Thrilling start of wnba playoffs leaves us wanting more – swish appeal

The Mercury escaped Connecticut with a win over the Sun due to the experience of their team’s Big Three: Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner. But late mistakes by Stephanie Talbot easily could have spurred a different outcome. The Sun had the momentum following a four-point play — Talbot fouled Courtney Williams in the act of hitting a three-pointer — and then Talbot air-balled a three on the other end. It was the kind of sequence that often sinks teams or players who don’t have experience in these big moments. But Talbot sank a three on a subsequent possession which swung the momentum back into the Mercury’s favor, ultimately leading them to victory.

But the Sun played incredible, competitive ball all game. Courtney Williams put her team on her shoulders down the stretch and was prepared to carry them to victory.

The Sun came up short in a single-elimination game, but if these two teams had been given a three-game series to duke it out, it isn’t hard to imagine a scenario in which the Sun and Mercury split the first two games 1-1, with the deciding Game 3 being a battle for the ages.

The Mercury won the regular season series against the Sun 2-1. With the better regular season record, the Sun had home court in their favor. In a three-game series with home-court advantage, Connecticut may have pulled it off. But while Connecticut fell short and Phoenix earned the right to advance, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see the Sun go home. Is “one-and-done” a fair fight?

For the LA Sparks, a jam-packed cross-country travel schedule had an obvious impact on what they were able to bring to the court. The Sparks just weren’t able to play like the Sparks, and this was most notable in the usually-fierce backcourt of Chelsea Gray and Odyssey Sims. These two have built their careers on the ability to spark momentum with strong defensive stands that create opportunities on offense. In last night’s blowout loss to the Washington Mystics, however, Gray and Sims — just like the rest of the team — simply didn’t have the legs.

Being the champions they are, the Sparks were not about making excuses. After the game, head coach Brian Agler said, “Our mentality is that we play the hand that we’re dealt so you don’t have any excuses. My hat’s off to Washington. They played really well … Made it difficult for us at our offensive end so they were the better team today … [T]his wasn’t a great showing for us. We know we can play better and it just didn’t happen tonight.”

In her postgame presser, Mystics guard Kristi Toliver lauded Agler and the Sparks for not making excuses but added: “That is the beast of the WNBA. It is a quick season, has quick turnaround, and the way that this playoff format is does not help … They showed up, they were going to play and gave it their all, and I think we were just really good tonight.”

#1. DeWanna Bonner at the four position is a thing of beauty. The Mercury hate that Bonner’s move to the power forward position was necessitated by a season-ending injury to Sancho Lyttle. But Phoenix Head Coach Sandy Brondello’s choice has bolstered Phoenix’s defense and unlocked Bonner’s double-double potential. Last night against the Sun, she scored 23 points and grabbed 18 bounds. It is quite likely that she’s just in a double-double zone right now and everything moving forward will come in twos.

#3. Fans who confuse trash talk with abuse need to search their blackened souls for signs of life. Comments are blacked out on the screenshot of Williams’ Instagram post because some fans used the aforementioned situation as a chance to troll and bully and harass. Cheering for a team or players one likes, or jeering a team or players one doesn’t like, is within the bounds of fandom. But making gender-based or other discriminatory attacks is outside the bounds of civility and must never be tolerated. Yes, she got schooled by Taurasi, but that’s it. Leave it there.

#4. Rabid Lynx fans may need their shots. Or, some chill pills at the very least. From fiercely loyal to lashing out after a first-round loss, flat. No one wants to see their favorite team lose, so disappointment is warranted. But anger, soaked in targeted blame? If the fingertips of some in Lynxland are to be believed, head coach Cheryl Reeve only has herself to blame for the loss. According to them, it’s all her fault for not making significant roster moves, and so on. Well, the woman built that team up in one season and won the championship in the one after that (2011). She went on to win three more. So tossing her under the bus after those achievements seems harsh.