Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Friday, August 28, 2015

WNBA: Chicago Rookie Betnijah Laney Out of Rutgers Enjoys Being a Student of the Game

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Chicago Sky 6-foot-1 rookie guard Betnijah Laney is another of the younger generation of mother-daughter tandems who have excelled in women's basketball.

The Seattle Storm's Lauren Jackson's mother Maree was a star at LSU and on the Australian national team.

Betnijah's mom Yolanda out of University City High in Philadelphia was an All-American collegian who helped Cheyney University in the Philly western suburbs advance to the first NCAA title game under legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in 1982 when the Lady Wolves fell shortto Louisiana Tech.

The younger Laney also played for Stringer at Rutgers the last four years after achieving high school blue chip recruiting status in Delaware which was also enjoyed by Sky teammate sensation Elena Delle Donne.

Now, Laney’s in a perfect situation with the veteran Sky with its cadre of star power.

There’s not much pressure on her to produce points. She’s able to learn and make meaningful contributions to a team with championship aspirations.

“I feel like I am surrounded by great teammates,” Laney said following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

“Coming onto a team that made it all the way to the Finals and fell short has made them hungry. Just to be able to come into this situation and being able to learn from them is a great thing.”

Laney scored two points in 12 minutes against the Mystics.

Besides a pat on the back from her teammates and head coach Pokey Chatman, Laney also got a slightly busted lip.

The Smyrna High School graduate shrugged it off as she spoke in the lockeroom.

She’ll gladly accept the battle wounds that come from playing the game she enjoys.

“That’s the game, so you have to keep going with it and roll with the punches,” Laney said. “It’s very physical, but you get used to it. (Being on the floor during the fourth quarter) was an adrenaline rush for me. It just makes you want to go out, give it your all and play as hard as you can.”

Laney is blessed as she had the chance to learn the sport from her mother and Stringer.

That’s like an artist being taught to paint by Michelangelo.

Chatman’s confidence has grown in Laney and when she was available in the second round with the 17th overall selection, she immediately snatched her up.

“She comes from great stock,” Chatman said of Laney. “You know coach Stringer does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of the game and you can tell in training camp that she had so much to offer.

"She’s finally getting comfortable with the multiple positions that she could play.

"Immediately, she’s somebody we felt confident with on the defensive side of the basketball and she’s getting more comfortable offensively.

"She is such a hard worker and eager to learn I have to remind her I also have 10 other players to deal with," Chatman said with a grin.

A role player this season, Laney has enjoyed the experience of watching and competing against Delle Donne, Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and the rest of the Sky’s veterans.

She is continuing to gain confidence in her game and adjusting to a new responsibility of playing on the wing instead of near the basket.

Laney has scored in double figures three times, including a career best 12 points in an 106-82 victory over the Indiana Fever on August 4. She’s played 26 games and is averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per contest.

“Coming from Rutgers, I played the four, but here I’ve had to learn how to play the wing,” Laney said. “I have been working on my ballhandling and being tighter with the ball.

"I am learning to make decisions on the perimeter. I think I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go and continue to work on things that I can improve upon so I can become a better ballplayer for my team.”

The Sky have six games remaining and Laney is enjoying her time in the WNBA. She’s looking forward to contributing during Chicago’s stretch run as the Sky battle for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Laney will play in Australia during the offseason.

“This is not a job for me,” Laney said. “I love it here and it’s great to get paid for what you love to do.

"Moving to Chicago was great.

"My mom still comes out to visit, support me and to see how I am doing. I am enjoying being independent. I am really excited (to play overseas during the offseason). It will give me an opportunity to work on a few things in the offseason, keep learning and getting better.”




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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WNBA: Elena Delle Donne's Sensational Season Impressing Everyone But Herself

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
In just her third season in the WNBA former Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne is demolishing league statistics at a time when most of the league's younger players are just beginning to hit their comfort level.

She leads the WNBA in scoring with a 23.8 point per game average, free-throw percentage and in double-doubles.

Delle Donne has scored 30 or more points four times this season, including a magnificent 45-point performance against Atlanta in early June and has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week five times.

She’s being compared to some the greatest players (men or women) to ever play the sport, including Michael Jordan.

Yet, Delle Donne remains unimpressed.

While the rest of us mere mortals remain in awe of her jaw-dropping numbers, Delle Donne doesn’t have time to study the amazing season she’s enjoying for the Chicago Sky.

Her numbers are at a historical pace topping past performances from some of the all-time greats who have since earned Hall of Fame stature.

The Blue Hens graduate who went second overall in the 2012 draft behind Baylor's Brittney Griner has never been into personal statistics.

However, what she has done has been hard to ignore this season.

She’s even slightly embarrassed that many national pundits have mentioned her as the front-runner for this year’s MVP award.

Delle Donne is too focused on rewriting last year’s ending for the Sky, who were swept in the WNBA Finals by a historically great Phoenix Mercury squad.

“I’ll use the offseason to reflect,” Delle Donne said succinctly following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Mystics Sunday at the Verizon Center. “Right now my focus is on how we can get better as a team and win our next game.

"I am focused on our team numbers more than anything else right now. Anything individual, I’ll use the offseason to reflect. I am always trying to improving.”

One area she developed that leaves Delle Donne in a great mood is her rebounding.

Ten double-doubles later, Delle Donne is third in the league averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.

“At the end of last season (Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman) challenged me to be a better rebounder,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like that’s something I’ve made a conscious effort to improve and to crash the glass on every single time. It’s something I am proud of because I was challenged to get better at it.”

Delle Donne is happy and healthy for the Sky this season.

Last summer, Delle Donne missed17 games after a serious flare-up of her Lyme disease. In the WNBA Finals last year, Delle Donne battled through an achy back.

She delivered a playoff performance for the ages despite not being 100 percent when she scored 17 of her 34 points in the fourth quarter to help the Sky rally from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Dream, 82-81, in an elimination game on the road last season.

It was like watching Mozart play in his prime.

This year she missed one game in New York because of a tender ankle.

“It’s been really good this year,” Delle Donne said when asked about her health. “It’s been great being out on the court and a huge improvement and difference from last year.”

With a healthy Delle Donne unleashing her fury on the rest of the league this season, the WNBA has benefited in positive ways. She has become one of the faces of the league. It was needed after some of the negative offseason headlines.

Delle Donne was profiled in Sports Illustrated last week and on SportsCenter earlier this year following that 45-point, 11-rebound, six-blocked shot performance against Atlanta.

“It means a lot,” Delle Donne said after being asked about being the face of the WNBA. “I worked really hard on and off the court to grow the brand of the league, myself and the Chicago Sky.

"I put in a lot of work with media and making appearances at different events. It’s nice to hear that it’s paying off and our visibility is continuing to grow. It’s also exciting that we’re gaining new fans of our sport.”

Likely to make her first Olympic squad next year the experience is bound to grow her brand further.

With six games remaining beginning Saturday at home against the Atlanta Dream in a game that will be televised nationally on NBA-TV at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Sky trail the Indiana Fever by two games in the race for second place and the coveted home-court advantage in the opening round that goes with it in the playoffs. The Sky have swept the season series from the Fever this season.

While home court would be a welcomed luxury for the Sky, it can draw on the experience of last season when it advanced to the WNBA Finals as the No. 4 seed without home court in the Eastern Conference.

The battle-tested Sky have won three of their last four games as Allie Quigley and Cappie Pondexter hit game winning shots in less than 48 hours to help Chicago sweep a weekend set from Washington.

“We want homecourt and we know it’s really huge to try and get it,” Delle Donne said. “But at the end of the day, however the cards play out; we’re going to be ready.

"Games like (Washington) are fun especially when you can come out on top. We are focused on winning every single game from here on out.”

If Delle Donne continues producing spectacular numbers during the Sky’s upcoming journey, enjoy it.

Just don’t expect Delle Donne to make a big fuss about them.


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WNBA: Suddenly Connecticut Living the Dream Thanks to Atlanta in the Slide for Stewie Race

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

We extended the week in review for our Slide for Stewie Standings by one day since Tuesday morning’s Connecticut-Atlanta game was the only one on the entire WNBA slate and both teams are factors as the Eastern lottery leaders in terms of having a shot at landing UConn senior Breanna Stewart, the grand prize in next April’s draft.

Again, the ongoing reminder that if you haven’t read any of the previous installments just go back to the first one – this is week four – to get the idea of what everything means.

Since the bottom two teams in the East are sorting themselves out in the next week or so we will revise the metrics listings below.

When the Connecticut Sun got off to that runaway start back in early June to belie the preseason doom and gloom predictions built on a slew of injuries, the Sun’s any kind of shot at the Huskies star seemed out the window.

But the injuries kept coming and in the past week after losing one game in overtime to the Tulsa Shock and getting swept Sunday and Tuesday by the other lotto-bound team most likely in the East in the Atlanta Dream the Sun/UConn faithful wishes have gained traction, especially with the new system adding the last two seasons, including this one, to get to the pecking order for better odds off bad won-loss records.

Indeed, once the four lottery teams are sealed we may have to go back and see what games last year with narrow outcomes effected the order.

The San Antonio Silver stars also had a big week losing all three games, none close, to go up a half-game on the Seattle Storm for worst overall record.

Connecticut with a pair of otherwise wins could have reversed direction and moved close to the fourth spot occupied by the Washington Mystics, who after completing a sweep of Western frontrunner Minnesota that had this week’s game played in the Midwest, they managed to lose a pair of games to the Chicago Sky in the final seconds.

While Atlanta and Connecticut have begun to separate themselves backwards – the Dream have begun to win recently but are living off the ragged play they took into the All-Star break – it is a 3-for-2 affair in the West for the lottery or the playoffs depending on your choosing since the Los Angeles Sparks have been unable to totally right the ship after the return of Candace Parker and Alana Beard.

Los Angeles is three games in front of fifth-place Seattle. However, expect the Sparks to win in spite of themselves with a better pace than the Texans and Storm over the final three weeks.

Once we revamp the listings below, since we had the entire East in the lotto hunt, some of the groupings will be retained below to see what key moments translated into seed positions.

The Indiana Fever are red hot right now and it could go to the final game of the season between them and the front running New York Liberty to determine the top two seeds in the East and if any falter, if Chicago or Washington put together run the top of the heap in the East will be as exciting to watch as our Sliding for Stewie race.

And out West after dominating the top spot the Minnesota Lynx has been in a slide with the defending champion Phoenix Mercury drawing closer in second place.

And are shaking off a 10-game slide the Dallas-bound Tulsa Shock are just a few magic numbers away from making their first playoff appearance since the franchise moved from Detroit, where it won three WNBA titles in its previous incarnation.

Now, here are the numbers for this week.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Tue., Aug. 25)

Team L W *-GBO *-GBL, MNL

San Ant. 21 7 -- -- 3
Seattle 20 7 0.5 -- 4
#Los Angeles 17 10 3.5 3.0
Atlanta 16 11 4.5 -- 4
Conn. 15 12 5.5- -- 3
#Washington 11 15 9.0 3.5
Chicago 11 17 10.0 4.5
Indiana 9 17 11 5.5
New York 8 18 12 6.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot, MNL is Magic Number to Clinch Lottery
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders


!Indiana 80, New York 79
!Chicago 66, Washington 64
!Chicago 87, Washington 85
Tulsa 84, Conn. 76, ovt.
Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
San Antonio 4-2
Los Angeles 4-3
Washington 6-4
Atlanta 6-5
Connecticut 4-3
New York 2-3
Chicago 3-6
Indiana 0-4

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
San Antonio 13-5
Connecticut 13-9
Los Angeles 12-6
Seattle 11-7
Atlanta 11-10
Washington 9-11
Indiana 9-12
Chicago 9-15
New York 5-14

That’s it for now.

-- Mel





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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

WNBA: Ageless Wonder DeLisha Milton-Jones About to Set a WNBA Record for the Ages

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –
DeLisha Milton-Jones is a walking encyclopedic history of the WNBA.

The 40-year-old veteran forward has spanned generations and is still going strong for the Atlanta Dream.

She’s a link to the WNBA’s past, present and future.

Milton-Jones is on the precipice of a major milestone, one that may stand for a long time when she takes the floor Tuesday morning against Connecticut and Friday night in Indiana.

Milton-Jones will tie and eventually pass Tina Thompson for the most games participaed by a player in WNBA history.

She played in her 495th career contest during Sunday’s 102-92 victory over the Connecticut. Thompson played in 496 games during her marvelous career.

“I get a lot of joy of saying to people that I played with Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Dawn Staley,” Milton-Jones said during an interview in June when the Dream visited the Verizon Center. “Usually people would shy away from that because it would show your age, but for me, it shows my entire maturation process and tells the story of my longevity in this league, which I am proud of.”

The affable Milton-Jones is a timeless treasure of athleticism, tenacity, grace and beauty.

That she’s been able to survive in the WNBA says plenty about Milton-Jones, a 1999 first-round draft pick who appeared in the movie “Love and Basketball.”

It’s a mark that should be celebrated. Milton-Jones has seen the league expand from eight teams to 16 to its current state of 12 squads.

During her career, she competed against defunct WNBA franchises: the Houston Comets, Orlando Miracle, Miami Sol, Charlotte Sting and Utah Starzz.

Milton-Jones has witnessed the growth of the WNBA from the birth of the Internet to the social and digital media age.

She has thrived despite suffering some major injuries like a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during her career.

She has been a valuable performer her entire career despite that there are fewer jobs and more talented players and bright stars in the WNBA such as Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins, Brittany Griner and Emma Meesseman.

“It’s gotten younger,” Milton-Jones said of the WNBA. “You see the future is further down the road.

"When I came in the average age was 30 and we were wondering how long the league would survive because at the time there were a lot of these folks who were in their prime or ready to retire.

"Now, that the talent has risen, the ability to score has gotten better and there have been more oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”

Milton-Jones has prospered because she was diligent as a youngster in taking advice from Lisa Leslie, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next month.

“She was the one who took me under her wing,” Milton-Jones said. “Lisa always gave me little gems of wisdom that helped me become the player I am today.

"I learned a lot about being a professional from Lisa and even more so how to be a lady on and off the court. She was all about wearing the lip gloss, lip stick and makeup during games, but that didn’t stop her from being a fierce competitor.”

She also learned another stern lesson while rooming with Leslie.

“Being a rookie, I thought I was going to go to the mall like everybody else after shootaround and Lisa was like no, you’re going to order room service, close those blinds and you’re going to sleep,” Milton-Jones said.

“I would lie in my bed in the dark with my eyes open listening to her breathe. She put the fear factor in me, but I appreciate it because she solidified my way of thinking and functioning as a professional.”

Milton-Jones has accomplished everything one can possibly achieve as a professional athlete.

She helped the Los Angeles Sparks win back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

A two-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Milton-Jones is one of five WNBA players all-time with over 5,000 points and 2,400 rebounds.

Quite naturally, Milton-Jones is among the top ten in league history in field goals made (sixth), rebounding (sixth), steals (fifth) and points (tied for ninth).

Another one of Milton-Jones secrets has been also taking care of her body.

“It can be pricy,” Milton-Jones said. “Some people spend their money on designer bags and shoes, but I spend my money on eating very good food, getting daily messages and visiting the chiropractor three times a week.

"I also listen to Kobe Bryant and watch him do some of the things he does. I also talk to his trainer. When I was at the Staples Center, I would make sure I was in his locker to see if he left any paperwork around. I was like if ‘Kobe ordered his food from here then I’m getting my food from there too.'”

Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman remembers Milton-Jones from her days at the University of Florida as a dominant post performer.

“As she got into the WNBA, she started adding different parts to her game,” Chatman said. “DeLisha figured out the mental and nutritional side of the game as well. She was into clean eating way before it was popular. She’s a competitor and at the end of the day, I want her in my foxhole because she’s a fighter.”

Milton-Jones has also been a winner off the floor as well by donating her time to spend with children at the Ronald McDonald House and working with the humane society. She’s also an advocate for battered women and children.

She is also a motivational speaker, mentor, wife and mother.

She has no plans of hanging up her high tops anytime soon.

“It’s funny people always say well ‘when is she going to leave,” Milton-Jones said. “If I am still able-bodied and an asset to a team, then why not play if somebody offers me a contract? I get a lot of enjoyment out of taking care of myself. I am going to leave when I am ready.”

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Monday, August 24, 2015

WNBA: Narrow Outcomes Marked Key Games Over the Weekend

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON --
On one hand there is a lot to be done in the stretch drive before the WNBA’s regular season comes to an end and the fates of its 12 teams are determined though it is only a short distance of anywhere from six to eight games to the final buzzer.

On the other hand, when those fates are determined, a look back to this past week particularly Friday night in such places as here in New York at Madison Square Garden and Sunday here in Washington at the Verizon Center may be the signature moments that made the difference between seed positions in the playoffs and also whether or not teams could continue on or pony up to the draft lottery bar and await the drop of the ping pong balls in the lottery to determine the grand prize of next April –University of Connecticut senior Breanna Stewart.

Ah, but on Mondays starting earlier this month we have a specific focus on that race with our Slide fort Stewie standings.

That will come 24 hours form now this week since no games will be played on Monday, which is usually the case.

Instead, let’s get on the upper side and look at exactly what happened in terms of the race for the playoffs, though some aside here will still be mentioned toward the lottery picks.

In our Slide for Stewie discussion we particularly look at games that came down to the final moments to set a team’s course.

How much damage or enhancement won’t be until next month’s final standings but there were four such games during the past week.

The first doesn’t read split second in the final outcome but the fact that it took overtime is just as well as Tulsa, which had been struggling, sent the Connecticut Sun perhaps on the way to its third street lottery while the Shock moved close to clinching its first postseason slot and not a moment too soon for Tulsa fans considering this is their last chance to watch an extended season since the team is headed to Dallas, Texas, next time around.

In the final outcome of the Shock’s 84-76 win Friday night, Connecticut lost former Penn State star Alex Bentley with an injury.

It’s not another season-ender on the forlorn Sun but it factored in losing to another likely-lottery bound team Sunday when the Atlanta Dream, about to see its playoff appearance snapped, temporarily avoided its plunge with a 102-92 victory and will get another shot in a few days at Connecticut in Georgia.

Atlanta came into the game having squandered a second-half nine-point lead here in New York to enable the Eastern-leading Liberty on Friday take a 78-67 win to follow up on Wednesday’s 73-45 road win over the San Antonio Silver Stars, which across the week dropped three straight to drop to the worst overall record in the league by a half-game with its 7-21 mark in the bottom of the Western Conference.

“This was a playoff test and we passed,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer proclaimed. “They’re a desperate team and they needed to win this game tonight.”

Atlanta’s Sunday win puts the Dream at 10-16, but at five games behind fourth-place Washington, the magic number for elimination from the postseason is four.

Connecticut at 12-14 is three games behind the last playoff slot and its magic elimination number is five considering Washington already has the season series.

Atlanta’s shot will be long in determines if Stewart because a rule change enacted a few weeks ago, though actually approved way earlier, calls for a lottery team’s two-year record to determine the best odds in the ping pong ball drop.

Atlanta, having been a playoff team last year, will be fourth in terms of best chances because of that.

Connecticut trails Western basement clubs San Antonio and the Seattle Storm by five and four losses respectively so the the Sun are on the verge of elimination from worst record for this year and if it comes up short in the lottery hunt, blame the hot start at the beginning of the season from preventing it from overtaking the Stars and Storm.

The Friday night New York/Connecticut fates put the Liberty within four of gaining its first postseason slot in three seasons but the advance was halted in another photo finish on Sunday in Indiana Fever where the red hot Fever edged the New Yorkers 80-79 to move to within a game of the Eastern lead.

The Liberty’s magic number still dropped one more to three off the Connecticut loss while Indiana, which completed its first three-game road West sweep of Seattle, Phoenix and Los Angeles made it four straight and at the moment, first-year coach Stephanie White, a previous assistant in Indiana to retired coach Lin Dunn, is the frontrunner for coach of the year, though Laimbeer remains in that horse race.

Earlier this week, Indiana won at Los Angeles 79-68 and then dropped Seattle 75-63.

Washington could be sitting right with Indiana but after completing a sweep of Minnesota, still owning the league’s top record, on Wednesday with a road win over the Lynx, the Mystics lost on a buzzer beater by former DePaul star Allie Quigley Friday night, a final possession caused by a questionable call in favor of the Sky.

Then Cappie Pondexter here on Sunday netted a shot just before the finish in a game in which Elena Delle Donne on the Sky came up with another double double to give the Sky a 17-11 mark two games behind New York while Washington is now 15-11 three games behind New York and one and two behind Indiana and Chicago, respectively.

Phoenix got the best of Minnesota on Sunday but the defending champion Mercury could have gained more capital to repeat at the top of the regular season West had not the they lost to Los Angeles 78-68 on Friday night.

For the Sparks, involved in a three-game taffy pull at the bottom of the West with San Antonio and Seattle, they are 10-17, three games in front of the other two and holding a magic number of five to land in the postseason.

Minnesota, if it came right its struggling ship of late, holds a magic number of five to finish first in the West.

And that concludes the deal for everyone in the race for postseason glory. As for postseason draft success, come back late Monday night for this week’s Stewie standings installment.

-- Mel






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WNBA: Washington Suffers Another Loss at the Wire to Chicago

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
In the legendary words of Yogi Berra, “it was déjà vu all over again” for the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center in a key Eastern Conference clash Sunday afternoon.

For the second time in less than 48 hours, the Sky and Mystics battled each other in a game that was decided in the final 10 seconds.

Once again, it was the Sky that was able to apply the finishing touch as Cappie Pondexter scored with 6.7 seconds remaining to lift Chicago to a thrilling 66-64 victory over Washington.

The Sky won the season series, 4-1, and that figure could’ve easily been reversed as the last three games between each squad were decided late.

In Friday’s contest, Allie Quigley sank a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left that proved to be the difference.

Following the two weekend victories, the Sky (17-11 overall) leapfrogged the Mystics (15-11) in the Eastern Conference standings and into third place.

“As beautiful of a game that Friday was for fans to watch playoff type basketball, today was reasonably ugly,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “You shoot 33 percent, you turn it over 18 times; probably can’t expect to win and yet we had a chance.

"Cappie made a great shot, we screwed up the defensive part of that but she made a great play. Give them credit.”

While Sunday’s game didn’t feature the high scoring of Friday’s 87-85 Sky victory, it was just as intense and exciting despite the multitude of missed shots.

The Mystics rallied from an 11-point second quarter deficit, held their own in the rebounding battle and tied the game when Kara Lawson sank a 3-pointer from the wing with 28 seconds remaining that brought the crowd out of its seats.

Of course Lawson’s triple, which was reviewed by replay, set the stage for the veteran Pondexter to make the decisive drive of the contest.

Pondexter was asked if the final shot was something that was drawn up by Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman or was it something she saw while on the court.

“It was a combination of both,” Pondexter said. “She wanted the ball in my hands. [Tierra] Ruffin-Pratt opened the lane up and there was no help because we have so many great shooters.

"Allie [Quigley] and Elena Delle Donne were lifted so it is kind of hard to scout that or pick and choose who you want to help on so it was a great call by coach and I am just thankful to God to be healthy enough to make the play.”

Pondexter, one of two Rutgers standouts on the squad, finished with nine points, six below her average.

Delle Donne was her usual solid self despite a tough 7-for-22 shooting performance.

She finished with her WNBA-leading 10th double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and four blocked shots. Quigley delivered 15 points off the bench for the Sky, which also got 10 points from center Clarissa Dos Santos.

“This is a tough matchup because the Mystics are very talented team,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like we picked it up defensively when we needed to and that helped us tonight.”

Though the Mystics continued tempting fate by not making a field goal for at least the first three minutes of each quarter, they battled and refused to fold when things weren’t going well.

In the second quarter, the Mystics didn’t make their first field goal until 6:53 into the quarter. Yet, they trailed 35-33 at intermission thanks to an 11-2 run to close the half.

After the Sky scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to grab a 57-50 edge, the Mystics responded with nine straight points to take a 59-57 advantage with 3:13 remaining.

The Sky remained together during the Mystics run despite missing six shots, committing two turnovers and going scoreless for over three minutes of the final period.

“That is something we have kind of struggled with throughout the season when a team makes their run at home, we did not fight back hard enough and I think that with so many games behind us, we are learning now,” Pondexter said. “They made their punches, which is what basketball is all about and I think all 12 of us were tough. We fought back and this is an important win for us.”

Lawson scored a game-high 19 points for Washington. Ivory Latta added 15 points off the bench and Emma Meesseman scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.

Lawson gave the Mystics their first lead of the game, 43-42 with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think you just have to credit them,” Lawson said. “They made one more play than us in both games. One when they were down one and now with the score tied.

"That’s an area for growth for us right now, executing defensively in a possession game down the stretch, communicating. They’re a difficult team to defend because they spread you out and they put you in difficult positions as the defense because they surround the whole court with shooters. We learned some things that we have to be better with going down the stretch.”

Both teams will enjoy a few days off before returning to the court.

The Mystics play their next four games against Western Conference opponents beginning Friday when they host the reigning WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury at 7:00 p.m. The Sky host the Atlanta Dream Saturday night, also at 7:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WNBA: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON --
Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

“She told me that you can be an All-Star in this league. I have confidence and we have confidence in you. That goes a long way. Being selected to the All-Star team meant a lot to me. Now, finally being removed from everything and being able to put it in perspective, it meant more to me than any individual award and honor I’ve ever received.”

Coleman’s swagger is soaring as the Fever are making a strong playoff push, having won 11 of their last 14 games heading into Tuesday’s contest in Los Angeles. They are tied in the congested Eastern Conference standings with Washington for second place, two games behind New York. Both the Fever and Mystics have identical 14-9 records.

A native of Germantown (Md.), who helped Maryland win a national championship in 2006, Coleman was drafted second overall in 2009 by her hometown team, the Washington Mystics. On paper it was a match made in heaven. She was going to lead the Mystics to WNBA glory.

Unfortunately, Coleman never found her groove in D.C. despite scoring 16 points in her WNBA debut. She was traded to Los Angeles in 2011 where she was a role player and enjoyed a few memorable moments.

“I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and those years in D.C. and Los Angeles where I struggled were leading to this point,” Coleman said. “They taught me a lot about myself, persevering, hard work and sticking with things.

As she spoke about her journey from first-round draft pick to All-Star, Coleman was relaxed as she sat on the courtside black leather chairs.

“It’s been such a roller-coaster ride in this league for me,” Coleman said. “If you would’ve asked me on draft day 2009, I would’ve been an all-star multiple times by now. There was some extreme frustration with myself and tears after games. To finally make an all-star in my seventh year is probably most special to me.”

Despite those tough moments, Coleman never stopped believing.

She continued improving waiting for her opportunity to torture opposing defenses. She was used more as a spot-up shooter in Los Angeles, but in Indiana, Coleman is showcasing all facets of her beautiful game: The deadly jumper, explosive drives to the basket and tenacious rebounding.

“It was more disappointment and frustration than anything for me,” Coleman said. “That was the most upsetting thing for me knowing that I was capable of playing at a high level and I wasn’t reaching those personal expectations.

"Forget the expectations that everybody else had for myself. I always have higher expectations for myself than anybody can put on me. That was most disappointing knowing I was capable of so much more and I wasn’t showing that.”

All it took was the right fit and perfect coach. Now, Coleman is shining this season for the Fever. The durable Coleman is a versatile combo guard who can score, defend, push tempo and shoot the 3-pointer. She has bolstered the Indiana backcourt with size, strength, versatility and timely shooting.

After setting a new career-high with 9.1 points per game during the 2014 season, Coleman has been better this year, scoring in double figures in 15 of Indiana’s 23 games, including a career-high 25 points in the win over San Antonio. She ranks 20th in the WNBA in scoring (12.8 ppg) and 11th in three-point percentage, shooting 37.8 percent from deep.

“I knew I was going to have the chance to get to where I finally wanted to be in my career with the confidence that everybody in the organization had in me,” Coleman said. “I had a solid year last year. Coming into the season, I knew that coach White had high expectations for me and was going to let me go out play my game and have fun.

“I don’t think people realize that being surrounded in a situation where people have confidence in you how much that does for your game. You can just go out there and have fun and not worry about making mistakes, missing shots because you know matter what from top to bottom the people around you have your back and that does a lot for a player in any sport.”

Indiana’s season has mirrored Coleman’s career. A slow start losing its first three games and dropping four of its first five games before turning things around. Coleman is now a key part of the Fever’s relentless attack. Indiana has a steely toughness that has served it well this season.

The Fever has endured all types of travel inconveniences this season such as being stuck on a tarmac in a hot plane for almost two hours where players took off shirts in an effort to stay cool.

They were stranded in the Reagan National Airport for five hours. The latter forced a rare postponement of a game when the Fever couldn’t catch an alternative flight that would have gotten them to Connecticut in time for that night’s game.

“The travel has been horrendous,” Coleman said with a laugh. “It’s been tough and we talk about it amongst ourselves, but this group has handled it so well. Some teams would complain and we just made the best of delayed flights. Being stuck at the airport just gave us a chance to enjoy each other’s company.”

That closeness shows on the court as well. While Tamika Catchings is the undisputed leader of the Fever, everybody has made contributions during their recent hot stretch.

Briann January is one of the best defenders in the WNBA.

During their win over Phoenix on Sunday, Lynetta Kizer, another Terrapin standout, scored a career-high 19 points. Demonstrating their toughness, the Fever defeated the reigning champions on the road despite missing both centers and having starting guard Shenise Johnson receive four stitches.

Coleman and the Fever are pumped for the stretch run.

“It’s going to be tough,” Coleman said. “It makes for a fun rest of second half. We’re going to grind it out and see how the standings shake out at the end of the regular season. We’re just trying to be consistent and play together as a team. Then we’ll see what happens during the playoffs.”

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Monday, August 17, 2015

WNBA: Slide for Stewie Race Got Even Tighter Among Top Contenders

Guru’s note: The following post and ensuing posts to come on the topic are offered for entertainment purposes only and written tongue in cheek because, well, because the subject exists and so for those poised to look at things that way, this running commentary between now and the final standings are offered as an aid.

By Mel Greenberg

Welcome to week number three of the Slide for Stewie race in which we go in the other direction from watching the playoff hunt to watching how the race for the four draft lottery positions is going, considering this is another stellar year – not so much in plentiful – but one in which the grand prize of the number one pick will offer the opportunity to select UConn senior Breanna Stewart from the same program that has had such number one picks to yield in the past as Sue Bird (pre-lottery), Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Remember in this exercise everything is done in reverse so our standings charts below lists losses first and then wins since the losses are more important here.

And in each one of these posts, we make the statement here of rather than repeat the entire explanation for the tables below, if you are viewing this topic for the first time, then just go to the first week’s introductory coverage.

While Stewie seems the single focus on the next lottery, there’s always a chance some other star in college or overseas will breakout and become a high value to add to the mix like the multiple three pack of 2013 that produced Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins who went 1-2-3 respectively from Baylor to the Phoenix Mercury, Delaware to the Chicago Sky, and Notre Dame to the Tulsa Shock, once known as the Detroit Shock and beginning next season will be the Dallas (nickname retention or new to be determined).

Although much suspense exists on the playoff end of the standings, the tightness of three bottom teams in the Western Conference and differential of the entire Eastern Conference keeps it all interesting though New York seems to making some separation from the top in the East.

Still, the Liberty are one or two key injuries or a slump away from suddenly sliding to the differential from a fourth place playoff spot or an official contestant for Stewie night coming soon after the season is over in terms of announcing how the order will go.

Once teams we’ve been looking at happen to land in the playoffs, the data below will be revised and also if need be, besides looking at how much impact games decided by five points or less had we will also revisit the schedules to add games that were influential through rallies from deep deficits to swing the outcome the other way.
In the past week out of fifteen games involving the nine teams in our lottery hunt only one, Atlanta’s 84-82 home loss to Western leader Minnesota Friday night, produced a narrow outcome though several others did have rallies per se.

The Seattle Storm, which was running away to get the best odds for fate’s blessing when the ping pong balls do their thing, played four overall games, three against others in the hunt, and went 2-2 on the week and 1-2 in the lotto group, where the San Antonio Silver Stars’ 2-0 rack up of losses, including one to the Storm Sunday night, enabled the Texans to draw closer.

Tulsa with its 10-game losing streak was starting to knock on the lottery door but applied the breaks Saturday in New York with a win over the Liberty.

The Los Angeles Sparks went 1-1 in both categories, enough for the moment to stay out of the lottery by 1.5 games.

Atlanta seems probable after a playoff appearance streak to end that run and the Dream are 4.5 games behind Seattle to gain better odds when the lottery show begins.

The Connecticut Sun went 2-1 overall loss vs. wins and 2-0 in the pack to drop a bit deeper on the lottery trail away from the postseason while Chicago went 2-1. New York at 1-2 and 0-2 followed by Indiana’s 0-2 moved both teams closer to the playoffs instead of getting in the lottery mix.

Looking at the week ahead, on Tuesday, Indiana visits Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Washington will be after a sweep of Minnesota following Sunday’s home win over the Lynx, while New York is in San Antonio.

On Friday, Atlanta is at New York, Washington is at Chicago, and Indiana is at Seattle while on Sunday, Chicago visits Washington, Los Angeles is at San Antonio, Atlanta is at Connecticut, and New York is at Indianapolis.

With all that said, here are the weekly lottery standings updates.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Sun., Aug. 16)

Team L W *-GBO *-GBL

Seattle 19 7 -- --
San Ant. 18 7 0.5 --
#Los Angeles 16 8 2.0 1.5
Atlanta 15 12 4.5 --
Conn. 12 12 6.0 -- --
#Chicago 11 15 8.0 2.0
Washington 9 14 8.5 2.5
Indiana 9 14 8.5 2.5
New York 7 16 10.5 4.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders


Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
Los Angeles 4-3
San Antonio 4-2
Atlanta 6-5
Washington 4-4
Connecticut 3-3
Chicago 3-4
New York 1-3
Indiana 0-3

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
Los Angeles 11-4
San Antonio 11-5
Seattle 10-7
Atlanta 10-8
Indiana 9-9
Chicago 9-13
Connecticut 8-11
Washington 7-11
New York 4-13

That’s it for now.

-- Mel






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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WNBA: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

by ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON ---
Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith.

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

Patience and a strong support base paved the way to where she is today, an impact rookie with the Connecticut Sun.

“It’s great to be out on the floor, play and put on a uniform,” Gray said Sunday afternoon prior to the Sun’s 84-73 loss to the Mystics at the Verizon Center. “It’s a blessing. I am happy to be here. There was a lot of doubt in my head when I went down when I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish my senior year (at Duke) on the court. It broke me a little bit.”

The 22-year-old Gray is making a difference averaging 6.6 points and 2.7 assists per game.

She’s healthy, blessed and cherishes each moment she puts on the sacred blue-and-white Sun uniform. Her sterling performances this season have helped the Sun shine into one the pleasant surprises of the WNBA season.

The Sun are 12-10 overall, a game out of a possible playoff spot with 12 contests remaining following Wednesday’s 80-74 victory over Tulsa at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

They trail Indiana, Washington and Chicago, who are all in a three-way tie for second place in the spandex-tight Eastern Conference standings.

After hosting first-place New York Friday night, the Sun have an odd schedule, playing three of its next four games against Atlanta sandwiched around a road game at Tulsa over the next two weeks.

With all-stars Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone leading the Sun in scoring this season, there’s been no additional pressure for Gray to be great. She’s been able to blend in and play her role as an energizer off the bench.

Gray has placed herself in the WNBA Rookie of the Year discussion with several consistently excellent efforts this season. She had a career-best seven assists against the Stars in an 82-51 win last week. In Wednesday’s win over the Shock, she scored six points and handed out four assists.

Gray is second among rookies in assists per game, second in three-point shooting percentage (.341) and fifth in scoring average. She is averaging 3.9 assists over her last 11 games.

“It’s great to see her back with everything she has been through and healthy again,” said Connecticut guard and former Duke star Jasmine Thomas. “Having a chance to show what she can do is great.

"She’s already a good rookie and she’s going to have a great career in this league. It’s just nice to see her compete again. Chelsea is a great teammate. She has real good court vision and is a playmaker. One of the best things about her is she’s always looking for the brightness in every situation.”

During a crucial West Coast swing earlier this season, Gray averaged 12.3 points with nine assists and eight steals in three games as the Sun swept the always tough Phoenix-Los Angeles-Seattle trifecta. Gray had her best game in a Sun uniform, finishing with career-highs of 16 points while making all four of her 3-pointers.

Those efforts were part of the Sun’s overall 8-1 start to the season where Gray had five double-digit scoring performances.

Watching Gray carve up defenders, thread pinpoint passes and make her teammates laugh with hilarious one-liners, one would never guess that she had trepidation about attending the 2014 WNBA Draft when she was invited to the party with no guarantees that she would hear her name uttered by commissioner Laurel J. Richie.

“When I heard my name called during the draft, I was like ‘oh my God’, this is a dream come true,” Gray said. “I finally I was able to come to training camp and this is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl.”

It turned out to be the best situation for Gray, who was able to spend a year focusing on getting healthy and her knee stronger without any pressure to play. Being away from the court not only gave Gray a greater appreciation of the sport she loves more than her favorite musician Maxwell, but helped her gain a mental edge that’s been a key to her success this season.

Gray was also able to adjust to the rigorous travel schedule and improve aspects of her overall game.

Proving that she was back was her overseas performance for Hapoel Rishon Le-Zion of Israel in which she averaged 20.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.8 steals. The speed was back as was her swagger.

“I was able to slow down and not feel rushed to get back on the court,” Gray said. “I was able to focus on the little things that would get me back on the floor like bending my knee in certain positions or stop doing certain movements that were harmful to my knee. Being able to slow down, focus and not feel rushed was huge for me because I knew I had a lot of time to get back to the way I wanted to.”

Throughout her rehab and those dark moments when questions crept into Gray’s mind about whether she would ever play basketball at a high level, she surrounded herself around her awesome support system that included family and former teammates Tricia Liston and Haley Peters.

Gray’s journey to her achieving her dreams of being a professional women’s player may have featured a few unscheduled detours, but she never veered off-course even when things looked bleak. It’s a road that Gray is happy she traveled in hindsight.

“I would encourage people to follow your dreams no matter what,” Gray said. “There’s going to be adversity. The road isn’t always a clear path. There’s a lot of bumps and obstacles, but at the end of the finish line, you’ll be happy with the result.”

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WNBA: Catchings Leads Indiana to Key Road Win in Washington

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Nobody would have blamed venerable Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings if she took Tuesday’s encounter against the Washington Mystics a little personal.

Instead, it was all business for Catchings, who scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to help the Fever claim a key 73-62 victory over the Mystics in another critical Eastern Conference clash at the Verizon Center.

With the win, the Fever (13-9 overall) created a three-way tie for second place with the Mystics (13-9) and Sky (14-10).

They all trail first-place New York (15-6) by 2.5 games. Connecticut (11-10) is lurking behind everybody in fifth place. The loss snapped Washington’s season-high five-game home court winning streak.

A monument of excellence in the twilight of her career, Catchings dazzled by making 9-of-18 shots from the floor and finishing with six rebounds to match Tina Thompson as the second-leading rebounder in WNBA history (3,070). She already is the league’s second-leading scorer and its all-time leader in steals and free throws.

Asked of tying Thompson on the league’s all-time rebounding chart, Catchings quipped, “I’m old. That’s what that means.”

The 36-year old All-Star added, “It’s important for me to go hard every time I step on the floor. It’s the way I play.”

Catchings’ performance was much better than the atypical one she experienced here on July 17 in a double-digit loss to the Mystics.

In that contest, Catchings was 0-for-7 from the field and scored two points. Catchings didn’t have anything to prove against the Mystics, but it was nice to enjoy a strong effort that resulted in a key road win.

“This game was not personal, for me,” Catchings said. “I looked at this game like a playoff game. As a team, we left here with a bad taste in our mouths the last time.

“We really wanted to come in and play well tonight especially after our last performance as a team and coming out and getting blown out. So it was really important not necessarily just me personally, but as a team it was really personal to come out and play the way we know we are capable of playing.”

Catchings had plenty of help from her buddies.

Former University of Maryland and Mystics star Marissa Coleman added 11 points for the Fever, as did offseason trade acquisition Shenise Johnson who scored in double figures for the 11th time in the past 12 games, coinciding with a streak that has seen the Fever win nine of 12.

Johnson, who also led the Fever with nine rebounds, was a difference maker in third quarter as Indiana gained the separation it needed to even the season series at 2-2 against the Mystics.

The energetic Johnson had six points, three rebounds and two assists all during a game-altering 16-2 third quarter burst that helped Indiana turn a 36-35 edge into a comfortable 52-37 bulge with 93 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Though the Mystics closed the third quarter with seven straight points and trailed 52-44 heading into the final frame, they never whittled Indiana’s deficit under that margin, largely because Catchings couldn’t be stopped.

Indiana owned a 37-26 rebounding edge and erased a 12-point second quarter deficit to win for the fifth time in six games since the All-Star Break.

“I was just really proud of our team because it’s like a playoff atmosphere and every game is a battle,” Indiana head coach Stephanie White said. “For us, we came back and regrouped in the first and second half on the defensive end.

"We played with so much energy, got to the loose balls, made all the hustle plays, and then we were shot makers in the second half. I was really proud of the way our team came out and played and competed the entire ball game. Specifically our effort on both ends in the second half.”

For the Mystics, playing their fourth game in six games, they couldn’t maintain the momentum generated from a fast start that yielded a 29-17 advantage with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. The Fever’s aggressive and trapping defense made life tough for the Mystics offense.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led the Mystics with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Ivory Latta added 13 points and Tayler Hill delivered 12 points off the bench for the Mystics, who also got four blocked shots from LaToya Sanders. Kara Lawson saw action for the first time since the first half of the San Antonio game on July 31. She had been out with a bad back. Lawson scored five points in 13 minutes of action.

When asked how the Fever won, Washington head coach Mike Thibault didn’t hide his disappointment as he got right to the point.

“They bullied us better,” Thibault said. “From about a couple minutes into the third quarter until the early fourth they got every loose ball, they got offensive rebound, we got shoved around and if you want to play at the highest level you have to respond to that and I don’t think we did that quick enough to stop their run.

" We used a couple timeouts to try and stop their run but there has to be a will to stop it and it’s about them having a little more experience of being through it, it’s part of their mentality, and if you’re a team like them you basically foul on every play and see what gets called, and then it’s not a bad strategy.

" Some nights you get away with it and some nights you don’t but there are NBA teams that play that same way and if you’re going to play with those teams you have to be able to withstand that mentally and physically.”

The Mystics conclude their homestand Sunday afternoon when they host the Minnesota Lynx, the team with the best record in the WNBA. It will be the first of two straight games against the Lynx. Meanwhile, Indiana makes its annual west coast trek beginning with a stop in Phoenix to meet the reigning WNBA champions Sunday afternoon.

“We need to get away from the gym,” Latta said. “That’s what [Coach Thibault] said—get away from the gym. Go do something fun. Just get away from the game of basketball right now.

"What are we at, four or five games in seven days? That’s pretty tough. But we’re not going to make any excuses. When we come back to the gym we’re going to be ready and focused and get ready for a good team on Sunday in Minnesota.”


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