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But, until the US’s next game (What To Watch For: USA vs. Serbia (Wednesday, 2:30 PM ET), we have this….

CNN: The best team [some of] you’ve never heard of plays basketball for the U.S.

In truth, women’s soccer had already entered America’s collective consciousness in 1999 — when Brandi Chastain donned a Sports Illustrated cover celebrating in a sports bra after defeating China in the World Cup — and never left. 
A recent Sports Illustrated Olympic preview cover features women’s footie star Alex Morgan, alongside prominent Americans Kevin Durant, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky.
But of the seven athletes featured on the SI cover, none of them represent the country’s most dominating — yet largely anonymous — team over the past three decades, one whose eye-popping statistic was buried in a one liner under its medals picks: The U.S. women’s basketball team has a 41-game Olympic winning streak.

Fans and critics use labels to define athletes, and Sylvia Fowles understands that.

But the former LSU star refuses to be tied to one.

“If you asked me two years ago how long I’d play, I probably would have said two years,” Fowles said. “My health is good, and I still love playing basketball. I’m not ready to put an expiration date on my career — not yet.”

 

An emphatic statement from the typically soft-spoken Fowles is a little surprising. It should be a plus for a U.S. women’s national team seeking its sixth straight gold medal at the Summer Olympics.

Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore mix hoops and help for the less fortunate

.com: Sue Bird Continuing Stellar WNBA Play In Rio

Jeff Eisenberg: How Elena Delle Donne spurned Geno Auriemma only to reunite with him in the Olympics

On the night she fled the nation’s premier women’s basketball program without warning, Elena Delle Donne was certain of only one thing.

She believed Geno Auriemma would never forgive her.

Swish Appeal: How Breanna Stewart is changing the landscape of basketball

A little antidote to the sexism in the coverage of women Olympians: 50 Photos That Show The Raw Power Of This Year’s Olympic Women

About those covering the games: Bus shooting in Rio: First-hand account from Hoopfeed correspondent Lee Michaelson

An Olympic media transport bus came under gunfire on Tuesday night, as it made the trip from the venue cluster at Deodoro Olympic Park to the Main Press Center (MPC) and International Broadcast Center, located across town at the main Olympic Park in Barra, carrying approximately 10 passengers. Two windows on the side of the bus were blown out by the impact. A reporter from Belarus, as well as an Olympic volunteer from Turkey, sustained minor wounds from the broken glass, but no one was hit by the shots or seriously injured.

Hoopfeed.com correspondent Lee Michaelson, a retired Air Force captain, was on the bus at the time of the incident, and gave us a first-hand account.

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Thank goodness.

An ugly, cranky start by the Merc gave Maya Moore the Lynx a nice lead. And then then Penny Taylor in the fourth quarter happened. And then… Bonner missed a FT, Maya didn’t, Diana missed a three and Big Syl grabbed the rebound. Lynx go to 4-0, Mercury fall to 0-4.

From Richard at WNBAlien: WNBA and the Pick+Roll, and introducing the W Dozen

Eleven days into the WNBA season, it’s a little early to be drawing any real conclusions (although the ‘Minnesota good’, ‘San Antonio bad’, and ‘What the hell is going on in Phoenix?’ hot-takes are already emerging). So we’re going to take a look at one of the key building-blocks of virtually every modern offense in professional basketball. The pick-and-roll – or even just the pick – is an incredibly simple concept. You put a teammate in the way of your defender, and then force the defense to deal with the problems that creates.

From Excelle: How New York Liberty are remaking their small forward position

The New York Liberty play a throwback style of basketball. Defense and rebounding are priorities 1A and 1B. While other teams move towards smaller fours that can spread the floor, head coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad often plays two traditional bigs together. The Lib will bog teams down to a crawl and punish them in the low post. It’s been a fun and successful brand of ball, and it hasn’t taken away from the more modern aspects of New York’s game. 

This season, the Liberty have scoffed at playing traditional small forwards, opting instead for smaller players who perform despite not fitting the mold.

Connecticut: Slow Start, Too Many Fouls, Mar Beginning Of Miller’s First Season With Sun

Because of the monthlong Olympic break in August, the WNBA season lasts into September so a few missteps in May aren’t going to make a team panic.

Still, the start of season is a critical time for the Connecticut Sun. New coach Curt Miller is trying to install his system and bring a new culture to the franchise. It would be better for all concerned if some positive reinforcement was available early to help the process.

SlamOnline.com: Q+A: Nneka Ogwumike – The fifth-year Sparks forward dishes on L.A.’s hot start.

From Paul Doyle at the Hartford Courant: Dolson Spreads Word On Her Identity, And WNBA’s

About 90 minutes before the Connecticut Sun‘s home opener, Morgan Tuck walked past a cluster of reporters surrounding Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson.

“Oh my God, Stefanie Dolson!” Tuck yelled.

Without missing a beat, Dolson replied.

“Oh my God, Morgan Tuck!” she said.

Then it was back answering questions, seamlessly and smiling. Dolson, who left UConn for the WNBA two years ago, is still the same quick-witted, breezy personality who became a fan favorite during her time in Storrs.

From Cosmopolitan: How WNBA Player Imani Boyette Beat the Odds — and Her Depression

From the Fever: Wheelin’ Around: Erica Wheeler’s Journey to the WNBA

NCAA

From the Tennessean’s: Joe Rexrode: Vanderbilt’s Stephanie White — worth the wait

White is the head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and will remain so through a season that could realistically end in the Finals in mid-October (she led the Fever to the Finals a year ago as a rookie head coach). She might take full command of her first Vandy team less than a month before it starts the 2016-17 season.

That’s not ideal. But if White is what Vanderbilt thinks she is, what her resume and command of a room suggest she is, it’s meaningless. It’s the delayed flight to start a vacation that you’re already laughing about at the end of the vacation.

More on White from the AP’s Teresa Walker: Stephanie White ready to speed up Vanderbilt as new coach

And more on the ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: Meeting expectations

On the latest edition of “Around The Rim,” 2005 WNBA champion Ticha Penicheiro joins women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson as special guest host.

The two discuss the Sparks’ dominant win over the Sky, why the Mercury continue to struggle, whether or not teams are exceeding or falling below expectations and which players that usually fly under the radar are playing surprisingly well.

Plus, Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn stops in to discuss Stephanie White’s end-of-the-season departure to coach at Vanderbilt, her decision to exit retirement and return to coaching at Kentucky and much more.

Speaking of Dunn: Kentucky’s new assistant coaches have strong bonds, common goal

It’s a word rolled out with regularity by head coaches to describe their team and coaching staff: family.

The three new assistant coaches hired by embattled Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell certainly gave off that familial vibe when they met with the media for the first time Wednesday.

The newest hire, Hall of Famer Lin Dunn, said she thinks of her new boss “almost like a son” before giving a sideways glance and a smirk.

“Not a grandson, but a son,” quipped the 69-year-old, who has won more than 500 games at the college, professional and international levels.

International

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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

Once I played on the Olympic team that year and we won gold, I was done. No overseas hoops. Nothing. I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models, came up to New York and tried to start modeling — doing some shows, going on auditions … mostly getting rejected for being too tall. But as for basketball? Those days were pretty much over.

I had mostly given up on the game because my dream of playing couldn’t go any further. Past the Olympics, there just wasn’t any real opportunity — in my mind — for me to play for a long time in the U.S. At the same time, there were talks of starting the American Basketball League for women to play professionally, but I opted out because it didn’t have the support of the NBA. And I didn’t want to play in Europe, which was really the only other option.

I needed to put basketball behind me. I felt like I had to make a decision and I couldn’t wait around any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling like I was standing on the sidelines, waiting for my name to be called, only to hear the buzzer go off before I got a chance to play. I moved on.

But then I got a call the following January …

Audio: Brittney Griner and Stefanie Dolson join the Trifecta: What Can The WNBA Do?

Excelle: WNBA CONFIDENTIAL: We are living in the Maya Moore Era

In the days leading up to the 20th WNBA season, there’s been a great deal of talk about Breanna Stewart as the new face of the league. Much of the 2015 narrative centered around Elena Delle Donne and her historic season, and don’t expect her to recede in the public eye as she builds on it while playing for a gold medal in Rio this summer. Brittney Griner, too, always draws attention (and found herself in a recent ESPN SportsCenter ad), while Skyler Diggins is returning from a knee injury with a massive social media following and a new level of play she reachedlast year that she believes is a permanent new state.

All of these stars deserve attention. But any sober, clear-eyed analysis of where the WNBA stands at this moment, an evaluation of the current state of the league, only provides one conclusion.

This is the Maya Moore Era.

Sports Illustrated WNBA’s Maya Moore talks season, Rio Olympics and Jordan Brand

The LA Times notices the Sparks: Sparks begin WNBA season with high hopes, and with Candace Parker back on full-time duty

In 2015, the Los Angeles Sparks made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and for the eighth time in the last decade. But that’s not a realistic portrayal of how things really unfolded: They posted a 14-20 record (their fourth worst ever), and lost to the Minnesota Lynx in three games after sneaking into the postseason.

The Sparks begin their 2016 season Sunday against the Seattle Storm, and they’re counting on finding some consistency — a trait that eluded them for large portions of last season — to drive them back to winning ways.

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

Atlanta 11: Angel McCoughtry and the WNBA are ready for respect

Newsday: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

“I didn’t have that,” said Bird, who is beginning her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. “There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four. 

“The WNBA changed everything,” said Bird who starred at UConn. 

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

As one of six children, including two sets of identical twins, Valavanis developed skills that have carried through her athletic career and professional life.

She has used them on the basketball court to make shots, in the boardroom to make trades and in the community to make fans.

“From very early on, my family was our own little tribe and that helped shape how I value people and how I value connections,” Valavanis, 39, said. “It really shaped my personal journey and is at the center of who I am.”

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve: WNBA has come a long way in 20 years

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve entered the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Sting.

At that point the league was five years old, and at the end of each season for her first three or four years on the job, Reeve said a question presented itself.

“You had this moment where you didn’t know, were we still going to be here?” Reeve said, referring to the league’s fragile existence in its infant stages. “During that time you had teams that were losing millions of dollars.”

Reeve said the WNBA is now far past that point. It’s through the survival stage as the league celebrated the opening of its 20th season Saturday night when the Lynx hosted Phoenix at Target Center.

SlamOnline: Watch Them Work – The WNBA has never had more depth than now. What a great time to tune in.

 

The league’s list of high-profile players has never been short. Somewhere between Lisa Leslie catching her first poster and Maya Moore hitting that game-winner in last year’s finals, however, something changed. The national narrative shifted back to women’s basketball not being worth a man’s time. But there hasn’t been a better time than now to tune in.

“We have a lot of different types of women and players,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson says. “We still have those superstars, like Diana, like Candace, they’re still in the game. Then you have a new generation of players coming in. Brittney Griner, Skylar, Elena. And then my class. In my class, we have some great personalities. We’re very skilled too.”

Damn skippy, Stef.

David Berri at VICE: HOW THE WNBA COMPARES TO OTHER SPORTS LEAGUES AT AGE 20

As the WNBA celebrates the tip off its 20th season this weekend, it’s easy for naysayers to paint a picture of a league that’s stagnant at best, and a NBA charity case at worst. After all, WBNA average per-game attendance last season was only 7,138—the lowest mark in league history, and well below the average per-game NBA draw of 17,849. Women’s professional basketball, this line of thinking goes, has had two decades to build a fan base and establish itself in America’s sporting consciousness. So why can’t it come close to the NBA?

Here’s the answer: that’s the wrong question. Or, more accurately, it’s the wrong comparison, and a misleading one

Yesterday’s games

No Diggins? No problem, the ageless Plenette Pierson is here! If you read the numbers, you’d think Indy won – but their defense was lacking and slow. Dallas shot 36 free throws. Sims shot for carp, but earned her living at the charity stripe. Nice production from Theresa Plaisance, too.

“We were more aggressive,” Pierson said of the last two quarters. “We started making shots, we got fouls called on them. That’s what helped us get the win.”

“I thought we took some early rushed shots,” Coach Fred Williams added. “But luckily tonight they went down for us and it’s not going to go that way ever game. I felt we have to get better at that end, be selective of taking quick shots, kind of work the ball around a little bit.”

No Delle Donne? No problem, the rest of the team (Pokey played 11) made Curt Miller’s W coaching debut miserable. Connecticut shot 33.8%. Yikes. At least Rachel Banham brought a little sunshine.

Well, this is a good sign.

The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.

WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.

Jayne’s last second shot carried the Stars into overtime, but the Dream made sure they secured the win in the extra minutes. McBride looks to have picked up where she left off last year, but there’s not much of a bench presence. For Atlanta, Layshia gave them some nice minutes, and Elizabeth Williams played 36… but I wonder about her 2-6 shooting.

“We fought,” Hughes said. “They were very coachable late, gave us a chance to win the game. We didn’t get it done in overtime. We’re a work in progress, but their spirit was good.”

When Tina and Sugar shoot 50%, Bill is happy – and the Liberty win. No surprise Shoni didn’t get in. Slightly surprised Adut didn’t. Auspicious opening game for Tayler Hill and Bria Hartleynot so much for Stef and Emma.

As the final horn sounded on the Washington Mystics’ 87-76 season-opening loss Saturday night, New York Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer shook hands with his counterpart, Mike Thibault, and offered a few appropriate words of encouragement.

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

Ah, being healthy is an amazing feeling. Stomping your press-anointed competition for the ’17 title is even better. Lynx rolled as the Merc’s defense let them shoot 54%. I do love the twitter conversation the two social media teams have, though. :-)

“It’s a good starting point for us in a really bad way,” Taurasi said. “We know what we have to get better at. The season isn’t made on 40 minutes, but the way we bounce back is going to say a lot about this team going forward.”

Hey – if you just scanned this page, do the game a favor – click on the links and read the full articles. Show the sports editors that people appreciate their coverage…

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what was under their shell… fight, moxie, skill and a little swagger. Yes, they lost to UConn by 10, but the game was closer than the 83-73 score.

“Obviously nobody wants to lose — I mean we’re one of the most competitive teams out there — but I’m really proud of the fact that I felt like we responded punch for punch,” Frese said. “When you look at UConn in the games they’ve played in, usually that knockout punch comes, and you don’t recover. So I loved the confidence and the swagger that we played with. There was no fear.”

Made for a great Maggie Dixon Classic game, and I’m sure looking forward to what they do in the Big 10.

Thanks again, Brenda, for saying “yes.” Thanks, UConn, for making this a tradition. Thank you, Dixon family, for showing up, walking onto the court and sharing your love and loss in honor of your daughter.

Yup, that was Oregon State, down a starting point guard and loving to rebound, pushing the Irish to the edge. But Lindsay Allen’s free throws sealed the 1-point win.

Well, that was a surprise: Hampton got its second win of the season, upsetting an improving Wake Forest club.

It’s tough being an LSU Tiger these days.

That’s 13 straight for Missouri – and the fans are beginning to notice.

Should we be keeping an eye on Marquette? They gave DePaul a run for their money.

Should we be seeing an eye on Vanderbilt? They easily handled New Mexico State.

*no jinx, no jinx, no jinx* William & Mary just beat Old Dominion, 75-64. They get a nice gift from LadySwish.

Washington State was defeated by Ms. Plum with the basketball in Friel Court.

Oregon is still undefeated and, by the way, Alleyne’s 80th career double-double moved her into fifth all-time in NCAA women’s basketball history, behind Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris (128), Tennessee Tech’s Cheryl Taylor (90), Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike (85) and Robert Morris’ Artemis Spanou (85).

Upcoming games that have my attention:

#20 South Florida hosting #8 Mississippi State.

In its first neutral site game of the season, No. 20/17 USF will face No. 8 Mississippi State in the Southeastern/American Athletic Conference Challenge. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the Jacksonville Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Bulls return to action after a 10-day holiday break. USF is in the midst of a four-game win streak, and are 7-0 in Tampa this season. Mississippi State and USF face-off for just the second time in program history; their first meeting ended in dramatic fashion, on a buzzer beater by Courtney Williams. The Bulls defeated the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

(10-4) Florida Gulf Coast hosting (10-2) Auburn.

The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team has had a hectic holiday nonconference schedule. The run is almost at end, but not before the Eagles face another quality opponent.

FGCU has built a rigorous nonconference schedule this season in hopes of earning a higher seed should the Eagles make the NCAA tournament. The next team up is Auburn, a 10-2 team from the powerful Southeastern Conference, at home on Wednesday.

OSU hosting #4 Baylor.

The Baylor women’s basketball team soaked up the sun during its nonconference games away from Waco, with visits to Florida and the Bahamas during the fall semester holidays.

Wednesday’s road trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face Oklahoma State won’t be quiet as warm — temperatures will hover in the low 30s at the 6 p.m. tipoff — but it’s the most crucial road matchup the Lady Bears have played this season.

West Virginia (11-2) hosting #5 Texas (11-0).

“I think you always have to be pleased when you have a team that can go an extended amount of time without a loss,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said after Sunday’s win against Sam Houston State. “We were able to go through some really tough games, through some on the road and withstand the different environments and be able to win.”

Texas faced three Top 25 opponents: Tennessee, Mississippi State and Stanford. The Longhorns also beat Arkansas in the Big 12-SEC Challenge in Oklahoma City.

West Virginia finished its regular season non-conference schedule 11-2. The Mountaineer’s two losses came against Gonzaga and the University of Southern California, both games played in Spokane, Washington.

Green Bay hosting Dayton.

#22 UCLA (8-3) hosting USC (12-0).

Other stuff:

From Graham: Australian Nicole Seekamp right at home in South Dakota

An unseasonably warm Dec. 25 in Vermillion, South Dakota, just means forecasted precipitation might fall as freezing rain rather than snow, at least until overnight temperatures turn it to ice.

But good luck finding anyone who will savor a gift this holiday season more than University of South Dakota guard Nicole Seekamp will as she finds herself shivering her way around the Upper Midwest one final time rather than with family amid the warmth in Australia.

Given a season of eligibility she didn’t expect, Seekamp won’t be home for Christmas. And that’s fine.

OU gets Rich.

Salt Lake Snap: Panguitch’s 64-game winning streak is ended by Cedar City

‘FIFA 16’ Proves The WNBA Needs In The Game

‘And when you look in on it, it doesn’t look noticeably different than the men’s.’

That’s a direct quote from one of the commentators during the Women’s semi-final of the international cup in FIFA 16.

Cool: Rose, Haywood and Catchings to be honored as part of Grizzlies’ MLK Day events

Congrats: Times Sportsperson of the Year: Robert Morris’ Sal Buscaglia spent a career championing women’s athletics

Sal Buscaglia keeps an old newspaper article tucked away in his desk. It’s from his time in Buffalo, and it commends him for spending just as much time promoting women’s basketball as coaching women’s basketball.

Congrats: Star Tribune Sportsperson of the Year: Maya Moore is the leader of her pack

Nice: Nanticoke Area’s 1990 state championship girls basketball team bonded by lasting memories

A lot has changed in 25 years.

Casey Comoroski moved to Missouri.

Ellen Bartuska beat breast cancer.

Tia Hornlein had twin daughters and Lori Scally’s busy raising three kids.

Their perfect run together at Nanticoke Area 25 years ago?

That will always remain the same.

From Dave: Women Roar: The Story of the Year at the Intersection of Sports and Politics

This past year saw no shortage of people who tried to leverage the sports world to boldly speak out on issues beyond the field of play. The football players at Missouri going on strike against racism; the remarkable activists in Boston—led in many neighborhoods by people of color and women—who kept out the rapacious Olympics; the continuing fight in advance of the 2016 Rio Olympics that’s taking on both the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian government; South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier speaking out against the Confederate flag before and after the Dylann Roof murders at Mother Emanuel Church; the courageous statements—amid an ugly atmosphere—of Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones, manager Buck Showalter, and front-office chief John Angelos after the police killing of Freddie Gray and the property destruction outside of Camden Yards; tennis living legend Serena Williams returning to Indian Wells 14 years after being showered with racist invective by “fans”—a return she combined with raising funds for the Equal Justice Initiative; NBA Ref Bill Kennedy coming out of the closet as a responseto Rajon Rondo’s homophobia; Atlanta Hawk Thabo Sefolosha’s pursuit of justice after getting his leg broken by the NYPD; the odyssey of Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner; or even Steph Curry putting the name of slain Muslim student Deah Barakat on his shoes before the All-Star Game. I could name even more. We are clearly in a sports moment when social crisis and inflamed bigotry, conjoined with social media, has created a space for athletes to take their beliefs straight to the public. It’s courageous, and it matters, puncturing the privilege that surrounds the lives of so many fans, like LeBron catching a Bay Area aristocrat in mid-heckle.

That being said, I will not remember the past 12 months primarily for the aforementioned athletic actions. For me, 2015 will be recalled as the Year of Women in sports: a time when female athletes muscled for center stage and masses of people—men and women—put aside their prejudices to join the party.

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…Tamika is pulling a Lin Dunn: Catchings’ greatest legacy is making sure she’s replaceable

It’s one thing to leave your mark on a team and a sport. It’s another to leave a piece of yourself that stays on after you’re gone.

And regardless of how corny or cliché it might sound, that is exactly what Indiana forward Tamika Catchings is doing. She has been forthright about how much time is still on the clock. The curtains will close on her playing career next year, whenever the 2016 WNBA season finishes for the Fever.

Kent: Lynx and Fever down to a single game for WNBA title – Four Lynx veterans will try to win third title together 

Perhaps because the emotions would become too strong, the Lynx tried hard to avoid the bigger picture and instead focused on the game Tuesday.

All necessary, of course. Wednesday night at Target Center the Lynx will play the Indiana Fever in Game 5 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals, the ultimate game in a series between two talented, determined teams that are separated by a mere three points after 160 minutes.

So the focus needs to be playing in the moment rather than leaving a legacy.

Lynx inching close to hard to come by dynasty

I wrote a pile of utter garbage several years ago, proclaiming that the San Antonio Spurs’ time as a perennial NBA playoff team and title contender was coming to a close. The key players were getting old, the argument went. All good things come to an end at some point, and this long Spurs dynasty was one of them.

A search for this misguided opinion has yielded no results; for whatever reason the Internet does not want me to find my old thoughts. But it was written. And it won’t be written here again about the Lynx.

Game 5 preview: Indiana at Lynx

AP’s Jon K: 

Before the Indiana Fever embarked on their 11th consecutive trip to the WNBA playoffs, veteran star Tamika Catchings handed out a journal to every one of her teammates.

The message was simple: For as routine as these trips have come for the Fever, it was so important to soak up the opportunities because you never know when they will present themselves again. The journals were for the players to document their journey.

.com: Lynx, Fever Well Aware Of Task That Lies Ahead In Game 5

The stage is set, the final adjustments have been made and the WNBA is set to crown a champion Wednesday night (8PM ET, ESPN 2). And the enormity of the situation is something that is not lost on the two teams fighting for WNBA glory.

Swish Appeal: Extensive WNBA Finals Game 5 Preview: Last woman standing

Scoggins: With two deep teams, Lynx-Fever compelling to watch

The Indiana Fever concluded their morning workout before Game 4 of the WNBA Finals with a contest. A half-court shooting contest that left players howling with laughter as they trash talked one another.

The Lynx contingent arrived on the court a few minutes later. Players exchanged their usual banter as they conducted interviews.

The mood around both teams could be best described as loose and relaxed, which would make sense if the occasion was a summer pickup game.

There was no hint of the tension that’s enwrapped their championship series.

Letters to the Star Tribune: Readers Write (Oct. 14): Minnesota Lynx gear, health insurance, Grand Avenue parking, debates on cable TV

My wife and I recently bought Minnesota Lynx tickets to their first playoff finals game against the Indiana Fever. We planned to show our support by wearing Lynx T-shirts to the game. The Lynx are Minnesota’s most successful professional team, having won two championships in the past five years and nearing a potential third, so how difficult could it be to buy some Lynx merchandise? Turns out, very difficult.

Oh, and… watch out, Lynx & Fever players! Cali’s got her “Under Armour Next” video submission ready!

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Thank you, Indiana, for extending the WNBA season for fans (even though you gave’em all agita in the last 7 minutes.)

David Woods: 

Marissa Coleman and Shenise Johnson weren’t along on the drive to the Indiana Fever’s 2012 WNBA championship. If the Fever add another title, those two will have supplied much of the fuel.

Johnson scored 15 points and Coleman 14, and the Fever defeated the Minnesota Lynx 75-69 Sunday night to even the WNBA Finals at two wins apiece.

Attendance was 10,582 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Kent Youngblood: Indiana defeats Lynx, forces deciding Game 5 – Full-court Indiana pressure, foul trouble kept the Lynx from closing out series in 75-69 loss. 

 Before the game, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told her team. Warned them, basically. If you don’t play defense this series won’t end Sunday night.

They didn’t. And it didn’t.

See you Wednesday.

More Kent: Lynx lose a game and an opportunity

Chip Scoggins:

Cheryl Reeve begged and pleaded and flailed her arms. The Lynx coach shed her jacket in frustration and had a constant expression of bewilderment.

She probably didn’t recognize the team on the floor, not for much of the night anyway.

The two-time champions looked frazzled in a way that felt unusual in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.

From Mechelle:

As I grow older, I do see the connection — that ability to refocus,” the Indiana Fever point guard said. “Especially when you’re in tense situations, to be able to calm yourself. When it comes to toughness, focus, discipline … there’s a lot of things I’ve learned through martial arts that I’ve carried through to basketball.”

OK, that explains January’s mindset. But how exactly is this entire Indiana Fever franchise able to keep on doing this crazy “you can’t kill us” thing? Because Sunday night, on the brink of elimination, the Fever won. Again. How do they do it? Hey, it’s just the Fever way.

Melissa Issacson (welcome to the fold!): Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx frustrated with Game 4 loss

Cheryl Reeve’s jacket doesn’t have its own Twitter account [WHB: I could have sworn it did], but it probably should. While Sunday night’s exhibition might not have reached the standard of Sean Rodriguez and the Gatorade cooler — and fell short of Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals when Reeve threw her suit coat so hard after a technical foul that she later had to have her right shoulder evaluated — this one wasn’t too shabby.

AP : Fever move to 5-0 in elimination games and push Lynx to decisive Game 5

Shenise Johnson scored 15 points and Marissa Coleman added 14 to help the Fever beat the Minnesota Lynx 75-69 on Sunday night, forcing a decisive Game 5 in the WNBA Finals. Indiana is 5-0 in elimination games this postseason.

“Every single person that had gotten in, we’ve played for each other,” Catchings said. “We don’t want it to be done yet.”

AP Doug:

“We’ve had our backs against the wall this entire playoffs, we’ve responded well and have been able to come away with wins,” said Marissa Coleman, who scored 14 points for the Fever.

Indiana is 9-2 in elimination games starting with its run to the 2012 championship when the Fever beat Minnesota.

“We have the heart of a champion — and Tamika Catchings,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “I really love this team.”

Examiner: Fever wins fifth elimination game during unlikely postseason run

“It’s our focus, we always come together at the right time,” Catchings said. “We’re inspired by one another, every single person who has gotten in, we play for each other. One thing people talk about is how many points people score, and I talk about the little things, and it’s great to pass the torch. If every single day you have the mentality you are great, then nobody will stop you. You continue to see the confidence of the team get higher and higher, we have a lot of first timers, and you want to build off of that.”

.com: White Starts, Johnson Finishes Fever‘s Second Half Rally

Bob Kravitz: Catchings refuses to let the Fever lose — again

Tamika Catchings knows the clock is ticking on her Hall of Fame career, knows this kind of opportunity to win a WNBA title may never come around again after Wednesday’s much-anticipated Game 5 at the Target Center.(And how appropriate that this classic series should be coming down to a Game 5?) So, one day after being down in the dumps after what she described as one of her worst games ever in a Game 3 loss, she showed up at Bankers Life the next day with her spirit and his smile fully intact. And she made it clear to her teammates:

“We’re going to win this one,’’ she said. “We’re going to win.’’

.com: Fever Thankful For Fan Support Through Ups and Downs Of 2015 Season

Gregg Doyel: Tamika Catchings wins matchup of stars when it counts

When it was over, the speakers were playing “Celebration” and the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd of 10,582 was screaming happily and Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings was waving goodbye to the crowd, goodbye until next season anyway, and repeating these two words:

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

No, the crowd was shrieking in return.

No, Tamika. Thank you.

Vice Sports: Time is Running Out to Watch Tamika Catchings, the Greatest Women’s Basketball Player Ever: 

More than that, though, she’s contagious. Catchings’s tenacity inspires and galvanizes her teammates, launching her Indiana Fever past better-known and more heralded teams into the WNBA Finals this season. It’s not so much that the Fever play as one as it is that they all play like Catchings: they are infused with the spirit of the moment. Double teams are rushed toward like they are salvation; every shot and every pass is contested, always. There is a reason why Catchings’s teams are 9-2 in elimination games following Sunday night’s 75-69 win to force a decisive Game 5 in the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.

SportsPage Magazine: 

After Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals series, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve reminded people that it was the first 40 minutes of a 200 minute series. Her words were prophetic as the Indiana Fever staved off a late charge by the visiting Minnesota Lynx, winning Game 4 by a score of 75-69 in front of an announced crowd of 10,582 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday, to push the series to a decisive Game 5.

Swish Appeal: 

Foul trouble was the name of the game again in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.

Sylvia Fowles battled foul trouble from go, and the Fever executed a textbook strategy, claiming a 75-69 win.

Both teams struggled with foul trouble in Game 3, but this time Tamika Catchings remained on the floor with no fouls. And that could have been the key for the Fever to keep their championship hopes alive.

More Swish:

Tamika Catchings, Briann January, Erlana Larkins and Shavonte Zellous had the spotlight in the 2012 WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.

Three years later, Shenise Johnson and Marissa Coleman will join the champions and enter the light.

“[Last night] I’m looking to Catch. I’m looking to Bri. I’m looking to Steph. And they do a great job of putting us in position to make good decisions,” said Johnson. “We have good relationships with each other. And when you have that, the trust is unlimited.”

Canis Hoopus:

The most eye-catching problem has to start with Sylvia Fowles’ foul trouble. Fowles played less than twenty minutes in the game after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, then lasting only a couple of minutes in each of the second and third quarters before picking up more fouls. She finished the game with five points and five rebounds, and was a complete non-factor.

Friendly Bounce: Last night in the WNBA Playoffs

Photo Gallery.

8 takeaways from Game 4 of the WNBA Finals

.com: Game 5 Sets The Stage For Culmination Of All-Time Great Finals Series

The outcome was not what Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve desired in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals 2015 presented by Boost Mobile, but the significance of what lies ahead is not lost on her.

Even with Sunday’s loss, she still has her team on the brink of a WNBA championship. But so does Indiana Fever head coach Stephanie White. Both coaches have brilliantly guided their teams throughout this postseason, and now it’s set to culminate in a winner-take-all Game 5 in the Target Center Wednesday night (8PM ET, ESPN).

Poll: Who ya got? 

This story makes me wish we’d had a Lib-Minny Finals – Who wouldn’t want to see a dance off between the Timeless Torches and the Senior Dancers? Senior Dancers are a crowd favorite at Lynx, Wolves games – The wildly popular Senior Dancers help attract fans to Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves games.

And sure, I’d love to advocate for a “Best of 3,” Best of 5,” “Best of 7” format – as soon as the stands are full enough to convince the arenas that the WNBA playoffs are more lucrative than “Disney on Ice.”

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Until we know if we have to switch from our WNBA gear to our college gear.

Lots on the game at the .com

Thoughts From Shootaround Ahead Of Game 4

Fever Facing Elimination, Remain Confident

Moore, Montgomery Share Competitive Drive That Goes Back to UConn

New Faces Helping Lynx Reach New Levels

Lynx Fans Make Their Voices Heard In Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Other coverage:

Indiana Fever’s Pat Boylan talks WNBA Finals Game 4

David Woods: This could be Catchings’ last chance for another title

Given how hard it is to advance through the playoffs, this might be the last chance for Tamika Catchings to win another league championship. Sunday’s Game 4 (8:30 p.m., ESPN) might be her last WNBA Finals appearance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Catchings is not set to retire until after the 2016 season, and the Indiana Fever have a roster good enough to make another run.

But so do Chicago and New York, both of which nearly eliminated the Fever in the Eastern Conference playoffs. So do the Minnesota Lynx, who lead the Fever 2-1 in the best-of-five Finals and could secure a third championship in five years. So do the Phoenix Mercury, especially if Diana Taurasi returns in 2016.

In other words, Fever fans should enjoy the precious present. This could be it. Win-it-for-Tamika has been an overriding theme.

WTHR: Indiana Fever have thrived facing elimination

“Your back is against the wall and you know your urgency has to be at an all-time high,” said Fever head coach Stephanie White. “You really don’t have anything to lose. You just go out and work and play your butts off. We’ve put ourselves in a position in all three games to win. It’s one play here or there that we haven’t made or they have made that’s been the difference.”

From Mechelle: With backs against wall, Fever have proven to be resilient

When the Lynx faced the Fever in the 2012 WNBA Finals, they were blown out in Game 3 and then fell in Game 4 as Indiana took its first title. And these 2015 Finals were looking a lot like 2012 … until Friday. The Lynx’s 80-77 victory on Moore’s buzzer-beating trey probably would have taken the air out of many teams. But it’s less likely it will do that to Indiana, because that’s not how the Fever are wired.

About the team: Fever’s consistency, success begin with GM Kelly Krauskopf

On a street corner in downtown Indianapolis Friday afternoon, a gaggle of little girls bearing “Go Fever” signs waited for the light to change and held their own private pep rally.

“That’s credit to Kelly beating her head against the wall,” noted Cheryl Reeve, the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, Indiana’s Game 3 WNBA Finals opponent later that night. “I hope Kelly is sitting back and having a martini and enjoying all of it.”

AP Doug, on that other team: Maya Moore, Lynx go for the clincher in WNBA Game 4 tonight

The first three games have been decided by a total of 15 points. Most of the stats are just about even between the teams.

“It’s going to come down to the end, down to the last five minutes, last three minutes, last one minute,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Whoever it is that gets the chance to make the last play. Because of that, it is a hard out.”

Swish Appeal asks, 40 minutes or 1 more game? Game 4 preview

BTW: Goestenkors to college coaches everywhere: Start watching the WNBA

That’s part of why she encourages all coaches to tune in. Goestenkors also said if coaches at different levels of the game can visit a WNBA training camp or go to a practice, it will be very worth their while.

“If they’re serious about becoming a great coach, they should do that,” Goestenkors said. “Because there is really no comparison to the amount I learned in just a few short years in the WNBA, as opposed to what I learned as a college coach through all of my years.

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