Guru's WNBA Report: Minnesota Moves Close To First Conference Title
By Mel Greenberg
The Minnesota Lynx (21-6), the best team in the WNBA, turned aside the worst in the Tulsa Shock (1-24) and with New York Liberty All-Star Cappie Pondexter shooting down her former Phoenix Mercury (15-11) squad the Lynx moved closer to claiming the Western Conference crown.
The return of Lauren Jackson for her second straight competition since being sidelined since late June with a hip injury enabled the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm (15-12) to strengthen their move to the playoffs and weaken San Antonio’s shot after beating the Silver Stars (13-13) at home.
Atlanta’s win in the closing minutes at Chicago (12-15) enabled the Dream (14-13) to open a two-game lead for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. Atlanta also helped idle Indiana (19-8) and Connecticut (17-10) to get near securing playoff spots in the East, while New York (16-12) stayed near the Eastern frontrunners. Los Angeles (12-15) stayed in the hunt in the West by outlasting Washington (5-21) on the road.
Veterans Taj McWilliams-Franklin took her turn in the Minnesota win-fest, scoring 18 points on the road to enabled the Lynx extend the Tulsa WNBA record losing streak to 19 straight courtesy of a narrow 78-72 win in Oklahoma.
Former North Carolina star Ivory Latta misjudged McWilliams-Franklin’s ability to stop her in the closing seconds and her shot was blocked to stop a late Shock rally.
“When I spun on her I just knew I had her,” Latta said. “I didn’t think her length was going to catch up with me but it did and she tipped the ball.”
Lindsay Whalen had 14 points for the Lynx, who opened up a 5.5 lead in the West over Phoenix, while rookie Amber Harris out of Xavier, who was the fourth overall pick, scored 13 points, and Seimone Augustus scored 12.
Tulsa’s Amber Holt came within two points of her career high, scoring 18 points, while Tiffany Jackson scored 13, and Sheryl Swoopes and Latta each scored 10 points.
“I came out with the mindset that we don’t have anything to lose,” Holt said. “We had our focus from beginning to end tonight. We’re getting closer.”
Minnesota’s magic number to win the West was reduced to three, heading into San Antonio’s visit to Minneapolis Friday night and the Lynx’s return to play the Silver Stars in Texas Sunday.
Coach Cheryl Reeve’s squad is also two games in front of Indiana for best overall record.
Meanwhile, here's a release on a new promotion involving Minnesota rookie Maya Moore, the former UConn star.
One lucky fan will have a chance to win a shopping spree with No.1 draft pick and All-Star Maya Moore in her home town of Atlanta following the end of the 2011 WNBA season. Kids across the country ages 6 to 14 can enter the Shot Clock Shopping Spree between Aug. 24 and Oct.13 online at NBAHoopTroop.com when they sign up to be an NBA Hoop Troop member.
Moore will celebrate one grand-prize winner of the latest edition of the nationwide Shot Clock Shopping Spree, inviting the winner to Atlanta to participate in a basketball-themed shopping spree. The randomly selected contestant will team up with the All-Star to learn shooting tips from the pro and win as much basketball merchandise as they can shoot together into an oversized basketball hoop in 24 seconds.
Following the launch of NBA Hoop Troop in December 2010 with an online destination, programming, grassroots events, and its Shot Clock Shopping Spree sweepstakes, which culminated in a grand-prize event in New York City, the program is continuing its momentum by partnering with the Minnesota Lynx’s Moore, one of the brightest young stars in the WNBA.
Dream Puncture Sky’s Playoff Hopes
Chicago hasn’t appeared in the playoffs in the five seasons of the Sky’s existence and despite another new coach-general manager in Pokey Chatman, season number six may mean another trip to the draft lottery.
Angel McCoughtry had 22 points for Atlanta including two foul shots with 2.5 seconds remaining to stop the Sky from tying the Dream in the standings.
All-Star Sylvia Fowles had given Chicago an 80-79 lead with 6.3 seconds left but Michelle Snow, who played at Tennessee, fouled McCoughtry in the ensuing possession in the game played in suburban Rosemont, Ill.
Fowles finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds while Shay Murphy scored 16 points.
The Chicago loss reduced Indiana’s magic number to return to the playoffs to 1 while Connecticut’s number is three. New York is at four with a home-and-home against the Sky begins Sunday in the Midwest.
Washington visits Chicago on Friday after suffering a narrow 86-82 loss to Los Angeles at home in the Verizon Center that occurred hours after a rare earthquake touched the region.
A separate post on that game is above this roundup.
Erika DeSouza had 13 points for Atlanta and Sancho Lyttle scored 12.
Atlanta next goes to Indiana Sunday.
Cappie Leads Liberty Over Phoenix
Former Rutgers all-American Cappie Pondexter helped New York shake off a tough loss at Seattle that occurred Saturday, scoring 17 of her 25 points on the road in the fourth quarter against Phoenix.
The win kept New York in third place 1.5 games behind Connecticut and 1.5 in front of Atlanta.
All-Star Diana Taurasi missed her second straight game for Phoenix with back spasms.
Penny Taylor missed a long three-point attempt in the closing seconds, trying to rescue Phoenix, whose magic number to reach the playoffs is five.
Former Stanford star Nicole Powell scored 16 for the Liberty, while former Temple star Candice Dupree scored 17 for the Mercury.
New York was able to survive suffering several shooting lulls after building leads in the contest.
Fast Finish Carries Seattle Over San Antonio
The Storm stayed six games behind Minnesota and moved to within a half-game of second place Phoenix and 1.5 games in front of the Silver Stars, beating them for the win.
Lauren Jackson, who returned Saturday from a hip injury that kept her on the sidelines since late June, had six of her 13 points in the final period while Tanisha Wright, a former Penn State star, had six of her 16 points, both for Seattle.
Sue Bird and former North Carolina star Camille Little had 12 points each for the Storm and Bird also became the 15th player in WNBA history to reach 4,000 career points.
“I think looking back on my career it will be something special,” Bird said. “You’re in an elite group when you think about people who have done that.”
“I thought we started to play with a purpose at the end,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. Lauren made a couple of Lauren Jackson plays with turnaround jump shots and drop steps. And we got to the free-throw line a bit.”
Sophia Young, the former Baylor all-American, had 14 points for San Antonio, which has now lost four straight heading into this weekend’s home-and-home with Minnesota.
The Silver Stars are just 1.5 games in front of fifth place Los Angeles.