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.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

WNBA Playoffs: Dallas Tough Opening Hurdle For Washington Looking to Return to Winning Form

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
 
WASHINGTON - It doesn’t get much better than watching Skylar Diggins-Smith and Elena Delle Donne go head-to-head in a winner-take-all playoff game.
 
The stars will be out in force Wednesday night when the seventh-seeded Dallas Wings (16-18 overall) visit the sixth-seeded Washington Mystics (18-16) in a first-round playoff game at the newly renamed Capital One Arena.

 Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.and will be the opener of an exciting ESPN2 doubleheader. 
 
The nightcap features the eighth-seeded Seattle Storm (15-19) visiting the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury (18-16) at 10 p.m. That game featuring the league’s top two scorers in Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart will be played at Arizona State University’s Wells Fargo Arena.
 
For Diggins-Smith, this will be the first playoff game of her career. 

She was injured when Tulsa was swept by Phoenix in two games in 2015. The gifted fifth-year guard is fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered that season. In helping Dallas reach the playoffs for the first time, Diggins-Smith was an infernal force that relentlessly attacked with merciless fury.
 
It’s always a great day when one of the best players in the world gets an opportunity to showcase her talents under the white-hot postseason lights. 

Diggins-Smith has been consistently brilliant throughout the season while leading a young Dallas Wing squad. For the Wings, this is the second playoff appearance in franchise history since leaving Detroit after the 2009 season.
 
In averaging 18.5 points per game, Diggins-Smith scored at least 20 points 15 times this season. She had a scintillating stretch of six consecutive games in which she scored 20 or more points. She finished the season ranked fourth in assists per game (5.8). 

Late in the season, Diggins-Smith sank seven 3-pointers in a win over San Antonio and dropped 28 last week against Chicago.
 
In three games this season against the Mystics, Diggins-Smith averaged 20.6 points per game. Dallas won both games played in Washington including 83-78 on Aug. 26. Delle Donne had 29 points and 11 rebounds in that setback.
 
Speaking of Delle Donne, this will be her 15th career playoff game. She has averaged 17.4 points in her previous 14 games all with the Chicago Sky. 
 
She also delivered one of the most memorable moments in playoff history in 2014. 

Playing in an elimination game on the road against the Atlanta Dream, Delle Donne scored 17 of her 34 points in the final period, including the winning jumper with 8.4 seconds left, as the Sky rallied from 20 points down to win, 81-80.
 
The Sky advanced to the Finals where they were swept by Phoenix. Delle Donne arrived in Washington for moments like this. Although the Mystics wobbled into the playoffs, losing four of their last five games, Delle Donne, the No. 2 pick in the much hyped 2013 draft class, can carry a franchise.
 
She scored 37 points last week in an exciting overtime win that officially clinched a playoff spot for the Mystics.

 The journey to this point has been bumpy, but it doesn’t matter now. Despite a season ending injury to Tayler Hill along with other key injuries, the Mystics are confident they can continue advancing and play deep into September. 
 
Overall, the Mystics have the edge in playoff experience. 

Guard Kristi Toliver has played in 23 postseason contests and helped the Los Angeles Sparks win a title last season. 

Dallas’ Karima Christmas-Kelly has participated in 14 playoff games where she’s averaged 7.4 points per contest. 
 
The winner of this game will have to wait a couple hours to learn whether they will head to third-seeded New York or fourth-seeded Connecticut Sunday.

 The outcome of the Mercury-Storm will determine the pairings for the second round. Top-seeded Minnesota and second-seeded Los Angeles, the reigning WNBA champions, earned double byes to the best-of-three semifinals.