On the games themselves:
From the AP: Mercury humble Lynx, 85-71 (Interesting echo from Bright Side: One year ago today the Phoenix Mercury were humbled by the Minnesota Lynx) and Phoenix Mercury build large lead, hold on to beat Minnesota Lynx in Game 1
From Tyler Killian: Mercury open Western Conference finals with rout of Minnesota Lynx
Eleven months ago to the day, the Mercury stood on their home court as the Minnesota Lynx celebrated a series victory in the Western Conference finals — the disappointing end of the Mercury’s drama-filled season.
The memory of that game may have faded some by the time the two teams met on the same floor Friday, but watching the Mercury dominate the Lynx and release the pent-up frustration that had been brewing ever since they were eliminated in 2013, the feeling of catharsis inside US Airways Center was unmistakable.
From the Tribune: Phoenix rises up to top Lynx in Game 1 of playoff series
“This is the playoffs,” Moore said. “There’s not really a lot of surprises when you don’t play with the intensity you need to — especially on the road. There’s nothing that they did that was super new. It was just a matter of them executing their offense. We have to be more aggressive.”
Story of the Game: The game started as much of it would go on – unfortunately for Minnesota. Buoyed by their noisy home crowd, the Mercury got out in transition early on and scored the first nine points of the game. They were challenging hard on all the jumpers the Lynx were tossing up, leaking out after making those challenges, and beating Minnesota down the floor at the other end. DeWanna Bonner also drilled a three in the opening 90 seconds of the game, which would be another bad sign for the rest of the night for the Lynx.
From Pat Friday: Indiana rains threes on Chicago to steal victory on home floor
From Mark Ambrogi the Indy Star: Fever claim Game 1 East Finals victory over Chicago, 77-70
It wasn’t hard for Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to determine the key stat on Saturday night.
The Fever hit 9-of-21 3-pointers compared to 1-of-8 for Chicago.
Fever buckle down, stave off Sky and its partner article: Fever hold off Sky in fourth quarter for 1-0 series lead
The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Sky’s historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta running through their minds.
But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on for a 77-70 victory Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.
From Bright Side of the Sun: WCF Preview: The One Year Journey Of The Mercury
Missed this from David: Delle Donne means the Indiana Fever aren’t facing a normal No. 4 seed
On the upcoming games:
Nate is feeling predictive: ECF/WCF predictions: Mercury, Sky will prevail
Did you catch Richard’s WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky and WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx?
The Phoenix Mercury did something in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that no other WNBA team has been able to do all season long.
They stopped Maya Moore.
If there was one thing that really surprised Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s 85-71 loss in Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals, it wasn’t any one statistic or stretch during the game. It was an attitude.
As in, the defending champion Lynx didn’t have enough of it. “Phoenix has had a great season,” Reeve said Saturday, shortly after the team’s flight landed in Minnesota. “Phoenix has a great understanding that, in order to beat us, to go to the finals, they’re going to have to wrestle the trophy away from us. What I was surprised about was we didn’t have the collective effort to have two hands on that trophy.’’
Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven’t ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and ’13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.
The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn’t end in Minneapolis, either — at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.
Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota’s season alive.
Our frame of mind doesn’t change,” Mercury forward Penny Taylor said. “We know we’re up against a championship team, and we know if we relax for a second, that they’ll be on top of us.
“They’re such a good team, and we expect them to come back at full force.”
Who didn’t see this coming: Mo’Ne Davis heading to the conference finals
Congrats to all: Chiney Ogwumike wins ROY, heads All-Rookie team (And I know folks are cranky that Shoni wasn’t named – but please don’t bring up her All-Star Game performance as a reason she should have been on the team… That’s just silly.)
This is cool:
Professional basketball player Shoni Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the WNBA All Star Game, and her family will make two appearances this weekend to support the Seneca Nation campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.
More on those who are no longer playing: Lack of star talent remains a top concern in D.C.
From the NY Times: In the W.N.B.A., Women’s Coaching Journey Gets Easier (“Easier”, of course, is a relative term, ’cause the gig reeeeeeally hard)
Seventeen years ago, Lin Dunn was coaching the Portland Power of the short-lived American Basketball League. Dunn believed in sharing her knowledge of the game, so she allowed college coaches to watch her practices.
One of them was Pokey Chatman, then a young assistant coach at Louisiana State. Chatman stayed for a week learning from Dunn, whom she remembered as a volleyball coach at Mississippi in the late 1970s.
On Saturday, Chatman, now coach of the Chicago Sky, faced Dunn’s Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference finals.
Speaking of hard: From the Argus Leader: Daughter inspires coach to stay with basketball team
It’s not all about basketball, says Vermillion, whose 24th year of coaching begins next year. It’s not about the wins and losses. “I can guarantee you I have more losses than wins,” he says. “When I started out, it was all about winning, then I learned it’s not. It’s about developing girls.”
One rule: Family, church and school come first. Vermillion never holds tryouts, and he never names starters. At one point, he required a 3.25 grade point average.
Vermillion encourages players to take the ACT four times. They might not play college ball, he says, but they will come out of there with a degree. He also spends much more time than the typical coach talking with college officials about the girls, doing his best to get them scholarships.
He loves the girls but hates the parents, he says bluntly. The girls, his girls, keep him coming back every season.
Or, maybe it’s just one girl. A dozen years after Tiffany’s death, her father still coaches because, as he says simply, “This is what she left me.”
Sad news out of San Antonio:
In the past two years, Tai Dillard has been an assistant coach in the Pac-12 and SEC, two of women’s college basketball’s top conferences.
As her path has taken her to places such as Palo Alto, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, Dillard reflected on the person instrumental in helping her coaching journey get started: Sam Houston High School girls basketball coach Milyse Lamkin.
Lamkin, 52, died Thursday after battling cancer, Sam Houston Principal Darnell White said.