As we close week 5, the theme of the week is finding an identity. I’ve danced around this issue before with certain teams creating some form team chemistry. Some teams like the Lynx and Sparks have it. Others such as the Mystics and Liberty are slowly, but surely, crafting something that should eventually yield success. And then you have teams that don’t even know who they want to be at all or if they even want to bother with the idea. Case in point….
Seattle Storm (70) vs San Antonio Stars (77)
I know I’ve knocked the Storm for their glaring flaws. But even with their talent deficiencies, there’s no way they should be losing to the worst team in the league. Look, I understand. Sometimes a team just loses a game. But after re-watching this game, it’s a case of the Storms just being the Storm. In short, the major production comes from the Storm’s big 3 (Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart) with some great help from Alysha Clark & Crystal Langhourne with absolutely no recognizable help from that bench at all. Don’t let box score fool you. The Storm had control of this game when put up against the Stars slow tempo. But sure enough, the Storm slowly started to breakdown during the second half. From the questionable rotations, unforced turnovers, and not finishing in the lane. It all tallies up to another devastating lose. As someone that watches and attend these games regularly. It’s beyond frustrating seeing this team continue to run to the same well of misery. If I don’t know any better, maybe the Storm are trying to pull a stealthy tank job a la the Philadelphia 76er’s. I mean how else do you get back to back number one picks? Speaking of back-to-back…
The Atlanta Dream Hit the Snooze Button
The departure of Sancho Lyttle has really killed this Dream’s interior game. In particular, they’re struggling against teams who are aggressive in the post. After pulling away a tight OT game versus the Chicago Sky, the Dream went one to play one of the most uninspired games of basketball I’ve ever seen against the Washington Mystics. The entire Dream team practically rolled over and let the Mystics run the floor, stomping them 90-79. The lack of any sort of drive from anyone on that team was a major red flag. Just absolutely zero effort on either end of the court. Strangely enough, this comes right on the heels of piece about Angel McCoughtry calling for the WNBA to eliminate back-to-back games due to the minimal rest for players coming back from their overseas teams. On the hand, I understand this position. The WNBA off-season aligns perfectly for players to play overseas and make more money. But they also tend to run right on the heels the WNBA’s season kick-off. That’s practically playing all year with no rest. But with becoming a pro, there is a higher level of expectations required of you, especially when you’re the team leader. There will be back-to-back games. There’ll be nights where you’ll have to play when you’re not 100% or even 80% ready. That’s just part of the deal. And to see the lack of spark or any sort of drive really was a key indicator of how locked-in the Dream are.
Game of the Week: Phoenix Mercury (71) vs L.A. Sparks (77)
Watching this game almost broke my brain for a multitude of reasons. The first revelation that came to me is that these teams are polar opposites of each other. On one side, there’s the Phoenix Mercury. A championship caliber team of talented vets who’ve played with each other for at least three to five years along with the same coach. And in spite of all of this, the Mercury are still struggling to find some semblance of team chemistry. On the other side of the court, the L.A. Sparks are this exciting band of misfits, brought together from different places. The Sparks are right up there with the Lynx in dominating the league. But the Sparks are doing it all with a smile on their face and some extra pep in their step. This is clearly a group of women who enjoy playing together, and it shows on the court. I noticed that the Sparks are always communicating with each other, even through their mistakes. Calling back to my earlier assessment, the Sparks are this rare, quirky moment of catching lightning in a bottle. And while I do enjoy the Candace Parker revenge tour, her team mates are all standalone studs in their own right. In fact, the whole starting five is averaging a whooping 24.3 PPG. Let’s not forget Nneka Ogwumike who’s averaging, yes averaging, a double-double as well as shooting just above 75% from the floor. New York Liberty Essence Carson fits right into that rotation and is great defensively.And Kristi Tolliver (shooting just shy of 50% from inside and outside the arc), talk about deadly sharpshooters. She has one of the quickest catch-and-release shots in vein of a Clay Thompson. And they play was with such finese and skills that it’shard ot see why they’re a top ranked team. In many ways, the Sparks are essential what a team like the New York Liberty or the Seattle Storm want to be: great small ball play with solid defense in the paint and the perimeter.
In contrast to the Sparks, the Mercury just didn’t seem that engaged with one another (or many of their past games when looking back on it). After a whistle, three players are arguing visibly agitated with one another, Griner is walking off in a completely different direction, Taurasi’s yelling at the ref. Just no sense of unity at all. It almost makes me wonder, do they even like playing with one other as much as the Sparks? or is too damn hot in Phoenix? It’s not all doom and gloom for the Brondello crew. In fact, the starting lineup are putting up some fairly respectable numbers. But just like with other teams, they’ll stay in a game well into fourth; after which, the wheel starts to fall off. I can pinpoint the issues in this team. One of them is DeWanna Bonner. Bonner is actually a good role player (and the Mercury’s second leading scorer). But she lacks a killer instinct. Example, playing against the Dallas Wings, She was matched up a few times on Skylar Diggins in the paint. Bonner stands at a good 6’6″ and Diggins is only 5’8″. Instead of taking advantage of the height advantage and taking Diggins to the basket or draining the bank shot, she kicked the ball out to someone else. It’s passing up offensive opportunities like that which cost the Mercury. Two, zero bench help. The starters scoring average 14 PPG, but the bench nets in about 2.5 PPG with almost equal time share of minutes played. Common sense would indicate just run with the starters more, but that’s an issue when they start to foul out of games in 3rd or 4th quarter. All that aside, I still think the Mercury will pull it together……eventually.
- Breanna Stewart has signed a contract to play for a Shanghai team in the off-season. I find this slightly off-putting given how much she’s been showered with endorsements. Plus she’s still averaging 36 minutes a game. Those two things really ratchet up the likelihood of an injury. And I’d hate to see that given how great she’s been.
- Orlando: Take a moment to read Shavonte Zellous’ piece in the Player’s Tribune about how the effects of Orland hit a bit too close to home. As a wake up call to everyone, enough is enough!
- Carolyn Swords: Can we put out an APB out for her? I haven’t seen her show up to a game in a few weeks now. Is she injured? She’s been looking really stiff and anciently slow the past few games?
Week 5 WNBA Power Rankings:
1. Minnesota Lynx – We’ll discuss them next week and their matchup against the Sparks
2. L.A. Sparks – See above
3. New York Liberty – They’ve been playing a bit sloppy but they are getting it done
4. Chicago Sky – My hometown Sky are killing. They’d be 3 but Liberty have better depth
5. Dallas Wings – The addition and Diggins and Johnson were just what this team needed.
6. Atlanta Dream – I see them dropping more without Lyttle, but they’ll stay here for now
7. Washington Mystics – Meesseman & crew have been better defensively lately
8. Indiana Fever – Shoutout to Elena Larkins on netting her 1,000th point vs NY
9. Phoenix Mercury – See previous section above
10. Seattle Storm – See previous section above
11. Connecticut Sun – Sorry, I got nothing.
12. San Antonio Stars – Shout out to the UConn ‘Big 3’ rookie Moriah Jefferson hitting a career high 19. I see big things for her as she works with Hamby and McBride