We're going to Chicago, and it's clear to both teams that a victory is needed. The Libs are in a much better spot for post-season action than Chicago, with destiny in their own hands: if they win their next four games, they're in no matter what. Chicago, meanwhile MUST win this game if they are to reach the post-season (not to mention their season finale in New York), while also hoping that the Mystics lose two of their next three games. New York has breathing room, but not much. The Mystics are playing today, and the Libs are half a game out (with a game in hand). A win today will put them into fourth and give them a chance (with their extra game) to put a full match between them and the 5th spot.
We've split the season series so far with Chicago, winning our home opener against them 83-71, but losing a month later, 73-66. Both games came at completely different moments than where both teams are at the present. The Liberty are coming off a win against the Shock and winning three of their last five after dropping seven in a row. The Sky, meanwhile, have lost five straight after winning four of five (against Detroit, Indiana, and San Antonio!). Clearly, things are up in the air tonight for both teams.
Chicago isn't without talent. Candice Dupree, who is averaging a hair under 17 points per season, leads the team in points, but other notables include Jia Perkins, a stalwart guard who can throw a mean dish, and Chasity Perkins, a strong forward who can rebound and throw a body. They're top five players are averaging double-digit points a game, and they have been known to upset any opponent that doesn't take them seriously.
Their problems, however, stem from a weak bench and inconsistent play. Dominique Canty and Armintie Price are both strong regs (averaging 8.8 and 8.3 points, respectively), but the rest of the bench is weak, has been hurt, has not played enough, or can't perform up to their talent-level on a nightly basis. Dupree, meanwhile, has scored beneath her average in eight of her last fourteen games. The Sky are a team of streaks, winning a bunch of games, then losing a bunch of games, and like a city on a fault line, can be dangerous after lying dormant for a period of time.
It's not like the Libs are some powerhouse, however, as despite our recent nail-biter victory over the Shock, we've played pretty poorly. Our last three losses (Phoenix, Washington, Los Angeles) were all fairly decisive, with the Los Angeles game particularly distressing. Patty, while getting better about spreading the bench, still likes to play her favorites into the ground, and most of the team has been fairly inconsistent.
New York HAS woken up recently, though, taking three games out of five and beginning to show what we are capable of. McCarville's emergence has been a big factor, but as other players on our team have begun to step up and fill the void left by Becky Hammon, more and more confidence has been seen on the court. Whereas about a month ago we couldn't close down a team after going ahead late in the game, now it is the Liberty who are the ones banging down doors, taking down Detroit and Houston despite being down at several late points in the game.
Sunday's game proves that New York can hang with any team in the league. Six Libs scored 10 points or more, including four of our starters. All that being said, it was essentially an seven-person show, with Davenport playing 6 minutes and Willis and Farris combining for just a little over 3 minutes total. Kraayeveld, despite waking up late in the game, continued to play despite missing key shots and turning over the ball late in the game. For today to turn out well, we are going to need at least three of our starters to have good games and several regulars step up to fill the void of those that flail, much like what happened against Detroit. Chicago can pick a team apart if they want to, and while New York's zone can shut them down, if we start to scramble, it's all over. Kraayeveld is going to need to be strong on D, Moore is going to need to keep coming up big, and the entire team can't force a pass that isn't there. Turnover points have killed us in our last ten games and we need to cut them down.
Look for Patty to play a more conservative game tonight. Chicago is going to push as hard as they can - they are indeed desperate to make the playoffs after finishing 5-29 last year - and Coyle will probably try to us their momentum against them. Hopefully. Step it up, ladies, and we can play it well.
- Take your time finding shots. The Sky's defense against Field Goals is second worst in the league (.430, right behind the Lynx), but they rebound well. If the Libs pass enough, they'll find an opening in the defense.
- Shoot from the arc. The Sky aren't great defending against the 3, either. Set up outside, and if they collapse in, go for it.
- Cut off passing lanes and hold your ground. Force them to shoot from the outside, and if they decide to run in, and for God's sake, plant your feet.
- Keep their heads in the game. Chicago is really not that good of a team. Sure, they have Candice Dupree, and yes, Claire Coggins gets my blood boiling, but they aren't any better than us. Just remember that.
I would like a little Liberty-Sky rivalry to build up, and if the Sky can survive their horrible attendance numbers and one of us eliminates the other from the post-season, that could add some fuel to the fire. Let's just make sure that it's US on the inside, and THEM on the outside.
Connecticut @ Mystics
Houston @ Detroit
Minnesota @ Seattle
San Antonio @ Los Angeles
Connecticut is in the playoffs and will secure at least the third spot if they win tonight. Washington has been playing very well overall, although they've struggled mightily in their last few games. They haven't lost at home since Detroit in late July, and before that, San Antonio at the beginning of that month. While Connecticut is the better team (by far) of the two and could bump up to the number 2 spot in the Conference if they take two more games than Indiana, they have much less at stake here than the Mystics. Look for the Mystics to try and prove to a hometown crowd that they deserve to be in the playoffs. Mystics by 4.
Detroit is now rested and looking to enter the post-season on a strong note. Houston, while playing much stronger than a few playoff-bound teams at the moment, is now eliminated. Both have little to play for except pride, but I think that Detroit is going to look to get the bad taste out of their mouths after their loss to New York. Ford is out until at least the playoffs, but Cash could come back if Detroit feels she's up to playing. That could spell doom for the Comets. Shock by 7.
Will Minnesota even both to wake up? Which Seattle team will show at the Key tonight: the one that has several super-stars, or the one that looks like a female-version of the Washington Generals? Will Seimone Augustus be able to lift the incompetence around her, or will the stellar play of Jackson cancel her out and make it an easy pick-up for the Storm? All these questions will be answered tonight in a game between the worst team in the league and the worst team heading into the playoffs, as well as another question; will anyone care? Storm by 6.
San Antonio is a game behind Phoenix in the Western Standings, but has two games in hand. They're going in against a Los Angeles team that has upset several opponents in the past but is still far from being competitive. Becky Hammon will be in (supposedly) as this will be the last time that the Silver Stars can gain ground on Phoenix. Expect quick work. Silver Stars by 8.
Erin Thorn's got a chat going on today. If you're into that kinda thing, it starts at 2.
Penny Taylor and Deana Nolan were named WNBA Players of the Week. Hard to argue with either choice, especially Nolan, who has been carrying her team (absent Ford and Cash).
Nickname up in the afternoon. Until then?
See ya, Space Cowboy...