The WNBA season is a mere 34 games, but even a short campaign leaves room for ebb and flow.
Sunday’s games revealed the persistently steep learning curve that greets every class of rookie players, an element that sometimes is ignored in the midst of preseason hype geared to introduce new fans to the sport.
The Phoenix Mercury and Tulsa Shock have yet to record a win in the early portion of the season, surprising those who expected instant success with the acquisitions of their heralded top draft picks.
Phoenix quickly became the odds-on favorite to win the 2013 title, but losing their first two games of the season highlights issues that have submerged the team long before Brittney Griner joined the organization.
Tulsa could be seen as relapsing to their 2012 narrative, a season where close contests slipped away early, leaving Oklahoma enthusiasts to settle for the promising future that lied ahead. The Shock lost their first nine games before scoring a win last year, and this year’s group has already dropped four games.
Tulsa’s latest combatant is also experiencing a metaphorical time warp; the Chicago Sky were victors in the first three games of the season, already beating the two other teams who boast a member of the “Three to See” group. Joining them in the unblemished category is the Atlanta Dream, whose impressive performances are wiping away the bitter aftertaste of 2012, when their story was more fitting for a soap opera than a basketball court.
Extrapolating results from a small sample of games would be a foolish measure, but the takeaway from the first full week of WNBA play indicates that competition for the playoffs and a championship are much more fierce than pundits suggested.
Dream continuity dispels Mystics
The Atlanta Dream continued their undefeated start with a 73-63 win against the Washington Mystics at Verizon Center.
The game featured a rare instance where both teams had identical shooting figures. Atlanta (3-0) and Washington (1-1) hit 27 of 69 shots each for a field goal percentage of 39.1.
How points were found is what separated the Dream from the Mystics. Atlanta hit 16 of 20 free throws against a 9-of-10 showing from Washington. Washington also failed to make a three-point basket, partially due to sporadic visits to the perimeter.
Angel McCoughtry led the Dream in scoring with 15 points, getting some help from the free throw line to compensate for a 4-of-13 shooting effort on the floor. Erika de Souza had better fortunes, making seven of 11 attempts for 14 points.
Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics with 15 points, and Ivory Latta put in 14.
Prince crowns win for Sky
Media members may have billed the match-up between the Tulsa Shock and Chicago Sky at Allstate Arena as the first bout between Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne.
On their end, it was simply another game, won handily by Chicago 92-71.
The Sky’s (3-0) flashy start can be attributed to their rebounding prowess, where they have established a significant advantage in each of their games. Chicago put up a 40-25 supremacy on the boards against Tulsa (0-4).
The Sky held a slim 40-38 lead at halftime before breaking out in the third quarter, outscoring the Shock 25-13.
Epiphanny Prince (pictured) had a game-high 19 points to highlight the five Sky players who reached double-digits. Delle Donne had 15 points and Sylvia Fowles earned her second straight double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Glory Johnson continued her double-double streak for Tulsa, getting 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Shock have yet to receive a charge from Diggins, who hit only three of 10 shots. So far, her season field goal percentage is a lackluster 26.5.
Storm continues cooling of Mercury hype
Brittney Griner’s transition from college to WNBA basketball has provided some exciting moments, but they have been sprinkled with harsher ingredients.
Her Phoenix Mercury were defeated by the Seattle Storm 75-72 at KeyArena.
Although Griner stayed out of foul trouble in the first half to give Phoenix (0-2) a 38-35 halftime lead, her discipline unraveled in the third quarter. She was charged for two fouls in the span of five seconds early in the period, and was hit with a technical later in the period after picking up her fourth personal foul.
Magnifying the mistakes was a 10-0 Seattle (1-1) run to start the third. Phoenix would retake the lead briefly before dropping for good on a pair of free throws from Noelle Quinn.
The Storm went outside to neutralize Griner’s impact inside, and the move worked. Seattle hit 8 of 19 three-pointers, while Phoenix made just 1 of 4.
Tanisha Wright (pictured) led the Storm with a game-high 20 points.
Candice Dupree led the Mercury with 18 points. Griner registered 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.