By Charles Hallman
The 2013 WNBA Playoffs begin this week: Washington-Atlanta and Indiana-Chicago in the East, and Minnesota-Seattle and Los Angeles-Phoenix in the West in the four best-of-three first-round matchups.
“When we get into the playoffs, it’s our own destiny,” notes Indiana guard Shavonte Zellous, a member of the 2012 defending champions. The Fever, the only sub-.500 club among the eight playoff teams, has been injury-riddled all season. “We’ve gotten some good wins and some tough losses as well,” explains forward Tamika Catchings. “I think we’ve gotten better from the beginning of the season to now.”
“We are going to make a good run,” predicts Zellous. “I’m ready.”
“I could see the growth from June, July, August and September, and that is what we will take [into the playoffs this week],” says Chicago Coach Pokey Chatman on her club’s first-ever post-season appearance. “We haven’t developed the depth that we would like, but I think when you get to the playoffs, most of us can ride the horses we’re on. It’s fun. I hope [my players] enjoy it.”
Seattle also battled injuries this season — its two resident stars didn’t play at all this season as a result. “We shouldn’t be very good when you look at our statistics, and sometimes we are not very good,” admits Coach Brian Agler. “But this has been one of my favorite teams to coach.”
The Storm (17-17) and Indiana (16-18) both are two teams that can be dangerous for their respective opponents to play in a short series.
Playoffs “have a lot to do with matchups,” surmises Agler, whose club faces Minnesota this week. “You got to get to a point where you take things away from them,” he says in a quickie scouting report. Point guard Lindsay Whalen’s elevated play this season along with forward Maya Moore’s MVP-caliber season has propelled the Lynx all season long, believes Agler.
“[When] people think of Minnesota, you have to focus on their wing players [Seimone] Augustus and Moore, and block out [forward Rebekkah] Brunson. But Lindsay now is another strong offensive weapon. She picks and chooses her time. When they need something to happen, the ball gets in her hands,” notes Agler
However, at this point most observers have either the Lynx (26-8) or Los Angeles (24-10) as winning the West and playing the East winner in the finals in a couple of weeks.
“I think they are the two best teams that I’ve seen,” notes Fever Coach Lin Dunn. “Nothing against Chicago (24-10), but I don’t think they have the experience and the level of talent Minnesota and Los Angeles have.”
“The chemistry is up with every single player, and hopefully we will peak at the right time,” says Lynx guard Monica Wright.
Chatman adds that center Sylvia Fowles and guard Epiphanny Prince are crucial keys to the Sky against the Fever this week. “She may not have the sexy numbers offensively, but she can dominate a game on both ends of the floor,” says the coach on 6’-6” post player Fowles. “She allows me to play five or six schemes defensively. She’s a shot blocker and can alter shots. She also can take up space offensively.”
Fowles’ presence opens up things for such players as the 5’-9” Prince, who was the team’s best player last season before she got hurt. “Last year we were having a nice little run early; it was because of ‘Pip’,” recalls Chatman.
But as the only Black female coach in the playoffs this year succinctly points out, “We’re zero-zero” in the post-season.
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