WNBA Report: Just Under 50 Percent USA Olympic Roster Embedded in Tuesday's Lynx-Sky Matchup
By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
Get your popcorn ready.
Stars will sparkle during Tuesday night’s nationally televised showdown on ESPN2 between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx as some of the biggest names in the history of the WNBA will perform.
Tip-off from the Target Center is at 8 p.m in Minneapolis.
The game will feature five of the 12 members of the United States Olympic Women’s Basketball Team, which includes former Delaware standout Elena Delle Donne of the Sky.
And Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is an assistant to UConn's Geno Auriemma.
In addition, four players (Minnesota’s triumvirate of Maya Moore, Lindsey Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Chicago’s Cappie Pondexter) recently named to the WNBA’s all-time Top 20 team will be on the floor.
Lastly, this contest features two of the top six scorers in the WNBA in Delle Donne (20.3 points per game, second) and Moore (18.5 ppg., sixth).
Both teams enter Tuesday’s contest coming off of victories.
The Sky defeated the Mystics, 86-84, in overtime behind Delle Donne’s 28-point performance. The Lynx snapped their three-game winning streak with a 91-68 win over the San Antonio Stars.
The victory raised the Lynx’s overall mark to 14-3, tying their best record ever at a season's midpoint.
Delle Donne knows her team will have their hands full trying to contain a loaded Lynx squad that has four Olympians in Moore, Augustus, Whalen and Sylvia Fowles, formerly of the Sky.
“It’s difficult,” Delle Donne said of the task of trying to slow the Lynx. “They have four Olympians and you’re not going to shut all of them down.
"So what you try and do is to contain them and get the ball in somebody else’s hands. The Lynx are a great force and a tough team in front of their crowd. It’s a difficult task, but it’s something we need now to test our defense.”
Lately, Delle Donne has stressed opposing defenses by hitting for at least 20 points in five consecutive games. She also notched her first double-double of the season against the Mystics by adding 11 rebounds. While scoring hasn’t been an issue for the Sky, stopping opposing teams consistently has been a problem.
The Sky hope they turned the corner against the Mystics. After allowing 50 points in the first half, the Sky limited Washington to 34 points after intermission and made every shot tough.
For the season, the Sky are allowing 84.1 points per contest and scoring at an 84.5 point clip, which has led the inconsistency and its 9-9 record.
“The season hasn’t started the way we wanted to,” Delle Donne said. “We’ve had some defensive lapses, but we have been working on them.
"There’s been times where we’ll do five out six things right and that sixth thing may be a missed layup that leads to an offensive rebound. We understand this is a huge stretch right now before the Olympics and an opportunity to get on a big winning streak. We have some big games ahead of us to challenge us.”
Following Tuesday’s game in Minnesota, the Sky will enjoy the comforts of home for four consecutive games against the Liberty, Mercury, Sparks and Wings. Overall, the Sky will cram eight games in over the next 17 days before the Olympic break.
“It’s tough but that’s when the professional side of you kicks in,” Pondexter said of the Sky’s upcoming schedule. “This is when you have to be totally locked in and pay attention to detail with video. It’s a mental thing and you get through it by being focused.”
Pondexter recently became the seventh player in WNBA history to score over 6,000 career points and the first one under six feet.
The Rutgers product has played with an unstoppable fury during her marvelous career. Even though she tried remaining focused on the games, she couldn’t help but be happy with her recent recognition that included a customized emojli.
“If you look at the other 19 women selected (to the Top 20 team), it’s a great honor,” Pondexter said. “It’s an elite class of women who gave so much and I am thankful to all of them. This hoor is hard to describe in words. I am happy and will continue to work hard and make more history.
“(Scoring 6,000 points) means a lot. I have to thank my coaches and teammates for trusting me to play the game of basketball the way I can. I thank God that I’ve been able to been healthy and my family for supporting me. Without those things, I wouldn’t be talking about (6,000 points).”
Meanwhile, the Lynx shot 52.3% from the floor in the win over the Stars, their best percentage at Target Center since hitting 54.1% in the Opening Night win over Phoenix and the fifth time this year they've topped 50%, while tallying 90+ points for the sixth time.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Minnesota is now 58-1 when shooting 50%+ and 38-3 when tallying 90 or more points.
Showcasing its depth, Minnesota was led by Natasha Howard, who scored a game-high 21 points. The Lynx (14-3) led the entire way with Moore and Jia Perkins adding 14 points each. Whalen scored 12 and Rebekkah Brunson had eight points and 12 rebounds.
“The game is simple and greater overall sense of urgency - throughout the game,” Minnesota coach Reeve said following the Lynx’s win over the Stars. “I just feel fortunate to be around our leaders every day: Lindsay [Whalen], Seimone [Augustus], Maya [Moore] and Rebekkah [Brunson].
"They’re really special people and they navigate us through good times and bad. It was their leadership – what you see displayed today.”