WNBA Playoffs: Silver Stars Vs. Mercury Preview

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Not quite equal shock value

Have you ever wondered what's the difference between a good blogger and a hack? Well, with the start of the WNBA playoffs just around the corner, a good blogger -like Bright Side of the Sun's Phoenix Stan- would write a thorough preview with so many Xs and Os that Pop would probably look at it and collapse from information overload. On the other hand, a hack would simply use his time to 'chop Becky Hammon into a photo of Timmy's famous dagger.

Can you blame me, though?

Your preview, after the jump.

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Stylin'

What Went On Before

Those of you paying attention might've noticed that I failed to recap the very last game of the Silver Stars's regular season, at home versus Seattle. Well, I'm sorry, but it's simply not worth it. Everything I've read and seen about that game suggests that it was a travesty of the highest order. Our full lineup, minus Becky and Sophia, were ran out of the arena by a Seattle team that was missing three starters (Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash).

HotForHammon, one of Silver Star Nation's admin, went to the game, and she had this to say:

All I can say is you guys are lucky you didn't have to sit through that pathetic excuse for a basketball game. It was like watching a high school game, they were so bad. I felt like leaving after the 1st Q. When I say bad I mean BAD! I don't think I have ever seen such awful basketball...EVER!!! If this would have been my first Silver Stars experience I would have asked for my money back and would never return.

...And I think that's all you need to know.

Star-divide

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Gonna need some of that this year, too...

Western Conference Semifinal: San Antonio Silver Stars Vs. Phoenix Mercury

Introduction

Just like the guys, these teams have a history of recent playoffs series: namely, the 2007 Western Conference Finals. Unfortunaly, that's as far as the comparison goes, because the Mercury took that series 2-0 and went on to win the WNBA title. It's a testament to how up-and-down this league can be that the Mercury missed the playoffs last season, and now they're back at the top of the league. A couple of stars and good role players will take you far in a small league like this one.

In 2007, that star was, for the Mercury, Cappie Pondexter. She was without a doubt the series' MVP, averaging 29.5 PPG, 7.0 APG and 8.5 RPG. This season she was once again one of the top players of the league, and isn't part of the MVP discussion only because she plays with Diana Taurasi, the likely MVP. Talent runs deep in Phoenix this year...

Just in case you haven't been paying attention and are just not jumping onto the battered, rusty bandwagon, the Phoenix Mercury had the best regular season record in the league with a respectable 23-11 record, which Stan points out is a .676 winning percentage that translates to a 55 win NBA 82 game season. As I said, respectable, but not particularly dominating. Then again, the Stars were two wins below .500, so I shouldn't be pointing any fingers.

Bottom line is, the Mercury are the team to beat this year, and if the Silver Stars want to win the championship, they have to beat the best.

Schedule

Did you know that the WNBA has 3-game series in the semifinals? I sure did!

  • Gm 1: at San Antonio., Thur., 9/17, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
  • Gm 2: at Phoenix, Sat., 9/19, 10 p.m. ET, NBA TV
  • Gm 3*: at Phoenix, Mon., 9/21, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Matchups

1
STARS
(15-19)

Vs

1
MERCURY
(23-11)

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So... how screwed are we?
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1
Becky Hammon

PG

1
Temeka Johnson
Temeka is no chopped liver. She can run the point efficiently, is very good in the fast break, and she can knock down open jumpers all day. That said, Becky finished second in the league in scoring and third in assists, and she's the leader of the Silver Stars. This is one of the matchups that's clearly in our favor, even though I doubt Temeka will be the one to defend Becky.
19.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.0 APG 9.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.6 APG
3
Edwige Lawson-Wade

SG

1
Diana Taurasi
Diana Taurasi can do everything: she scores seemingly at will and is Manuish when driving to the basket. She led the league in scoring and is a deadly three point shooter, even when covered. Her mid-range jumper is money, and... ...basically, she's the best player in her team. Meanwhile, Edwige is inconsistent and hasn't done much in any game I've watched. This is our biggest hole for the series, and unless one of the bench players steps up, it could be our proverbial Achilles' heel.
5.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.2 APG 20.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.5 APG
3
Ann Wauters

C

1
Tangela Smith
I want to say Ann is the better player in this matchup, and she is - just not that much better. Smith is an outstanding outside shooter, and in fact led the league in three-point percentage (.452). Anna is abysmal from deep, but can knock the mid-range shot with the best of them. This matchup is pretty much even in my mind, but what do I know?
12.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 APG 9.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.8 APG
4
Sophia Young

PF

1
Le'coe Willingham
Le'coe is an efficient scorer. Sophia is a superb player, capable of scoring in a number of ways, both facing the basket and using her many post moves. This is another matchup that favors the good guys, and Sophia has played some of her best basket this year against Phoenix.
18.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 APG 10.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 APG
5
Vickie Johnson

SF

1
Cappie Pondexter
Oh boy. On your right, Cappie Pondexter, with MVP-like numbers having finished fourth in the league in assists and fourth in scoring. On your left, VJ, who's playing her final season in the WNBA and has been uttely pedestrian for most of the season. Vickie did string together three incredible games to finish the season, and she was key to get the Stars into the playoffs. If she can reach that higher plane again, maybe, just maybe, we have a chance.
6.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.4 APG 19.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.0 APG

Bench: This is where it gets ugly. DeWanna Bonner (yes, I said "Bonner") is a popular pick for both the Rookie of the Year and the Sixth Woman of the Year awards, and that's just the tip of an iceberg that has three or four productive bench players that could easily start for the Silver Stars. Our gals will depend on what Belinda Snell (who was a member of Phoenix's 2007 championship team, interestingly enough), Ruth Riley and the suddenly revitalized Shanna Crossley can do, but don't hold your breath.

Head to Head

The teams split their regular season series, each winning the two games on its home court. The best Mercury? Taurasi, averaging 24.3 PPG in those four games. The best Silver Star? Sophia, averaging 24.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG.

Saturday, June 6. US Airways Center. Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 90, Silver Stars 79 | Box score
San Antonio Leaders: Sophia Young (25 pts., 10 reb.), Becky Hammon (20 pts., 8 ast.)
Phoenix Leaders:
Diana Taurasi (25 pts.), Cappie Pondexter (23 pts., 5 ast.)
Recap:
The season opener. It was a close game through three and a half quarters, but then the Mercury rallied behind a scoring surge from Taurasi, Pondexter and Bonner. Young and Hammon played well, and Riley helped, but it was not enough.

Tuesday, June 23, AT&T Center. San Antonio, TX: Silver Stars 91, Mercury 87 | Box score | Highlights
Phoenix Leaders:
Cappie Pondexter (26 pts., 6 reb.), Diana Taurasi (22 pts., 8 reb.)
San Antonio Leaders:
Belinda Snell (21 pts.), Becky Hammon (19 pts., 5 reb.)
Recap:
See? We can win. All it took was a career high from Belinda and another good shoring from Ruth. It was a battle throughout the game, though, and we only pulled away thanks to a timely triple by the wonderful Becky Hammon.

Thursday, August 11, US Airways Center. Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 95, Silver Stars 83 | Box score
San Antonio Leaders: Diana Taurasi (29 pts., 6 reb., 6 ast.), Cappie Pondexter (19 pts.)
Phoenix Leaders: Sophia Young (29 pts., 8 reb.), Ann Wauters (12 pts., 10 reb.)
Recap: The first game between these teams featuring Ann Wauters, who joined us on August 1st. And the first that had a classic San Antonio 3rd Quarter From Hell (tm). If you're looking for reasons we lost this game, look no further than Becky's 2-12 FG showing. On the plus side, Sophia had a stellar night, and nearly kept us in the game by herself.

Saturday, August 15, AT&T Center. San Antonio, TX: Silver Stars 106, Mercury 89 | Box score | Highlights
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (21 pts.), Cappie Pondexter (20 pts., 4 ast.)
San Antonio Leaders: Sophia Young (30 pts., 8 reb.), Becky Hammon (21 pts., 6 ast.)
Recap: A perfect game. This is the Silver Stars when the role players actually contribute to the team. Sophia dominated again, Becky run the point beautifully and shot 4-7 from three, and Wauters had a mediocre game that somehow didn't matter, because Riley stepped up, Darling stepped up... hell, even Megan Frazee stepped up. Can lightning strike thrice?

My Take (Sunshine Rainbow Sunshine)

I'm not about to turn lead into gold by writing it into submission (that didn't make sense, did it?) in this section, but I thought it would be useful to recap what stars need to align for us to have a chance of winning this series:

  • Role players: Ruth Riley can sometimes shoot, Crossley can shoot when open, and Bell can create her own shot, if she's on. That's basically what I can expect from our bench, and it's not nearly enough against a team as deep as the Mercury. We desperately need at least one of those girls to power up like Goku in DBZ and kamehameha her way into relevance.
  • Vickie: As I said above, she's the X factor for the Silver Stars in the playoffs. When she drinks from the fountain of youth and uses her all-around game to lead the second unit while Becky's resting, the Stars are a much more dangerous team.
  • Big Three: You can always trust two of our lethal trio of Ann, Becky and Sophia to play well. If we are to succeed, though, we need all three of them to show up and put the team on their shoulders.
  • Pacing: Apparently you can't play in Phoenix without becoming a 7SoL advocate. The Mercury play in a run and gun (or is it "run and fun"?) style that should be instantly familiar to anyone who ever smiled at the sight of Amar'e's sad face. The Stars can also run, but a half-court game might take away one of the Mercury's most dangerous weapons.
  • Defense: If there's something that the regular season series proved, it's that we can't stop Taurasi and Pondexter. At all. I believe the Stars should cut their losses, give them their points and simply focus on shutting down everyone else. It's worked for the Spurs in the past - against the Suns, too, in fact.
  • Rebounds: If I weren't such a bum, I'd check the stats, but my gut tells me we have to be one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league. For all my praise towards them, Sophia and Ann need to grab more boards, and the shorties have to box-out properly. Can we learn a new trick in the playoffs?
  • 3-point shooting: Considering she won the 3-point shootout, I expect better from her. I wish I could forbid anyone but her or Crossley from shooting more than 3 triples for the game (unless someone's got the hot hand - we can only wish).

Last but not least, I'd like to point out that this is a 3-game series. Just imagine how many upsets we would have in the NBA playoffs with this kind of system. I'm a firm believer than in the NBA, any team can beat any team on any given night. And that's even truer in the WNBA, where the top teams have prosaic records and are given to slumps in their performance. If we win tomorrow at San Antonio, the Mercury will face two do-or-die games at home under considerable pressure. Make no mistake, folks: we have a good chance.

My prediction? My heart says Stars 2-1, but my brain says Mercury 2-1, with Phoenix winning both home games.

...Screw my brain. Stars in 3.

Some Other Reading

Interviews

Sophia Young


Becky Hammon


Coach Hughes


A Pic Is Worth

This is my pictorial interpretation of this series.

Attacking_deathstar_medium

Other options considered: 1, 2.

Star-divide

Links

Just some links I shamelessly took from the Silver Stars blog Silver Stars Nation. It hasn't been updated in nearly a month, but it's got a lot of great galleries you should browse. The forum is also pretty active, and a good source for Silver Stars news (last link of the list).

  • SASS Official Blog
  • SASS on Twitter
  • SASS on YouTube
  • SASS on Facebook
  • SASS on Myspace
  • Becky Hammon - Official Site
  • Sophia Young - Official Site
  • Edwige Lawson Wade - Official Site
  • Shanna Crossley - Official Site
  • Ruth Riley - Official Site
  • Silver Stars Nation | Forum
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