The MSR assembled an experts’ roundtable to discuss this week’s WNBA Playoffs. This year’s matchup: East: New York vs. Washington; Chicago vs. Indiana — West: Minnesota vs. Los Angeles; Tulsa vs. Phoenix.
Tonyus Chavers, who “coaches” from her seat at Minnesota Lynx home games pointed out, “I look at the playoffs as wide open. There’s not really a dominant team. We [Minnesota] started out really strong but started to fall off the last few weeks.”
(Check for Chavers’ post-season analysis is featured in “Another View” in this week’s MSR print edition.)
“We have to be very focused and sharp. The only person that will stop us is ourselves,” said New York guard Candice Wiggins.
Indiana Forward Tamika Catchings warned that the Fever must avoid “complacency.” “You want to be playing your best when you go into the playoffs. We have the potential to be so much better than we are. In some games, we play really, really well and other games…OK.”
“It will be a great playoff situation for both the East and the West,” noted Seattle guard Monica Wright. “It will be interesting.”
Some see the championship this year being in either Minnesota or return to Phoenix, the defending champs.
Minnesota is physical, and can be very tough to beat when they execute to near-perfection, added Phoenix Coach Sandy Brondello, who wants her Mercury club to play a full game. “If we want to go to the championship [round], we have to come through Minnesota,” she said. “They have a great home court advantage here.”
Stephanie White, first-year Indiana coach, and possible contender for Coach of the Year, added that acquiring center Sylvia Fowles potentially made the Lynx, who’s the West top seed, a great team to beat. “I think they are exceptional. We have to play flawless in order to beat a team like that.”
Minnesota however needs a healthy Seimone Augustus, who missed 10 games after arthroscopic surgery on her right knee in July, and then another eight games due to a foot injury suffered August 19. “She’s a huge difference-maker, stated Chavers. “Not only is she one of the best women’s players in the world, but she’s a leader on this team. Those double injuries aren’t a good sign, and don’t know if she will have enough time to regain her rhythm and conditioning for the playoffs.
“We really need her ability to create her own shot. She’s a great passer and she rebounds. That’s what we are missing,” said Chavers.
“A confluent of things” including little practice time, a brutal August schedule, as well as incorporating two new players in midseason into regular rotation, all occurred in the regular season final weeks, noted Lynx Assistant Coach Jim Petersen. “The fans look at our team and say, ‘What’s wrong?’ We made a big trade and changed the entire chemistry of our team. We made two deals and we got rid of people who understood the culture of our team, and brought in people who don’t understand the culture of our team, and what it takes to win and play Lynx basketball.”
“Obviously with all these different pieces and some unfortunate injuries, it has been challenging, but we’re starting to see improvement,” added Lynx Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson. “There are a lot of things we still have to clean up, a lot of work still to do.”
“I hope we see Minnesota in the Finals,” concluded Wiggins, whose New York club is the East top seed.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.