Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The road (and days) to the conference finals

Western Conference finals:

The Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing match ups.

Game one Friday in Phoenix will be a "white out."

Lynx:

The hard road to a Lynx dynasty.

Rookie Damiris Dantas could miss all of the West finals games due to family matters.

Today's practice report.

Mercury:

The Mercury will rely on Brittney Griner's mojo in the series with Minnesota.

Eastern Conference finals:

Fever:


Are charging into the Conference finals.

Practice report and videos.

It's harder to find Eastern Conference finals stories because the Indianapolis Star has one story today, on how Marissa Coleman likes Peyton Manning. (What relevance is this to the playoffs???) And the Chicago Sun Times has jack squat. As usual.

Non-playoff news:

Mystics:


Exit interview with Kara Lawson.

Sparks:

Candace Parker is in this week's issue of People Magazine.

Skylar Diggins is Most Improved Player

Skylar Diggins wins most improved player award.

Well-deserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sky come from behind to beat Atlanta by one point

Um, wow:

ATLANTA (AP) -- Despite trailing by 17 early in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Sky weren't ready to give up on their season. Instead, they kept their focus and pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

Elena 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 beat the Atlanta Dream 81-80 on Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals......

Shoni Schimmel's jumper gave Atlanta an 80-77 lead with 29 seconds left, but Delle Donne made two jumpers in the last 24 seconds - with the final basket giving Chicago its first lead since 6-5.

''It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. ''They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays. My big time player (Delle Donne) stepped up.''


About a minute after the game was over, the WNBA announced the Eastern Conference finals schedule:

Indiana vs. Chicago

Game 1 – Sat August 30 Chicago at Indiana 7:00PM 7:00PM NBA TV

Game 2 – Mon September 1 Indiana at Chicago 3:00PM 4:00PM NBA TV

Game 3 * Wed September 3 Chicago at Indiana 7:00PM 7:00PM NBA TV

Thinking second round

Mercury and Lynx by the numbers.

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve feels good about her team heading into the series.

Podcast with Maya Moore.

Non-playoff-related:

Swin Cash will be part of an historic, all-female sports show.

USA Basketball:

The U.S. Youth Olympic 3X3 team won the gold medal today, beating the Netherlands, 19-10. It's the first such gold medal for America. The team included Arike Ogunbowale, De'Janae Boykin, Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Western Conference finals kick off Friday

Minnesota visits Phoenix Friday for game one of the Western Conference finals. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern, and will be broadcast on NBA TV/LiveAccess. Game two is in Minnesota, at 12:30 p.m./3:30 p.m. Sunday, on ABC.

The Sky and Dream meet up tomorrow to see who will face Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals.

More playoff news:

Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen showed "leadership in full display" in Saturday's game.

Game notes from last night's Mercury-Sparks match up:

Brittney Griner was at half court in the third quarter, with only Sparks forward Sandrine Gruda in the vicinity. She looked back to make sure no one else was around, and at that moment I knew what she was about to do.

BOOM! Nice dunk. And the Staples crowd continued to make a lot of nose even 30 seconds later. It was like people couldn't get over it.

Glory Johnson was sitting behind the Mercury bench, looking mighty glamorous in her outfit, to support her fiance.

Non-playoff news:

The post-Hammon era awaits the Stars.

Storm exit interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression.

Why the Liberty shouldn't fire coach Bill Laimbeer.

Newly-engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life.

USA Basketball training camp rosters set

Bria Hartley and Chiney Ogwumike have been added to the USA Basketball Women's National Team roster.

What a roster:

Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
DeWanna Bonner
Tamika Catchings
Tina Charles
Elena Delle Donne
Skylar Diggins
Stefanie Dolson
Candice Dupree
Sylvia Fowles
Brittney Griner
Bria Hartley
Briann January
Jantel Lavender
Kayla McBride
Angel McCoughtry
Maya Moore
Chiney Ogwumike
Nneka Ogwumike
Candace Parker
Danielle Robinson
Odyssey Sims
Breanna Stewart
Diana Taurasi
Courtney Vandersloot
Lindsay Whalen
Monica Wright

Good lord a mercy.

Training camp schedule.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dream force a game three; Mercury rout Sparks

Angel McCoughtry's 39 points powered the Dream past the Sky, 92-83, to force a game three.

The Mercury routed the Sparks, 93-68, to advance to the Western Conference finals.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview outtakes: more glimpses

Journalists ask athletes a lot of questions: before the game, after the game - and about all kinds of topics. Not every statement makes a story; in fact, quite a few quotes land on the cutting room floor, to borrow a phrase from film.

Reporters also sometimes ask questions with the future in mind - like when they have a hunch about something - and they save those athlete statements for an appropriate time.

Some of each scenario is the case with these gems. Enjoy.

____________________

Indiana Fever, from 26 days ago:

Me: What’s bringing you together right now?

Tamika Catchings: Confidence – that’s a really big thing for us. And unity: when one of us is struggling, the others step up.

Me: Does this team still have that 2012 championship mentality?

Tamika Catchings: We say, let’s focus on defense – our offense will come. The more we play with each other the more comfortable we get. Hitting open shots is a big part of it. In the championship, I thought everybody at the right time was on; we can still do that.

Me: What's it going to be like when Coach Dunn is gone?

Tamika Catchings: It's going to be weird - she's been my coach for the last seven years.

At first we really butted heads. We both wanted the same things, but we both had completely different ideas about how to get there. Eventually I had to take a step back; she’s the coach, and we have to do it her way. Now, we’re pretty tight.

It’ll definitely be different not having her here.

Me: Have people been asking you about retirement?

Tamika Catchings: Yes. And I do want to get married and have babies before I get too old. But I want to make one more Olympic team before that happens. All in due time.

__________

Me: You seem like a completely different player this year, in your second season. What's the difference between your rookie year and this one?

Layshia Clarendon: I think just experience. It’s so hard to come in and be a rookie and be a point guard, especially. The speed of the game, the plays – everything is so much faster. I feel a big difference from last year; just the speed, and processing information. I feel it when I play: I’m not so frantic. You try to absorb it; you get two weeks of training camp and then your first game. Last year I was mixing up our plays with the Cal plays, just struggling a little bit.

Me: Where did you play overseas again?

Layshia Clarendon: I was in Czech Republic in Prague. The team and the organization was great, I had a great experience as far as the organization. But I became fatigued and my back started flaring up, so I came home early.

Me: You guys say you're coming together now. Why is that?

Layshia Clarendon: Half of our team as new. You’re counting me as a returner, and a veteran in my second year? People forget sometimes that we’re such a young team.

__________

Me: How is the Fever coming together as a team right now?

Briann January: I think we’re in a different phase for our team. In the initial phases we were integrating the newcomers. Half the team was new and they weren’t familiar with our system. And with the absence of Tamika it was tough. We were working through kinks and learning each other. Now we have the experience of playing together and it’s time to really get better as a team.

Me: Do you all feel like you have a championship team?

Briann January: I think we could. Every year I’ve been here, Indiana’s been that team no one talks about but ends up in the finals. That’s always how it is. We constantly see ourselves as the underdogs, and we just try to get out there and grind. We don’t try to think about where we’re placed and how we’re seen as – we just get out there and work hard every day. That’s what got us a championship. We’re trying to get back for sure.

____________________

All-Star Game, July 19, 2014:

Me: Can you describe your first All-Star Game experience?

Skylar Diggins: It meant a lot to me to come out here and be part of this All-Star experience. It’s amazing – it’s great. I thought we did some great things as a team and for women’s basketball. Anytime you get a chance to play against the best in the world, to try to figure out how to stop them. Just to try to pick them apart and figure out why they’re so great. Even if it’s just a few days, it’s great to spend time with these vets and players. You don’t get to play with them or haven’t played with them in a while.

The fans were awesome; Phoenix is a great host city.

East open practice, July 18, 2014:

Me: So after a practice like this, what's the plan for tomorrow?

Angel McCoughtry: To whip some West behind!

____________________

Connecticut Sun rookie Chiney Ogwumike, from 20 days ago:

Me: Can you talk about the youth of the Connecticut Sun?

Chiney Ogwumike: Our youth really came in big for us when we played San Antonio the other night. Alyssa Thomas was great, Alex Bentley was great. San Antonio made it a great game for us because of our youth. We weren’t experienced in how to close out. Even though our youth is a good thing, we have to learn how to gain experience as we go. The addition of Ebony Hoffman, and having Katie Douglas here has really helped us. They’ve been the voice in the locker room trying to keep us on the straight and narrow. Even though we’re young, we use it to our advantage a lot in sprinting and being aggressive. At the same time, we have to learn how to play experienced basketball. I think that’s what’s been going on throughout the year, and I think we’re finally getting back to it.

Me: The team is very promising.

Chiney Ogwumike: We have a very young team, and we know that even though there will be struggles over the next few years, we’re building something really special. It might seem like the beginning of something really special here. We’re trying to enjoy the process of building something. Every game isn’t going to be fun, but enjoy the ups and downs, because when you look back it’ll be something very special. I’m enjoying being in Connecticut and everyone can see that’s happening.

Allie Quigley is sixth woman of the year

Chicago's Allie Quigley has won the sixth woman of the year award.

Two tickets punched to the conference finals

The Fever beat the Mystics in overtime, 81-76, to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Tamika Catchings again lead Indiana, with 26 points and 11 rebounds. But this time her point contributions put her past Lisa Leslie as the WNBA's all-time postseason scoring leader. The goat! I love this part of the story:

As the unassuming talk continued, Indiana coach Lin Dunn interrupted her star player.

"Let me elaborate because she's too modest," Dunn said. "I think the records she's set so far in the playoffs indicate to me that you may be watching one of the greatest players to ever play our game."


In the West, the Lynx overcame a slow start and ground out a win over the Stars, 94-89. Lindsay Whalen lead Minnesota with 31 points. The game also ended the career of retiring Stars guard Becky Hammon.

As they did last year with retiring Tina Thompson when they took the Storm out of the playoffs, Minnesota players crowded around Hammon post-game to get a group photo. I joked on twitter that their new team name is the Career Enders.

Tomorrow's games:

The Sky are eyeing a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Mercury plan to improve their rebounding against the Sparks.