Guru's WNBA Report: Indiana Regains First While Seattle Also Stops Slide
By Mel Greenberg
The WNBA schedule heading into this weekend’s All-Star break wrapped up with two games Thursday night as the Indiana Fever and Seattle Storm each stopped three-game slides with wins at home.
In Indiana’s case, the 77-63 win over the fourth-place Chicago Sky (8-9) at Conseco Fieldhouse allowed the Fever (11-6) to inch back into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference a half-game ahead of the idle Connecticut Sun (9-5), which had taken a percentage points lead with its home win over the New York Liberty (9-7) on Tuesday night.
The Sky dropped 1.5 games behind New York and are only a game ahead of the defending Eastern playoff champion Atlanta Dream (6-9), which is beginning to return to the form they showed late last season.
Seattle (8-7), which has now lost one more game than the entire last season when the Storm blitzed their way to their second WNBA title, turned aside the San Antonio Silver Stars 73-55 to move within 1.5 games of its third-place opponent and 2.5 of first-place Minnesota (10-4), which was idle.
The Storm, holding what would be the final playoff spot, moved 1.5 games away from the fifth place Los Angeles Sparks (6-8).
San Antonio (9-5) is in third place a game behind the front running Lynx and a half-game behind the second-place Phoenix Mercury (10-5).
The Silver Stars will be hosting the All-Star game Saturday for the first time and on Thursday the WNBA announced that San Antonio coach-general manager Dan Hughes would join Seattle coach Brian Agler as an assistant on the West squad, replacing Storm assistant Nancy Darsch, who is tending to a family matter.
Agler’s other assistant Jenny Boucek, a former Virginia star, has coached the West once before when she was in charge of the former Sacramento Monarchs.
In Thursday’s win, former Penn State star Tanisha Wright scored 11 of her 17 points in the third quarter preventing the Storm’s losing skid from becoming its longest in six seasons.
Former UConn star Swin Cash scored 15 points for the Storm and former North Carolina star Camile Little was also in double figures with 10 points.
“Tonight was a must win for us,” said Cash, whose team recently lost at San Antonio. “Any home games are a must win but tonight having just lost three games on the road and going into the break you want to go out on a high.
“We all knew with a win it would keep us over .500 and that was the goal. We were able to get it done.”
Wright was ecstatic afterwards over the Storm looking more like the way they played in 2010.
“That’s the kind of basketball we want to play right there. I don’t know any other way to put it,” Wright said. “That’s the kind of basketball we want to play, we need to play to be successful.”
San Antonio’s Sophia Young, a former Baylor star, scored 12 points, Becky Hammon scored 11, and Jia Perkins scored 10 as the Silver Stars missed a chance to reach the best start in the history of the franchise.
“This is one of the most physical teams in the league, if not the most physical,” Hammon said of Seattle. “We just didn’t handle it well. It was one of those nights where everything went wrong.”
San Antonio had been one of the surprises of the league with its play until recently tailing off. Some picked the Silver Stars for last in the West.
“When you consider we have six of 11 as new players and three rookies, we’re probably in a position we’d hope that we’d be,” Hughes said. “We’ve got a lot to learn. This is a learning lesson for a lot of us, even the rookies. … You could see first time up here, we were a frame behind.
Seattle and Los Angeles have been playing without two of the WNBA’s top stars with the Storm’s three time MVP Lauren Jackson sidelined eight to 12 weeks after hip surgery from a knee injury while the Sparks’ Candace Parker out six weeks recovering from a knee injury.
“We have a winning record and we’ve been fighting hard with injuries and a road trip, inconsistent play but you just have to be persistent,” Agler said. “You can’t give into it. You have to find ways to get better when you can’t practice.”
Indiana has had an injury problem also in recently losing starting point guard Briann January.
But the Fever were able to win three straight without her and seven overall before hitting the slide.
Former Ohio State star Jessica Davenport came to the rescue with 20 points and five rebounds.
“It’s always nice to be at home and have that home crowd behind us,” she said. “I thought our road trip was pretty tough but we had a good practice yesterday and everyone had energy. I think just being home helped a lot.”
Tamika Catchings, who will be one of the East starters Saturday, scored 13 points and Tangela Smith scored 10 points.
It was the seventh straight Fever win over the Sky, who got 21 points from All-Star reserve Sylvia Fowles, a former LSU star.
“We had a really good effort being disruptive tonight,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “Sylvia had 21, but it was a hard 21. I thought we fought her and made her work hard.”
Chicago first year coach-general manager Pokey Chatman, a former star and coach at LSU, spoke of the Sky needing to make adjustments if they are going to make the playoffs for the first time in the six-year history of the franchise.
“They came out like a team that lost a few and needed the win,” she said. “We’re at the point where we need to grow up, step up and recognize opportunities. It’s mental to physical. We played like a young team.”
In other news elsewhere in the league, the woeful Tulsa Shock (1-14) cut former Olympic track star Marion Jones, who signed on a year ago hoping to revive her basketball career from her days of North Carolina in the early 1990s when she played on an NCAA champion.
Former Olympic and Georgia great Teresa Edwards is 0-4 since being promoted after Nolan Richardson resigned earlier this month.
The Shock replaced Jones with former Oklahoma center Abi Olajuwon, a daughter of former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, who was cut by Indiana before the 15th NBA season opened in June.
The Guru will be back from more at the next sunrise but in ending a lifetime streak is not in San Antonio for the All-Star game.