The WNBA at the half

Photo by Charles Hallman/MSR news Sylvia Fowles

Thirteen is often called a baker’s dozen. In the WNBA “14” means the second half of the 2019 regular season begins.

Minnesota (10-10) has been idle since last Wednesday’s home loss to Washington. The Lynx started the summer 3-0 but have gone 7-10 since. Like most teams, they have to deal with injuries and missing a key player for various reasons this season — the team is currently mired in a three-game win drought and fighting to stay in playoff contention as they hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

“We have spurts when we play like we are connected, and sometimes we act like we haven’t played together,” bemoaned Minnesota Center Sylvia Fowles after the Lynx lost to the Mystics last week. “It’s just the little things that we need to concentrate on to make sure we are on the same page.”

And two-weeks’ worth of games remaining gives not only the Lynx but all 12 WNBA clubs a unique optimism going into the second-half of the season, which essentially starts Wednesday. Every team took off several days for the annual All-Star break, which included last weekend’s All-Star game in Las Vegas.

Some teams like Minnesota got a few days more than others because of how the schedule is set. The Lynx don’t play until Saturday, for example, giving them over a week to rest, practice, and recharge for the second-half drive.

Mechelle Voepel of espnW wrote during All-Star Weekend that the 2019 season has been unique – “No team has solidly staked its claim as the favorite,” she said, noting that in past seasons, including last summer, a clear front-runner — or the Minnesota-Los Angeles rivalry that provided exciting consecutive finals — was clearly noticeable. At this point, however, Voepel shows that the teams are “very compacted” — 8.5 games separate the first and last place teams, and 3.5 games between the eight possible playoff clubs.

Photo by Charles Hallman/MSR news Las Vegas Assistant Coach Vickie Johnson

“I think every team is very competitive and has a chance to win the championship,” Las Vegas Assistant Coach Vickie Johnson told me between All-Star practices in Vegas last Friday. She was the only Black female on the All-Star coaching staffs.

“Every game is important, especially home games,” Las Vegas Coach Bill Laimbeer said last weekend. He and Johnson coached Team Wilson last Saturday to a three-point win over Team Delle Donne — all three Minnesota All-Stars:  Fowles, Odyssey Sims and Napheesa Collier scored and contributed in the victory.

The Aces and Connecticut are tied for first at 13-6; Washington second at12-6; Los Angeles and Chicago both are 11-8; last year’s champs Seattle is 12-9; Phoenix is 10-8, and the Lynx, just two seasons from its last championship, is 10-10.

“This is a unique year,” Seattle’s Dan Hughes said earlier this season.

“We still got to get better at it, but we are much better than we were a year ago,” Washington Coach Mike Thibault observed after its win at Minnesota last week. His Mystics were runners-up last season.

Finally, Minnesota resumes action at Indiana Saturday, the first game after the All-Star break.

Behind the numbers

Last week, WNBA.com/Stats, the league’s official basketball statistical site, unveiled its new statistical video feature for the 2019 season. Users will now have the option to select a stat and view a video list of the plays when the stat table is highlighted. Earlier this year, a new redesign on the site was a significant upgrade.

Other features include advanced box scores, clutch stats, historical data, lineup data, player on/off-court stats, player profiles and improved shot charts.

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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