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.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Wash. Quits Skid Row While Conn. Rallies In Overtime

(Guru's Note: There is a sidebar below this looking at the lottery situation when the WNBA season resumes).

By Mel Greenberg

When daylight broke here for an 11 a.m. start appropriately on Friday the 13th morning at the Prudential Center it was still very dark for the struggling Washington Mystics, who were about to visit the nearly equally struggling New York Liberty.

The hometown Washington Post paper back down in the nation's capital had a massive, but well written, story chronicling the dive in attendance and fortunes of the Mystics since finishing tied for first in the East with New York two seasons ago each posting the best regular season run in team history.

(Speaking of dive, the Guru decided not to foul the waters and instead run a separate as mentioned in the opening note on the second chase that will occur after the Olympics conclude).

Washington was also facing the prospect of returning to a tie for the second time this week and going to the month-long Olympic break deadlocked with the Tulsa Shock for the worst record in the WNBA.

But the Mystics were upbeat heading to the opening tip after nearly forging a successful rally during the teams' first meeting of the season last month at the Verizon Center in Washington.

Sure enough, it was the Mystics who left the place smiling with a 70-53 victory, courtesy of Jersey Girl Crystal Langhorne's 24 points, to improve to a still dubious 4-14 record, but now only the third worst overall.

Tulsa, which lost to Minnesota on Thursday to break the one-day deadlock with the Mystics, is at the overall bottom at 3-15 while the Phoenix Mercury, which got drubbed at home by the Seattle Storm 83-64, is second worst (4-15), a half-game worse than Washington.

Though Washington owns the nickname, the outcome didn't stop New York coach John Whisenant from being mystified over the Liberty's performance in dropping to 6-12.

Still, having had experience guiding the powerhouse former Sacramento Monarchs contigent in the Western Conference in the previous decade, Whisenant was still hopeful that New York could put together a march to the playoffs.

To that end, some consolation came in his direction several hours later when the fourth-place Chicago Sky (8-9), still without Epiphanny Prince because of a foot fracture, blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead to fall to the Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut Sun 80-78 in overtime in the Windy City suburbs near Lake Michigan.

It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams and Chicago is the only East team that can mathematically take a season-series from the Sun, though it is not likely to happen.

While the Sky continued to fall, the Atlanta Dream (9-10) playing without Olympic bound Angel McCoughtry, succumbed on the road to the red hot San Antonio Silver Stars, 91-70, as the Texans set a franchise record with their ninth straight win.

The result of the two losses, left New York just 2 1/2 games behind Chicago and Atlanta, who hold the third and fourth potential playoff spots in the East.

Kia Vaughn, the former Rutgers star center who had been sidelined the last two weeks because of the concussion suffered in the win here against Seattle, returned and Whisenant is hopeful of a healthier DeMya Walker after the hiatus as well as the return of Plenette Pierson.

With their health situations, New York's frontal attack has been nil.

Star guard Cappie Pondexter, another former Rutgers great, promised there would be some changes by the time the Liberty next play an official game, though she didn't indicate specific whether it was the lineup or strategy that would be altered or whether some roster shuffling was on the horizon.

But some of that optimism was tempered when it was noted to her that New York will begin the post-Olympic action with the same schedule that launched the season in May -- a back-to-back with Connecticut.

"Really?" she asked as if she had just been hit with a breaking news item. "Connecticut's got a great team and they're really playing well, now."

Yes, let's talk about Connecticut.

If the WNBA operated on a format of minor league baseball, it would be appropriate to declare the Sun (15-4) first-half champions in the East and give them one of the four slots for the playoffs right now.

Though it didn't hurt to have a heavy diet of New York and Washington to the current calorie count of 7-0 between the two teams, the Sun have a commanding 12-1 conference record besides owning a four-game lead over the Indiana Fever (10-7).

Connecticut now has a WNBA-best 8-1 road record, including a win at the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.

As long as Tina Charles and Asjha Jones return healthy from the Olymics in London, it is going to be hard to overtake the Sun because they have only nine East games left while the remaining slate will include six against the West.

Indiana can be expected to put some pressure on Connecticut if the Fever return heathy, in terms of the East, with Chicago and Atlanta trying to keep ahead of New York and Washington, though the Mystics are so far down the line that may not be a worry.

In the West, the once-dominant Minnesota Lynx (15-4) hit a skid and now it looks like open warfare for playoff seed spots with the revitalized Los Angeles Sparks (15-6), and San Antonio (13-5), with its best-ever start through 18 games.

Seattle (9-10), when the Storm get Australian sensation Lauren Jackson back from her country's Olympic team, should become a stronger presence, and while Phoenix might finally get Diana Taurasi back in uniform when she returns from London, that may be only enough for the Mercury to play a spoiler role.

But there's two stories to the remainder of the WNBA season and to those who play spoiler to their upper class title persuers comes the notion that they shouldn't get carried away because this time around the have-nots among the meek will inherit the lucractive spoils of the draft, whose front order lineup will be determined sometime in late in the fall by the bounce of a set of ping pong balls.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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