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Atlanta Dream Forward Sancho Lyttle Undergoes Successful Surgery, Will Miss 6-8 Weeks.

Speaking of “littles,” after the WUG’s littles did a superb job against the Russian’s bigs and won gold, it’s now the young’uns turn: USA U19 Women conduct first practice in Lithuania.

WATN? Former Purdue star Katie Gearlds takes 1st head coaching job at Marian University

Ouch: Diggins.

More ouch: Griner.

Jayda talks to da Rooth: WNBA Talk: Atlanta Dream’s Ruth Riley

Mechelle on the impact of Harding and Toliver on L.A.’s backcourt

Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver always has had that one particular grin on court that makes me think of a little kid who just grabbed two extra cookies when nobody was watching.

It’s not obnoxious or mocking or dastardly. It’s just … well, I guess you could call it mildly, mischievously gleeful. Like, “Ha! Threaded that pass!” or “Hee hee! Nailed that shot!”

Whenever Toliver was having a good time on the court, you could tell. Conversely, when she was not happy, that was pretty obvious, too. But the even-keeled Kristi — the one who has become more and more reliable for her competitive consistency, whether her shots are dropping — actually is a regular presence these days.

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and somewhat disappointing to witness, since I trekked out to Newark in the hope of a real game, not a one-sided blowout. Lib 80-zillion, Merc not-nearly-as-much. Oh, and surprise: another Phoenix player was injured.

The highlight of the game was watching Diana and Cappie chat post-game with their USA Basketball/WNBA coach, Anne Donovan. Said coach of the 2008 gold medal team, “I miss that group.”

On an interesting “behind the scenes” note: President of Madison Square Garden Sports Leaving Post.

O’Neil’s departure comes just as the Knicks are facing a new challenge for fans and corporate dollars in their home market, with the Nets moving to Brooklyn this fall. The need for a strong, creative voice on the business side has perhaps never been greater.

Scott was the gentleman with whom I had a long conversation a year and a half ago about why, after joining up in 1998, I was no longer a NY Liberty season subscriber. He tried to convince me that better times were coming for subscribers — that he was re-vamping from the inside out. I wasn’t convinced then (not sure I’m convinced now), but it’s hard to see his departure as a good thing for the Lib (a team not mentioned in the article).

In Atlanta, looks like Angel is on a bit of a mission after the ruckus: Lindsey Harding, Angel McCoughtry lead Dream past Fever.

Paul Neilsen writes a somewhat overwrought defense of Angel: McCoughtry no angel but public assassination is over the top

A little on Sophia from the Carribbean Journal: From St Vincent to the WNBA

A little somethin’ from Nneka: Life on the Road as a WNBA Star

From Jayda: Aussie to Aussie: Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson speaks with Tulsa’s Liz Cambage

From Michelle: DeWanna Bonner’s game blossoms

From Nate: 2012 WNBA Most Improved Player Rankings: How Much Better Has Kristi Toliver Been This Season?

And yes, I watched as the Sparks faded in the second half against Minnesota. Amelia knows why: Fans give the Lynx an edge – Seats fill fast, and Target Center has become one of the toughest places for visiting teams to play.

Speaking of which, Mechelle chatted today:

Sofia (Durham, NC): SASS has lost 3 straight. LA’s lost 3 straight, too. Which team’s fans should be more concerned? I say LA’s fans should be more concerned because I think SASS has looked ‘better’ in their losses. But I may be over-impressed by that great OT game against the Lynx. What do you think?

Mechelle Voepel: I tend to agree with you that the Sparks fans might be more concerned now. Not specifically because LA has lost three in a row, but because Candace Parker hasn’t seemed a dominating force since she returned from the Olympic break. Some games, her numbers have been “OK,” but not others. Furthermore, she doesn’t look as engaged as she needs to for the rest of the Sparks to build off of her. It seems like the Sparks’ defense is not sharp, and the offense is tilting a little too much to the perimeter, especially for a team with the weapons inside that the Sparks have. Maybe LA will finish the last two games of this road swing stronger and then play well as they finish the regular season at home. But there are reasons now for Sparks fans to be a little worried, I think.

The finals are set at the Paralympics:

A little revenge: Australia edge US to make basketball finals

British women’s basketball team lose to Germany

In other Olympic news:

Bruno’s Olympic Trilogy—Part Two: Memorable Moments Off the Court – DePaul Coach Will Always Remember Emotional Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and Part Three—Personal Reflections

In college news:

From Swish Appeal: NCAA Women’s Basketball Attendance: Winners and Losers for 2012

From Marquette: Five Big East newcomers will present different challenges on women’s side

From Missouri: Q&A with Robin Pingeton and The Rest Of The Story: Pingeton Q&A

From Champaign: Bollant’s up for challenge

From El Paso: Women’s basketball heads into challenging schedule

While there has been a lot of talk about the men’s basketball team – and for good reason, given the talented incoming class and the challenging schedule assembled by coach Tim Floyd – fans should also start getting excited about the women’s basketball campaign.

Head coach Keitha Adams has done a tremendous job of building the program into a consistent winner. UTEP boasts the best winning percentage of all league schools since joining Conference USA seven years ago, has the third-most victories among Division I programs in the state of Texas over the past six years, and has won a trio of C-USA crowns, the 2007-08 regular season and 2012 C-USA regular season and tournament.

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By the way,

the reverb might have overwhelmed you a bit, so here’s a reminder that Richard wasn’t done. (And ’cause is there anything more fun than playing Monday night quarterback?)

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 6: The Extras

Speed

Considering I gave Minnesota an edge in the post because they’re likely to play with two true bigs for the vast majority of the series, Atlanta has to get credit for the opposite mismatch. But it’s not just that. The Dream are quicker at nearly every spot on the floor. Minnesota are athletic and mobile, and they play smart – which compensates somewhat for a lack of quickness in any sport – but the Dream are just faster. Players like Harding, Price and Castro Marques will try to use their speed to attack the Lynx in this series, and at times it’s going to work.

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 7: The Conclusion and Prediction

If you happen to be crazy enough to add up all the ratings I’ve given both teams in every area presented, Minnesota comes out ahead 87.5 to 83 (out of a possible 100). In fact, the Lynx only lost out in one of the ten categories. So I should be taking Minnesota to win with ease, right? Well it’s not quite that simple.

Both last year and in the last month, Atlanta have shown an impressive ability to step up their game when they’ve had to. They know how to fight, they know how to win, and they know how compete against the best opposition around.

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you know it was a kick butt game when the AP reporter gets all descriptive and myth-busting (even though the NYTimes has since edited the initial online version of the game article):

For those who say the women’s game lacks everything that makes the sport great — athleticism, shot-making and competitive fire — Game 1 will not help them make their case. Maya Moore’s sensational reverse layup, a scoop shot that started from clear on the other side of the rim, got the Lynx started on a third-quarter surge that got them back into the game.

On the other end, McCoughtry was simply unstoppable, hitting a incredible array of jumpers from odd angles all over the floor, blocking shots and forcing steals to keep her team from faltering.

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Ready for a point guard showdown? (WHB insert: Why did the Clash’s Clampdown just flash in my head?) Lindsey Harding leads Atlanta to face Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota in Game 1 Sunday

We know how popular Lindsay Whalen is in Minnesota. But guess what? She also has an admirer in Atlanta.

“First off, I love Whalen,” said her counterpart at point guard for the Dream, Lindsey Harding. “It’s going to be pretty cool: Lindsay versus Lindsey. We know each other very well from playing against each other [in the WNBA] and together in USA Basketball.

“She’s very tough to guard, very strong. She’s leading that team extremely well. She does a great job in transition and getting to the basket. It’s going to be a hard matchup for me: I’ve got to be ready to play.”

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Richard’s (cue the reverb) WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 1: The Floor Generals – Whalen vs. Harding

This year’s WNBA Finals feature two of the best – but two rather different – starting point guards. Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen had the superior regular season. Unusually for a point, she’s strong and physical rather than small and quick. She uses her body and her strength to hold players off when she penetrates, and to finish plays at the basket even through contact.

As with all the best point guards, she’s also a game manager, finding the right player at the right time in half court sets. Typically for Minnesota that means feeding Augustus or Moore on the wing for shots in rhythm, but she also knows when her team needs to be focussing on forcing the ball inside or when they need her to create something herself. Along with Augustus and Moore she’s also been part of an exciting three-pronged fastbreak attack this season, all three capable of leading or finishing the break. She led the league in assists this year, but also put up far and away the best shooting numbers of her career (over 50% from the floor, and over 40% from three-point range, the first time she’s managed either of those feats). She’s Cheryl Reeve’s brain on the floor and she’s had an exceptional season.

Mega-Preview (Cue more reverb) Part 2: The Scorers – Augustus vs. McCoughtry

As with the point guards, the leading scorers for this year’s WNBA Finalists are both very effective, but in very different ways. After all her injury troubles, Seimone Augustus has been back to something very close to her best this season for Minnesota. She may not be quite as quick as she once was, but her game was never based around being the fastest player on the floor. It’s all about that pretty jump shot, and her ability to rise up and hit it at a moment’s notice from anywhere on the floor. For someone who takes the vast majority of her shots from mid-range or deeper, shooting over 50% from the floor this season is a remarkable achievement. She was also over 40% from three-point range, a number that McCoughtry probably doesn’t even reach in her dreams. Much of Minnesota’s offense revolves around running Augustus off baseline cuts and multiple screens to create shooting opportunities for her, and with accuracy like that you can see why. She’s simply one of the greatest shooters the women’s game has ever seen.

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Richard fills in the void: Top seeds defend home court in contrasting fashion

With Catchings and Douglas both having mediocre offensive nights, the Fever were fortunate that some of their supporting players decided to show up for this game. Zellous off the bench continued to add her driving and aggressive mentality to the mix, while Tangela Smith was firing away from outside and hitting more than she missed. Early in the game it was McCoughtry leaving her far too open, attracted to the ball when she should’ve stayed home with Smith on the perimeter. Later it was the post players, used to their assignments to close down the paint, and unable to rotate out quickly enough to close down the space and challenge Smith’s shots. It was almost like she was playing the Tina Charles role from the previous series – except Smith wants to be out there, and you need to worry about her beyond the three-point line. Already with 15 points (3-5 from beyond the arc), Smith continued to punish the Dream in the fourth quarter. She hit another three to take the Fever lead to 63-59, and yet another to stretch it to 68-62 with five minutes to play – at some stage, Atlanta were probably going to have to pay some attention to her out there.

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