„Splash Sisters“ seal the deal for Indiana against New York
The New York Liberty may have lost again, but they have definitely made strides and taken a few steps forward. The Indiana Fever are working their way towards .500 on the back of a great performance by the „Splash Sisters“ Tiffany and Kelsey Mitchell.
Both teams got off to a good start, New York moved the ball well, always looking for open shooters and trying to get everyone involved. For the Fever, Julie Allemand was running the point excellently again, playing calm, no-nonsense basketball. She was orchestrating the offense in the pick and roll as well as serving as a reliable three-point shooter (3/4). The Belgian scored 13 points, grabbed 4 boards and dished out 5 assists while getting 2 steals as well. Kelsey Mitchell was aggressive on the drive, putting her head down and working her way to the rim. The Fever took the lead for good with an impressive 20–4 run that carried over to the second quarter. Tiffany Mitchell rolled her ankle without the influence of an opponent, but she would shake it off, fortunately. She was a congenial partner to her namesake Kelsey once again, scoring a very efficient team-high 19 points (8/11 FG) along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. She showed her great handles, putting All-Star Kia Nurse on skates and sliding to the basket for an easy 2. The Liberty guard is still struggling to find her shot, going 4 of 15 from the floor. She scored a game-high 21 points, though, thanks to her ability to get to the line (11/12 FT). Both teams were trading buckets until halftime, resulting in a 51–40 Indiana lead at the break.
The Liberty had to mount a comeback once again and did so by going to the free throw line much more than their opponents. Midway through the third, they had already taken 20 shots from the charity stripe (Indiana: 8). Sharpshooting forward Amanda Zahui „3“ and Jazmine Jones each knocked down a three to cut the deficit to 55–52. Indiana would go on a 10–0 run, though, erasing New York’s efforts for the time being. Kiah Stokes,who’s added the long range shot to her arsenal in the offseason, hit her third three of the game (0/3 in her first four seasons in the WNBA!) to bring her team withing striking distance again at the end of the third. Megan Walker later stole the ball and laid it in at the other end to make it a 2-point game at 69–67. The Liberty were right back it in and kept it a close game until the closing minute. Layshia Clarendon (20 points on 8/17 shooting) was lethal on the drive for New York, while Teaira McCowan dominated on the offensive glass, corralling in 7 rebounds to give the Fever a lot of second chances. At 79–77, Kelsey Mitchell knocked down a huge three-pointer with the shotclock winding down to put the game away. The Fever would remain calm at the line in the foul and free throw game and beat the Liberty for their fourth win of the season.
Sparks outshine Mystics with team effort
Tough times for Washington fans in the #Wubble. The reigning champs drop their sixth in a row and fall to 3–6 on the season. Their depleted roster is struggling to get shots to fall, their bench production has been sub-par thus far. The Sparks on the other hand benefitted from their depth and got some great performances out of their supporting unit, led by Te’a Cooper and Kristine Anigwe.
Washington got off to a great start offensively. Well, Ariel Atkins did. The lefty wing put a quick 7 points on the board, helping her team to an early 9–5 advantage. The Sparks would go on a 14–0 run, though, powered by their great defense, forcing turnovers and altering shots, their ball movement and great shooting: They had started 2/10, but moved on to knock down 5 of 6 thereafter. Atkins was bale to cap the run with another three-pointer, scoring 10 of the Mystics‘ 12 points thus far. Essence Carson hit a long 2 to cut the deficit to 7 after the first quarter (26–19).
In addition to missing four of last season’s starters, the Stics were unable to provide their starters some help from the bench: Their supporting unit only combines for 15 points per game on 29% shooting (starters: 65.6 PPG, 46% shooting). The Sparks‘ bench contributed 25 points in the first half, while Washington only scored 34 before halftime. Los Angeles shot the ball well inside the arc, always looking to take it inside. Their quick guard duo Riquna Williams and Te’a Cooper (10 points, 5/6 FG) were unstoppable over the course of the game, getting into the teeth of Washington’s defense. Atkins‘ sweet shooting stroke was the only thing that kept the Mystics in the game; she scored 16 in the first half and finished the game with 20 points. The Sparks‘ lead at halftime was 47–34.
Los Angeles‘ defensive dominance was best illustrated by Candace Parker’s closeout block on a Tianna Hawkins three-pointer: The Sparks were quicker, more active and showed greater effort and will. They seem poised to go on a deep run this season, while head coach Derek Fisher tries to get everyone involved. Nneka Ogwumike was putting on a show in the post, showing off her great footwork and taking it right to Emma Meesseman. The Sparks forward scored 12 points on 5/7 shooting and recorded 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as well. All in all, Los Angeles once again excelled at forcing turnovers: Meesseman and Myisha Hines-Allen each committed 6, Atkins added another 3 – a recipe for disaster.
Los Angeles won all four quarters and dominated every (important) aspect of the game. Their bench was stellar (Anigwe: 4/4 FG), their starters got some rest and they improved to 6–3 on the season. The Washington Mystics signed Stella Johnson as a reaction to the injury to Aerial Powers. Their lack of firepower, especially from the bench, will be hard to overcome, though. Meesseman is still struggling with her shot, although she seems to embrace her new role als point forward / point center. Head coach Mike Thibault has a lot of work to do, but not a lot of time – the #Wubble season is a short one. And Washington has to improve dramatically to prolong it.