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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

WNBA: Narrow Outcomes Marked Key Games Over the Weekend

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

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

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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