The IX: Basketball Tuesday with Howard Megdal, October 1, 2019
The view from DC — Aerial Powers interview — Must-click women's basketball links
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The one they need to get
First of all, apologies that I am not Lindsay Gibbs. We’ve flip-flopped this week.
But I’m down here in our nation’s capital, and I cannot stop thinking about how completely the WNBA Finals may rest on tonight’s Game 2. It’s something Curt Miller seconded when I spoke to him earlier today at shootaround, and the math is simple and daunting — not just for Connecticut, either.
A Mystics win puts them up 2-0, and not only guarantees a chance at clinching the series at home no matter what happens in Connecticut, but gives the only WNBA team with a winning record away from home two chances to win the championship on the road. A mix of champagne and Don Pepe’s in the postgame locker room isn’t a bad consolation prize for not finishing off a series in front of your hope fans.
Then again, if the Sun win, all they have to do is hold serve at home, and a championship trophy is headed to Uncasville.
Some of the biggest numbers I’m keeping an eye on are the number of offensive rebounds Jonquel Jones collects — an average of three per game in previous matchups with Washington, but zero in Game 1 — and what happens to the shot attempts Jasmine Thomas had in Game 1, whether her 14 go somewhere else. That she finished with almost twice as many as Jonquel Jones is an imbalance that reflects, in part, what Washington took away. But as a greater point of emphasis, could it limit how much Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams get comfortable early on offensively.
Connecticut hasn’t often force-fed Jones, so that’s a more difficult balance than it would first appear. Still, so much of what they both do happens in the natural course of events — Thomas off of action she begins with a defensive rebound, Williams just freelancing within a possession, moving without the ball — that this should be possible.
But the reality is that of all the Sun, only Jones is among the top five in virtually any efficiency category you can find. She’s the one who has to counter Elena Delle Donne. You’re not going to stop Delle Donne, but Jones is capable of matching her at the other end. It’s hard to see Connecticut winning the series if that doesn’t happen.
It’s also worth noting that Delle Donne took just 13 shots in Game 1, a 2019 playoff low in attempts for her. She scored 25 or more nine times in the regular season, but her high in any playoff game is 25, reached in Game 4 against Las Vegas. This is not to suggest she’s playing poorly — she’s as efficient as ever, and making great decisions with the basketball — but at some point, it is reasonable to expect another Delle Donne explosion of a performance.
But there is something that feels just right about a best-of-five, even though the smaller sample bothers me at a statistical level. The series is just long enough to overcome a mistake game, but not so long that the urgency is missing from any individual contest.
Should be a good one tonight, you guys. Let’s get to the links and get you prepped for it.
This week in women’s basketball
Jackie Powell joined Chris Shearn’s podcast to talk New York Liberty.
Mike Anthony looked at Mike Thibault’s Connecticut Sun ties.
Mechelle Voepel goes in-depth on Thibault, too.
All the Sliding Doors that led to Sun-Mystics, via Kurtis Zimmerman.
Monica McNutt talked with Nancy Lieberman.
Huw Hopkins named his all-WNBA team.
Terrika Foster-Brasby compared the Sun to the 2004 Pistons.
Elena Delle Donne gets the FiveThirtyEight treatment.
Trisha Blackmar went macro on us, looking at the all-decade WNBA team.
PJ Brown sets the scene for Arizona basketball in 2019-20.
Ava Wallace nailed this State of the League story.
Christine Brennan, naturally, sees the bigger picture, writing off Game 1.
Alexis Mansanarez takes us inside the furious race to return by Diana Taurasi.
Mitchell Northam sets the table for Oregon.
I absolutely LOVED everything about this Red Hook Labs/WNBA collaboration.
Martenzie Johnson made me want to start Swag Surfin’. This is no small feat.
More Jenn Hatfield! This time, on Kara Lawson.
Vintage Lindsay Gibbs here, in collaboration with Maggie Hendricks.
Loved this Erica Ayala piece on Natisha Hiedeman.
Stat of the Week
It is easy to lose sight of just how good Aerial Powers has been since arriving in DC. But not for you, distinguished reader of The IX. Never you. Check out her advanced stats, and how consistently great they’ve been since she got to the Mystics: