quite the same extent as in their games last weekend. On the negative side, they lost by double-digits for the third straight game, and to a much weaker opponent than the ones that beat them in the first two. The Storm made a decent start, but that quickly dissipated and Connecticut pulled in front for good in the second quarter. It was only a six-point lead at halftime, and still only six early in the fourth quarter, but the Sun dominated the closing stages to ease home fairly comfortably.

Seattle’s lack of size was painfully evident in this game. They got Crystal Langhorne more involved in the offense than she had been in their previous outings, and Camille Little’s physical low-post defense affected Chiney Ogwumike’s post-up attack, but the flaw was still a significant problem. Most of Ogwumike’s production came via the offensive glass and second-chance looks, while Kelsey Bone looked like a giant in the paint when she came off the bench for the Sun. And it’s not just about the one-on-one issues, or the rebounding. Being so small means you have to send more help when defenders are overmatched, which opens up bigger holes elsewhere when the ball is reversed – and makes the rebounding issues starker because a second post is often dragged out of position.

Little and Langhorne are already a small starting pair – and Langhorne doesn’t ‘play big’ like Tina Thompson seemed capable of in the same role last year – but when either needs a rest or is in foul trouble, the likes of Jenna O’Hea, Nicole Powell and Clark are masquerading as post players. Brian Agler has no faith in his only actual backup post, Angel Robinson, and didn’t use her until garbage time. It’s going to hurt them all year, probably even more once teams have more video and gameplan to attack it repeatedly.

The same turnovers and sloppiness as in their first two games also affected the Storm, although they made some runs to keep themselves in the game when they managed to inject some pace. At the moment, they rarely look capable of scoring enough points to balance what they’ve got left to offer on the defensive end.


Key Players: Despite Little’s defense, Ogwumike still led the Sun with 18 points on 7-12 from the floor. She’s got enough athleticism and works hard enough that she can find points even when it’s difficult to produce on standard post touches. Kelsey Bone also had her first good game in a Sun jersey while exploiting her size advantage, and Kelsey Griffin picked up boards and made hustle plays all night.

Allison Hightower also showed off her continually improving offensive game, featuring strong drives (always to her left) and a decent jumper. She’s not really a point guard – she’s an initiator who can bring the ball up and start your offense, but she isn’t an instinctive creator for teammates – but she’s a productive player whatever you’re asking her to do.

Langhorne was Seattle’s only double-digit scorer, while everyone else hit a shot or two as the night went along, but without any consistency. Agler and his team have a lot of work to do.




Washington Mystics 79 @ Indiana Fever 63


Lineups: Indiana were unchanged, with Tamika Catchings still unavailable due to her sore back. They swapped injured backup guards, with Layshia Clarendon back from her concussion, but Sydney Carter wearing a boot to protect a sprained ankle. Washington made a surprise change to their backcourt, with Ivory Latta – one of the few productive offensive players in their opener – relegated to the bench in favour of rookie Bria Hartley. It was evidence of the truth behind Mike Thibault’s statements that he sees his roster as having three strong, interchangeable guards. And maybe of the need for more instant offense from his reserves.


Story of the Game: Indiana got off to an awful start in the first quarter, semi-recovered in the second, and then meekly surrendered in the second half. After two losses last weekend that were at least closely contested games they could’ve won, this was a depressingly lifeless performance where they were outplayed for most of the night by the Mystics.

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The Daily W, 05/23/2014


There often won’t be columns on the days when there’s no WNBA action to report, but enough has happened in the last couple of days to be worth talking about so here’s a little bonus piece. With four games tonight, there are also some mini-previews to be found if you scroll down.




League News


Epiphanny Prince has reported to the Chicago Sky, been unsuspended, and is expected to return for the team tomorrow night. There’s still been no explanation beyond ‘personal reasons’ for her absence, but it’s understandable that some of these players need a little time between their overseas commitments and the WNBA just to breathe. Due to the World Championships this year the WNBA season started early, which meant anyone playing a full European season had virtually no break. Maybe Prince just needed a little time to sort her head out. The Sky cut Aaryn Ellenberg to make room for her on the roster. They wouldn’t have needed to, but Sylvia Fowles was also quietly unsuspended on Monday. Exactly why they did that remains unclear, although hopefully it means her recovery from hip surgery is going well.


Prince, fortunately for the Sky, isn’t in Russia’s squad for their EuroBasket Women 2015 qualifiers this summer. But there are other WNBA players who might be required. Kristi Toliver was just naturalised by the Slovak Republic, whose qualifiers begin in just over two weeks. She’ll likely be gone from the Los Angeles Sparks for at least a couple of weeks in June. Phoenix has several players who might go missing for a while, including Ewelina Kobryn already confirmed as leaving to help Poland in their games. Shay Murphy is Montenegrin these days, and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is still part of the Latvian set-up, so it remains to be seen if they’ll stay with the Mercury rather than heading to Europe. Both Emma Meesseman and Farhiya Abdi have committed to staying with their respective WNBA teams rather than playing for their countries this year. Ironically, Abdi might gain some playing time with the Sparks while her ‘Slovakian’ teammate is overseas.


Sadly our first in-season year-ending injury occurred this week, with San Antonio guard Davellyn Whyte ruled out with an ACL tear. After partially tearing an Achilles tendon late last season, it’s unfortunate for her that another serious injury has taken her down again so soon. San Antonio started the season with eight perimeter players on their roster, so they’ve got plenty of guard cover to fill the spot, especially if Becky Hammon returns from her ankle sprain soon. But with Whyte a fringe backup, there’s also the option to cut her (while paying her off for the remainder of the season) and sign a replacement. They have the cap space to do that, as long as the new player is relatively cheap. They may well just roll with what they’ve got for now, and save that option for later in the season if an extra player becomes a necessity at a certain position.




Tonight’s Games


Seattle @ Connecticut, 7pm ET

If the Storm play like they have in their first two games, and the Sun replicate their first half performance from Wednesday’s loss to Chicago, this one will be virtually unwatchable. Hopefully, with both teams yet to record a win, there’ll be a sense of desperation fueling them and it’ll be a little better than that. The Storm have been off since Saturday night, and they needed the practice time to develop some much-needed cohesion after looking like they barely knew each other’s names in their opening games. Crystal Langhorne has barely been heard from so far in a Storm jersey, which needs to change, but basically the whole team’s attitude and level of competence needs to improve. Sue Bird doesn’t usually run teams that look this disorganised.

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The Daily W, 05/18/2014


Atlanta Dream 90 @ Indiana Fever 88 (2OT)


Lineups: Angel McCoughtry came off the bench due to a minor hip problem picked up the night before (I’ve never understood why not starting helps in any way with a niggling injury, but that’s what happened). Matee Ajavon started in her place. Indiana were still without Tamika Catchings and Layshia Clarendon, so opened with the same five as the previous night.


Story of the Game: The Fever got off to a hot start, just like the night before, led by Briann January. She seemed to be avoiding her problems with finishing at the rim by just sticking to jumpshots, and they were all dropping. Indiana led by double digits early in the second quarter.

However, Atlanta never looked in that much trouble, and the game always seemed like it would come back to them. The Fever had some problems containing the Dream in transition, with Erika de Souza picking up points simply by running hard from basket-to-basket. Shoni Schimmel, for the second night in a row, was exciting everyone with her shockingly successful entry onto the pro level. The assists were flowing again, and she was drilling those shots from deep that she always loved firing in college.

It was tight for most of the second half. Fever head coach Lin Dunn went small on the perimeter after losing any confidence in Marissa Coleman or Shavonte Zellous, preferring the double-point guard look with January and Sydney Carter, often with diminutive off-guard Maggie Lucas as well. That left someone thoroughly undersized having to cover McCoughtry – usually January.

A pretty messy half of basketball was finished off by several shambolic broken plays to close regulation. A steal eventually gave Karima Christmas the chance to break away and win the game for Indiana, but she blew the layup and sent us to overtime.

Rookie forward Natasha Howard, who’d already had a strong night, was the star for the Fever in OT. She attacked and finished through contact several times to produce points for Indiana. Then Schimmel, who’d had less impact on the gameĀ  since halftime, converted a ridiculous finish on a drive to tie it up late in the first extra period. Both teams contrived awful shots in the final minute, before the Fever failed to even get one off on the final possession. On to double overtime.

Howard was still the main offensive threat for Indiana, and she gave them a one-point lead with 30 seconds left, but missed the and-one free throw. McCoughtry curled off a high screen at the other end, took the pass, and drilled a three for the lead. In general, opposing teams want Angel shooting threes – but she’s never scared to take or make the big shot, from anywhere on the floor. Lucas ended up with the final shot for the Fever, but she airballed it and the Dream held on.

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The Daily W, 05/17/2014


A new regular feature here at WNBAlien – quick recaps of the previous night’s games, mentions of who played and who stood out, notes on anything interesting that might’ve cropped up, and anything else that seems worth talking about. Just without the ridiculous length of previous seasons. Most days, it should go up much earlier than today’s initial example.

We’ll still look in depth at certain games and teams when it’s warranted, especially when there aren’t four or five games on a single evening.

There’s also an injury report at the bottom, collating the news on who missed out last night and who got banged up while playing.



Minnesota Lynx 89 @ Washington Mystics 77


Lineups: Brazilian rookie Damiris Dantas got the start at power forward for Minnesota in place of the injured Rebekkah Brunson. Belgian youngster Emma Meesseman got the nod to start at the same spot for Washington in the place vacated by Crystal Langhorne. Otherwise starters as you’d expect, including Kara Lawson making her debut in the Mystics backcourt.


Story of the Game: Maya Moore came out firing, carrying the Lynx into an early lead. Washington’s bench unit helped them get into the game, led by Stefanie Dolson drilling a trio of deep jumpers when the Lynx left her alone. Minnesota maintained a single-digit lead for most of the night behind Moore and Seimone Augustus, but Ivory Latta bombing from outside kept Washington in it. Then Tierra Ruffin-Pratt joined in and the Mystics actually took a very brief lead with 8 minutes left.

But Minnesota’s starters responded, tightened up defensively and hit a series of jumpers to pull away again. Ballgame over.


Key Players: Latta and Ruffin-Pratt were the only players who really showed up offensively for Washington, with the occasional flash from Meesseman and Dolson. Some weak rotations defensively – with Augustus and Moore the main culprits, surprisingly – left Latta too open from outside in the second half.

But it was those same two Lynx stars who carried much of Minnesota’s offense over the course of the game. Dantas also had a nice debut, and fit in smoothly as part of the starting core. Asia Taylor, the other rookie post the Lynx retained from camp, looks awfully small and thin for a frontcourt player. You can afford to be one or the other, but when you’re both it’s hard to survive in this league without moving more to the perimeter.


Notes of Interest: This is going to become a theme as we go through the other games from last night – solid, impressive rookie performances, but with sequences where they’re still working out what they can get away with at this level. Dolson made some shots, and had a lovely touch pass for a Tianna Hawkins bucket, but was called for at least a couple of illegal screens. Even though many of the refs are the same, that’s the kind of thing that can be called differently in the pros from the college game. Dantas made the necessary hustle plays, and generally kept things simple, although there were a few miscommunications. It looks like she’s already realised that there’s so much freaking talent on her team she doesn’t need to do anything too outlandish. Just fill your role, rook.




New York Liberty 75 @ Connecticut Sun 54


Lineups: Spanish ‘rookie’ (it’s her first year in the WNBA, but she’s 27) Anna Cruz got the start at the point for New York (so much for Cappie Pondexter at ‘lead guard’). DeLisha Milton-Jones was at power forward despite Plenette Pierson being in uniform and seeing a few minutes of action. Pierson doesn’t look physically ready to play starter minutes yet.

The perimeter of Alex Bentley, Allison Hightower and Katie Douglas was about what we expected from Connecticut, but Kelsey Griffin started in the frontcourt next to Chiney Ogwumike. Kelsey Bone and Ogwumike will surely be the best frontcourt pairing this franchise can offer over the course of the season.


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WNBA 2014 In-Depth Previews: San Antonio Stars


Danielle Robinson/Davellyn Whyte
Becky Hammon/Jia Perkins/Heather Butler
Kayla McBride/Shenise Johnson/Shameka Christon
Sophia Young-Malcolm
Jayne Appel/Danielle Adams/Kayla Alexander

Significant additions: Hammon and Young-Malcolm back from injury, McBride
Signficant losses: ‘Silver’



San Antonio’s season last year was an uphill struggle from the beginning. Sophia Young (now Young-Malcolm after her marriage) tore her ACL before the season even began, and Becky Hammon played a grand total of 12 minutes before suffering the same fate. Any team, shorn of their two veteran leaders and best players, would’ve struggled from that point on. So given that both are now back in the fold, the youngsters have an extra year of experience, and there’s another high draft-pick to add to the mix, they should bounce right back to being the 21-13 team from 2012, right? Well, maybe.


There’s definitely a fair bit of talent here. People seem to forget just how good Young-Malcolm was, after just one year away. There’s always the question of how successfully players will return from serious injuries, but ACL recovery tends to be a much smoother process these days than it used to be. Young has always been on the small side for a power forward – if the Stars had won the lottery and added Chiney Ogwumike, Young-Malcolm might easily have made the full-time switch to small forward – but that can help her offensively. She’s too quick and mobile for many opposing 4s to handle, and she finds a variety of ways to score. She also improved her rebounding noticeably in the year before her injury, something this team dearly needed.


Hammon’s 37 now, so concerns about her recovery from injury might be more significant (or about other injuries cropping up while she compensates – she’s going to miss a couple of games to start the season with an ankle sprain). Hopefully there’s still a little left in the tank before she moves to the sidelines to begin a coaching career. Her game’s never been built on elite speed or athleticism, so a knee injury might not knock her back as much as some. She’s a crafty scorer and creator, capable of contriving finishes that don’t seem possible on drives through traffic. Or just bombing away from deep and killing you from beyond the arc. It should be fun seeing San Antonio’s stars back on the floor again.


While they were gone, Dan Hughes still managed to draw some decent performances out of the players he had left. Danielle Robinson continues to develop as a floor leader, with a mid-range jump shot that’s become pretty solid, and ridiculous speed that few in the WNBA can compete with. Danielle Adams remains one of the more unique talents in the league, a big, big girl who’s surprisingly light on her feet and has started to add more of an interior game to her long-range shooting. Jayne Appel was a little more appreciated for her work last year, providing solid interior defense and rebounding – although she still seems reluctant to actually take shots however close to the rim she might be. Jia Perkins is still a scorer who can hurt you if you give her an inch of space, and will return to her bench-injection role after being forced into a starting spot last season.


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