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.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WNBA Report: Washington Playoff Bid Temporarily Foiled Again

By Megan Nipe

The Chicago Sky, involved in their own pursuits for the postseason, became the latest obstacle to the Washington Mystics wrapping up a second straight playoff berth Wednesday afternoon as the visitors ruined a comeback effort at the Verizon Center and held on for a 72-69 victory.

It's the second straight game in which Washington (15-17) failed to take care of business following Sunday's one that got away 89-81 in double overtime on the road against the Connecticut Sun.

And that loss had ramifications leading into the Chicago game because Washington center Kia Vaughn was on the sidelines serving a one-game suspension for elbowing to the head of Sun rookie sensation Chiney Oguwmike, the overall No. 1 pick in April's draft out of Stanford.

The Mystics also lost Kara Lawson to an sprained ankle injury in the fourth quarter and she will be out of action until at least the playoffs.

The Sky (15-17), on the other hand, keep getting stronger with former Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne, the reigning rookie of the year, playing the most minutes yet since returning from a 17-game absence due to the recurring effects of Lyme disease.

She finished with 18 points. Sylvia Fowles, who missed a large portion of thje front end of the season, had 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Also back for the first time since the end of June was starting point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who suffered a knee injury in the final moments of a game in New York.

While both teams now have the same record with two left to play in the regular season, Chicago moved into second place under tiebreaking procedures.

The Sky finish up with the Indiana Fever (14-17), who could make it a three-way tie recordwise for second place by beating the fifth-place New York Liberty (13-18) in Indianapolis on Thursday night, before hosting the San Antonio Silver Stars on Sunday.

Washington can still control its own destiny, needing just one win out of two different scenarios. The first can come with a return trip to Connecticut, which has been eliminated, Friday night, having lost to the Sun just once last Sunday.

The other is New York visits here Saturday night in the season final for both teams.

Chicago coach Pokey Chatman spoke after Wednesday's game on the pressures in the East where everyone has been jam packed together behind the Atlanta Dream, which clinched first in the East Wednesday night, beating the Phoenix Mercury, which had wrapped up first in the West and overall homecourt advantage in the playoffs Tuesday night with a win in New York.

"It's huge," she said. "There's so many adjectives every coach in the Eastern Conference can use right now.

"You don't have to motivate anybody -- I can tell you that. The season and the grind, and not just our ends but everyone. We've been through so much. Everyone's going to go through a little bit of adversity. But the fact that we still maintained being relevant this time of year is a positive and that group deserves to all play together.

"So it's a nice time for them to all come together and gain some momentum going into these last two games."

It was no coincidence a year ago that Delle Donne's arrival as the No. 2 overall draft pick enabled Chicago to make the playoffs for the first time in eight tries, let alone win the East outright before losing to Indiana in the first round.

And it is no coincidence this time around that Delle Donne back on the court has changed Chicago's destiny from a draft lottery-bound team to one who could make some noise when the conference playoff semifinals begin next week.

Washington was a recent victim of the Sky's revival and was looking for revenge along with playoff glory before Delle Donne put an end to those thoughts of delivering a payback.

"In terms of Elena, I'm only playing her at the four right now because her conditioning is not near where it needs to be," Chatman said of getting the most out of Delle Donne without causing any setbacks.

"But she's a spacer, even if she is not getting buckets, she creates space for other people, and at the end of the day she is an excellent offensively skilled person.

"And it just helps everyone's confidence on the offensive end of the floor."

Among the able bodies for the Mystics, which included rookie Stefanie Dolson, one of two UConn All-Americans on the squad, making her first start,
Monique Currie,scored 18 points, while Dolson had 12 points and 10 rebounds,

Kids Day in the Verizon Center started off with a bang when Dolson served up a monster block, but the Mystics found themselves with multiple team fouls quick in the first quarter, mostly because of the work inside by Chicago's Fowles.

At the seven-minute mark, the Sky were up 3-0 with a bucket and free throw by Fowles. The Mystics first point came at 5:24 in the first quarter on a free throw by Tianna Hawkins (3 pts), the same time Delle Donne subbed into the game.

After the first media timeout, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (7 points, 3 assists) and Tayler Hill (2 pts.) had joined the lineup on the floor and Pratt gave the Mystics a quick bucket bringing them within two, at 7-5.

Two free throws by Dolson soon after tied the game at seven. With over two minutes left in the first, Fowles connected on both ends of a oneand-one to put the Sky back up by four.

With the Mystics shooting only 17.6% from the field, the Sky began to pull away and the first quarter ended with a score of 19-10.

Washington had open looks that weren’t rolling their way, but they saw the opportunities and kept attacking the basket.

Emma Meesseman (6 pts, 5 rebs) scored her first points of the day just above the six minute mark in the second quarter, and the next possession after that, Currie earned herself an and-one, bringing the deficit to six at 21-15.

The Mystics first thee-pointer of the game by Currie brought them within three but this was quickly answered by a long jumper from Delle Done and another bucket from Allie Quigley (11 pts, 6 ast), the former DePaul star.

With one minute left in the half, Bria Hartley (9 pts), the other rookie and UConn all-American, and Dolson scored back-to-back points, bringing Washington within four. Pratt scored a last second jumper and going into halftime Washington had hopes trailing just 31-29.

There were no players on either team who finished the first half in double digit scoring, but shortly into the third quarter, Fowles led all scorers with 15 points on the day, and on a pair of free throws, Washington’s Currie led her team with 10 points.

Points in the paint seemed to be the deciding factor for the game and with Fowles doing her thing, the differential was a whopping 16 points favoring the Sky

A three pointer by Currie, who scored the team's only two three-pointers, put Washington within four.

Unfortunately, a foul by Currie on the other end gave Delle Donne an and-one and sent Currie to the bench with four fouls.

Not long after, Dolson found herself with four fouls and joined Currie on the bench. The third quarter came to a close with the Mystics trailing the Sky, 52-45.

A pair of free throws by Hill to start the fourth quarter brought the Mystics back within five, and later another pair by Ivory Latta (12 pts, 5 rebs) brought the team within two, 52-54.

Latta was the only other Mystics player in double figures with 12 points.

Coming out of the media timeout, both seems started trading baskets with Washington always seemingly two points behind.

Four free throws by Dolson kept the Mystics within four points with 1:24 to go in the game and an offensive foul by Quigley gave Washington the ball back with 1:14 left.

A jumper by Currie brought it to a two-point difference with one minute remaining but double free throws by Delle Donne kept the lead at four.

With crucial free throws attempted by Currie with 35 seconds to go, she went 1-2.

Another timeout was called and the score was 68-65 Chicago.

With her fifth and final foul, Dolson headed to the bench and Fowles made two free throws to put the lead back to five.

The next possession, Meesseman scored a quick layup, and soon after, Hartley stole the inbounds pass and finished the layup.

With 7.8 seconds left, the Mystics were back within one.

Chicago’s Epiphany Prince (10 pts) put in two free throws to put the Sky up by three, and a last second three-pointer attempt by Meesseman was no good.

As a result, Chicago left a step closer to the playoffs while Washington remained on idle with a great chance to step on the gas Friday night in Connecticut.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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