This Week in the WNBA

 

The Sports Network

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The early stages of the WNBA season have painted a clear picture of what to expect the rest of the way.

The outstanding start by Minnesota's Maya Moore has made her the early favorite to be named this year's Most Valuable Player. Moore set a new WNBA record by scoring 30 points or more in her first four games this season. She finally cooled off Monday and had an "off-night" with 14 points in the Lynx's three-point win over Chicago.

"Right now, I don't know if there's a bad shot," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve on the team's website. "Maya's breaking plays and right now, (shots are) going in at a high rate. We just let her go. We let her do it."

Moore has knocked down 50 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc to help the Lynx to a perfect 5-0 start. Seimone Augustus has also made her mark, tallying 20.0 ppg on 52.9 percent shooting from the floor. Minnesota handed the previously unbeaten Sky their first loss in a thriller on Monday.

Lindsay Whalen stole the show in the Memorial Day battle, recording 22 points with six clutch points over the final 10 minutes of play. Chicago's Elena Delle Donne finished with 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field and Jessica Breland registered a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the team's first loss.

The Sky are clearly the class of the Eastern Conference. They are allowing only 70.4 ppg to rank fourth among WNBA squads. Los Angeles and Phoenix are both floating one-game above the .500 mark, while San Antonio and Atlanta are 2-2. The other six teams own losing records.

Phoenix's first loss of the season came Friday in a 78-74 setback against San Antonio. Diana Taurasi did a solid job in the losing effort, compiling 21 points and nine assists, while Brittney Griner posted 12 points and nine boards. The Mercury's careless play led to 16 turnovers, which San Antonio converted into 18 points. The Stars could not maintain their momentum through the weekend, as they completely fell apart in the fourth quarter on Sunday when they visited the Staples Center.

The Sparks' lone loss can be attributed to an early season injury to starting center Nneka Ogwumike. She appeared to be back to full strength when she returned to action on Sunday in Los Angeles' 83-62 victory over San Antonio. In just over 21 minutes of playing time, Ogwumike nearly recorded a double- double as she finished with 11 points and nine boards. The Stars' outstanding rookie guard Kayla McBride struggled, going 3-of-10 from the field and LA's Candace Parker put on a clinic of all-around excellence en route to 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

Atlanta had a rough week as it suffered back-to-back setbacks after winning its first two games. Rookie point guard Shoni Schimmel and Angel McCoughtry have shown they will be a tough tandem to combat right away. Schimmel is pacing the WNBA in assists with 9.3 per game, while McCoughtry is ranked second in scoring with 22.3 ppg.

Schimmel and McBride have been overshadowed by Connecticut's Chiney Ogwumike in the rookie rankings. The first overall pick in this season's draft is netting 18.5 ppg and 7.5 rpg through her first four professional contests.

Despite Indiana's unimpressive 1-3 record to start the campaign, Erlana Larkins is leading the league in rebounds (13.8 rpg) and is tied for first with McCoughtry with three steals per tilt.

Tulsa is the only winless team remaining in the field. The Shock nearly upset Minnesota on Friday, however came up short and fell, 94-93. Skylar Diggins produced 21 points and five assists to lead the way for Tulsa, which is bound to rise in the standings if its second-year point guard continues to thrive. Diggins is by far leading the WNBA with a 4.67 assist-to-turnover ratio.

New York's draft day trade for Tina Charles is starting to pay off. The 6- foot-4 center just missed a double-double with nine points in each category in the Liberty's rout of Connecticut in the season-opener. Charles then proceeded to finish with 15 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to Chicago before shredding Minnesota's interior defense for 24 points and 14 boards on Saturday.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Minnesota (5-0)

2. Chicago (4-1)

3. Phoenix (2-1)

4. Los Angeles (2-1)

5. San Antonio (2-2)

6. New York (1-2)

7. Atlanta (2-2)

8. Washington (1-2)

9. Indiana (1-3)

10. Tulsa (0-2)

11. Connecticut (1-3)

12. Seattle (1-3)

THIS WEEK'S KEY MATCHUPS

Friday, May 30:

New York at Washington - Charles will need help from her running mate, Cappie Pondexter, as the Liberty invade the nation's capital to face the Mystics. Washington's offense heavily revolves around All-Star Ivory Latta, who can take over a game with her 3-point shooting if she gets into a rhythm. Pondexter will have to overcome a feisty defender in veteran guard Kara Lawson. The Mystics have been utilizing their first-round draft pick, Stefanie Dolson, off the bench, but that could change sooner if coach Mike Thibault does not see better results from his starters.

Tulsa at Phoenix - Another tough test for the Shock, who will also be in action on Wednesday against San Antonio. Tulsa's group of up-and-comers will have their work cut out against Taurasi, Griner and DeWanna Bonner. However, the Mercury showed they are very capable of being upset and despite having a monster at center in Griner, lack a reliable low-post scoring option.

Sunday, June 1

Minnesota at San Antonio - The Lynx's trio of Moore, Augustus and Whalen is unbeatable when all three bring their A-game, and that has yet to occur in the 2014 season. San Antonio is a scrappy team, capable of hanging around with the best of the best on any given night. Minnesota will get the best shot of every opponent it faces this year, which should lead to plenty of exciting finishes.

Read more WNBA stories from the Miami Herald

  • WNBA Playoff Capsules

    Diana Taurasi hit four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds, and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Los Angeles Sparks 75-72 on Friday night in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

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Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner, right, celebrates a blocked shot against the Los Angeles Sparks with teammate DeWanna Bonner, left, during the first half in Game 1 of the WNBA basketball Western Conference semifinals Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Phoenix.

    Mercury beats Sparks 75-72 in WNBA playoffs

    Diana Taurasi hit four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds, and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Los Angeles Sparks 75-72 on Friday night in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

  •  
Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne and Atlanta Dream's Angel McCoughtry chase down a loose ball during the second half of Game 1 of the WNBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Atlanta. Chicago won 80-77.

    Vandersloot leads Sky past Dream 80-77

    Courtney Vandersloot hit the game-winning jumper from the top of the key with 20 seconds left to lead the Sky to an 80-77 win over the Dream in the first game of their WNBA playoff series.

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