Saturday’s matchup with Phoenix, which aired on NBA TV, was a showcase for what the New York Liberty has become during the second half of the season. New York won its eighth consecutive game in lopsided fashion, torching a lackluster Mercury defense while shutting down Diana Taurasi. Would you believe that Anne Donovan is two wins away from a career high for victories in a season during her last year coaching in the WNBA before moving to Seton Hall? Donovan’s Storm teams won 20 games in 2004 (the championship year) and 2005; the Liberty currently has 19 wins. New York is also putting together some impressive advanced statistics, all you see. As always, see our updated Statistical Analysis 101 page for explanations of these stats.
Team ORtg Team DRtg ------------------- ------------------- Phoenix 111.7 Indiana 96.0 Seattle 109.7 Washington 97.7 New York 104.6 Seattle 98.4 Indiana 104.3 Atlanta 99.2 LEAGUE 103.0 New York 100.7 Atlanta 102.8 Chicago 102.1 San Antonio 102.7 Minnesota 102.5 Connecticut 102.7 Connecticut 102.7 Chicago 101.7 LEAGUE 103.0 Washington 101.6 Los Angeles 105.0 Los Angeles 100.8 San Antonio 108.0 Minnesota 98.1 Tulsa 110.6 Tulsa 95.0 Phoenix 111.6
Remarkably, four of the top fives in both offense and defense are identical right now. The Storm remains the league’s most balanced team, ranking second and third respectively, despite slowing down while resting starters last week. New York has joined that group, which also includes Indiana and Atlanta. Your more one-dimensional top teams? Phoenix (offense) and Washington (defense).
Among the teams battling for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Silver Stars have shown more potency lately on offense (though that could be hurt if the team is without Chamique Holdsclaw the rest of the way after she was injured Sunday in Minnesota), while Minnesota has improved to better than league average on defense. It really is remarkably how much the Lynx, who were an all-offense squad a year ago, have changed their stripes this year.
EXPECTED WINS STANDINGS
Team Exp. W% Team Exp. W% ------------------- ------------------- Seattle .775 Indiana .693 Phoenix .504 Washington .610 Minnesota .384 Atlanta .594 Los Angeles .380 New York .587 San Antonio .377 Connecticut .505 Tulsa .101 Chicago .489
Surprisingly, though the Liberty has substantially improved its point differential, it still remains behind the other three playoff teams in the East. New York is close enough to Atlanta and Washington that could change this week, however.
As close as the West’s last three playoff contenders are in the standings, where all three are tied at 12-19, there is little more separation between them in terms of points scored and allowed. The gap between the Lynx and the Silver Stars is a difference of seven points all season.
Player Tm Win% WARP ------------------------------------- Tamika Catchings IND .813 9.6 Sylvia Fowles CHI .759 8.5 Lauren Jackson SEA .779 8.2 Cappie Pondexter NYL .695 7.1 Diana Taurasi PHO .657 5.8 Tina Charles CON .658 5.8 Katie Douglas IND .657 5.7 Sue Bird SEA .655 5.5 Penny Taylor PHO .654 5.5 Crystal Langhorne WAS .606 5.0
As you’d expect, the time Lauren Jackson sat out last week with the Storm securing home-court advantage throughout its postseason run allowed Tamika Catchings to pull away in the race for the league’s best WARP total and Sylvia Fowles to pass Jackson for second. This is pretty clearly one of those situations where the numbers don’t tell the whole story in terms of Jackson and the Storm having already done their work to accomplish every regular-season goal.
If the season was 50 games long, Cappie Pondexter might be able to catch up to the leaders. If there was an MVP of the second half, Pondexter would be it. Over the course of the season, though, she can’t compare to the top three players.
After Pondexter, there’s a logjam, with five players separated by 0.3 WARP and .004 in terms of per-minute winning percentage. This is what pollsters refer to as within the margin of error. Any of the five would be good choices to round out the All-WNBA First Team. Crystal Langhorne popped back ahead of Angel McCoughtry in their multi-week battle for the 10th and final spot on this list.