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2014 WNBA Finals Schedule

2014 WNBA Finals Schedule

The 2014 WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile, which will feature the record-setting Phoenix Mercury and the surging Chicago Sky, tips off on Sunday, September 7.

The full schedule is below. All time are Eastern (ET).

Gm 1: Sun, Sept 7 -- Chicago @ Phoenix

3:30PM -- ABC

Gm 2: Tues, Sept 9 -- Chicago @ Phoenix

9:00PM -- ESPN

Gm 3: Fri, Sept 12 -- Phoenix @ Chicago

8:00PM -- ESPN 2

Gm 4*: Sun, Sept 14 -- Phoenix @ Chicago

5:30PM -- ESPN 2

Gm 5*: Wed, Sept 17 -- Chicago @ Phoenix

9:00PM -- ESPN 2

*If Necessary

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Moore rallies Lynx past Mercury 82-77

Moore rallies Lynx past Mercury 82-77

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After playing her worst game of the season, Maya Moore recovered to keep the Minnesota Lynx season alive.

The league's MVP scored 13 of her 32 points in the fourth quarter as the Lynx avoided elimination by beating the Phoenix Mercury 82-77 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Diana Taurasi scored 23 for the Mercury, who will host Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Phoenix jumped out to a 22-9 lead after the first quarter, and after a dominant showing in Game 1, the Mercury had the three-time defending Western Conference champions on the ropes. But Moore, who was held to nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in the opener, said she trusted the process that made her team the best in the league over her four-year career.

''We always believe in each other, and if we stick to what we're doing, something's eventually going to break,'' Moore said. ''Because we're going to keep running it hard, trusting what we're doing, with discipline.''

Tied at 75 with 23.3 seconds left, Seimone Augustus hit a 15-foot jumper and was fouled by DeWanna Bonner. Augustus, who finished with 23 points, converted the three-point play, and after Candice Dupree missed a 15-footer on the other end, Moore hit two free throws to put it out of reach for the Lynx.

Moore was an even bigger part of the comeback early in the fourth, as she hit three 3-pointers in a 13-0 Lynx run that gave them their first lead since they scored the first point of the game. Moore hit back-to-back 3's to pull Minnesota to within 65-62, and after Tan White made two free throws, Augustus scored down low to put Minnesota on top.

Then, with Little League World Series sensation Mo'Ne Davis on hand cheering her on, Moore then drained her fifth 3-pointer of the game to send the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

''I think she had the mindset that she's the best player in the league and that nobody can stop her,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Moore's dominant fourth quarter. ''I think maybe she had a stretch in Game 1, not that she doubted that but she just didn't play with the assertiveness that we're accustomed to seeing.''

Fellow UConn graduate Taurasi also has grown accustomed to seeing Moore score at will.

''She made a lot of shots tonight and when she does that it's pretty much impossible to guard her,'' Taurasi said. ''You pretty much put everyone on her, but you can't do that because they've got Seimone, they've got Lindsay (Whalen).''

Minnesota dug itself an early hole and almost didn't recover. The Lynx made just 2 of 14 field goal attempts in the first quarter as they fell behind 22-9 after 10 minutes.

But with Moore and Augustus struggling, Whalen put the Lynx on her back. Whalen scored 12 of her 17 points in the second quarter and hit five mid-range jump shots as Minnesota recovered its shooting touch to make 47 percent of its shots the rest of the way.

''It can be really demoralizing to be missing shot after shot after shot and scoring nine points in a quarter,'' Reeve said. ''We really needed to hang in there and not get our heads down. That's a credit to leadership, a credit to Lindsay Whalen in particular.''

Phoenix got 18 points and nine rebounds from Dupree, while Brittney Griner scored in 14 and Erin Phillips chipped in 10 off the bench. And despite letting a 13-point lead slip away, Taurasi said the Mercury could take plenty of positives out of the loss.

''I think for 35 minutes we were pretty good today,'' Taurasi said. ''We'll just do what we do every single game, same mindset. Everyone was fine in the locker room. No one was crying, so I think we'll be ready.''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Fever hold off Sky, 77-70

Fever hold off Sky, 77-70

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Chicago's historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta.

But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on to beat Chicago 77-70 on Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.

Indiana took a 60-48 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Sky stormed back with a 14-3 run to open the final period.

''We need a basket,'' Shevonte Zellous said. ''Whether it was someone penetrating or a two-point jump shot, we just needed a basket at a crucial time because Chicago had cut the lead to one.''

It was a pair of 3-points that Zellous hit that give the Fever a 69-63 lead late in the fourth quarter. Indiana's separation on the scoreboard came when Chicago missed six straight shots following the fourth quarter surge. The Fever then made five trips to the free-throw line during the final 33 seconds, making 8 of 10 free throws.

Indiana shot nearly 43 percent from 3, while Chicago struggled making just 1 of 8.

''The difference in the game was we got 3-point shooting tonight,'' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ''I though (Briann) January and Zellous and Maggie Lucas stepped up in crunch time, hit some really big 3's for us.''

January scored 19 points and Zellous added 18 for the Fever on a night when Tamika Catchings struggled to find a shooting rhythm for the Fever.

''It is not an individual sport, it is a team sport,'' Zellous said. ''When (Catchings) was struggling, everybody played their part. The bench played really well tonight and that was one of our keys.''

Catchings did finish with 10 points, six of which came from the free-throw line. Lucas led Indiana's reserves with eight points, including five straight on back-to-back possessions late in the third quarter.

Sylvia Fowles and Allie Quigley led Chicago's comeback effort with each scoring five points in the late game run. Fowles led the Sky with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Elena Delle Donne and Quigley added 14 apiece.

''I think we showed a lot of fight,'' Delle Donne said. ''Indy was able to make some really clutch shots at the end.''

Indiana trailed Chicago only in the first two minutes of the game.

Game 2 will be in Chicago on Monday.

''I know going to Chicago is going to be even tougher,'' January said. ''They're going to make adjustments and they play really well on their home court. We have to make our adjustments and come prepared. It is going to take everything we have to close it out in Chicago.''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Griner and Taylor lift Mercury over Lynx 85-71

Griner and Taylor lift Mercury over Lynx 85-71

PHOENIX (AP) A key third quarter stretch and tough defense on the league MVP has the Phoenix Mercury a win away from the WNBA Finals.

Brittney Griner had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Mercury held off a late rally to beat the Minnesota Lynx 85-71 on Friday night in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Western Conference finals.

''Defensively we were just the team unit, so locked in, we have been so consistently good on the defensive end all season long and that was the key for us,'' Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.

In particular, defense on league scoring leader and MVP Maya Moore, who was held to nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

''Obviously, DeWanna Bonner, she is a great defender,'' Brondello said. ''She probably doesn't get that kind of recognition, as she should, but she is, and she is always locking down the best player. Maya Moore is a great player but I thought we executed quite well against her.''

Penny Taylor added 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a pair of steals for the Mercury, who built a 25-point lead in the third quarter before Minnesota got within 10 in the final period.

''It's been tonight what I have been trying to do all season, is just fill the gaps, do what I can to lift the team when we need to,'' the 12th-year veteran Taylor said. ''Tonight it was a lot of assists in the first half and then in the second, I tried to be more aggressive on the boards and that sort of thing.''

Taylor missed her first three shots and then made 3 of 4 in the third when Phoenix pulled away.

Game 2 is Sunday in Minneapolis.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve credited Phoenix for keeping her big scorer quiet on Friday.

''Early in the game I thought that Maya didn't have an understanding of what was available,'' Reeve said. ''I thought that Phoenix, in typical fashion, their team defense was really good. So maybe where Maya had openings, they closed quickly and her recognition of what happens next was not very good.''

Diana Taurasi added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists on an off-shooting night (5 for 15) while Bonner had 16 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix, which won three of four meetings with Minnesota during the regular season.

The Mercury held Minnesota to 40 percent shooting (29-of-73) and outrebounded the Lynx 45-31.

''Everyone kind of took turns on making sure the boards were sound and when we do that it gives us a little more freedom on offense to go,'' Taurasi said.

Lindsay Whalen had 25 points to lead the Lynx. Rebekkah Brunson had 10 points and eight rebounds.

''We have some things to fix,'' Brunson said. ''We didn't approach this game the way we should have but we know that we can play a lot better.''

Whalen hit a 3-pointer, had a steal and easy layup in a 17-8 run that got Minnesota to 75-64 with 5:16 left but Taylor drew a fifth foul on Moore and sank the free throws to give Phoenix a little breathing room. Taylor and Taurasi hit free throws in the final minute after the Lynx pulled to 81-71 with 1:30 left.

Taylor had eight points and a key alley-oop pass to Griner during a decisive 14-0 run midway through the third quarter that gave Phoenix a 63-39 lead over the defending WNBA champions.

The Lynx were 4 for 15 at one point in the third quarter, after trailing by just nine early in the period.

''That was probably the best stretch we've had on both sides of the ball this year,'' Taurasi said. ''In a game where we obviously have to play at that level to beat them. That's just how good they are.''

It is the third meeting in four years in the conference finals for the Lynx and Mercury.

Both teams swept their respective first-round playoff series, setting up the much-hyped conference final matchup.

Phoenix jumped out to a 9-0 lead after hitting its first four shots but Minnesota bounced back with eight straight points itself and trailed 23-20 after the first quarter.

But Moore made only 1 of 6 from the field, scoring two points, as the Lynx trailed 42-31 at the break.

The Lynx swept the Mercury in the 2011 and 2013 conference finals on their way to winning WNBA titles. Minnesota has reached the final round for three straight years.

Moore earned league MVP honors, averaging nearly 24 points and eight rebounds a game. She shot 48 percent from the field during the season.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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A Statistical Look at Tamika Catchings

A Statistical Look at Tamika Catchings

Just two days after she played in her ninth WNBA All-Star Game (and scored the game-winning bucket) this past July, Tamika Catchings turned 35 years old. She had missed the season's first 17 games with a sore back, and it'd stand to reason that after already accomplishing just about everything you can on a basketball court, that she could have spent the rest of the season on cruise control. Not Tamika Catchings.

The second half of the WNBA season -- and now the postseason -- has been anything but a swan song for the 13-year vet. In fact, it's been her inspired play that has kept the Fever alive and has them eyeing their second trip to WNBA Finals in three years.

There are a lot of words used to describe Catchings: Tenacious. Relentless. Legend. And all would be accurate. But now it's time to look at some of the numbers -- both from her career and from this season -- that prove her continued greatness.

914 -- CAREER PLAYOFF POINTS (1st ALL TIME)

In Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals against Washington, Tamika Catchings became the WNBA's all-time leader in Playoff scoring, passing Lisa Leslie. The historic bucket was on a clutch 3-pointer in overtime, no less.

Catchings isn't known as a pure scorer -- likely because she also does everything else so well -- but this scoring milestone this season is coupled with her moving into third place all-time in regular season WNBA scoring history with 6,554 carer points.

487 -- CAREER PLAYOFF REBOUNDS (1st ALL TIME)

Catchings provided some history in Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals as well when she also became the WNBA's all-time leader in Playoff rebounds, again surpassing Lisa Leslie. In the game, Catchings pulled down 10 rebounds, to go along with 22 points and seven steals in 28 minutes. It's worth noting, that Catchings was already the all-time leader in Playoff steals.

The fact that Catchings holds these marquee Playoff records speaks not only to her talent, but to her longevity and ability to win. In all, Catchings has played in 53 Playoff games (fourth all time) and won one WNBA title. She has led the Fever to the Eastern Conference Finals four straight years.

29.7 -- USAGE PERCENTAGE (4th IN WNBA)

Tamika Catchings finished fourth in the league in Usage Percentage* (29.7) behind only 2014 MVP Maya Moore (30.4), Angel McCoughtry (30.1) and Elena Delle Donne (29.8).

To put this in perspective, Catchings’ NBA counterpart in this category would be Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge who finished the 2013-14 season with a Usage Rate of 29.8 (MVP Kevin Durant led the league with 33.0).

*Usage Rate is an estimate of the percentage of a team’s plays that are used by a player while she was on the floor. A possession can end in three ways: 1) a field goal attempt; 2) a Free throws; and 3) a Turnover. The formula looks at a player’s combination of field goal attempts, free throw attempts, and turnovers and finds the percentage of the team totals she uses in those same categories.

26.0 -- PLAYER EFFICIENCY RATING (4th in WNBA)

Cathchings also finished fourth in the league in Player Efficiency Rating* (26.0) behind only Moore (29.4), Delle Donne (28.4) and Candace Parker (26.1).

Catchings’ NBA equivalent would be Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins who finished the 2013-14 season with a Player Efficiency Rating of 26.1 (MVP Kevin Durant led the NBA with a 29.8 PER).

*The Player Efficiency Rating is a per-minute rating that was originally developed by former ESPN.com columnist, current Memphis Grizzlies exec, John Hollinger. The Rating attempts to give a per minute rating of a player’s performance by summing up a player’s positive on-court accomplishments (FGs, FTs, 3’s, assists, etc.) while subtracting the negative on-court accomplishments (Missed FGs, turnovers, fouls, etc).

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Western Conference Finals: What's At Stake?

Western Conference Finals: What's At Stake?

Let me be the first person to sign the petition to make this Phoenix Mercury-Minnesota Lynx matchup in the Western Conference Finals a seven-game series. Three games does not seem like enough for this highly-anticipated matchup. The defending champs from Minnesota against the season-long juggernaut from Phoenix. Friday night can’t get here soon enough.

As we wait for this series to tip off, here are five reasons why this matchup means so much.

1. Favorites to Win the WNBA Title

The winner of the Western Conference Finals will be the overwhelming favorite in a WNBA Finals matchup against either the Indiana Fever or Chicago Sky. The Mercury (29-5) and Lynx (25-9) combined for a 54-14 (.794) record this season. Their Eastern Conference counterparts went a combined 34-34 (.500). The Mercury and Lynx are a combined 8-0 against Chicago and Indiana this season.

As Ben York noted in his By The Numbers breakdown of this matchup for PhoenixMercury.com, the 14 combined losses by the Mercury and Lynx are fewer than every other team in the WNBA this season. Atlanta (19-15) was the only other team to finish above .500 this season and they just got eliminated thanks to an incredible fourth-quarter performance from Chicago’s’ Elena Della Donne.

2. Mercury’s Place in History

The Phoenix Mercury set a WNBA record with 29 regular season wins this year, eclipsing the previous mark of 28 by the Seattle Storm (2010) and the Los Angeles Sparks (2000 and 2001). The Mercury also became just the seventh team in the history of the league to finish the regular season with a win percentage over .800.

So, this Phoenix squad has a chance to join the conversation of the greatest WNBA teams of all time. But before it can enter that rare air, it needs to get through the Lynx and go on to win the WNBA title. Right now they are holding a cup to their ear and pressing it against the door trying to eavesdrop on the conversation. A championship will be their key to entry.

Only one team that won over 80 percent of its regular season games did not go on to win the title -- the 2000 Los Angeles Sparks (28-4, .875), who happened to lose in the Western Conference Finals to the Houston Comets (27-5, .824). It was the only season in WNBA history to feature two teams with win percentages over .800.

This year, the Lynx and Mercury are the only two teams to win even 60 percent of their games, as they have been head and shoulders above the rest of the field all season long. Like in 2000, the two best teams from the regular season reside in the same conference, so this matchup must take place prior to the WNBA Finals.

One side note: all seven teams that have recorded winning percentages over .800 for a season hailed from the Western Conference.

3. Lynx Trying to Make History of Their Own

The Mercury isn’t the only team trying to cement its place among the greatest teams of all time. The Minnesota Lynx have a chance to become only the second team in WNBA history to appear in four straight WNBA Finals. The only team to do so was the Houston Comets, who had a magical run in the first four seasons of the WNBA’s existence, winning the first four championships in league history.

The Comets had the first dynasty in the WNBA. But there have been other teams that have put together some impressive runs. Three of Houston’s four titles came against the New York Liberty, who appeared in four WNBA Finals in the league’s first six seasons, but have yet to win a title.

The Comets’ run was finally ended in 2001 by Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks, who would go on to win titles in both 2001 and 2002 and represent the West in the Finals again in 2003.

The Sparks’ attempt at a three-peat was thwarted by Bill Laimbeer and the Detroit Shock, who became the first team in American pro sports to go from posting the worst record in the league (9-23 in 2002) to winning the championship the following season.

After ceding the East to the Connecticut Sun for two seasons, the Shock reclaimed their place in the WNBA Finals with three straight appearances and two more titles from 2006 to 2008.

The most recent repeat runs to the Finals came from the Atlanta Dream (2010, 2011 and 2013) and the Lynx, who have appeared in three straight Finals and won championships in 2011 and 2013. If they make it to a fourth straight WNBA Finals, they would join the Comets in the history books. Not bad company to join.

4. The Battle of the Stars

The Conference Finals matchup between the Mercury and Lynx features half of this year’s Western Conference All-Star team -- with Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen representing the Lynx and Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree representing the Mercury.

As coach of the defending Western Conference champion, Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve coached the West All-Stars, while Phoenix's Sandy Brondello went on to win Coach of the Year honors.

And speaking of awards, this matchup features this season’s scoring champ and MVP (Moore), Defensive Player of the Year (Griner) and the Peak Performer for assists (Taurasi). Oh, and Taurasi is also a former MVP and five-time scoring champ.

Speaking of scoring, these are the two highest scoring teams in the league with the Mercury leading the way at 83.5 points per game and the Lynx just behind at 81.6.

The Mercury do have the higher rated defense, thanks in large part to Griner’s league-best 3.8 blocks per game, surrendering just 74.1 points per game (second best in the WNBA). Meanwhile the Lynx are in the middle of the pack at 77.2 points allowed per game.

5. A Rivalry for Years to Come

The Mercury and Lynx are meeting in the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the past four years. Both in 2011 and 2013, the Lynx swept the Mercury to advance to the WNBA Finals and win the championship. In both of those seasons, the Lynx finished with the best record in the WNBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

This year, the Mercury finished atop the league and is looking to avenge those past defeats to the Lynx and advance to their fourth WNBA Finals in team history. After dropping the 1998 Finals to the Comets, the Mercury won the title in each of their last two appearances in 2007 and 2009.

Both teams feature young stars (Moore and Griner) mixed in with outstanding veterans that still have plenty left in the tank. With an epic series on the horizon this year and both teams in position for long-term success, this is a rivalry that should treat WNBA fans for years to come.

Can we please make this a seven-game series?

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Chiney Ogwumike Named 2014 Rookie of Year

Chiney Ogwumike Named 2014 Rookie of Year

Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun is the recipient of the 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year presented by Samsung award, the WNBA announced today. Ogwumike received 23 votes from a national panel of 38 sportswriters and broadcasters who voted for the award.

The Tulsa Shock’s Odyssey Sims finished second with 12 votes, Kayla McBride of the San Antonio Stars placed third with two votes, and the Atlanta Dream’s Shoni Schimmel finished fourth with one vote.

Chiney Ogwumike and her sister Nneka continue to make history, becoming the first pair of sisters to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year presented by Samsung honors. The duo started the season in historic fashion when they became the second set of siblings ever selected with the top overall pick in an American professional sports draft. Nneka Ogwumike was drafted in 2012 by the Los Angeles Sparks and was named the 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year presented by Samsung. In July, the Ogwumikes also became the first sisters ever selected for the same WNBA All-Star Game.

A two-time WNBA Rookie of the Month presented by Samsung recipient, Ogwumike led all rookies in rebounding (8.5 rpg) and double-doubles (13), ranked second in scoring (15.5 ppg), and third in steals (1.2 spg). Overall, the first-year pro ranked second in the WNBA in offensive rebounds (123), tied for second in double-doubles, placed seventh in rebounding, and was 11th in scoring.

The Stanford product appeared in 31 games for the Sun this season, all in a starting role. Ogwumike scored in double digits in 28 of her 31 contests, while posting 10 or more rebounds in 13 games.

In her second game of the year, Ogwumike poured in 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 90-87 loss against the 2013 defending champion Minnesota Lynx. In the final month of the season, she posted back-to-back double-doubles, including a 24-point, 12-rebound performance in a victory over San Antonio on Aug. 1. Two days later, Ogwumike chipped in 23 points and 13 rebounds in a one-point loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 3.

In honor of being named the 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year presented by Samsung, Ogwumike will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.

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Skylar Diggins Named Most Improved Player

Skylar Diggins Named Most Improved Player

NEW YORK, Aug. 27, 2014 - Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins is the winner of the 2014 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year presented by Samsung, the WNBA announced today. Diggins received 29 of 38 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

This year marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, is serving as the presenting partner of the WNBA’s highest individual honors. The WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, WNBA Rookie of the Year, and the WNBA Players of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards are a part of the WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program. Washington Mystics center Emma Meesseman, Shock center Courtney Paris, and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley tied for second in the voting with two votes apiece. Rounding out the vote-getters were Connecticut Sun guard Alex Bentley, Sky forward Jessica Breland and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, with each receiving one vote.

Diggins more than doubled her scoring average in 2014 (20.1 ppg) from 2013 (8.5 ppg), and also improved in terms of assists (5.0 apg, up from 3.8 apg in 2013) and rebounds (2.5 rpg, up from 1.9 rpg). Diggins lifted her field goal percentage from .328 a year ago to .423 this season (232-of-548) and raised her three-point shooting accuracy from .244 as a rookie to .282 (33-of-117) in 2014.

In her second season in the league, Diggins, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, started all 34 games for the Shock and led Tulsa in scoring, assists, steals (1.5 spg) and minutes (35.1 mpg). Among all WNBA players, Diggins led the league in minutes, placed second in scoring and ranked fourth in assists.

In honor of being named the WNBA Most Improved Player presented by Samsung, Diggins will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy.

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Delle Donne's late jumper rallies Sky past Dream

Delle Donne's late jumper rallies Sky past Dream

ATLANTA (AP) Despite trailing by 17 early in the fourth quarter, the Chicago Sky weren't ready to give up on their season. Instead, they kept their focus and pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

Elena Delle Donne scored 17 of her 34 points in the final period, including the winning jumper with 8.4 seconds left, as the Sky rallied from 20 points down to beat the Atlanta Dream 81-80 on Tuesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

''I just know that when we were in huddles and I was talking to the team, everyone had that look in their eye like we were not done yet - we were not ready to go home,'' Delle Donne said. ''So I was very confident. ... I knew we were playing pretty good defense, just not doing the little things like finishing with a rebound, finishing with a contested shot.''

The Sky, who trailed by 16 after three quarters, became the first team to rally from such a deficit in a playoff game since the WNBA went to four quarters in 2006, according to information provided by the league from the Elias Sports Bureau. It's been done three times in regular-season games.

Tamera Young scored 16 points and Sylvia Fowles added 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Sky won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Chicago was swept by Indiana in the first round last year in the Sky's first postseason appearance.

The Sky will visit the Fever for the opener of the East finals on Saturday.

The road team won each game in this best-of-three series, with Chicago taking the opener 80-77 last Friday, and Atlanta winning 92-83 in Game 2 on Sunday.

Erika de Souza scored 18 points and Angel McCoughtry had 17 for the Dream, who reached the WNBA Finals in three of the last four seasons.

Chicago trailed 44-24 about midway through the second quarter and was down 72-55 with 8:12 remaining. Delle Donne then scored 13 points during the Sky's 19-2 run that tied the score at 74-all on her 3-pointer with 3:33 to go.

''In the fourth quarter, coach put the ball in my hands, the team trusted me and it just went from there,'' Delle Donne said.

The Dream shot 1 for 6 from the field with three turnovers during Chicago's big run before de Souza and McCoughtry made baskets 20 seconds apart to put the Dream up four with 2:14 to go.

''I think we got away from what we were doing well,'' Dream coach Michael Cooper said. ''I thought the execution of our offense kind of went out the window a little bit. We started to take some quick shots and some bad shots. And then our defense kind of got away from us.''

Shoni Schimmel's jumper gave Atlanta an 80-77 lead with 29 seconds left, but Delle Donne made two jumpers in the last 24 seconds - with the final basket giving Chicago its first lead since 6-5.

''It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. ''They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays. My big time player (Delle Donne) stepped up.''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Griner helps Mercury beat Sparks to sweep series

Griner helps Mercury beat Sparks to sweep series

LOS ANGELES (AP) Brittney Griner bounced back from a poor performance and helped show why the Phoenix Mercury are such a dominant team.

Griner scored a career playoff-high 21 points, including a breakaway two-handed dunk, and Phoenix cruised to a 93-68 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 2 on Sunday night to complete a sweep in their Western Conference semifinals series.

Penny Taylor scored 17 points and Candice Dupree had 16 points and eight rebounds as Phoenix, which had a league-record 29 wins during the regular season, advanced to a matchup against defending champion Minnesota in the West finals.

Griner bounced back from a 2-for-11 shooting effort in the opener to go 9 for 9 from the field, setting a WNBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss.

''I played (terrible) that game and I didn't help my team at all,'' Griner said of Game 1. ''I definitely wanted to come out and establish myself down in the paint and help my team out. The coaches did a good job getting us ready and letting us know that we definitely needed to bring it here in L.A. I think we did that.''

Griner's dunk midway through the third quarter stretched Phoenix's lead to 25 points. It was the second-year star's fifth career dunk, giving her nearly half of the 11 dunks in WNBA history.

''That's what I do,'' Griner joked. ''I dunk.''

Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello went over video with Griner after Game 1 on position, but said it was mostly a change in her mindset.

''I thought tonight she really established herself deep in the paint, and when she's that deep it's really hard for teams to bring that trap because she can go automatically into that shot,'' Brondello said. ''For Brittney, I knew she was ready to go. She told me. For a young player, she's mentally tough, and that's a great attribute to her.''

Griner's effort helped overcame an off game from teammate Diana Taurasi, who finished with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting after scoring a playoff career-high 34-points in Game 1.

Candace Parker scored 21 points to lead the Sparks, and Nneka Ogwumike had 14 points and six rebounds. It was the third straight season the Sparks were eliminated on their home floor and the third time in six seasons they were eliminated by Phoenix.

It also was the end of a drama-filled season for the Sparks, who changed ownership in February and fired coach Carol Ross at the All-Star break. Their elimination came in front of owner Magic Johnson, who led the group that bought the team.

''Obviously we're disappointed (with the loss),'' Parker said. ''We didn't know where we were going to be in January. We didn't know if we were going to have a team (or if) we were going to be in L.A. We had no idea. Rome isn't built in a day. We realize that with this group coming in - they've built the (Los Angeles) Dodgers, and the Dodgers are doing well. We feel like they can do the same for us.''

The Mercury never trailed and led 24-8 with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter. The lead was 21 late in the final minute of the second quarter before the Sparks cut it to 52-33 at halftime.

The Mercury led by double digits the entire second half.

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McCoughtry powers Dream past Sky 92-83

McCoughtry powers Dream past Sky 92-83

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Angel McCoughtry was determined to make sure the Atlanta Dream weren't done in the WNBA playoffs.

McCoughtry scored 39 points, and the Dream beat the Chicago Sky 92-83 on Sunday night to even their Eastern Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.

Game 3 is Tuesday in Atlanta, with the winner moving into the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana.

''I just wanted to will the team to win,'' McCoughtry said. ''I wanted the ball in my hands and I wanted to take over the game. Luckily I hit a good percentage (65 percent) of my shots and my teammates gave me the ball and trusted me with it.''

Tiffany Hayes added 15 points for top-seeded Dream, and Jasmine Thomas had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points for the Sky, who won 80-77 in the series opener at Atlanta on Friday. Allie Quigley had 20 points, and Epiphanny Prince finished with 19.

Chicago closed to 68-65 on Tamera Young's driving layup, but Atlanta responded with an 8-1 spurt. Hayes' 3-pointer with 6:50 left gave the Dream a 76-66 lead.

The Sky pulled within six with 36.5 seconds to go, but their rally fizzled from there.

Sylvia Fowles added 14 points for Chicago, which had a 39-36 rebounding edge.

''(McCoughtry) set the tone early and put her team on her back and you can't have that,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. ''We have to regroup, watch the video. I don't think there's a lot of adjustments we have to make as a matter of Xs and Os. It's a matter of making sure from the beginning we set the tone.''

McCoughtry was 13 for 20 from the field and made 13 of 14 foul shots. She had 19 points in the first half, helping Atlanta to a 44-43 lead at the break. She also helped limit Delle Donne to 0-for-5 shooting from the field in the second half.

The Dream opened a nine-point lead on Sancho Lyttle's 16-foot jumper with 5:01 left in the third. McCoughtry pushed the advantage to 62-51 with a baseline drive.

The Sky went 3-2 against the Dream during the regular season. They had won three in a row against Atlanta.

Earlier Sunday, Quigley earned WNBA sixth woman of the year honors after she averaged 11.2 points, nearly 7.5 points more a game than she had last season.

Quigley garnered 26 votes from a 38-member national media panel of sportswriter and broadcasters. San Antonio's Jia Perkins was second with six votes.

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Chicago's Quigley Wins Sixth Woman of the Year

Chicago's Quigley Wins Sixth Woman of the Year

Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley is the winner of the 2014 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year presented by Samsung award, the league announced today. Quigley received 26 votes from a national panel of 38 sportswriters and broadcasters to earn her first WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year presented by Samsung honor. Jia Perkins of the San Antonio Stars finished second with six votes, rookie Shoni Schimmel of the Atlanta Dream finished third with four votes, and Danielle Adams of the Stars received two votes to finish in fourth place.

This marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, is serving as the presenting partner of the WNBA’s highest individual honors. The WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, WNBA Rookie of the Year, and the WNBA Players of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards are a part of the WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program.

Quigley played in all 34 games this season, averaging 24.8 minutes per contest. Among Eastern Conference players, Quigley ranked 12th in scoring (11.2 ppg), nearly tripling her 3.8 ppg from 2013. The Joliet, Ill., native also ranked sixth in the league in free-throw percentage (.879, 51-of-58) and eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.387, 41-of-106). In perhaps her best game of the season, Quigley registered a career-high 27 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals in a 81-79 loss against Atlanta on July 13.

Quigley received the first Player of the Week award of her career for games played Aug. 4 through Aug. 10. The sixth-year pro out of DePaul came off the bench in all three games that week to lead the East in scoring (18.0 ppg) as Chicago posted a 2-1 mark. For the week, Quigley also paced Eastern Conference players in field goal percentage (.700, 21-of-30) and three-point field goal shooting (.625, 5-of-8).

In honor of being named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year presented by Samsung, Quigley will receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.

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Whalen, Lynx eliminate Hammon and Stars with win

Whalen, Lynx eliminate Hammon and Stars with win

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Lindsay Whalen took a stand after getting pushed around early by the San Antonio Stars, giving the Minnesota Lynx the boost they needed to come back.

Whalen had a career playoff-high 31 points and Minnesota rallied for a 94-89 victory over San Antonio on Saturday, advancing to the Western Conference finals and ending Becky Hammon's playing career.

Seimone Augustus scored 21 points, Maya Moore had 16 and Janel McCarville 10 for Minnesota, which will face the winner between Phoenix and Los Angeles after sweeping the first-round series.

''Offensively, we call (Whalen) the bully,'' Augustus said. ''She just kind of puts her head down, goes to the basket and looks for contact.

''If she gets a call, she gets to the free throw and knocks it down, but if not, she plays through it. And that's been her mentality the entire year, just be aggressive.

''Tonight it was just contagious, once she got going, myself got going, Maya got going, J-Mac got going. All of us had that aggressive mentality that she had.''

The Stars had no answer for the defending WNBA champions' offensive depth. After attempting to stall Whalen's drives, Minnesota allowed Augustus and Moore to close out the game.

Whalen's aggressive play was reminiscent of Hammon's career, which she started with the New York Liberty before being traded to San Antonio in 2007.

Hammon, who is retiring after 16 seasons in the WNBA, had 12 points and four assists in her final game. She received a standing ovation and received warm wishes from Minnesota's players, especially Augustus.

''I just congratulated her and said that I love her,'' Augustus said. ''Thank you for everything you did for women and sports.''

Hammon will become the first woman to serve as a full-time NBA assistant coach, joining the San Antonio Spurs in their quest for a championship repeat.

Kayla McBride had 25 points, Danielle Adams added 23, and Jia Perkins had 17 for San Antonio.

The Stars appeared ready to extend Hammon's career by getting off to a fast start and stifling the Lynx defensively.

''Physically, we weren't there, but mentally we knew it,'' Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''We just didn't respond. They did exactly what we thought. For two games they played great.''

The Stars scored the game's first seven points and went on to a 22-4 lead. The early run included a turnaround jumper and a 3-pointer by Adams.

''It was a shame to start the game that way and then just kind of trail off,'' Hammon said. ''We know they are a great team and have tremendous scorers. To do what we did in the first quarter and for them to still ring up 90-plus points, they really put it on us from second quarter on.''

Minnesota rallied midway through the second quarter, sparked by Reeve's frustration with the officiating crew.

After her pleas for a call from official Amy Bonner weren't answered, Reeve turned to WNBA chief of basketball operations Renee Brown and said, ''Adams is in the lane (defensively) for 10 seconds and they are not calling it.''

Brown was in attendance to give Hammon the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award prior to the game.

''It never is (a way to spark the team) for me,'' Reeve said. ''I know people say that, but I think that's the biggest myth there is. That gives me too much credit that I'm able to think like that.''

Instead, Reeve credited Whalen's aggression.

The Lynx closed the first half on an 18-8 run to cut the Stars' lead to 44-40.

Whalen scored 12 points in the second quarter, hitting 4 of 5 shots and making all six free throws.

''Lindsay got us going in the second quarter when she had enough of the way we were playing,'' Reeve said. ''She was contagious in such a positive way.''

A pair of 3-pointers by McBride were the only points for San Antonio in the final minutes of the first half with the exception of a pair of free throws by Danielle Robinson with 0.5 seconds remaining.

Moore's 3-pointer gave Minnesota its first lead at 46-44 with 8:39 left in the third quarter.

That came seconds after Hughes received a technical foul.

The technical gave San Antonio a temporary spark that turned into a 59-53 lead, but Minnesota closed on a 14-5 run for a 67-64 lead entering the fourth.

''I thought the game got really physical,'' Hughes said. ''I think they literally tried to own the paint and we didn't resist it well enough. We got ourselves in foul trouble trying to do that. You have to start with giving credit where credit is due. They are just a very good team.''

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Catchings scores 26, Fever advance past Mystics

Catchings scores 26, Fever advance past Mystics

WASHINGTON (AP) Tamika Catchings again did just about everything for the Indiana Fever, except for praising herself following a record-breaking night against the Washington Mystics.

Catchings had 26 points and 11 rebounds as the Fever beat the Washington Mystics 81-76 to sweep the best-of-three series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Catchings' 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining in overtime put the Fever ahead for good, 75-74. With that basket, she surpassed Lisa Leslie as the WNBA's career leading scorer in the postseason.

In the 78-73 Game 1 win, Catchings had 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals. She also moved past Leslie to become the top career rebounder in the playoffs.

''It's a tribute to our organization and to the great players I've been able to play with along the way,'' the 13-year veteran said of her records.

As the unassuming talk continued, Indiana coach Lin Dunn interrupted her star player.

''Let me elaborate because she's too modest,'' Dunn said. ''I think the records she's set so far in the playoffs indicate to me that you may be watching one of the greatest players to ever play our game.''

Kara Lawson scored a season-best 20 points for the Mystics, who led 62-57 with 3:57 remaining in regulation. Including the regular season, Washington lost five of its final six games.

''It's never fun to lose in a playoff series especially when you have a chance to win,'' Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. ''I guess I can say we got beat by a great Hall of Famer. (Tamika) was terrific.''

The Fever will face top-seeded Atlanta or No. 4 Chicago in the conference finals.

Briann January scored 13 for Indiana. Her two free throws with 19.7 second remaining in regulation tied it 66-66. Marissa Coleman and Karima Christmas both added 10 points.

The Fever offset poor shooting from the field by making 22 of 26 foul shots. Catchings, now with 514 career playoff points, sank 9 of 10 including four in the final 21 seconds after making all 14 of her attempts in Game 1.

Indiana held Washington's leading scorer Ivory Latta without a 3-point basket for the first time this season. Latta scored 12 points on 2 of 13 shooting, including seven attempts from beyond the arc.

''I thought everything we did tonight (defensively) was focused on Ivory Latta,'' said Dunn, who previously announced she will retire following this season.

Indiana won all three games in Washington this season.

The Fever also swept the Mystics in 2009. Washington last won a playoff series in 2002.

Tianna Hawkins scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter for the youthful Mystics.

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Hammon Wins 2014 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

Hammon Wins 2014 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 2014 -- Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Stars was named the recipient of the 2014 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, the WNBA announced today. The first-time winner received 24 of 37 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

Hammon, who is currently in her 16th WNBA season, announced on July 23 that she would retire from the league at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Hammon started her WNBA career with the New York Liberty in 1999 as an undrafted player out of Colorado State. The six-time WNBA All-Star quickly became a fan favorite at MSG and a valued member of the WNBA for her leadership on and off the court. In July 2011, she was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players, which recognized the most influential players since the league’s inception in 1997. Hammon, who joined the Stars in 2007, currently ranks seventh in WNBA history in points (5,858), fourth in assists (1,713) and sixth in games played (451).

Hammon added to her basketball legacy on Aug. 4, 2014, when the San Antonio Spurs announced that she would join their coaching staff as an assistant coach, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history. Known as a natural born leader and a basketball lifer, Hammon is seen as a perfect fit to break barriers in the world of sports. She is widely known throughout the league for her dedication, leadership, and hard work, and is a proven role model to youth who aspire to make a name for themselves.

"Knowing Kim Perrot and being a coach during her time in the league, I think it is really special that Becky receives this award," said Stars Coach Dan Hughes. "I think it means a lot to the league. It shows people recognize not only the kind of player she is, but the kind of sportsmanship she has exhibited this season and throughout her career. I am just very happy for Becky."

The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is presented each season to a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity. The award is named for the late Kim Perrot, who helped guide the Houston Comets to their first two WNBA championships before passing away in August 1999 after a seven-month battle with cancer.

In honor of being named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner, Hammon will receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co. An additional $5,000 will be designated to the charity of her choice.

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Mercury beats Sparks 75-72 in WNBA playoffs

Mercury beats Sparks 75-72 in WNBA playoffs

PHOENIX (AP) Diana Taurasi hit four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds, and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Los Angeles Sparks 75-72 on Friday night in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

Taurasi had a personal playoff-best 34 points and DeWanna Bonner added 13 for the Mercury, who had the league's best record during the regular season at 29-5.

''I think all year that's the way it's been with our team,'' said Taurasi, who averaged a WNBA-best 5.6 assists per game this year. ''You can't always have a great game, you can't always get the shots you want, especially on a talented team like this. Today was just my day and luckily they went in.''

Taurasi, who became the first player in league history to lead the WNBA in points in one season and assists in another, was 10 for 15 from the field. She went 6 for 9 from beyond the arc.

''She does what she needs to do for this team to win,'' Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ''Some days, it's scoring, other days, it's creating, distributing, just getting other people involved.''

Candace Parker, who led the Sparks with 22 points, threw too high for Kristi Tolliver with 7.1 seconds left, giving Phoenix the ball with a 73-70 lead. Bonner hit her third and fourth straight foul shots in the final seconds to help secure the win.

''We have a lot of confidence going into games down the stretch, we've actually played in a lot of them this year where they have come down to two or three possessions, especially against L.A.,'' Taurasi said. ''Today we grinded it out. Today was a big grind.''

It was the sixth win of the season for Phoenix over Los Angeles, which faces elimination in the best-of-three series on Sunday.

''Down the stretch, unfortunately, like I told Ms. Parker, `It doesn't come down to one play, there were a couple more plays before that where we should have gotten the rebound,''' Sparks coach Penny Toler said.

The Sparks, who went 16-18 during the regular season, got two quick baskets to take a 68-65 lead with 2:57 to go, but struggled to score in the final minutes.

Bonner's foul shots with 18 seconds left put the Mercury up by three. Parker then answered with a driving shot in the lane with 11 seconds remaining, trimming Phoenix's lead to 71-70.

Armintie Herrington fouled Taurasi with 9.3 seconds left.

Parker scored seven points during a 9-0 fourth-quarter run that gave Los Angeles a 62-58 lead with 6:23 left.

Nneka Ogwumike had 12 points and six rebounds for the Sparks, and Tolliver finished with 13 points.

Phoenix star Brittney Griner was 2 for 11 from the field for six points. She also had seven rebounds and blocked two shots.

The Mercury made three of their first four shots of the second half on their way to a 54-44 lead, taking advantage of Los Angeles foul trouble. But Tolliver hit a 3-pointer and Parker found Tolliver with an outlet pass to cut the lead to 54-51 with 1:03 left. Phoenix led 56-53 going into the fourth quarter.

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Vandersloot leads Sky past Dream 80-77

Vandersloot leads Sky past Dream 80-77

ATLANTA (AP) Courtney Vandersloot hit the game-winning jumper from the top of the key with 20 seconds left to lead the Sky to an 80-77 win over the Dream in the first game of their WNBA playoff series.

Chicago is the No. 4 seed in the East, and Atlanta is No. 1, but the Sky didn't look like underdogs while limiting the Dream's fast break to two points.

''We call the first five seconds `quick strike,' and they're the best team in the league,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatmon said. ''Part of that is when we shoot 47 percent, that gives us two seconds to get back on defense.''

When the Sky are healthy, they're pretty good.

Elena Delle Donne scored 21 points, Sylvia Fowles added 12 points and 14 rebounds, Epiphanny Prince scored 14 points and Vandersloot went for 13 points and seven assists.

Vandersloot missed 17 games this season with an MCL knee sprain, Fowles missed the first 13 after hip surgery, and Delle Donne (21 points) missed 17 games with Lyme disease.

Chicago was at its best late in the first half while closing a 13-2 run to pull within 37-36 at intermission.

Trailing 35-23 after Atlanta forward Sancho Lyttle connected on an 18-foot jumper with 4:24 left in the second quarter, the Sky gathered themselves.

''We had 10 deflections in that quarter, and when we get deflections, we're a phenomenal team,'' said Delle Donne, who scored all of her points over the first three periods. ''I really feel like we slowed down, calmed down and executed. We were a little crazy at first.''

That Lyttle basket was a rare offensive highlight for her.

She was 3 for 15 in the game, and fellow Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry went 8 for 22 while scoring 24 points even with a late burst where her seven consecutive points gave the Dream a 77-75 lead on her jumper with 1:40 left.

Atlanta, which has fallen in the WNBA Finals in three of the past four seasons, was careless after building its 12-point lead in the second quarter.

The Sky ran out nearly of the final 20 seconds in the first half before Prince hit a 3-pointer with less than one second in a key sequence.

''Complacency,'' Dream coach Michael Cooper said when asked about his team missing seven of its final eight shots in the first half. ''The regular season and the playoffs are different. Shot selection, and value of the basketball are important. I thought we got caught up and took quick shots.''

Chicago led 75-70 before the two-time WNBA scoring champion hit a pair of free throws, then a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75. She added a jumper for a 77-75 lead.

The game winner came on a second-chance of sorts, as the possession began after officials reviewed a loose ball scramble under Atlanta's basket and called for a jump ball.

Fowles won the tip over Atlanta center Erika de Souza with 42 seconds left, and the game tied at 77.

Vandersloot worked her way from the right wing into the lane before stopping and popping from 18 feet for the game winning shot. That gave Chicago a 79-77 lead.

Atlanta rookie guard Shoni Schimmel, the MVP of the WNBA All-Star game, was defending Vandersloot at the time. She was screened off the eventual shot.

Cooper said the Dream won't go lightly Sunday.

''I was always told by a former coach of mine, Pat Riley, that championships are won on the road,'' said the former L.A. Lakers guard. ''I think the pressure now switches to them to close us out Sunday so we're going to go there and give them a good fight, and try to get this (back) to Atlanta.''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Mercury Coach Sandy Brondello Named WNBA Coach of the Year After Guiding Phoenix to League's Best Record

Mercury Coach Sandy Brondello Named WNBA Coach of the Year After Guiding Phoenix to League's Best Record

NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 2014 - Phoenix Head Coach Sandy Brondello, who in her first season on the Mercury bench guided the franchise to a league-best 29-5 record and the highest single-season win total in league history, is the recipient of the 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today.

Brondello received 33 votes from a national panel of 38 sportswriters and broadcasters. Three-time winner Mike Thibault of the Washington Mystics and 2011 WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx each received two votes, while the Atlanta Dream’s Michael Cooper received one vote.

Brondello, who earned the honor for the first time in her career, is the second woman to have played in the WNBA and gone on to win Coach of the Year honors. In 2004, Minnesota’s Suzie McConnell-Serio became the first former player to capture the top coaching award.

Under Brondello’s leadership this season, Phoenix improved its win total by 10 games from a year ago (29-5 vs. 19-15) and in the process, author a 16-game winning streak, marking the second longest in WNBA history. The Mercury also set franchise records for highest winning percentage (.853), highest home winning percentage (.941, 16-1), most consecutive home wins (15) and most consecutive road wins (seven).

The Mercury coach also impacted the play of All-Stars Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner. Taurasi, a five-time scoring leader, led the league in assists this year, becoming the first player in league history to pace the WNBA in points and assists at some point during her career. In the process, she finished as the runner-up to the Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore in balloting for the WNBA Most Valuable Player presented by Samsung. Griner, who finished fifth in MVP voting, enjoyed a breakout campaign that included a league record for blocks in a season (129), while also posting increases from last season in scoring (12.6 ppg to 15.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg to 8.0 rpg).

Prior to joining the Mercury, Brondello spent eight seasons as a WNBA assistant with the San Antonio Stars (2005-09) and Los Angeles Sparks (2011-13), reaching the conference finals three times and the WNBA Finals in 2008. In her lone previous stint as a WNBA head coach, Brondello led San Antonio to a playoff berth in 2010.

An 18-year member of the Australian National Team as a player, the native of Queensland is a four-time Olympian, a two-time silver medalist (2000, 2004), and was named the 1992 Australian International Player of the Year. In her time with the national team, she was a teammate of current Mercury forward Penny Taylor. The shooting guard finished her professional playing career with a five-year run in the WNBA, playing for Detroit (1998-99), Miami (2001-02) and Seattle (2003). Brondello was selected as a reserve to the WNBA All-Star Game in 1999.

Below are the voting results for 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year Award as well as a list of past recipients:

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Blocks, Steals Leaders Griner and McCoughtry Headline All-Defensive Team

Blocks, Steals Leaders Griner and McCoughtry Headline All-Defensive Team

NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 2014 - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, the 2014 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year presented by Samsung, and WNBA steals leader Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream headline the 2014 WNBA All-Defensive Team, the league announced today. Griner, who collected 11 First Team votes (55 points), makes her first appearance on the All-Defensive Team, while McCoughtry (30 points) earns her fourth First Team selection.

Joining Griner and McCoughtry on the WNBA All-Defensive First Team are forward Sancho Lyttle of the Dream (45 points), guard Briann January of the Indiana Fever (34 points), and guard Tanisha Wright of the Seattle Storm (30 points).

Griner recorded a league-record 129 blocks, surpassing the previous single-season mark of 114, set by Margo Dydek in 1998. She led the league in blocks per game (3.79 bpg), ranked eighth in defensive rebounds (6.1 drpg) and ninth in total rebounds (8.0 rpg). McCoughtry led the league in steals (2.39 spg) and ranked 10th in the Eastern Conference in rebounding (3.5 rpg).

Wright received her fifth career First Team honor, while Lyttle ranked fifth in the WNBA in rebounding (9.0 rpg) to earn her second First Team nod. January is making her second career appearance on the First Team after averaging 1.23 spg this season.

The WNBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of guard Alana Beard of the Los Angeles Sparks (29 points), forward Tamika Catchings of the Fever (29 points), guard Danielle Robinson of the San Antonio Stars (27 points), forward Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx (17 points) and center Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky (17 points).

Catchings, the five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, picks up her first career Second Team nod after earning nine WNBA All-Defensive First Team selections. Fowles, who has captured four WNBA All-Defensive First Team awards, earns a Second Team honor for the second time in her career. Beard makes her fourth career appearance on the Second Team, Robinson earned the third of her career, and Moore, the 2014 MVP, is a first-time member of the All-Defensive squad.

A panel of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches voted on the WNBA All-Defensive Team, selecting First and Second Teams by position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own teams. Players earned two points for each First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

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Griner Named Defensive Player of Year

Griner Named Defensive Player of Year

NEW YORK, Aug. 22, 2014 -- Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury has been named the 2014 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year presented by Samsung, the WNBA announced today. Griner received 31 votes from a national panel of 38 sportswriters and broadcasters. Sancho Lyttle of the Atlanta Dream finished second with four votes, while the Dream’s Angel McCoughtry, the Chicago Sky’s Jessica Breland and the Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore each received one vote.

This marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, is serving as the presenting partner of the WNBA’s highest individual honors. The WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, WNBA Rookie of the Year, and the WNBA Players of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards are a part of the WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program.

For Griner, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2013, this is the first Defensive Player of the Year presented by Samsung honor of her career. The Houston native and Baylor University product shattered the WNBA single-season mark for blocked shots while helping guide the Mercury to a league-best 29-5 record and the Western Conference’s No.1 seed for the playoffs. In the process, she helped Phoenix win 16 straight games, marking the second-longest streak in WNBA history.

Griner played in all 34 games for the Mercury and paced the league in blocks per game (3.79). With 129 total blocks, Griner surpassed the previous single-season mark of 114, set by Margo Dydek in 1998. Griner blocked more shots individually this season than eight other WNBA teams combined. She also posted a WNBA single-game record with 11 blocked shots on June 29 at Tulsa, topping the previous mark of 10, set by Dydek and Lisa Leslie.

The two-time All-Star selection finished the season ranked second in the WNBA in field goal percentage (.578, 219-of-379), 10th in scoring (15.6 ppg), eighth in defensive rebounds (6.1 drpg), and ninth in rebounds (8.0 rpg).

During the Mercury’s 16-game winning streak, Griner was named Western Conference Player of the Week presented by Samsung on June 23, following a pair of spectacular performances. For the week, she ranked second in the West in scoring (27.5 ppg) and tied for second in rebounding (11.0 rpg). She also paced the West in field goal percentage (.767, 23-of-30) and blocks (4.0 bpg), while sharing the lead in free throw accuracy (1.000, hitting all nine shots from the charity stripe). She opened the week with a huge effort in a 92-79 win over visiting Minnesota on June 18, pouring in a then career-high 27 points and matching her career high of 18 rebounds. Two days later, Griner reached a new personal best in scoring with 28 points and added six blocks in a 91-80 victory over Tulsa.

In honor of being named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year presented by Samsung, Griner will receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy.

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MVP Moore leads Lynx past Stars, 88-84, in Game 1

MVP Moore leads Lynx past Stars, 88-84, in Game 1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The defending champion Minnesota Lynx got a reminder from the San Antonio Stars that nothing comes easy in the postseason.

Hours after being named the WNBA's most valuable player, Maya Moore scored 24 points to help the beat the Stars 88-84 Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals.

Minnesota led by 15 with 9 minutes to go before the Stars went on an 18-2 run to go ahead, 73-72 lead with 4:12 to play. However, Seimone Augustus scored six of her 16 points in the final 2:11 as Minnesota recovered to pull out the win.

''I was happy for a large part of the game, then something bad happened. Up 70-55 we kind of had them right where we wanted and then the bottom fell out defensively,'' said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, crediting Augustus, who has battled knee problems this season, for righting the ship. ''Mone was big. Those last three baskets were huge for us.''

Game 2 of the best-of-3 series is at San Antonio on Saturday night.

Kayla McBride scored 21 points to lead the Stars. Becky Hammon scored 14 of her 17 in the second half, including a spinning shot with 1.9 seconds left that pulled the Stars within two.

''She wants to keep playing in a big way,'' Stars coach Dan Hughes said of Hammon, who will retire at season's end to become an assistant coach with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. ''I've had a ringside seat for about 50 of those, so that didn't totally surprise me.''

However, Moore made two free throws with 1.3 seconds left and the Lynx beat the Stars for the 18th time in 21 meetings.

After the Stars controlled the game early, Minnesota went on an 8-0 run and led by double digits in the first quarter, capped off by a highlight-reel alley-oop play with Lindsay Whalen passing to Moore for an emphatic bucket.

Then the Lynx struggled, missing eight consecutive shots, and the Stars capitalized and pulled to 24-22. However, the Lynx started making shots again and increased their lead to 14 before taking a 40-30 advantage at halftime.

Moore led all first-half scorers with 13 while McBride had 10 for San Antonio.

''I was just trying to come in and give us some energy early by knocking down shots,'' said McBride, a rookie from Notre Dame who was playing in her first playoff game.

Hammon made a driving layup, was fouled, and hit the free throw to put San Antonio ahead 73-72 with just over four minutes left. But it was a short-lived advantage, as Moore hit a layup to put Minnesota back up for good, then blocked McBride's layup attempt on the ensuing possession.

''That's what the playoffs are about,'' Moore said, after Minnesota opened its 10th playoff series in the past four years. ''It's about option 3 and option 4 and who can be more persistent at what they want to get. San Antonio and, especially, Becky will keep working until she gets what she wants, and we had to make it tough on her.

Whalen finished with 11 assists and 10 points for Minnesota, which lost in San Antonio during its last regular season meeting.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Catchings leads Fever past Mystics 78-73 in Game 1

Catchings leads Fever past Mystics 78-73 in Game 1

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) After struggling for nearly three full quarters, Tamika Catchings came through when the Indiana Fever needed her most.

Catchings scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, including several clutch baskets down the stretch, to lead the Fever to a 78-73 win over the Washington Mystics on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Catchings, who endured a lengthy scoring drought from midway through the first quarter to midway through the third, also finished with 10 rebounds and seven steals.

''You have to bring more than just scoring. For me starting off the game slow, even though I wasn't hitting my shots, they were good shots,'' Catchings said. ''Once I started getting more aggressive, we all started getting more aggressive.''

Her clutch play late included a timely steal and several free throws that kept the Mystics at bay, preserving home-court advantage for the Fever in the best-of-three series. Game 2 is Saturday at Washington.

Behind runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in the second quarter, Washington erased a 10-point first quarter deficit to take a 36-30 halftime lead. The Mystics maintained their lead throughout the third quarter before Catchings regained her touch and the Fever turned up their intensity and urgency.

After watching the nip-and-tuck action for the first seven minutes of the final quarter, Catchings took over. In the final three minutes of the game, Catchings scored eight points, including two free throws that helped seal the game for the Fever.

Her seven steals matched a WNBA playoff regulation record. She went 14 for 14 from the foul line, the second-best perfect foul shooting performance in league playoff history.

Catchings needs 21 points to become the league's all-time playoff scoring leader. Her 10 boards helped her pass Lisa Leslie as the WNBA's career leading rebounder in the postseason.

''The thing that's so special about her is that she's so multidimensional,'' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ''She's doing something everywhere. She's a once-in-a-lifetime player and I'm privileged and honored that I've gotten to coach her.''

Ivory Latta scored 17 points to lead the Mystics. Emma Meesseman had 17 points and six rebounds, and Monique Currie added 11 points.

''We've got to give ourselves a chance,'' Thibault said. ''If we can win on Saturday at home, who knows what happens on Monday (in a potential Game 3).''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Maya Moore Wins 2014 MVP

Maya Moore Wins 2014 MVP

NEW YORK, Aug. 21, 2014 -- Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx has been named the 2014 WNBA Most Valuable Player presented by Samsung, the WNBA announced today. Moore received 371 points (including 35 first-place votes) from a national panel of 38 sportswriters and broadcasters.

The press conference for the 2014 WNBA Most Valuable Player presented by Samsung will take places tonight at 6:15 p.m. CT at Target Center in Minneapolis.

This year marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, is serving as the presenting partner of the WNBA’s highest individual honors. The WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program includes the WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, WNBA Rookie of the Year, and the WNBA Players of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards.

For Moore, the reigning MVP of the WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile and the league’s 2011 Rookie of the Year, this is the first regular-season MVP honor of her career. The University of Connecticut product and two-time WNBA champion finished as the runner-up to Candace Parker in MVP voting a year ago and finished fourth behind winner Tina Charles in 2012.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi finished second in the voting with 242 points (two first-place votes) and Atlanta Dream guard/forward Angel McCoughtry finished third with 112 points. Rounding out the top five vote-getters were Los Angeles Sparks forward/center Candace Parker (91 points) and Mercury center Brittney Griner (67 points, one first-place vote), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

This season, Moore guided the Lynx to a 25-9 record and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs, despite the club being without injured All-Stars Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus for 23 and nine games, respectively.

For the regular season, Moore played in all 34 games and paced the league in scoring (23.9 ppg), the third-highest average in WNBA history behind the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg by Diana Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

The WNBA’s top draft pick in 2011, Moore opened the 2014 season by scoring 135 points over her first four outings, marking the most prolific four-game scoring stretch in WNBA history. With that effort, the fourth-year pro became the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points after pouring in 34 points at Washington; 33 vs. Connecticut; a then-career-high 38 at Tulsa; and 30 vs. New York. She went on to finish the regular season with a league-record 12 games of 30-plus points, topping the previous mark of 10 set by Diana Taurasi in 2008.

Moore had perhaps her best outing of the season in a 112-108 double-overtime win over the visiting Atlanta Dream on July 22. In the victory, Moore tallied a career-high 48 points, marking the second-highest single-game total in WNBA history. Four games later, in a 84-75 victory at Tulsa on Aug. 2, Moore posted 40 points to break the league record for the most 30-point games in a single season.

Moore also finished the season ranked atop the WNBA in made field goals (295) and was second in minutes (34.7 mpg) and free throws made (160). Moore placed eighth in rebounding (8.1 rpg), tied for third in three-point field goals made (62), fourth in free throw percentage (.884, 160-of-181), tied for fourth in steals (1.88 spg), sixth in double-doubles (10), and 20th in assists (3.4 apg). In addition to leading her club in scoring, Moore placed second on the Lynx in rebounding and assists, and third in blocks (0.82 bpg).

Moore earned two of the four Western Conference Player of the Month presented by Samsung awards and was named the conference’s Player of the Week five times, becoming the first player in league history to win Player of the Week honors in four consecutive weeks.

Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for third, three for fourth and one for each fifth-place vote received.

In honor of being named the WNBA Most Valuable Player presented by Samsung, Moore will receive $15,000 and a specially-designed trophy.

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Moore, Catchings Named Players of the Month

Moore, Catchings Named Players of the Month

Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever were named the WNBA’s Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Month presented by Samsung, respectively, for games played in August.

The Player of the Month awards, as well as the WNBA Rookie of the Month, are presented by Samsung and are part of the larger WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program. This marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, will present the WNBA’s highest individual honors, including the WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and WNBA Rookie of the Year.

For Moore, the Western Conference Player of the Month presented by Samsung is her third of the season and the fifth of her career. She has now captured five of the past six such honors dating back to 2013.

For the month of August, Moore placed second in the league in scoring (23.0 ppg). Among Western Conference players, she ranked fourth in free throw percentage, (.917, 33-of-36), tied for fourth in blocks (0.86 bpg), fifth in steals (1.43 spg), seventh in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and 10th in assists (3.1 apg).

The 6-0 forward continued her hot shooting, scoring 20 or more points in four of Minnesota’s seven games in August, including two contests of 30 or more points. Moore posted 40 points in a win against Tulsa on Aug. 2, marking her second 40-plus-point game this season, just shy of Diana Taurasi’s career record of three. In the matchup against the Phoenix Mercury on Aug. 9, Moore scored 30 points, extending her WNBA record for 30-plus-point games in a season to 12.

Additional highlights of Moore’s play in August included:

-- Aug. 5 at Indiana: 15 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals in a 66-64 win

-- Aug. 7 vs. Chicago: 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block in a 74-64 victory

-- Aug. 12 vs. Los Angeles: 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal in a 63-71 loss

-- Aug. 15 at San Antonio: 20 points, four rebounds and three assists in a 76-92 loss

-- Aug. 16 vs. Tulsa: 19 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a 80-63 win

For Catchings, a 13-year veteran, the Eastern Conference Player of the Month presented by Samsung is her first of the season and the third of her career.

During August, Catchings led the East in scoring (16.7 ppg), while ranking seventh in the conference in rebounding (6.3 rpg) and sixth in steals (1.67 spg). Catchings led the Fever to a 3-4 record in August, securing Indiana’s spot in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.

In a Aug. 10 meeting versus New York, the 6-1 forward scored 29 points and added four assists en route to a 90-76 victory. Four days later, Catchings posted 15 points, nine rebounds and four steals in a rematch against the Liberty. In her final action of the regular season, Catchings tallied 25 points and nine rebounds, helping Indiana to a 71-67 win against Chicago on Aug. 16.

Additional highlights of Catchings’ play in August included:

-- Aug. 5 vs. Minnesota: 12 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks in a 66-64 loss

-- Aug. 8 vs. Washington: 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal in a 74-61 loss

-- Aug. 10 at New York: 29 points, three rebounds, four assists and one steal in a 76-63 win

-- Aug. 14 vs. New York: 15 points, nine rebounds, one assist, four steals and one block in a 76-63 victory

-- Aug. 16 vs. Chicago: 25 points, nine rebounds and one steal in a 71-67 win

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Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

NEW YORK, August 20, 2014 -- With record-setting game action on the court this season, including the Phoenix Mercury setting the record for most regular-season wins in league history, Maya Moore’s 30-plus points in a record 12 games, and eye catching rookie Shoni Schimmel’s MVP performance at the Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game, basketball fans have responded to one of the WNBA’s most compelling seasons with increased viewership, attendance and digital increases.

The 2014 WNBA regular-season highlights include:

WNBA on TV:

-- The WNBA regular season on ESPN2 averaged 235,000 viewers, up +2% over last season (231,000).

-- The WNBA Draft on ESPN2 was the most viewed in the network’s history, averaging 413,000 viewers, up +9% over last season (379,000)

-- NBA TV had its most viewed WNBA regular season, up +4% over last season, after recording its second most-viewed WNBA Opening Night in its history.

WNBA Attendance:

-- The Phoenix Mercury led all teams in attendance (+11.7%). Just behind Phoenix were the New York Liberty, who posted the largest attendance increase in the league (+25%), and the Washington Mystics (+6.9%). WNBA attendance was up nearly one percent overall, averaging 7,578 spectators per game.

WNBA Social Media:

-- The league’s social media community had record growth with new Twitter followers up almost double and new Facebook likes up five-fold compared to last season. Overall, the WNBA has nearly 7 million fans and followers combined across all league, team and players pages.

WNBA Digital:

-- Fans consumed WNBA content across multiple digital platforms (WNBA.com, WNBA Mobile, WNBA Center Court, team sites), with the league receiving over 37 million pages viewed during the regular season.

-- The WNBA YouTube Channel surpassed 11 million all-time videos viewed (11.2 million), growing 40% since the end of last season.

The 2014 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile begin Thursday, Aug. 21 on ESPN 2 with the Washington Mystics taking on the Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. ET followed by the San Antonio Stars against the reigning champion Minnesota Lynx at 9 p.m. ET. NBA TV will tip off its postseason coverage on Friday, Aug. 22 when the Chicago Sky go against the Atlanta Dream at 7:30 p.m. ET followed by the Los Angeles Sparks against the Phoenix Mercury. All 23 possible postseason games will be airing on ABC, ESPN2 and NBA TV. Information on game tickets and TV schedules can be found on WNBA.com.

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Tulsa's Sims Named Rookie of Month For August

Tulsa's Sims Named Rookie of Month For August

Odyssey Sims of the Tulsa Shock was named the WNBA’s Rookie of the Month presented by Samsung for games played in August. This is her second consecutive Rookie of the Month presented by Samsung honor.

The Eastern and Western Conference Player of the Month awards, as well as the WNBA Rookie of the Month, are presented by Samsung and part of the larger WNBA Performance Awards presented by Samsung program. This marks the first season that Samsung, an official WNBA marketing partner, will present the WNBA’s highest individual honors, including the WNBA Most Valuable Player, WNBA Most Improved Player, WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, and WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

For the month of August, the University of Baylor product led the league in scoring (23.5 ppg) and minutes played (36.6 mpg), placed seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.410) and tied for ninth in assists (4.0 apg). Among rookies, Sims was third in assists and placed second in three-point field goal percentage. Sims scored 20 or more points in five out of the six games and 25 or more in three of those contests.

In a 96-90 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Aug. 5, Sims scored 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field to go along seven assists and five rebounds. In Tulsa’s regular-season finale against the Minnesota Lynx on Aug. 16, Sims collected her fourth 30-point performance of the season, scoring 31 points and connecting on five three-point field goals in a 80-63 loss.

Sims finished her first WNBA season leading all rookies in points (16.7 ppg), assists (4.2 apg) and minutes played (34.4 mpg). Overall, Sims ranked third in the league in minutes played, sixth in points and tied for sixth in assists.

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Race to the MVP: Our Winner Is...

Race to the MVP: Our Winner Is...

Race to the MVP is WNBA.com’s weekly feature wherein we evaluate who’s getting closer to that coveted crown. Last week marked the end of the 2014 regular season, which means that the playoffs are upon us and an MVP will be crowned in the near future. Until then, here are WNBA.com's picks.

NOTE: WNBA.com is not involved in selecting the Most Valuable Player award. The MVP is selected by a national media panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. These selections are compiled by the editors of WNBA.com and not the league as whole.

MVP, MAYA MOORE: Although it was close to the end, Maya Moore finished where she started -- as WNBA.com's selection for MVP. She's been No. 1 on this countdown 12 of 13 weeks (the other one was Diana Taurasi in week eight) and has dominated the league in scoring while leading Minnesota to a 25-9 record and a No. 2 seed in the West. So, it should come as no surprise at all that she is the frontrunner for the MVP.

Maya's resume is highlighted by her first-ever WNBA scoring championship, as she led the league in scoring at 23.9 PPG (812 total). She also ranked first in the league in total efficiency. Defensively, she was third overall in steals and eighth overall in rebounds.

This season, Moore also broke the record for the most games over 30 points in a single season with a dozen 30+ point games, including a career-high 48 point game.

RUNNER UP, DIANA TAURASI: Diana Taurasi had an incredible season. Taurasi, who has previously led the WNBA in points per game in five seasons, finished the regular season leading the league in assists with 5.6 APG. No WNBA player who has ever led the league in scoring has also -- in a separate season or the same season -- led the league in assists per game.

A similar feat has only ever been accomplished by three NBA players as well:

Nate Archibald: scoring leader once and assists leader once (both in 1972-73)

Wilt Chamberlain: scoring leader seven times (1959-1960 through 1965-1966), assists leader once (1967-1968)

Jerry West: scoring leader once (1969-1970), assists leader once (1971-1972)

2ND RUNNER UP, ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: Unfortunately for the Dream (and for Angel), Atlanta lost six out of its last eight games. This season, however, we did see a more versatile Angel McCoughtry who not only scored the ball, but put up some impressive defensive numbers (likely due to the guidance of Coach Michael Cooper.) And still, Angel did lead her team to the best record in the East.

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WNBA Draft Lottery Presented by State Farm to Take Place Live on ESPN2 Aug. 21

WNBA Draft Lottery Presented by State Farm to Take Place Live on ESPN2 Aug. 21

NEW YORK, August 19, 2014 -- The 2015 WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm will be held in Secaucus, N.J., on Thursday, Aug. 21 and televised on ESPN2, the WNBA announced today. The telecast, hosted by Kevin Negandhi, will air during halftime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Washington Mystics and the Indiana Fever (tip-off at 7 p.m. ET). The winner of the Lottery will secure the top pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, to be conducted in April.

The Tulsa Shock, Seattle Storm, Connecticut Sun, and New York Liberty -- all of whom did not qualify for the playoffs this season -- qualified for the lottery.

Tulsa and Seattle, which both finished the year at 12-22, will have the most chances to land the top pick (359 chances each). Connecticut, which ended the campaign at 13-21, has 178 chances via its own finish and another 104 from New York (15-19). Connecticut owns New York’s first-round pick in 2015 following a draft day trade last April in which the Sun received the Liberty’s first round pick next year as well as Alyssa Thomas and Kelsey Bone in exchange for Tina Charles.

Tulsa and Seattle, which both finished the year at 12-22, will have the most chances to land the top pick (359 chances each). Connecticut, which ended the campaign at 13-21, has 178 chances via its own finish and another 104 from New York (15-19). Connecticut owns New York’s first-round pick in 2015 following a draft day trade last April in which the Sun received the Liberty’s first round pick next year as well as Alyssa Thomas and Kelsey Bone in exchange for Tina Charles.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will conduct the draft lottery. The lottery will establish the first four picks of the draft. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round, as well as the second and third round, is determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records from 2014.

Fourteen balls numbered 1-14 will be placed in a lottery machine and mixed. Four balls will then be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that four-ball combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The four balls will then be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated to determine the second and third picks. The team that does not win one of the top three picks will be slotted fourth.

There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. One thousand of those combinations will be assigned to the four non-playoff teams based on their order of finish in the 2014 regular season. The remaining combination will be unassigned. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls will be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated until an assigned combination is drawn.

Only once in history has the WNBA Draft Lottery, instituted prior to the 2002 draft, gone exactly according to the odds. The Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and Chicago Sky, respectively, entered the eighth annual lottery with the most chances to earn the top pick in the 2009 Draft, and came away with, in order, the first, second and third selections.

On two occasions, the team with the fewest chances of earning the top pick has come out on top. The Phoenix Mercury was the first to do so, winning the lottery for the 2007 Draft. The Los Angeles Sparks also overcame the longest odds and earned the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. Phoenix used its No. 1 overall pick in 2007 to take Lindsey Harding of Duke; Los Angeles used its No. 1 selection in 2012 on Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford.

Connecticut won the most recent WNBA Draft Lottery, conducted on Dec. 10, 2013, and subsequently selected Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike first overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. That pick was followed, in order, by Tulsa (Odyssey Sims), San Antonio (Kayla McBride), and New York (Alyssa Thomas).

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Moore, Paris, Taurasi Capture 2014 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

Moore, Paris, Taurasi Capture 2014 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

NEW YORK, August 19, 2014 -- Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx, Courtney Paris of the Tulsa Shock and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury have won the 2014 WNBA Peak Performer Awards for scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively, the WNBA announced today.

The WNBA presents the Peak Performer Awards annually to the players who lead the league in each of those categories during the regular season. Each player will receive a trophy crafted by Tiffany in honor of their accomplishments.

Moore earned her first scoring title with an average of 23.9 points per contest, finishing ahead of Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins, who ranked second (20.1 ppg). For Moore, the 23.9 ppg is the third-best single-season output in league history behind only the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg from Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The fourth-year veteran opened the season by scoring 135 points in her first four outings. That effort -- the most prolific four-game scoring stretch in WNBA history -- also enabled her to become the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points. She went on to finish the regular season with a league-record 12 such games, topping the previous mark of 10 set by Taurasi in 2008.

Moore had perhaps her best outing of the season in a 112-108 double-overtime win over the visiting Atlanta Dream on July 22, when she tallied a career-high 48 points -- the second-highest single-game total in WNBA history -- to go along with 10 boards, four assists, and a pair of steals. Four games later, on Aug. 2 in an 84-75 victory at Tulsa, Moore’s 40-point effort gave her the league mark for 30-point games in a season.

Paris earned the rebounding crown by averaging 10.2 boards per game, more than double that of her previous career high of 4.1 rpg (in 2013 and as a rookie in 2009). The fifth-year pro edged out three-time rebound leader Tina Charles (2010-12) of the New York Liberty, who finished second with 9.4 rpg. Paris’ 13 double-doubles tied for third in the league with the Connecticut Sun’s Chiney Ogwumike, behind co-leaders Glory Johnson of Tulsa and Charles.

Tulsa’s Paris reached double figures in rebounds in 18 games, including five games of 15 or more boards. She set a career high with 16 rebounds against New York on June 10 and equaled that mark again at Washington on July 25.

Taurasi’s 5.606 assists per game (185 in 33 games) paced the league and earned her the distinction of being the first player in WNBA history to have led the league in both scoring and assists at any point in her career (she led the WNBA in points per game in 2006, 2008-11). This year, Taurasi narrowly edged out three-time assists leader Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota, who finished second with 5.559 apg (189 in 34 games).

The 11-year pro led Phoenix to a league-best 29-5 record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. In the process, she helped Phoenix carve out a 16-game winning streak, marking the second-longest streak in WNBA history.

While her career average for assists stands at 4.3 per game, Taurasi’s 6.2 apg a year ago and 5.6 apg this season are the best marks of her career. A University of Connecticut product like Moore, Taurasi dished out five or more assists in 20 games this season, reaching the 10-assist plateau four times, including a season-high 12 vs. Tulsa on June 20.

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Schimmel, Toliver Named Players of Week

Schimmel, Toliver Named Players of Week

Shoni Schimmel of the Atlanta Dream and Kristi Toliver of the Los Angeles Sparks were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Aug. 11 through Aug. 17.

En route to earning the first Player of the Week honor of her career, Schimmel -- the MVP of Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 -- led the Eastern Conference in assists (4.7 apg) and ranked second in scoring (15.3 ppg). The University of Louisville product tied for sixth in the East in three-point field goal percentage (.375, 6-of-16) and contributed 3.3 rebounds per contest as Atlanta posted a 2-1 record for the week and improved to 19-15 overall. The Dream enters postseason play this week as the No 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Schimmel, the Dream's first round draft pick this April, opened her week with a career-best 24 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists against the league-leading Phoenix Mercury on Aug. 13. That outing included a 20-point second quarter, the second largest scoring barrage in one quarter in WNBA history. She then registered 13 points and nine assists in a 92-76 win over Tulsa and closed the week with nine points, two assists, two boards, and a steal at Connecticut.

The rookie concluded her regular season averaging 3.6 apg and 8.3 ppg, third and sixth among rookies, respectively.

Toliver earned her first Player of the Week honor of the season and the second of her career after guiding the Sparks to a 2-1 record for the week as Los Angeles secured the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

The sixth-year pro ranked third among Western Conference players in scoring (18.7 ppg) and tied for fourth in assists (4.0 apg). She also placed second in three-point field goal percentage (.563, 9-of-16) and third in overall field goal percentage (.667, 22-of-33).

Toliver began her week with 29 points, five assists and three boards in a 71-63 road win over the Minnesota Lynx, the No. 2 team in the league. Her 20 second-half points in that game were a key factor in the win that locked up a playoff berth for Los Angeles. She then registered 20 points and six assists in a 77-65 win over the Seattle Storm.

The University of Maryland product finished the regular season averaging 11.8 ppg and 4.1 apg.

Other candidates for the WNBA Players of the Week were Chicago’s Allie Quigley, Connecticut’s Alex Bentley, Indiana’s Tamika Catchings in the Eastern Conference, and Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner, San Antonio’s Danielle Adams and Jia Perkins, and Tulsa’s Odyssey Sims in the Western Conference.

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Results for June 2014

Sancho Lyttle, Nneka Ogwumike Named Players of the Week

Sancho Lyttle, Nneka Ogwumike Named Players of the Week

NEW YORK, June 30, 2014 - Sancho Lyttle of the Atlanta Dream and Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played June 24 through June 29.

For Lyttle, who led Atlanta to a 2-0 mark as the Dream improved its Eastern Conference-leading record to 11-4, this marks the first Player of the Week award of the season and the third of her career. It also marks the third time this season a member of the Dream has earned Player of the Week honors. Erika de Souza garnered the award in week three, while Angel McCoughtry claimed the honor in week five.

For the week, Lyttle ranked fourth in the East in scoring (16.0 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (9.0 rpg), while also ranking in the top 10 in assists (3.0 apg), field goal percentage (.464, 13-of-28), and steals (1.5 spg).

The University of Houston product opened her week with 16 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, and a pair of assists in an 81-79 win at San Antonio on June 26. She then followed that up with another 16-point effort that included seven boards and four assists as Atlanta topped host Indiana, 76-68, on June 29.

For the season, Lyttle ranks second in the WNBA in steals (2.6 spg), fourth in rebounding (9.0 rpg), and 23rd in scoring (11.9 ppg).

En route to earning her first Player of the Week honor of the season and the third of her career, Ogwumike -- the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm and a 2013 All-Star led the Sparks to a 2-0 mark with wins over conference foes Seattle and Tulsa. For the week, Ogwumike tied for first in the West in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and free throw percentage (1.000, 8-of-8), while ranking second in scoring (21.0 ppg) and field goal percentage (.630, 17-of-27).

The former Stanford star opened the week with a 20-point, 11-rebound effort in a 65-57 home victory over Seattle on June 24. She then poured in 22 points and added seven boards in a 92-89 overtime win at Tulsa.

Following her impressive week, Ogwumike now ranks 15th in the WNBA in scoring (14.1 ppg), 12th in rebounding (7.6 rpg), and eighth in field goal percentage (.530, 70-of-132).

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week in the Eastern Conference were Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Chicago’s Epiphanny Prince, Connecticut’s Chiney Ogwumike, New York’s Tina Charles, and Washington’s Emma Meesseman. Additional candidates in the Western Conference were Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner, San Antonio’s Danielle Robinson, Seattle’s Camille Little, and Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins.

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Reeve, Cooper Named All-Star Coaches

Reeve, Cooper Named All-Star Coaches

NEW YORK, June 30, 2014 - Cheryl Reeve, head coach of the Minnesota Lynx, and Michael Cooper, head coach of the Atlanta Dream, will serve as head coaches for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, the WNBA announced today.

Reeve will lead the Western Conference squad and Cooper will be at the helm of the Eastern Conference team on July 19 at US Airways Center (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET). This marks the second such honor for Reeve and the third for Cooper. Reeve led the Western Conference squad in 2013 while Cooper led the West in 2002 and 2003.

Under WNBA guidelines, the coach of the previous season's conference champion serves as the All-Star coach for that conference, provided that the coach remains in the same position. With that, Reeve, who guided the Lynx to the 2013 WNBA title, has earned her spot on the West bench.

Since Fred Williams, head coach of the 2013 Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream is now at the helm in Tulsa, the East head coach was selected based on the club with the best winning percentage through games on June 29. With a current mark of 11-4 (.733), Atlanta’s Cooper has secured the honor.

Starting lineups for the game are determined by fan participation via the 2014 WNBA All-Star Balloting presented by Boost Mobile. The WNBA will announce the starters on July 8 during the nationally televised game on ESPN2 featuring the Los Angeles Sparks at the Minnesota Lynx (9 p.m. ET). Reserves, which are voted on by the WNBA’s head coaches, will be announced on ESPN2 on July 15 during the game between the Sparks and the Indiana Fever (8 p.m. ET).

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Lynx hang on to beat Storm, 74-69

Lynx hang on to beat Storm, 74-69

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Janel McCarville scored a season-high 22 points and the short-handed Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm 74-69 Sunday night.

Maya Moore added 14 points for the Lynx (12-5), who have won three of four. Devereaux Peters had 12 points and Lindsay Whalen scored 10. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota's second leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, missed the game due to bursitis in her left knee.

Sue Bird scored 21 points to lead Seattle (7-11) and Jenna O'Hea added 14.

Minnesota led by nine early in the fourth quarter before Seattle pulled within one.

Whalen made a jumper with 1:14 to go, but Angel Robinson countered down low with 51.9 seconds left to make it 69-68.

After Whalen missed a jumper with 36.9 seconds to play, Robinson was all alone underneath but missed a layup with 20.9 seconds left.

However, Whalen and Moore combined to make five free throws in the final 15.3 seconds to help the Lynx get the win.

The teams split their home-and-home series, with the Storm winning 81-71 at Seattle on Friday.

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McCoughtry has 20, Dream top Fever 76-68

McCoughtry has 20, Dream top Fever 76-68

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Angel McCoughtry scored 12 of her 20 points in the second half and the Atlanta Dream overcame some sloppy play late to escape with a 76-68 victory over the Indiana Fever on Sunday night.

A series of late turnovers cost Atlanta the lead and allowed Indiana (6-9) to go ahead 68-65 with 3:53 to play. But the Dream regrouped and McCoughtry's 3-pointer with 2:04 to play gave Atlanta (11-4) the lead for good at 70-68.

Celine Dumerc blocked Shavonte Zellous' 3-point attempt with 42.8 seconds left and sealed the victory with a layup and two free throws.

Zellous scored 18 points to continue her hot stretch. She had 33 points against Tulsa on Wednesday and 18 on Friday against Phoenix, both narrow losses.

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Griner sets blocks record, Mercury top Shock 80-77

Griner sets blocks record, Mercury top Shock 80-77

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Brittney Griner blocked 11 shots to set a single-game WNBA record and added 21 points to lead the Phoenix Mercury to an 80-77 victory over the Tulsa Shock on Sunday.

''I knew I had a couple of blocks, but I didn't know how many,'' Griner said. ''To do that is pretty big, now I guess I have to try to beat it.''

Lisa Leslie (2004) and Margo Dydek (2001) held the previous record of 10.

''I had a (bad) game against Indiana,'' Griner said. ''I had to come out and play good to help my team.''

Since losing to Tulsa on June 6, Phoenix has won seven of nine games.

''I'm glad we don't play (Tulsa) again,'' Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ''They're a good team. They're young. They have great penetration points from their guards. Skylar (Diggins) is playing great. They are playing hard.

''I actually thought Brittney had more blocks than that. When she started to get more physical and deeper in the paint, that's when she's tough to guard. She came up big for us obviously.''

Penny Taylor went 10 for 10 on free throws to finish with 17 points for the Western Conference-leading Mercury (10-3), who had all five starters score in double figures. Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner chipped in 14 and Candice Dupree had 11.

Taurasi also had eight assists.

''We're talented, we're pretty well balanced,'' the guard said. ''That's how we want to play this year. We're aggressive and confident in what we're doing.

''We're playing with a little more focus. We let Tulsa take it to us last time we were here. Today, we played with a little more energy. "

Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Glory Johnson scored 16 points apiece for the Shock (6-9).

''Tulsa has two good guards in Skylar and Odyssey,'' Taurasi said. ''Glory is getting her game going, and now Courtney has become a force as well.''

The game came down to the final possession. Diggins drew a double team on an inbounds play and launched a contested shot that bounced off the rim and to Dupree. Taurasi cleared the ball into the frontcourt to end the game.

''We played hard,'' Tulsa coach Fred Williams said. ''We're working hard. Every possession we had in the second half came down to a stoppage. Phoenix shot well, made some things with Griner in the post-up game and made it awfully difficult for us to get to the rim.''

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Charles and Pondexter help Liberty hold off Sun

Charles and Pondexter help Liberty hold off Sun

NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles and Cappie Pondexter scored 14 points apiece to help the New York Liberty hold off the Connecticut Sun 67-65 Sunday.

Trailing 63-52 early in the fourth quarter, the Sun rallied behind Alex Bentley and Chiney Ogwumike. Bentley scored seven points and Ogwumike added four during a 13-3 run that made it 66-65 with 2:21 left. Connecticut had three chances to take the lead after Ogwumike missed a free throw that would have tied it, but couldn't convert.

New York (5-11) couldn't extend the lead and the Sun had one last chance at victory after Anna Cruz missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 31 seconds left.

Katie Douglas' shot from the top of the key bounced off the front of the rim with 6 seconds left and Cruz hit one free throw for the final margin.

Ogwumike had 22 points and a career-best 17 rebounds to lead Connecticut (8-8), which had won six straight before dropping its last two games.

Charles and Pondexter led a spirited New York team that had lost six of its past seven games. Pondexter, who was scoreless for the first time in her career in a loss on Friday night, was much more aggressive on offense Sunday.

New York led 56-52 early in the fourth quarter before the two scored seven straight, including a three-point play by Charles and a layup by Pondexter that brought the crowd to its feet and made it 63-52 with 6:52 left.

New York has struggled all season getting off to good starts. The Liberty have constantly found themselves trailing at the half and have been behind by an average of seven points in their losses this season.

On Sunday, they played much better in the game's opening 20 minutes. A balanced offense that saw eight different players score had New York up 34-31 at the break. It was only the fourth time this year that the Liberty have led at the half. They improved to 3-1 in those game. They are 2-10 when they trailed.

New York extended its halftime lead to 48-39 in the third quarter on two free throws by newly signed forward Charde Houston. The Sun rallied behind Ogwumike and closed to 52-47 on a layup by Kelsey Bone with 4.5 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Liberty committed an inbounds violation giving Connecticut a chance to close the gap further, but Pondexter stole the ensuing pass and went the length of the floor, scoring a layup that dropped in the basket just as the quarter ended that made it 54-47.

New York received a scare in the third quarter when Cruz injured her left index finger. She went back to the locker room but came back out on the court for the fourth quarter.

---

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Toliver, Parker rally Sparks past Shock in OT

Toliver, Parker rally Sparks past Shock in OT

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Kristi Toliver came through with big shots in her first game back with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Toliver made two free throws and then hit a 3-pointer to give the Sparks the lead for good late in overtime and Los Angeles held on to beat the Tulsa Shock 92-89 on Saturday.

''That's my job,'' said Toliver, who missed six games while helping Slovakia qualify for the European National Championship. ''That's what I get paid to do. We needed a big basket and that's what I do.''

Nneka Ogwumike had 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field to lead the Sparks (6-8), who recovered for their second straight win after giving up a 15-point lead in the second half. Jantel Lavender had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Candace Parker scored 15 points and Toliver finished with 12.

Toliver's 3 put the Sparks up 87-85 with 1:21 left in the extra period and Los Angeles made five free throws in the final 27 seconds to seal the win.

''It's a good win,'' said Parker, who also scored five points in overtime. ''This is our first back-to-back wins this season. It's obviously great to have Kristi back. She hit some big shots.''

Parker credited the team's defense in the extra period for the ability to overcome struggles this season.

''We were able to get some stops down the stretch,'' she said.

Skylar Diggins scored 29 points for the Shock (6-8), who had won two straight. Rookie Odyssey Sims had 17 points and a season-high 10 assists while Courtney Paris had 12 points and 15 rebounds for her eighth double-double this season.

Los Angeles opened the game with an 11-4 run and led 47-32 at halftime.

Ogwumike left the game briefly in the first quarter after being hit on the nose and returned wearing a facemask.

Tulsa (6-8) struggled early as the Sparks did a good job of limiting scoring touches for Diggins and Sims, who were a combined 4 for 9 from the field in the first half.

''We battled, we just weren't getting the shots to fall early,'' Tulsa coach Fred Williams said. ''We were chasing them most of the first half.''

The Sparks' first-year coach said the team ''laced up the sneakers'' in the second half and started to run.

''We had them on their heels,'' Williams said of Tulsa's 22 third quarter points. ''We got back into it and into a flow.''

Tulsa took its first lead of the game, 69-68 with 8:37 left in the fourth quarter on the first of back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Hooper, who finished with nine points And despite building a four-point lead down the stretch, the Shock couldn't get a good shot off at the buzzer after Lavender's basket with 17 seconds remaining tied the score at 80.

''It came down to one or two shots that didn't fall,'' Williams added.

In OT, the Sparks pulled away at the free throw line, hitting 7 of 10 free throws.

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Little's 31 points lead Storm past Lynx, 81-71

Little's 31 points lead Storm past Lynx, 81-71

SEATTLE (AP) Camille Little scored 13 of her career-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to lead the last-place Seattle Storm past the Minnesota Lynx 81-71 on Friday night.

Little hit 11 of 15 shots from the field, including two 3-pointers, and made 7 of 8 free throws as the Storm beat the Lynx for the second time in three weeks at home.

''I didn't even know I had that many points,'' said Little who broke her previous high of 28. ''I want us to win. We've been having some rough nights.''

Jenna O'Hea tied a career high with 15 points, all on 3s, for Seattle (7-10), which had lost three of four. Sue Bird added 11 points and nine assists, and Crystal Langhorne had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Maya Moore had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Lynx (11-5), which dropped one-half game behind Phoenix atop the Western Conference. Damiris Dantas added 12 points and Lindsay Whalen 11.

The Lynx had won two in a row and three of four but stumbled again at Seattle, which handed them their first loss June 6 after seven wins to open the season.

''We had a nice defensive stand there towards the end of the fourth quarter, but we have to do that consistently and stop their runs,'' said Moore, who scored 20 or more for the fifth straight game. ''That's one of the big differences between our successful times and our tougher times - to be able to stop the bleeding and bounce back a little bit quicker than we have been in some of our losses.''

Seattle led by 14 in the final quarter before the Lynx pulled within six with three minutes left. But the Storm closed out with an 8-4 run.

Little scored eight, including six straight, early in the fourth quarter to help put the Storm up 66-52 with 6:56 remaining.

''She had an amazing night, she really did,'' Storm coach Brian Agler said. ''I was real happy for her. She played well on both ends of the floor. She was really engaged. In a lot of ways she carried us.''

Little downplayed her role.

''I don't play for that,'' Little said about the career high. ''We won tonight. It's not going to say Camille Little won. It says the Seattle Storm won and that's what's important to me.''

O'Hea scored nine and Bird seven to help give Seattle a 56-50 lead after three quarters. O'Hea hit three straight 3s to put the Storm up 47-38 before the Lynx rolled off 10 straight to take a momentary one-point lead.

''Jenna can shoot it,'' Agler said. ''We started playing her more at the 3 spot. We like giving her open looks.''

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Taurasi, Taylor rally Mercury past Fever, 81-76

Taurasi, Taylor rally Mercury past Fever, 81-76

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Phoenix Mercury picked up their intensity in the second half and rallied past the Indiana Fever.

Diana Taurasi scored 23 points, Penny Taylor added 20 and Candice Dupree had 18 to help Phoenix erase a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to beat Indiana 81-76 Friday night.

''Really it was more about effort,'' Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ''We had to play harder. I didn't think we were playing hard as we could and we changed that in the second half.''

Erlana Larkins' short jumper gave Indiana a 52-39 lead midway through the third before the Mercury (10-3) rallied.

Phoenix trailed 61-55 entering the fourth quarter, but Taurasi scored eight points in the final period to finish with at least 20 for the seventh time this season.

The Mercury trailed by 13-points midway through the third quarter, The Mercury finally erased the deficit with a 13-4 run to open the fourth and took a 68-65 lead with 4:32 to play.

With the score tied at 70, DeWanna Bonner stole the ball from Indiana's Marissa Coleman, who was then whistled for a clear-path foul to give Phoenix two foul shots and possession of the ball. Bonner made both free throws and Dupree added a basket to put the Mercury up 74-70 with 2:14 remaining.

''It was a tough game, it just always is when you play Indiana,'' Taurasi said. ''The game is usually really ugly and today was no different. We found a way to play a little bit better towards the end. That kind of was the difference.''

Taurasi earned a flagrant-one foul during the third quarter when she caught Briann January with her right forearm. Then less than a minute later she was issued a technical foul.

Shavonte Zellous led Indiana (6-8) with 18-points, including three free throws with 42.6 seconds left to pull within one.

Phoenix closed out the game with a 3-pointer by Taurasi and four free throws by Bonner.

The Mercury's Brittney Griner was held to a season-low four points - all in the first half.

''Anytime you hold Griner to four points, you're doing really good,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ''Unfortunately, Taurasi and Taylor gave us some fits, and with some help from Dupree.''

The win marked Phoenix's largest comeback win of the season. The previous mark was 12-points against San Antonio on May 23.

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Prince helps Sky hold off Liberty

Prince helps Sky hold off Liberty

NEW YORK (AP) Epiphanny Prince scored 30 points and the Chicago Sky beat the New York Liberty 73-69 on Friday night.

Chicago (7-8) was missing star forward Elena Delle Donne, who is sidelined indefinitely with a recurrence of Lyme disease. The reigning rookie of the year went home to Delaware to recover. She missed five games this month because of the disease before playing against Connecticut on Wednesday. She scored 13 points in the loss, but wasn't feeling well after the game.

Even without Delle Donne, the Sky were too much for the Liberty (4-11) because of Prince. She missed the Sky's first trip to Madison Square Garden back in May as she was taking time to recover from playing overseas in Russia.

The loss was New York's sixth in the past seven games.

Tina Charles led the Liberty with 16 points while Sugar Rodgers added 12. Cappie Pondexter was held scoreless.

The Liberty had no answer for Prince, a New York native. Every time they rallied, she hit a key basket to keep Chicago in front.

New York trailed by 13 at the half before pulling to 71-69 with 45 seconds left. Chicago couldn't get a shot off on its next possession as Courtney Vandersloot traveled just as the shot clock ran out, giving the Liberty a chance to tie it.

Plenette Pierson's driving layup was blocked with 18 seconds left. On the ensuing inbounds, Pondexter caught the ball on the wing and threw up an airball.

Prince hit two free throws to give her 30 points - matching her season high - and seal the win.

With 6 seconds left, Vandersloot took a shot off a hard screen from Pierson and had to be helped off the court.

Prince got the Sky started scoring 13 points in the first quarter as Chicago jumped out to a 25-16 lead. The Sky extended their advantage to 50-37 at the half as Tamera Young took over. She had seven points in the second quarter.

New York showed some fight in the third quarter, opening the period on a 13-2 run to close to 52-50, but the Liberty couldn't tie the game or take the lead. Prince and Young then scored the next nine points to restore the double-digit advantage.

New York closed to 67-65 midway in the fourth after Anna Cruz scored four straight points. Prince answered though, hitting a deep 3-pointer from the wing that made it 70-65 with 3:19 left.

Back-to-back layups by Pierson and Charles made it 71-69 with 45 seconds left.

---

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Meesseman has double-double as Mystics beat Sun

Meesseman has double-double as Mystics beat Sun

WASHINGTON (AP) Emma Meesseman had a career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Washington Mystics to a 69-63 victory over the Connecticut Sun on Friday night.

Kia Vaughn and rookie Bria Hartley scored 12 points apiece for the Mystics (7-9), and Ivory Latta added 10. Meesseman, who tied a career best for rebounding, shot 11 for 14 from the field (79 percent) while the rest of her teammates were just under 30 percent (16 for 54).

Katie Douglas scored 18 points to lead the Sun (8-7), who had won six straight since a 74-66 loss to Washington on June 5. Alex Bentley had 11 points and rookie Chiney Ogwumike added 10. Connecticut was just 3 for 15 on 3-pointers while dropping to 1-5 on the road.

The Mystics got off to a strong start, making their first seven shots to take a 14-2 lead with 6:40 left in the first quarter.

Connecticut, 1 for 4 with two turnovers during that opening stretch, started making its shots and took a 17-15 lead in the final minute of the opening period.

Douglas made two jumpers as the Sun scored the final six points of the first half to take a 33-31 lead at the break.

However, the Mystics started the second half the same way they began the game. Hartley had nine points and Meesseman scored six as Washington used a 17-2 run to take a 48-37 lead with 3:52 remaining in the third.

The Sun pulled within four in the final minute, but Latta made two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining to seal the win.

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McCoughtry, Lyttle lead Dream over Stars 81-79

McCoughtry, Lyttle lead Dream over Stars 81-79

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Angel McCoughtry scored 18 points and Sancho Lyttle had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and the Atlanta Dream held on for an 81-79 victory over the San Antonio Stars on Thursday night.

Tiffany Hayes added 15 points and Erika de Souza 14 points for Atlanta (10-4), which never trailed in winning for the seventh time in eight games. The Dream have the league's best record.

Becky Hammon's 3-pointer capped a 10-0 run that pulled San Antonio within 77-74 with 57.2 seconds remaining.

After McCoughtry made a pair of free throws and Celine Dumerc added another. San Antonio forward Shameka Christon hit a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 80-79, but the Stars were unable to complete the rally.

Dumerc had a point and seven assists in front of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who also is from France.

San Antonio reserve Jia Perkins scored 17 points before leaving the game in the third quarter with a strained right hamstring. Christon added 14 points and Shenise Johnson 10. Hammon finished with eight.

The Stars (7-8) lost their second straight after a three-game winning streak.

Atlanta scored the game's first nine points, taking a 17-7 lead before San Antonio's bench sparked a rally.

The Stars' reserves had 24 of their 42 first-half points, including 11 by Perkins, in cutting the Dream's lead to 45-42 entering the third quarter. San Antonio's bench finished with 52.

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Skylar Diggins Season Timeline

Skylar Diggins Season Timeline

Skylar Diggins has stood out in her second year. Here are some of her best moments so far.

May 17: After a strong preseason, Skylar Diggins tipped off her 2014 campaign with a near triple-double as she scored 20 points and also added nine assists and eight rebounds. The Shock, however, suffered a four-point loss to the Stars.

June 6: On the wrong side of some close finishes, the Shock started 0-5. In their sixth game of the year, Diggins helped lead the Shock to their first victory of the season in a blowout win versus the Mercury, currently the top team in the West. Diggins scored 20 points in the win -- her fourth 20+ point game up to that point -- and also handed out nine assists.

June 13: Diggins showed that she had ice in her veins as she hit a game-winning jumper with 1.9 seconds left to beat the Sparks. This win in a close game appeared to have given the Shock confidence in their ability to close games.

June 15: On a record-setting night for both Skylar and Tulsa, Diggins poured in a career-high 26 points while leading the Shock to its fourth consecutive win, the longest win streak in franchise history.

June 22: Skylar's scoring binge continued near her hometown in Chicago where she set yet another career high in scoring, this time going off for 33 points on 11-for-20 shooting on ESPN2.

June 25: Just days after her first-ever 30-point game, Diggins went off for 32 (23 in the second half) versus the Fever. She also hit a last-second 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. With the 107-102 victory, the Shock became the first team since the Mercury in 2010 to score 105+ points in two straight games.

For all of her heroics and great performances, Skylar checked in at No. 4 amongst West backcourt players in All-Star voting behind only Diana Taurasi, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus and ahead of stars like Sue Bird and Becky Hammon. As of June 26, she is second in the league in scoring (20.5ppg) and fifth in the league in assists (5.2apg).

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Shock rally to beat Fever 107-102 in OT

Shock rally to beat Fever 107-102 in OT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Skylar Diggins made herself right at home - at the Indiana Fever's expense.

The South Bend native and former Notre Dame star scored 32 points in her return to Indiana to help the Tulsa Shock beat the Fever 107-102 in overtime Wednesday night.

Diggins hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and complete a 17-point second-half comeback. She also had seven rebounds and four assists.

''They're very aggressive and tough and they make it tough to get to the basket,'' Diggins said. ''I was just finally able to get some things going, get some baskets in transition and some shots finally started falling down.''

Diggins' 3-point play midway through the overtime period gave Tulsa (6-7) a 102-96 advantage.

The Fever cut it to 102-99 on Briann January's 3-pointer with 2:21 left. But a minute later, Diggins set up Odyssey Sims for a layup that put the game away.

Shavonte Zellous led Indiana (6-7) with 33 points. Karima Christmas added 17 points, and Marissa Coleman had 14 points and eight rebounds.

With Indiana up 93-91 with 7.8 seconds left in regulation, Zellous missed the first of two free throws. She made the second to push the margin to three, and Diggins tied it with her 3-pointer in front of a large group of family and friends at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

''We had the game. We just let them take it right from us,'' Zellous said. ''We weren't as aggressive as we should have been and we allowed them to play comfortable.''

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel and players Lance Stephenson and Chris Copeland attended the game.

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Thomas leads Sun past Sky, 79-69

Thomas leads Sun past Sky, 79-69

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Rookie Alyssa Thomas scored 12 of her 23 points in the third quarter and had 11 rebounds to lead the Connecticut Sun to their sixth straight victory, 79-69 over the Chicago Sky on Wednesday night.

It was Thomas eighth start, and her minutes have increased with starting guard Allison Hightower out with a sprained knee.''

''I'm definitely a lot more confident,'' Thomas said. ''The more we play, the more confident I get. Credit my teammates for helping me to be comfortable out there.''

Katie Douglas added 19 points for the Sun (8-6), Alex Bentley had 12 points and nine assists, and Chiney Ogwumike finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and nine rebounds in her season debut for the Sky (6-8). She missed the first 13 games after having arthroscopic surgery to repair a hip injury.

Elena Delle Donne scored 13 points for Chicago. She missed the previous five games because of Lyme disease.

Down by six at halftime, the Sun opened the second half with a 22-2 run. Thomas scored 10 points during that stretch, and made two free throws to make it 63-47 with 3:19 remaining in the third.

''I thought her and (center Kelsey) Bone really changed things,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ''They found each other. They played off each other really well.

''(Thomas is) a tough match. She doesn't have the quickest feet or the best handle, but she has one of the biggest motors in the women's game.''

Chicago shot 28.6-percent in the second half.

''You always have to give the opposition credit,'' Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. ''I thought we played a little bit slow in that third quarter, especially when you're coming off I think a really nice first quarter in which we put up 30. They broke up the momentum. ... I mean it was 27-10 and at one point 17-2 (in the third quarter). Even the ones they (Sun) missed they got the offensive rebounds, so I credit them for being the aggressor and making things happen.''

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Race to the MVP: Week 6

Race to the MVP: Week 6

Race to the MVP is WNBA.com’s weekly feature where we evaluate who’s getting closer to that coveted crown.

This week saw some huge shifts as Phoenix moved into the top spot in the league with their ninth win. Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins both had career-high performances and Angel McCoughtry made a drive for the top spot, breaking into the top three for the first time this season.

#1 MAYA MOORE

Maya Moore is here to stay. This week she made WNBA headlines with an astounding 36-point and five-steal performance, which leaves her with 23.5 points per game now. (For reference, the highest PPG average was Taurasi's 25.3 in 2006.) That game was her second 30+-point performance in a row and her sixth of the season. She also led the Lynx to two victories following their loss to Phoenix.

#2 ANGEL McCOUGHTRY

Angel McCoughtry has found the proper balance of scoring and slowing it down this season. She is still putting up Angel-like numbers, but has also developed a court sense that makes Atlanta almost unstoppable. McCoughtry and the Dream are now on top of the East and half a game behind Phoenix for control of the league. This week Angel was voted Player of the Week for her 33-point and 10-rebound performance in Atlanta's win over New York.

#3 CANDACE PARKER

Candace Parker is still putting up strong performances despite Los Angeles' continued struggles. This week, however, the Sparks did pull off a big win against Tulsa, where Parker put up 24 points and and grabbed seven rebounds. Unfortunately for the Sparks, if they continue to struggle Candace could slip out of the top three.

#4 DIANA TAURASI

Phoenix had a huge week this week, bumping the Lynx out of the top spot after beating them twice in a row. It almost goes without saying that Taurasi also had a big week with three solid performances in all three of Phoenix's wins. She had a double-double every night with 21 points and 11 assists the first night, 22 points and 10 rebounds the next night, and 14 points and 12 assists the last night.

#5 SKYLAR DIGGINS

Skylar Diggins is no doubt having a breakout season. She had an impressive career-high 33-point game with six steals in Tulsa's most recent win against Chicago. Plus, her numbers have been solid all season. She is averaging 19.5 points and has really taken over this Tulsa team. If Skylar keeps this pace up, she and Tulsa could keep climbing up the ladder.

#6 ELENA DELLE DONNE

Unfortunately for Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky, EDD has missed the last five games due to a Lyme Disease flare-up. Her condition is still considered day-to-day, but she is expected to return as soon as she is considered well enough. Her presence is sorely missed by the Sky, as they have suffered four losses in her absence.

#7 BRITTNEY GRINER

Brittney Griner is also finding herself in the midst of a breakout year this sophomore season. Her last performance was a career-high 27 points and 18 rebounds to beat the Minnesota Lynx and edge them out of their spot atop the Western Conference. She then beat her own personal scoring record for a new career-high 28 points versus Tulsa the next game. She is averaging 17.5 points on the season now.

#8 ERIKA dE SOUZA

Erika de Souza fell quite a bit this week with an uncharacteristic scoring performance. This, however, didn't affect the Dream as Angel McCoughtry picked up some of the scoring slack. The Brazilian center, however, still put up a solid defensive performance with 14 rebounds on Sunday. With the Dream doing as well as they're doing, though, De Souza is still in solid contention for the top spots.

#9 LINDSAY WHALEN

Lindsay Whalen is not to be discounted. She is still No. 4 in assists per game with 5.4. Plus, her scoring numbers have still been consistent. Whalen, however, still has the potential to move much higher up the ladder if she increases her scoring.

#10 TINA CHARLES

Tina Charles' performance fell a little this week as well as the Liberty continue to struggle for Ws. Though she had a 25-point game against Chicago, she only had six and 12 points the following games and her rebounding numbers fell into single digits, which is uncharacteristic for the double-double champ.

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Parker and Ogwumike lead Sparks over Storm 65-57

Parker and Ogwumike lead Sparks over Storm 65-57

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Sparks coach Carol Ross let her team know she was upset after another poor third quarter. By the end of the game she called it their best of the season.

The Sparks held the Seattle Storm to a season low in points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, in a 65-57 win on Tuesday. Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike each had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Parker equaled season-highs with seven assists and four blocks.

Armintie Herrington scored eight points for the Sparks (6-8), who had lost five of their previous six games and moved out of last place in the Western Conference, ahead of the Storm (6-10), after they were outscored 21-16, in the third.

''To me, this was our best game because we had to dig down,'' Ross said. ''They made their run in the third quarter. We were not very good defensively. They were very good offensively with the three-ball. They took a chewing and they made some adjustments and they were able to shut that down in the fourth quarter.

''I think this team found out a lot about themselves today because we didn't do a lot of things well, still, but we were tougher. We found ways to win. That's what great teams do.''

Temeka Johnson led Seattle with 11 points and Jenna O'Hea and Noelle Quinn each had nine. Seattle pulled to 55-50 on Camille Little's basket in the paint with six minutes left but the Storm made only two field goals the rest of the way.

The 57 points were the fewest allowed by the Sparks this season.

''I think we played good defense for the most part, and that's been the trend this season is just playing defense . and then certain plays escape us,'' Parker said. ''But this game we were able to kind of correct our problems and make plays down the stretch and do what works for us.''

Ogwumike made four free throws and Parker made a layup off Alana Beard's steal to put the game away late. The Sparks won despite a scoreless game from third-leading scorer Beard, who went 0-for-7 from the field but recorded six assists.

Seattle made four straight 3-pointers during a 17-8 run to close the third quarter, the last by Quinn to get the Storm to 44-42. Quinn ended the third with a pull-up jumper to pull Seattle to 48-47 but the Storm got no closer.

''I just thought, for the most part, they played with a lot more urgency, toughness, and focus than we did,'' Seattle coach Brian Agler said. ''We did make a run. We sort of hung around for most of the game, had our chances to take the lead, and never could do that. That being said, I think the game was played the way Los Angeles wanted it to be played, and they took full advantage of it.''

Lindsey Harding had six points with three assists and two steals in the second quarter to help give the Sparks a 32-26 lead at halftime. Parker nearly had a double-double in the first half with nine points and eight rebounds.

Storm guard Tanisha Wright missed a third straight game with a bruised knee. Tina Thompson, the WNBA's all-time leading scorer and a former Sparks and Storm player, attended the game.

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All-Star Early Returns

All-Star Early Returns

NEW YORK, June 23, 2014 -- The Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne, who last year became the first ever rookie to lead all vote-getters for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star, is once again setting the pace, leading all players with 16,542 votes following early returns of the 2014 WNBA All-Star Balloting presented by Boost Mobile. Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore -- MVP of the 2013 WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile and a two-time All-Star -- tops the Western Conference and ranks second overall with 16,509 votes.

Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will take place at US Airways Center in Phoenix on Saturday, July 19, and will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).

In addition to Delle Donne -- the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year -- the top frontcourt vote-getters in the Eastern Conference are two-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream (9,736) and former league MVP (2011) and eight-time All-Star Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever (8,341). Leading the way at the guard spots for the East are rookie Shoni Schimmel of conference leader Atlanta (14,635) and Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics (5,974).

Joining Moore as the leading vote-getters in the Western Conference frontcourt are 2013 WNBA MVP and MVP of Boost Mobile All-Star 2013 Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks (13,704) and 2013 WNBA No. 1 overall draft pick Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury (10,214). At the backcourt spots, six-time All-Star and 2009 WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi of Phoenix (10,487) and four-time All-Star and 2011 Finals MVP Seimone Augustus of Minnesota (10,024) are leading the pack.

The WNBA will announce the starters on July 8 during the nationally televised game on ESPN2 featuring the Los Angeles Sparks at the Minnesota Lynx (9 p.m. ET). Reserves, which are voted on by the WNBA’s head coaches, will be announced on ESPN2 on July 15, during the game between the Sparks and the Indiana Fever (8 p.m. ET).

The 60 players included on the ballot represent all 12 WNBA teams. Voters are asked to select two guards and three frontcourt players (forwards and/or centers) from each conference. A write-in option is also available, allowing fans to choose players not listed on the ballot.

Fans can vote for up to 10 players per day on WNBA.com, mobile devices, and the WNBA Center Court App presented by Boost Mobile, and can share those All-Star picks with friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter, encouraging others to cast their ballots as well. Fans also can cast votes on Facebook and Twitter, voting for one player per day using the designated hashtag #WNBABALLOT.

Balloting will conclude at midnight ET on Wednesday, July 2.

Under WNBA guidelines, the coach of the previous season's conference champion serves as the All-Star coach for that conference, provided that the coach remains in the same position. With that, Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, who guided the Lynx to the 2013 WNBA title, will lead the West squad.

Since Fred Williams, head coach of the 2013 Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream is now at the helm in Tulsa, the East head coach will be selected based on the club with the best winning percentage through games on June 29.

Individual tickets for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 start at just $20 and can be purchased online at PhoenixMercury.com/allstar, through Ticketmaster viaTicketmaster.com, by dialing 800-745-3000, or at the US Airways Center Ticket Office. For every All-Star Game ticket sold, the Mercury will donate $1 to its "All-Stars and Stripes" program benefiting local military heroes and their families.

Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2013 took place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., with the Western Conference squad prevailing 102-98. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks scored a record 23 points, while the Washington Mystics’ Ivory Latta and Chicago Sky’s Epiphanny Prince led the Eastern Conference with 15 points apiece. The game also featured the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson -- who was selected to the game for a record ninth time -- making the final All-Star appearance of her career before retiring at season’s end.

2014 WNBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING PRESENTED BY BOOST MOBILE

EASTERN CONFERENCE -- EARLY RETURNS LEADERS

Guards: Shoni Schimmel (Atl) 14,635; Ivory Latta (Was) 5,974; Cappie Pondexter (NY) 5926; Briann January (Ind) 5,341; Courtney Vandersloot (Chi) 4,972; Katie Douglas (Con) 4,182; Kara Lawson (Was) 2,914; Epiphanny Prince (Chi) 2,707; Shavonte Zellous (Ind) 2,256; Matee Ajavon (Atl) 1,556; Anna Cruz (NY) 1,517; Allison Hightower (Con) 1,109

Frontcourt: Elena Delle Donne (Chi) 16,542; Angel McCoughtry (Atl) 9,736; Tamika Catchings (Ind) 8,341; Erika de Souza (Atl) 7,579; Chiney Ogwumike (Con) 6,922; Tina Charles (NY) 5,897; Jessica Breland (Chi) 3,125; Sylvia Fowles (Chi) 2,756; Sancho Lyttle (Atl) 2,525; Erlana Larkins (Ind) 2,151; Marissa Coleman (Ind) 1,794; Emma Meesseman (Was) 1,692; Kelsey Griffin (Con) 1,240; Kelsey Bone (Con) 1,205; Kia Vaughn (Was) 1,180; Essence Carson (NY) 1,099; Monique Currie (Was) 1,044; Plenette Pierson (NY) 900

WESTERN CONFERENCE -- EARLY RETURNS LEADERS

Guards: Diana Taurasi (Phx) 10,487; Seimone Augustus (Minn) 10,024; Lindsay Whalen (Minn) 8,898; Skylar Diggins (Tul) 8,447; Sue Bird (Sea) 4,506; Becky Hammon (SA) 4,216; Danielle Robinson (SA) 2,889; Erin Phillips (Phx) 2,453; Kristi Toliver (LA) 2,119; Alana Beard (LA) 1,641; Riquna Williams (Tul) 1,151; Tanisha Wright (Sea) 790

Frontcourt: Maya Moore (Minn) 16,509; Candace Parker (LA) 13,704; Brittney Griner (Phx) 10,214; Kayla McBride (SA) 6,220; Nneka Ogwumike (LA) 6,129; Janel McCarville (Minn) 5,048; Candice Dupree (Phx) 4,801; Glory Johnson (Tul) 3,329; DeWanna Bonner (Phx) 3,170; Rebekkah Brunson (Minn) 2,932; Crystal Langhorne (Sea) 2,156; Jayne Appel (SA) 2,100; Courtney Paris (Tul) 1,878; Sophia Young-Malcolm (SA) 1,611; Camille Little (Sea) 1,214; Jantel Lavender (LA) 1,181; Shekinna Stricklen (Sea) 1,027; Jordan Hooper (Tul) 996

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Mystics top Stars 81-70 in San Antonio

Mystics top Stars 81-70 in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had 16 points and Ivory Latta 14 points, helping the Washington Mystics snap a four-game skid with an 81-70 victory over San Antonio Stars on Tuesday.

Emma Meesseman had 10 points and 13 rebounds and Stefanie Dolson scored all 10 of her points in the fourth quarter to help Washington (6-9) hold off San Antonio (7-7).

Stars rookie Kayla McBride scored 17 points, Danielle Robinson added 16 points, Danielle Adams had 12 and Sophia Young-Malcolm 11.

Washington shot 50 percent from the field, leading by as many as 13 points behind a strong frontcourt.

After twice making her way into the paint for short jumpers, Dolson sank an 18-foot jumper over Danielle Adams in a personal 10-0 run that put Washington up 73-64 with 4 minutes left.

San Antonio had won three straight to move into third in the West, but lost for the fourth time at home this season.

The Stars shot 39 percent from the field, struggling for much of the game despite having open looks. Robinson made her first three shots, but was the only Stars player to make a basket in the opening 5 minutes.

Washington went on an 11-2 run bridging the first and second quarters, much to the dismay of San Antonio coach Dan Hughes. The Mystics were 3 for 3 on free throws in the run, despite Hughes' protests that ''they're flopping.''

McBride's 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer pulled San Antonio within 36-33. She scored the Stars' first six points in the second half to tie the game at 39.

Young-Malcolm had three three-point plays in the third quarter, drawing contact in the paint while rising for a short jumper each time.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Angel, Griner: Players of the Week

Angel, Griner: Players of the Week

NEW YORK, June 23, 2014 - Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream and Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played June 16 through June 22.

For McCoughtry - who led Atlanta to a 2-1 mark as the Dream improved its Eastern Conference-leading record to 9-4 - this marks her first Player of the Week award of the season and the 12th of her career. The former Louisville star averaged a conference-best 26.0 points for the week, while also contributing 7.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. She also ranked among the conference leaders in free throw percentage (.950, on 19-of-20 from the line).

McCoughtry opened her week by scoring a game-high 27 points and adding six rebounds, four assists, and three steals in an 83-73 home win over the Washington Mystics on June 18. Two days later, she paced the Dream with 18 points and six assists as Atlanta topped the visiting New York Liberty, 85-64, tying a franchise record with six consecutive victories. The sixth-year pro closed out the week on June 22 with a personal season high of 33 points, shooting 10-of-11 from the free throw line in an 85-78 road loss at New York.

On the season, McCoughtry ranks second in the WNBA in scoring (20.3 ppg), third in steals (2.5 spg), and 11th in assists (4.3 apg).

En route to earning the first Player of the Week honor of her career, Griner - the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm - led Phoenix to a 2-0 mark with wins over conference foes Minnesota and Tulsa. For the week, Griner ranked second in the West in scoring (27.5 ppg) and tied for second in rebounding (11.0 rpg). She also paced the West in both field goal percentage (.767, 23-of-30 from the field) and blocks (4.0 bpg; 2.5 more than the second-ranked player), while sharing the lead in free throw accuracy (1.000, hitting all nine shots from the charity stripe).

The former Baylor star opened the week with a monster effort in a 92-79 win over visiting Minnesota on June 18, pouring in a then career-high 27 points and matching her career-high of 18 rebounds, while adding two blocks. The victory, Phoenix’s second in as many tries against the Lynx, came after the club had dropped 10 straight regular-season contests to Minnesota and 14 in a row including postseason play. Two days later, Griner reached a new personal best in scoring with 28 points, and matched her career high with six blocks in a 91-80 victory over the Shock.

Following her impressive week, Griner now leads the league in blocks (3.3 bpg), ranks second in field goal percentage (.600), and is seventh in both scoring (17.4 ppg) and boards (8.6 rpg).

With Griner’s award, it marks the second straight week in which a member of the "3 to See" from the heralded 2013 Draft class earned Player of the Week honors in the West. Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins - the No. 3 overall selection in 2013 - garnered the award a week ago.

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week in the Eastern Conference were Chicago’s Jessica Breland and Epiphanny Prince. Additional candidates in the Western Conference were Minnesota’s Maya Moore, San Antonio’s Danielle Robinson, Seattle’s Sue Bird and Camille Little, and Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins and Glory Johnson.

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Little scores 22 to lift Storm past Mystics in OT

Little scores 22 to lift Storm past Mystics in OT

SEATTLE (AP) After an overtime loss in their last game, Sue Bird and Camille Little were determined to get the Seattle Storm back on the winning track.

Bird hit the tying 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter and Little scored nine of her 22 points in overtime to lead the Seattle Storm in an 89-86 victory over the Washington Mystics on Sunday night.

The Storm (6-9) snapped a two-game skid, including an 87-82 loss in OT to San Antonio on Thursday.

''San Antonio is a game we should have gotten,'' said Little, who shot 3 for 4 in the extra period after going 0 for 7 in the third and fourth quarters. ''We just had to refocus and make sure we pulled out the game tonight and just work on the things we can do.''

Little shot 3 for 4 in the extra period after combing to go 0 for 7 in the third and fourth quarters.

''Every basketball player can get caught up with what happened in the past,'' Bird said. ''Camille, all things considered, did a lot of big things in overtime.''

Bird finished with 21 points, including the tying 3-pointer with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter. Shekinna Stricklen scored 12 points and Crystal Langhorne had 11 against her former team.

Rookie guard Bria Hartley, selected by Seattle and sent to Washington in a draft-day deal for Langhorne, scored a season-high 26 points for Washington (5-9), which lost for the fourth straight time. Hartley's previous high was 20 on June 1 against Los Angeles.

''She's fantastic,'' veteran Mystics guard Kara Lawson said. ''Forget that she's a rookie. She really doesn't have many weaknesses and is really good at every phase of the game. She's a good defender, a really good passer and, obviously as you saw tonight, she's a really good scorer. ... She gave us a lot of offense tonight, which is what we needed.''

Monique Currie added 16 points for Washington and Lawson had 13.

The teams traded the first two baskets of overtime before Little scooped one in while falling to the floor. That put the Storm on top 79-77 with 3:37 left, and they stayed ahead the rest of the way. The lead grew to as many as five points at 84-79 on Little's lay-in with 1:40 remaining.

The Mystics pulled to 87-86 on an uncontested lay-in by Hartley with 10.2 seconds to go. Little hit two free throws less than 2 seconds later extend the lead, and a last-gasp 3-point try from the top of the key by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt bounced off the back of the rim and was still loose on the floor under the Washington basket as the horn sounded.

''What happened Thursday night (in the loss to San Antonio) helped us tonight,'' Storm head coach Brian Agler said. ''I could just see a little bit more grit and determination and persistence down the stretch. Not that we didn't have that the other night, because we obviously had a great opportunity to capitalize then.

''But on big possessions tonight, when they needed a 3-point shot - which was about five or six times - we didn't give them that.''

Seattle shot 43 percent (31 for 72), making a season-high 12 shots (on 24 tries) from 3-point range. The Mystics shot 52 percent (36 for 69), with 8 of 18 on 3s.

''It's just tough - we wasted a really good shooting effort,'' Washington coach Mike Thibault said. ''We haven't had very many shooting efforts where we shoot over 50 percent in the game. We had a few turnovers in overtime that killed us, and they scored on all three. It's a tough one to lose when you play that well.''

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Moore scores 25 to lead Lynx past Fever

Moore scores 25 to lead Lynx past Fever

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Lynx had just one offensive rebound on, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Maya Moore scored 11 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter and had a huge put-back down the stretch to lead the Lynx to an 83-77 victory over the Indiana Fever on Sunday.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Lynx still didn't have an offensive rebound, while the Fever had 11 - which helped them stay in the game despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor. Clinging to a one-point lead with 4 minutes to play, the Lynx finally got the bounce they needed.

Seimone Augustus misfired on a jump shot, but the rebound caromed straight off the back rim to Moore, who was crashing the lane. She tipped it in to put Minnesota ahead 71-68, and the Lynx held on to complete a second-half comeback.

''Those last 5 minutes we didn't get frustrated, we didn't cave, we stayed with it and that offensive rebound was waiting for me,'' Moore said. ''Sometimes it's not going to be as pretty. We always believe that as long as we're on the court there's a chance so we just kept going.''

Augustus and Lindsay Whalen each scored 16 for the Lynx (11-4), who shot 57 percent from the floor but struggled with turnovers and perimeter defense in the first half.

Indiana scored 11 points off 13 Minnesota turnovers, and a flurry of 3-pointers gave the Fever a 41-35 lead at the break.

''We just did some things that just kind of shot ourselves in the foot and made the game harder to win than it should have been,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''We had a heart-to-heart at halftime. We just told them . oh by the way, we're shooting better than 60 percent, so if you would just handle it, we will get easy opportunities.''

Minnesota turned it over just six times in the second half and held the Fever to 3 for 13 from beyond the arc after halftime.

Karima Christmas scored 18 points to lead Indiana (6-6). Shavonte Zellous and Briann January added 16 points each.

''One thing we did was match their physicalness,'' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ''I thought we battled against a really fine team. They have three Olympians. We don't have any.''

Indiana star Tamika Catchings (back) has yet to play this season.

Zellous hit two 3s and Christmas added another during a 12-0 run just before halftime.

The Lynx regained the lead late in the third quarter on a turnaround jumper by Moore, and went ahead for good at 69-67 on a pair of free throws by Whalen.

''We let them kind of dictate a lot of things in the first half. We got kind of out of sorts a little,'' Whalen said. ''I had several turnovers and I just knew we had to come out in the third quarter and have a couple of good possessions. I knew once we got a couple good looks at it and kind of calmed down at halftime we'd be all right.''

Minnesota won its second straight and split a string of six games in 10 days.

''We don't feel sorry for ourselves,'' Reeve said of their tough recent schedule. ''We just go, `Hey, it's hard, but it's hard for everybody at some point.' But we wanted to have an exclamation point to the six games in 10 days.''

Minnesota used a 10-0 run to take a 29-18 lead midway through the second quarter. The Fever responded with a four-point play by January and a 3-pointer by Maggie Lucas to pull with four.

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Stars edge Sparks 72-69

Stars edge Sparks 72-69

LOS ANGELES (AP) Danielle Robinson needed some time to get up to full speed for the San Antonio Stars.

Quiet for most of the game, Robinson scored on a driving layup with 8.4 seconds left to give San Antonio a 72-69 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday. She got the ball at the top of the key and converted from the left side. The Sparks missed a field-goal attempt and were forced to foul on their next possession.

Robinson also scored on a drive to tie it at 69 with 40 seconds left as the Stars (7-6) won their third game in a row.

''Just being confident,'' Robinson said. ''We had a bunch of shooters on the floor, so the floor was spread. If it's Jayne (Appel) screening for me or (Danielle Adams) screening for me, I know that they're going to get a piece of my defense and then it's just me. I'm trying to find an angle to get to the basket.''

Robinson and Adams each scored 13 points, and Becky Hammon had 11. Robinson, who scored a season-high 24 points against the Sparks on June 14, was guarded by defensive specialist Armintie Herrington for most of the game and had only two points in the first half.

But her quickness paid off against a Sparks team that has gone to a bigger lineup without guard Kristi Toliver, who is training with the Slovak national team. San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said he also sees maturation from Robinson at both ends of the floor.

''She's always had great quickness, and she's was very well-coached in college,'' Hughes said. ''But now she's learning to make the right basketball play, and she's increased her ability to shoot the basketball. So this is just not a quick player that penetrates and dishes and dumps.''

Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks (4-8) with a season-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. Candace Parker had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Jantel Lavender had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Ogwumike scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a bank shot that gave the Sparks a 69-67 lead. San Antonio missed its next four shots, and Ogwumike got a block on Adams on another possession.

The Sparks committed a season-high 23 turnovers that the Stars converted into 20 points.

''Way too many of them,'' Sparks coach Carol Ross said. ''I thought when San Antonio went in their zone, it's that old basic fake-a-pass to make-a-pass. We were staring our targets down. We weren't getting hands on balls, and then we were trying to jam it in when people weren't open. We were just forcing. If it don't fit, don't force it. It's just basic basketball. I don't care what level it is. We just weren't very good with decision making in those instances.''

Hammon made three 3-pointers in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter to put San Antonio ahead, 67-62, before the Sparks came back with a jump hook by Lavender and a three-point play by Ogwumike.

Hammon was also kept off the stat sheet early with two points through three quarters before her outburst.

''Obviously Becky's a vet,'' Robinson said. ''To have her presence out there is really nice. In times like that, we really, really need her.''

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Pondexter helps Liberty end skid with 85-78 win

Pondexter helps Liberty end skid with 85-78 win

NEW YORK (AP) Cappie Pondexter scored 23 points to help the New York Liberty beat the Atlanta Dream 85-78 on Sunday, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Trailing 40-29 late in the second quarter, Pondexter took control of the game. She helped New York (4-10) to a 29-6 run over the next 10 minutes. Pondexter moved to more of a facilitator role on offense and the Liberty responded.

New York led 58-46 with 2:23 left in the third quarter before Atlanta (9-4) rallied.

The Dream, who had matched a franchise record with six straight wins, closed to 58-54 after three quarters.

The Liberty led by four early in the fourth before Pondexter hit a 3-pointer and a layup to make it 67-60 early in the fourth. They extended the advantage to 12 before Atlanta closed to 77-72 with 1:11 left on Angel McCoughtry's layup.

Tina Charles hit a foul line jumper just before the shot clock expired to seal the win.

McCoughtry led the Dream with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Sancho Lyttle had 13 points, seven rebounds and five steals for Atlanta.

The game was the second of a home-and-home set between the two Eastern Conference teams. The Dream won the game in Atlanta on Friday night by 19 points.

On Sunday, the Dream built their 40-29 lead late in the first half capped by consecutive baskets by McCoughtry. She finished the first half with 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals. But then Pondexter got New York going as the Liberty scored the final nine points of the first half. Sugar Rodgers had five points during that burst and Pondexter ended the half with two free throws with just under a second left to make it 40-38.

New York kept it up in the third quarter. Leading 44-42, the Liberty scored 14 of the next 18 to take a 58-46 advantage. Alex Montgomery got it started with a 3-pointer and hit another 3 that made it 57-46 with 2:23 left in the period. Plenette Pierson added a free throw on the play.

Rodgers finished with 13 points while Montgomery and Charles each had 12.

---

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Diggins, Shock edge Sky in OT

Diggins, Shock edge Sky in OT

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Skylar Diggins scored a career-high 33 points, Glory Johnson had 22 and the Tulsa Shock beat the Chicago Sky 105-99 in overtime on Sunday in a nationally televised game that showcased the WNBA's pride campaign.

Odyssey Sims added 18 points for the Shock (5-7), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Jessica Breland scored a career-high 26 points and Epiphanny Prince added 24 for the Sky (6-7), who have lost six of seven.

Sky forward Elena Delle Donne, the 2013 WNBA rookie of the year, missed her fifth straight game due to a Lyme disease flare-up.

The Shock was 21 for 27 at the free throw line and 10 of 17 from beyond the arc.

In overtime, Jordan Hooper hit a 3 to give Tulsa a 102-99 lead with 59.7 seconds left. Courtney Paris blocked a Jamierra Faulkner shot and Diggins made a jumper for a 104-99 lead with 32.2 seconds left.

Breland fouled out with 3:21 left as Tulsa led 92-91.

Hooper hit a 3 and Johnson made a layup to cut the lead to 86-85 with 59.3 seconds left in regulation. The Sky's Markeisha Gatling hit a bank shot with 39.8 seconds remaining, but Johnson completed a three-point play to tie it with 19.7 seconds left.

Prince missed a jumper and Breland a putback shot with under a second left.

The pride campaign celebrates inclusion and equality and combats anti-LGBT bias. The WNBA is the first pro sports league to specifically recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender fans to its games.

All 12 teams have a pride initiative, and they are participating in pride festivals and parades, working with advocacy groups and advertising with the LGBT media. Players and staff walked in the Chicago Pride parade and have participated in meet-and-greet events with fans.

''We know the LGBT community, and particularly the lesbian segment of the LGBT community, has been with us since the very beginning, a very, very knowledgeable and passionate segment of our audience,'' WNBA President Laurel Richie said before the game. ''So my job is to always make sure those who are supportive and passionate of the league know we really appreciate them being terrific fans.''

The Shock got off to a strong start and led 27-24 after the first quarter after shooting 5 of 5 from 3-point range.

The Sky held the Shock to 11 points in the second quarter to take a 48-38 halftime lead. Allie Quigley made three 3-pointers during a 10-2 run to put the Sky ahead 34-29. Tulsa shot 5 of 19 and Diggins was scoreless in the second quarter after scoring eight points in the first.

The Shock pulled within two with two minutes left in the third quarter, but Quigley and Faulkner each completed a three-point play and the Sky led 68-62 before the final quarter.

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Griner scores career-high 28 as Mercury beat Shock

Griner scores career-high 28 as Mercury beat Shock

PHOENIX (AP) Brittney Griner scored a career-high 28 points, Diana Taurasi added 14 points and a career-high 12 assists, and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Tulsa Shock 91-80 on Friday night.

Penny Taylor had 19 points, including 10 in the first quarter, for first-place Phoenix (9-3), which led by 15 in the second half before having to hold off the Shock. Tulsa pulled within six in the final 7 minutes.

Glory Johnson had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Shock (4-7), who lost back-to-back nights to Los Angeles and Phoenix after winning four straight.

Tulsa center Courtney Paris added 15 points and 15 rebounds.

Phoenix improved to 5-1 at home and kept Tulsa the league's only team winless on the road at 0-6.

Skylar Diggins, fifth in the league in scoring at 18.9 points per game, was held to 12 on 4-of-15 shooting. She had seven assists.

Coming off a big night on Wednesday in a win over Minnesota, Griner shot 12 for 14 from the field, grabbed four rebounds and added six blocked shots.

The second-year standout had a then-career-best 27 points and career high-tying 18 rebounds against the Lynx.

The teams split their first two meetings this season, each having won at home.

The Mercury led by as much as 11 in the first half but Tulsa closed to 45-38 at the break, led by Johnson's 12 points.

Sparked by Taurasi's four-point play, the Mercury ran off a 16-4 spurt in the third quarter to open up a 65-50 lead with 3:30 left.

However, Tulsa bounced back with its inside game as Paris got a couple of easy putbacks to pull the Shock to 66-59 going into the final period. The margin could have been closer but Jennifer Lacy missed three of four free throws in the final minute of the quarter.

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Moore, limping Augustus lead Lynx past Mystics

Moore, limping Augustus lead Lynx past Mystics

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After limping across the locker room and painfully sitting down on the chair in front of her locker, Seimone Augustus was still somehow able to smile.

Playing with an injury that hurt with every step she took, Augustus scored 19 points and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Washington Mystics 75-65 Friday night.

''I gotta do what I gotta do,'' she said. ''Fifty percent of me is better than none of me on the court just to be able to be out there and help my team. It's tough, but I'm just excited to be out there.''

Augustus returned after missing Wednesday's loss in Phoenix due to left knee bursitis.

''It's not really the knee, it's below the knee,'' said Augustus, who estimated the pain level at an eight or nine. ''It's pretty painful.''

Maya Moore had 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to help the defending champion Lynx (10-4) win for the second time in five games. Lindsay Whalen scored 12 points.

Kia Vaughn had 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for Washington (5-8), which lost its third straight and sixth in seven. Kara Lawson added 14 points.

Showing no signs of caution, Augustus made a 3-pointer, then scored on a spin move for a bucket in the opening minutes.

''She's a leader,'' Moore said. ''She just sets the way and leads the way of how you carry yourself when you play through pain. It fires me up and everybody else up.''

Eight points by Moore - including two 3-pointers - and six points by Augustus keyed a 26-7 run bridging the first and second quarters to give the Lynx a 35-18 lead.

Kara Lawson made two 3s and Bria Hartley scored four points as Washington countered with a 16-4 run to get within five points before Minnesota scored the final four points of the quarter for a 43-34 halftime lead.

Moore scored on a turnaround, Augustus hit a jumper and Moore made a driving layup to put the Lynx up 55-42 in the third quarter. A 3 by Moore and a jumper from Augustus put Minnesota up 65-51 early in the fourth.

''I'll take Seimone on a bad day any day of the week, twice on Sunday,'' Minnesota center Janel McCarville said.

Washington pulled within nine on a jumper by Hartley with 3:08 to play, but got no closer.

''I'm not walking out of here as frustrated as you might think after a loss just because the things we've been working to get better at we did a little better,'' Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. ''We've been turning it over too much and we didn't tonight.''

The Mystics had nine turnovers, just two in the second half.

However, long-distance shooting remains an issue. Washington, which entered the game shooting a league-worst 29.8 percent from beyond the arc, was 5 for 23.

''We're awful right now,'' Thibault said. ''We have good 3-point shooters who are not making shots. ... Teams right now have decided they're going to make us shoot those shots.''

Gutting out a win at home was crucial for the struggling Lynx, who host Indiana on Sunday in the last of a six-games-in-10-days stretch.

''We've got a tired group. We feel like we're running in mud and we told them we just got to keep fighting and get through it,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.

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Christmas scores 14 as Fever beat Sky 83-75

Christmas scores 14 as Fever beat Sky 83-75

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Karima Christmas scored 14 points to lead a balanced Indiana offense as the Fever beat the Chicago Sky 83-75 on Friday night.

Natasha Howard, Erlana Larkins and Shavonte Zellous added 13 points each for the Fever (6-5). Marissa Coleman scored 12 points.

Epiphanny Prince had 18 points and Jessica Breland scored 16 for the Sky (6-6), who have lost five of six.

Both teams were without star players. Sky leading scorer Elena Delle Donne missed her fourth straight game due to a Lyme disease flare up. Chicago's Sylvia Fowles (hip) and Indiana's Tamika Catchings (back) have yet to play this season.

Breland hit a jumper to cut Indiana's lead to 75-73 with 1:05 left.

Larkins answered with a layup to extend the Fever's lead to four with 41.3 seconds remaining. After a Chicago turnover, Zellous made a driving layup with 29 seconds left.

Prince responded with a jumper to make it a four-point game again 6 seconds later.

However, the Fever made four free throws in the final 22 seconds to seal it.

The Fever finished 28 for 35 from the free-throw line. They shot 41.5 percent from the field to the Sky's 49.3 percent. Chicago was 7 of 16 on free throws.

The Sky opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run and led 59-58 before the final quarter.

The Fever led by 10 in the second quarter before the Sky rallied. Prince's layup tied the game at 38 with 2.3 seconds left before halftime but she missed her free throw. On the rebound, Indiana's Natasha Howard was fouled and made both free throws to put the Fever up 40-38 at the break.

The Fever led 19-17 after the first quarter. The Sky scored the first six points before Indiana went on a 13-2 run.

The Fever improved to 28-7 in the regular season against the Sky. Indiana also swept Chicago in the first round of playoffs last season.

Chicago rallied from 18 points down to beat Indiana 74-71 on May 16 in the season opener.

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McCoughtry scores 18 to lead Dream past Liberty

McCoughtry scores 18 to lead Dream past Liberty

ATLANTA (AP) Angel McCoughtry scored 18 points and had plenty of help as the Atlanta the Dream rolled to an 85-64 win over the New York Liberty on Friday night for their sixth straight victory.

Five Atlanta players scored in double figures even though playing time was limited for starters in the fourth quarter as the Dream took a 70-53 lead into the final period. Tiffany Hayes finished with 16 points for Atlanta (9-3), rookie reserve guard Shoni Shimmel scored 14, Erika de Souza had 11 and Aneika Henry 10.

Former Georgia Tech standout Alex Montgomery led New York (3-10) with 11 points and DeLisha Milton-Jones had 10. The Liberty lost their fifth straight.

New York's leading scorers, Tina Charles (averaging 17.3 points per game) and Cappie Pondexter (15.9), were held to six points each on a combined 6-for-20 shooting. That was a season low for Charles.

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Parker scores 24 in Sparks' 87-77 win over Shock

Parker scores 24 in Sparks' 87-77 win over Shock

LOS ANGELES (AP) Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks were glad to put their longest losing streak in three years behind them.

Candace Parker scored 24 points and the Sparks snapped a four-game losing streak with an 87-77 win over the Tulsa Shock on Thursday night.

Parker scored 16 of the Sparks' 25 third-quarter points and finished with seven rebounds and six assists. Alana Beard added 20 points and Jantel Lavender had 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as the Sparks (4-7) ended their longest skid since they lost four in a row in 2011.

''After losing four, you kind of forget the feeling of what it is to leave a game and win,'' Parker said. ''I think it feels good, but don't think that this won the championship or anything like that. But it's a good start.''

Parker scored the final seven points of the third quarter for the Sparks, including a pair of free throws to put them ahead, 70-49. She made eight of 10 free throw attempts in a ragged third quarter that included 11 fouls by Tulsa.

The Shock took a 50-43 lead early in the third before Los Angeles pulled away on a 12-2 run. The Sparks outscored Tulsa 25-16 in the third after being outscored 29-16 and 32-15 in the third quarters of the previous two games.

''We know that we play really well closing out games,'' Lindsey Harding said. ''We're strong. We fight. We know that. We had this mentality that we've got the fourth quarter. We just need to really focus on the third.''

The Sparks avoided their worst start since they went 3-8 in 2010.

''Obviously this is a great win, a great step,'' Harding said. ''But there is a lot of stuff for us to work on.''

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike left the game with a bruised nose after she was hit underneath the basket with 5:37 left in the third quarter. She will be re-evaluated Friday, a team official said.

Glory Johnson had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Skylar Diggins added 16 points for Tulsa (4-6), which saw its four-game winning streak end.

The Shock never got within single-digits in the fourth quarter but did outscore the Sparks 25-16 in the final 10 minutes. Tulsa's streak was its longest since it relocated from Detroit.

''Tonight we got beat by a team that really wanted to get a victory, and we wanted to keep the streak,'' Tulsa coach Fred Williams said. ''Playing against the Sparks, it's not easy to play against them on the road, but that will change.''

Lavender had 14 points and Beard 13 on a combined 12-for-18 shooting to help the Sparks take a 46-36 lead at halftime. Parker largely stayed on the perimeter and had eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

Diggins did not make a field goal until hitting a floater with 5:37 remaining in the second quarter, but finished with 10 points in the first half. She made four straight baskets and Jordan Hooper made a 3-pointer to get Tulsa to 40-34 before the Sparks ran off six of the final eight points of the first half.

The Sparks took a 29-18 lead after the first quarter and Parker made a 3-pointer to give the Sparks their biggest lead of the first half at 32-18.

NOTES: Sparks guard Kristi Toliver missed a fourth straight game because she is training with the Slovakian national team and likely won't be available until the end of this month. ... Los Angeles Lakers guard Jodie Meeks attended the game.

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Results for July 2014

Moore, Lynx end Mercury's 16-game win streak

Moore, Lynx end Mercury's 16-game win streak

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) With the WNBA playoffs about three weeks away, the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury gave a peek at what the postseason could bring.

Maya Moore scored 20 points to power the Lynx to a 75-67 victory Thursday night, snapping the Mercury's franchise-record 16-game win streak.

Seimone Augustus added 19 points for Minnesota (21-6), which won its eighth straight.

''We kept believing, stayed with it, kept sharing the ball,'' Moore said after the Lynx shot just 38 percent but frustrated the Mercury with defense. ''Nobody was trying to individually do it on their own.''

The teams have clinched the top two spots in the West and home-court advantage in the first round. Phoenix, which won the first two matchups, had its lead for the top seed cut to 1 1/2 games.

Brittney Griner scored 18 points for the Mercury (22-4), who lost for the first time since June 12. Phoenix's streak was the second-longest in WNBA history, trailing only Los Angeles' 18-game run in 2001.

Phoenix came in leading the league at nearly 50 percent shooting from the field, but was just 37 percent (25 for 68) against the Lynx - led by Diana Taurasi's 5-for-21 effort.

''You won't see Diana shoot like that very often, but she also got a lot of attention,'' Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. ''Could she have gotten a few more calls? Yes, definitely. Maybe we'll get them next time. But she's a competitor. She'll bounce back.''

Taurasi finished with 10 points, going 0-of-7 on 3-point attempts, and was whistled for five fouls, including a technical. She offered some sarcastic commentary on the physical nature of the game.

''We've got to get better at football. We will,'' she said. ''If we have to put our helmets on, that's what we're going to have to do from here on out. Like I said, we'll be ready to play football next time.''

After missing their first seven shots, Minnesota used an 11-0 run to take a 21-10 lead into the second quarter. It was quite a change for the Mercury, who have been burying teams early over the course of their record hot streak.

''I remember thinking that we were very fortunate, because if our defense wasn't as good as it was, and we're not making shots, we've got a problem,'' Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''Every time you play Phoenix, the first quarter is really important. These guys have had double-figure leads in the first half almost every time they've played in this streak. So we were really locked in.''

By halftime, Phoenix had cut the Lynx lead to 39-36 thanks to 12 points from Griner and 11 from Penny Taylor, who finished with 16. Lindsay Whalen scored Minnesota's last six points of the first half, leading the team with nine at the break.

The Lynx led 52-51 at the start of the fourth quarter, but found some breathing room near the seven-minute mark when Moore hit back-to-back 3s to open up a 12-point advantage.

Taurasi's jumper with 1:28 to play pulled the Mercury to 69-65, but they would get no closer.

The Lynx visit the Mercury on Aug. 9 in the teams' final regular-season meeting.

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Fowles, Quigley lead Sky past Liberty 87-74

Fowles, Quigley lead Sky past Liberty 87-74

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Elena Delle Donne is happy to be playing again and the Chicago Sky are glad to have her back.

Delle Donne, playing for the first time since June 25 while dealing with a recurrence of Lyme disease, scored 10 points in the Sky's 87-74 victory over the New York Liberty on Thursday night.

''It's just awesome to be back with the team competing,'' said Delle Donne, who shot 3 for 8 from the field in about 10 1/2 minutes. ''I feel really good and I'm happy we were able to keep the minutes down because it's something I'm going to have to build on.''

Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and 14 rebounds, reserve guard Allie Quigley also scored 16 and Jameirra Faulkner added 14 to help Chicago (11-16) snap a two-game skid and move a half-game behind New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

''It was definitely emotional having her back,'' Fowles said. ''So you go out there with an extra edge.''

Tamera Young had 12 and Epiphanny Prince 11 for the Sky.

Tina Charles scored 15 points, Cappie Pondexter had 14, and Avery Warley-Talbert and Plenette Pierson had 10 apiece for the Liberty (11-15), who have lost two of their last three.

Leading 65-61 entering the fourth quarter, Chicago scored seven consecutive points to take a double-digit lead with 7:41 left.

New York got no closer than nine again.

Delle Donne tied the score at 43 with her first field goal of the game, with 7:03 to go in the third quarter. She added a 3 pointer 43 seconds later as Chicago went on to give the Sky the four point lead heading to the final period.

Delle Donne, the 2013 WNBA rookie of the year, missed 17 of the Sky's previous 18 games. She missed five games starting on June 10, played 17 minutes and scored 13 points on July 25 against Connecticut and then missed the next 12 games.

The Sky lost 12 of 17 in her absence and eight of their last 10 coming in.

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Delle Donne Set to Return

Delle Donne Set to Return

CHICAGO, July 31, 2014 - Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne will be available for tonight's game against the New York Liberty. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. CT at Allstate Arena. Fans can watch the game on The U Too and WNBA Live Access.
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West Powers Collide: What's At Stake in Thursday's Mercury vs. Lynx Showdown

West Powers Collide: What's At Stake in Thursday's Mercury vs. Lynx Showdown

It doesn't get much bigger in the WNBA's regular season than Thursday night's matchup between the 22-3 Phoenix Mercury and 20-6 Minnesota Lynx (NBA TV, 8 PM ET).

The game will feature: two teams that have won a combined 42 of the 51 games they've played this season, including 23 straight; a team that has won two of the past three WNBA titles against a rising potential dynasty; six of this year's 12 West Conference All-Stars; and this season's top scorer and the league's No. 2 all-time leading scorer - to rattle off just some of their credentials.

Here's what's at stake in Thursday's showdown in Minneapolis:

1. West Conference Supremacy

Phoenix sits 2.5 games ahead of Minnesota at the top of the West, with the East's Atlanta Dream trailing behind by 3.5 games for the WNBA's best record. Just 18 days remain in the regular season, and gaining the top seed and home court advantage in the playoffs would make either team instant favorites: They are both virtually unbeatable at home, with matching 12-1 records.

2. A Pair of Winning Streaks

The last time either the Phoenix or Minnesota lost was 25 days ago. But it's the Mercury - riding a 16-game winning streak, the second-longest ever in the WNBA - who are putting history on the line on Thursday, three victories away from surpassing the 2001 Sparks' record 18-game streak.

The Lynx have won a more modest seven straight, but are capable of extending that run into the playoffs if they can get past Phoenix.

3. Points in the MVP Race

Maya Moore, in the midst of one of the greatest individual seasons in WNBA history, has been the MVP favorite since opening night. And she's cemented that status with each scoring outburst, from her four straight 30+-point games to kick off the season to her 48-point special nine days ago. Yet all-time great Diana Taurasi has been narrowing the gap by the day. There's no better way to state her case for her second MVP trophy than by defeating Moore's Lynx for the third time this season and gaining the upper hand for the league's best record.

4. Even More History

The best of the rest: Phoenix is aiming for the winningest season in league history, needing to win seven of its last nine games to surpass the current record of 28.

Mercury center Brittney Griner is 18 blocks away from breaking Margo Dydek's single-season record of 114; her current 3.9 blocks per game average would surpass Dydek's record 3.8 in 1998.

Moore's scoring average of 24.3 points per game would rank second all-time to Taurasi's 25.3 in 2006. She would need to average just under 29 points over her next eight games to pull it off.

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Mercury cruise past Sparks for 16th straight win

Mercury cruise past Sparks for 16th straight win

PHOENIX (AP) Diana Taurasi scored 17 points to help the Phoenix Mercury cruise to their 16th straight win, 90-69 over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.

The win gave Phoenix (22-3) the second-longest win streak in league history, passing Houston's 15-game streak in 1998 and moving two games shy of the WNBA mark of 18 straight by Los Angeles in 2001.

Candice Dupree had 16 points and nine rebounds while Brittney Griner added 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots for the Mercury. Taurasi and Griner both sat out the fourth quarter.

The Mercury also won their 11th straight at home, tying a franchise mark set in 1999.

Nneka Ogwumike had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Sparks (12-15), who are now 2-3 since general manager Penny Toler took over as coach during the All-Star break. Los Angeles has lost four of six overall.

The Sparks played for the second consecutive game without leading scorer Candace Parker, who remained in California nursing a left knee strain.

Kristi Tolliver added 14 points and seven assists for the Sparks, who kept it close for more than a half.

Phoenix used a third-quarter run to break open a three-point game at halftime. The Mercury scored 12 straight points, using its break and scoring twice off of steals, to take a 62-45 lead with 3:08 left in the period.

Phoenix led 66-51 going into the fourth quarter and did not allow Los Angeles to get any closer than 11 points.

The Mercury, who lead the league in scoring and hold opponents to the fewest points, were 39.5 percent from the field while allowing Los Angeles to shoot 58 percent although Phoenix still led 42-39 at the break.

Los Angeles scored eight straight points in the first quarter to take a 24-20 lead. The Sparks held the league's best offensive team to 7-for-21 shooting. However, Taurasi and Shay Murphy hit 3-pointers during a 10-0 run that gave Phoenix a 32-27 lead with 6:20 left in the first half.

Phoenix has beaten Los Angeles in its previous three meetings earlier this season.

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McBride scores 16 as Stars beat Sky 92-74

McBride scores 16 as Stars beat Sky 92-74

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kayla McBride scored 16 points to lead a balanced offense and the San Antonio Stars rolled to a 92-74 victory over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night.

Danielle Adams had 14 points, Sophia Young-Malcolm added 12 and Shenise Johnson 11 for San Antonio (13-14). Jia Perkins scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting in her first game in a month.

Epiphanny Prince had 23 points, Jamierra Faulkner added 16 and Sylvia Fowles scored 14 for Chicago (10-16).

The loss, combined with New York's 80-76 overtime victory against Washington, dropped the Sky 1 1/2 games behind the Liberty for the East's fourth and final playoff spot.

Trailing 48-37 at the break, Chicago opened the second half on a 9-4 run before veterans Hammon and Young-Malcolm helped San Antonio regain its footing. The Stars led 70-56 lead entering the fourth.

Each team made its first four shots and combined to shoot 62 percent from the field in the opening period.

Prince had all but one of the Sky's first four baskets and Becky Hammon capped the Stars' run with a 3-pointer to give them a 9-8 lead with 7:47 left in the first quarter.

Prince had 16 points in the first quarter, going 6 for 7 on a series of midrange jumpers and drives, but had only seven points the rest of the game.

San Antonio had 10 assists on its 11 baskets in the first quarter and finished with 27 assists.

Johnson's 3-pointer gave San Antonio a 34-24 lead with 7:38 remaining in the half.

Chicago cooled after a hot start, going scoreless for nearly 5 minutes bridging the first and second quarters as San Antonio built a 36-24 lead.

After missing 11 games since straining a hamstring June 26 against Atlanta, Perkins received a loud ovation upon entering 3 minutes into the second quarter. She missed her first 3-point attempt before making her next two and a running jumper to give San Antonio a 44-29 lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.

The Sky are still without starters Elena Delle Donne and point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who is out with a knee injury. Delle Donne, who has missed all but nine games due to Lyme disease, could return for Thursday's home game against New York.

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Sims scores 21 to lead Shock past Storm, 80-74

Sims scores 21 to lead Shock past Storm, 80-74

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Odyssey Sims scored 21 points, Glory Johnson had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and the Tulsa Shock beat the Seattle Storm 80-74 Tuesday night.

Roneeka Hodges added a season-high 16 points and Skylar Diggins had 11 to become the Shock's single-season scoring leader with 564 points. Johnson's double-double was her 15th of the season for Tulsa (10-17).

Sue Bird scored 15 points and Tanisha Wright added 14 for Seattle (9-19). Camille Little and Crystal Langhorne had 13 points apiece.

Diggins entered the game needing seven points to become the franchise's single-season scoring leader. Deanna Nolan held the previous mark of 559, set in 2009 when the team was still in Detroit.

Diggins struggled to get any offense going in the first half, as the second-year guard was 1 for 5 from the field with four points. Diggins made a 3-pointer to open the second half to break Nolan's record.

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Charles, Rodgers help Liberty beat Mystics in OT

Charles, Rodgers help Liberty beat Mystics in OT

NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles scored 23 points, Sugar Rodgers had five points and two huge defensive plays in overtime, and the New York Liberty beat the Washington Mystics 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Liberty (11-14) blew a 15-point lead in the third quarter before pulling out their fourth win in five games.

Trailing 73-71 in the extra period, Plenette Pierson made a tying jumper with 2 1/2 minutes left. Rodgers then scored five straight, hitting a deep 3-pointer and a runner to put New York up 78-73 with 1:02 to go.

Bria Hartley, who sent the game into OT with a tying layup with 0.6 seconds remaining in regulation, made a 3 with 56 seconds to go. Pierson made two free throws with 9.9 seconds left and Rodgers came up with two jump balls in the final seconds to seal the win.

Kia Vaughn had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mystics (13-14), snapped a four-game winning streak.

Washington coach Mike Thibault's young team had a great rally to even send this game to overtime.

New York led 56-41 with 1:24 left in the third quarter before the Mystics got it going. Ivory Latta hit a 3-pointer to start a 25-10 run and Stefanie Dolson tied the score at 66 with 1:55 remaining. Charles answered with a runner in the lane to give New York the lead. After Washington came up empty on its possession, Anna Cruz hit a jumper from the corner to make it 70-66.

Washington wasn't done as Kara Lawson converted a three-point play with 22.7 seconds left. After New York turned over the inbounds pass, Rodgers stripped Monique Currie and hit a free throw to make it 71-69.

Both teams are in the thick of the playoff race. New York is in fourth, a game behind Washington, which was trying to move above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2010 when the Mystics finished first in the Eastern Conference.

New York led 23-18 in the second quarter before scoring 10 straight points to build a double-digit lead. The Liberty led 40-26 in the closing seconds of the half before Latta stole the ball and scored to give Washington a little momentum. The Liberty seized it right back as Alex Montgomery swished a 3 from beyond half-court at the halftime buzzer to make it 43-28.

---

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg .

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McCoughtry's 25 points lead Dream past Sun 89-80

McCoughtry's 25 points lead Dream past Sun 89-80

ATLANTA (AP) Angel McCoughtry rediscovered her shooting touch with 25 points Tuesday, helping the Atlanta Dream snap a four-game losing streak with an 89-80 win over the Connecticut Sun.

Atlanta (16-9) remains in first place in the Eastern Conference, 3 1-2 games ahead of Washington. McCoughtry shot 10-for-16 from the field and Tiffany Hayes added a career-tying 23 points in a matinee game in Philips Arena.

Kelsey Bone led Connecticut with 18 points and 13 rebounds, rookie Alyssa Thomas added 17 points and Chiney Ogwumike had 16, but the Sun (10-17) lost their fourth straight game.

Atlanta won its first game under assistant coach Karleen Thompson. The Dream lost three straight after head coach Michael Cooper took a medical leave of absence July 21 after being diagnosed with tongue cancer. He had surgery last week.

McCoughtry shot just 34.7 percent in the previous four games. She said the team's skid wasn't related to Cooper's absence, but a failure of players taking care of business.

''We're professionals and no matter who we have on the bench, we still know how to play the game and sometimes coach ourselves,'' McCoughtry said. ''Sometimes, coach Cooper mostly sits on the sidelines and lets us figure it out anyway.''

McCoughtry added seven rebounds and four steals, and forward Sancho Lyttle had 14 boards to help Atlanta outrebound Connecticut 41-32. Atlanta was outrebounded in every game during the losing streak.

''We haven't quite figured out how to impose our will,'' said Sun coach Anne Donovan. ''Hayes is the one that really got away from us today, and their experience in the post is tough for our post players.''

Atlanta led 44-41 at halftime and pushed it to 73-63 on Hayes' layup with 7:21 left. The Sun countered with eight straight points.

After Katie Douglas scored on a runner to pull Connecticut within 73-71, Thompson called timeout with 4:41 to go. The Dream scored six points out of the timeout and weren't threatened again.

Cooper had surgery on July 24, and team spokesman Brad Gust said Tuesday the timeline for his return remained at two weeks. Atlanta improved to 11-3 at home.

''It was a much-needed win for us, a good team win, with everything that is going on with Coach Cooper,'' Thompson said. ''We wanted to get more points in the paint and attack the basket. They did well with that, our guards attacking from the perimeter and we controlled the boards.''

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Race to the MVP: Week 11

Race to the MVP: Week 11

Race to the MVP is WNBA.com’s weekly feature where we evaluate who’s getting closer to that coveted crown. Starting this week, post All-Star Break, the list has been narrowed to five spots to reflect the amount of play left in the season.

It should come as no surprise that Maya Moore is still the frontrunner after she won Western Conference Player of the Week for the third week in a row.

#1 MAYA MOORE

Maya Moore had a near record-breaking performance on July 22 when she scored 48 points (three shy of the WNBA record) against the Atlanta Dream in a game that WNBA fans won't soon forget.

On top of that she's also helped lead Minnesota on a seven-game winning streak. With only three weeks left until playoffs and the Lynx playing as well as they are, it will be tough to unseat Maya from the top spot. The Lynx have just seven games left on their schedule.

#2 DIANA TAURASI

LAST WEEK: #3

Diana Taurasi is likely the only player who can compete with Maya Moore's performance this year. Though her numbers are statistically less than Moore's, she has led her team on a 15-game winning streak that has lifted the Mercury to not only best in the West status, but best in the league with a 21-3 record.

This week, Taurasi had 22, 18 and 15 points to carry Phoenix past Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. They are now three games away from the all-time WNBA record for most consecutive wins.

#3 ANGEL McCOUGHTRY

LAST WEEK: #2

Unfortunately, the Atlanta Dream had a little bit of a setback this week with a couple losses in a row, including the overtime thriller with Minnesota. Angel McCoughtry, however, is still making a strong case for MVP.

Atlanta is still the best team in the East (by quite a bit) and Angel has led them to success. She still leads the league in steals and is fourth in the WNBA in scoring.

#4 BRITTNEY GRINER

Brittney Griner is another reason why Phoenix is so hot at the moment. She had 17, 18 and 18 points over the last three games and a total of 14 blocks. Griner is only a little behind Taurasi on the list because of slightly lower numbers while Taurasi's veteran leadership puts her over the edge.

Phoenix has just 10 games left to play, including two against Minnesota, which could end up being a preview of the Western Conference Finals and would pit Maya Moore against Taurasi and Griner.

#5 CANDACE PARKER

LAST WEEK: #4

Although reigning MVP Candace Parker still has very strong numbers, at this point in the season Los Angeles is lower on the standings than many expected. That said, the Sparks are sitting at fourth in the West right now and are likely to secure a playoff berth.

This week Parker put up 14 and 19 points (19 in their win against Seattle) which leaves her in the running for the MVP, but it remains unlikely that she'll rival Moore or Taurasi.

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Essence Carson Receives Community Assist Award

Essence Carson Receives Community Assist Award

NEW YORK, July 29, 2014 -- Essence Carson of the New York Liberty was awarded June’s WNBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by State Farm for her numerous charitable contributions and dedication to community service.

Carson attended a rehearsal for the Garden of Dreams Foundation’s annual Talent Show, where she met with contestants and watched their acts. The show featured more than 80 children from partner organizations affiliated with the Garden of Dreams Foundation. The Garden of Dreams is a non-profit organization working to brighten the lives of children and families afflicted with everything from extreme poverty to illness.

Carson and her Liberty teammates have dedicated their time to children across New York City, including participating in a chef tasting event to raise money to help promote drug-free living and prevent alcohol abuse. Carson also volunteered at a wheelchair basketball clinic for 40 middle school students and took part in a Bronx Zoo visit with 30 children from the Harlem Dowling-West Side Center for Children and Family Services.

"I believe community outreach is very important," said Carson. "It’s not what the world can do for you but what you can do for the world."

In recognition of her efforts, the WNBA and State Farm will donate $7,500 to the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

The WNBA Community Assist Award presented by State Farm is awarded monthly during the season to the player that best reflects the WNBA’s passion to make a difference in the community. Please visit wnba.com/statefarmcommunityassist for more information on the award and its recipients.

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Ivory Latta, Maya Moore Named Players of the Week

Ivory Latta, Maya Moore Named Players of the Week

NEW YORK, July 28, 2014 -- Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played July 21 through July 27.

For Latta, this Player of the Week award is her first of the season and the fourth of her career. For the week, Latta led the East in assists (5.3 apg), ranked second in scoring (20.3 ppg), and third in both field goal percentage (.564, 22-of-39) and three-point shooting percentage (.500, 12-of-14).

Latta led the Mystics to a 3-0 record with consecutive home wins over Connecticut, Tulsa and Atlanta. The wins extended the Mystics’ current winning streak to four games and vaulted Washington into second place in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 13-13. The WNBA All-Star began the week with 23 points, six assists, and three rebounds in an 89-75 win over the Sun. Two days later against the Shock, she tallied 17 points and four assists in an 82-77 win. To close out the week, Latta handed the Dream its fourth straight loss, posting 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

For the season, the University of North Carolina product is leading the Mystics in scoring (12.3 ppg) and is tied for first on the team in assists (3.3 apg).

This Player of the Week honor is Moore’s league-leading fourth of the season, her third in as many weeks, and the ninth such honor of her career. For the week, Moore shared the scoring lead in the West with Tulsa’s Odyssey Sims (25.7 ppg), tied for third in the conference in rebounds (8.3 rpg), ranked fourth in three-point shooting percentage (.467, 7-of-15), and placed ninth in assists (4.0 apg).

Moore helped the Lynx to a 3-0 mark for the week as Minnesota became the second club in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth. In a thrilling 112-108 double-overtime win over the defending Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream, Moore registered a double-double with 48 points and 10 rebounds. The 48 points were the second most in a single game in league history and marked the 10th time this season that Moore scored 30 or more points in a game, tying a WNBA record set by Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi in 2008. Against the Dream, Moore shot 16-of-30 from the floor, including seven-of-nine from three-point range. Moore closed out her week by scoring a game-high 17 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists in a 76-65 victory over Connecticut.

For the season, Moore leads the league in scoring (24.3 ppg), ranks eighth in rebounding (8.3 rpg), and is tied for fourth in steals (1.92 spg).

Other candidates for WNBA Player of the Week in the Eastern Conference were Atlanta’s Sancho Lyttle, Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, Connecticut’s Kelsey Bone, and New York’s Tina Charles. Additional candidates in the Western Conference were Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, Seattle’s Crystal Langhorne, and Tulsa’s Odyssey Sims.

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Ogwumike helps Sparks edge Fever 77-73

Ogwumike helps Sparks edge Fever 77-73

LOS ANGELES (AP) Nneka Ogwumike scored 21 points and Alana Beard added 17 to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Indiana Fever 77-73 on Monday night.

Ogwumike scored the final four points for the Sparks (12-14), who snapped a five-game home losing streak, dating to their last home win on June 24. She slipped behind the defense to take a pass from Kristi Toliver for an open layup and then made two free throws with five seconds remaining for a 77-73 lead.

Beard scored the go-ahead basket at 73-72 on a jumper from the right side. Indiana had chances to tie in the final seconds but Briann January missed twice and Indiana (12-14) had to foul after it could not secure the rebound on Karima Christmas' intentionally missed free throw.

Sparks leading scorer and rebounder Candace Parker sat out with a left knee strain, and guard Lindsey Harding missed her second straight game with a sore right foot.

Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 16 points and January had 12. Erlana Larkins had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

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Moore lifts Lynx to 76-65 win over Sun

Moore lifts Lynx to 76-65 win over Sun

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) The Minnesota Lynx finally have their WNBA championship team back together.

Maya Moore had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help Minnesota beat the Connecticut Sun 76-65 on Sunday.

Rebekkah Brunson had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Lynx (20-6) and Janel McCarville had 11 points and seven rebounds. Seimone Augustus also scored 13.

Kelsey Bone had 15 points and nine rebounds and Alyssa Thomas added eight points and nine rebounds for the Sun (10-16), who have lost 10 of 12.

It was just the second game in which defending WNBA champion Minnesota had its entire team available. Brunson missed the first 24 games after knee surgery. Augustus returned Friday after being out eight games with a knee injury.

''It's been nice having the depth that we have,'' Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''Whay and Maya, J-Mac, Tan (White) and Monie (Monica Wright) just really held the fort down. We've have a lot to be proud of.

''There's a lot of people who could've handled it differently and felt sorry for ourselves. Maya has been terrific, as you guys know, in this run. Whalen has been really, really good and above her (scoring) average. They're just warriors; just that competitive drive that fuels them every day. It's fun to be around.''

It was another frustrating game for Connecticut as it needed a late surge to push its field goal percentage to just under 33 percent.

''(Minnesota) is one of the best teams in the league,'' Bone said. ''Tonight, it really came down to shots falling. I think if we could have hit a couple of more outside jumpers and force them to play a little more defense, you'd see a different ball game.''

Minnesota led for all but 47 seconds in the first quarter. Tan White's 3-pointer gave the Lynx a 17-16 lead with 3:08 left in the first quarter and they never relinquished it.

McCarville banked in a 3-pointer to give the Lynx their biggest lead, 57-40, with over a minute left in the third quarter.

Connecticut managed to rally despite its offensive woes. Katie Douglas' 3-pointer with over a minute left cut the Sun's deficit to 72-65.

''I was pleased tonight that we didn't lose our focus defensively,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ''Too often in our past we have not knocked shots down and the game gets away from us. I liked what we did. . We just didn't knock shots down.''

The Lynx shot 48 percent.

''There is no question we have had more struggles than other teams in the league over the past season with injuries and other aspects that have made our season harder than usual,'' Moore said. ''Now that we have overcome some of those obstacles - and we are not where we want to be yet - but we have everything that we need to get there now that everyone is healthy and locked in.

''I like having the cards in our hands now and it is up to us.''

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Johnson leads Shock to 79-69 win over Sky

Johnson leads Shock to 79-69 win over Sky

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Glory Johnson scored 14 of her 15 points in the second half and had 11 rebounds to help the Tulsa Shock beat the Chicaog Sky 79-69 on Sunday.

It was just just Tulsa's second win in its last nine games.

Unable to find its offensive rhythm for most of the first three quarters, Tulsa finally found its stride finishing the third with an 11-2 run. Odyssey Sims tied the game 56-56 with a driving layup with 18.8 seconds left in the period.

Through the game's first 27 minutes, Tulsa (9-17) had just 11 field goals and four assists. The Shock made 13 field goals on 11 assists over the game's final 13 minutes.

Tulsa continued its push to open the fourth quarter, with an 8-2 burst forcing two Chicago timeouts. The Shock led 66-58 edge with 7:40 to play. Two of those points came from Johnson, who had seven points in the final quarter.

Chicago (10-15) would get no closer than six points the rest of the game.

Allie Quigley and Epiphanny Prince each scored 14 points for the Sky, who lost for the seventh time in their last nine games

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Griner leads Mercury to 15th straight victory

Griner leads Mercury to 15th straight victory

PHOENIX (AP) Brittney Griner scored 18 points and the Phoenix Mercury tied the second-longest winning streak in WNBA history with their 15th straight victory, beating the New York Liberty 78-63 on Saturday night.

The Mercury (21-3) matched the 1998 Houston Comets with the victory and are three short of the league mark set by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001.

Griner also had eight rebounds and six blocks, and Diana Taurasi added 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds for Phoenix, which clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Tina Charles had 20 points and seven rebounds to lead New York (10-14). The Liberty had won three in a row and six of their last eight.

Phoenix had a 20-point lead and was by at least seven after the first quarter

The Mercury held Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter to 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting. New York got within nine going into the final period but missed its first three shots in the fourth.

The have won by an average of 13.2 points during the winning streak.

Candice Dupree added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Penny Taylor had 10 points for Phoenix, which used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to open up a close game.

New York cut it to 25-20 early in the second, but the Mercury outscored the Liberty 22-10 the rest of the half as New York missed 11 of 15 shots during a key stretch.

New York used a 10-0 run of its own in the third quarter to get back in the game. Plenette Pierson's free throw after Taurasi was hit with a technical foul cut the lead to 55-48 with three minutes left in the period. Phoenix led 60-51 going into the final quarter.

Phoenix has shot better than 50 percent in the last six games, making 31 of 60 on Saturday.

The Mercury's last loss was a 96-95 setback at Connecticut on June 12.

Griner has 94 blocks on the season for a 3.9 average.

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Kizer helps Fever rally to beat Stars 75-68

Kizer helps Fever rally to beat Stars 75-68

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Lynetta Kizer scored 16 points and the Indiana Fever dominated the fourth quarter in rallying for a 75-68 victory over the San Antonio Stars on Saturday night.

Shavonte Zellous added 14 points and Natasha Howard had 11 for Indiana (12-13), which tied Washington for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Becky Hammon scored 18 points and Danielle Robinson added 15 for San Antonio (12-14), which suffered back-to-back losses after losing at Minnesota on Friday night.

In her first home game since announcing her retirement, Hammon showed flashes of former All-Star form. She drove and double-pumped at her hip, spinning the ball off the glass for a layup that pulled the Stars within 55-52 with 8 minutes remaining. She later drained a 3-pointer and drove in for a layup that pulled San Antonio within 74-68 in the final minute, but it wasn't enough.

The Fever dominated the paint in the fourth quarter, with Howard and Kizer forcing their way inside for short jumpers and layups. The duo combined for 16 points in the quarter.

Indiana's dominance came after San Antonio had their way inside early.

Danielle Adams bullied past Tamika Catchings for back-to-back baskets, including a follow of her own miss to give the Stars a 24-16 lead.

Indiana adjusted, going on a 12-0 run beginning midway through the second quarter behind its defense. The Fever fronted the Stars' bigs and their wings denied penetration with their activity, forcing San Antonio into a hurried shot after dribbling out the shot clock. San Antonio had a shot clock violation after Zellous' driving layup tied the game at 34.

Marissa Coleman's 3-pointer with 2 minutes remaining in the half gave Indiana its first lead at 37-34.

San Antonio had five turnovers in the second quarter.

The Fever were scoreless for more than 6 minutes to start the second half, missing its first six shots of the third quarter and allowing the Stars to reclaim a 46-41 lead. Erlana Larkins drained a pair of free throws with 3:45 remaining in the period to end the drought.

Indiana closed the third on a 10-6 run to forge a 51-all tie entering the fourth.

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Ogwumike helps Sparks beat Storm 77-69

Ogwumike helps Sparks beat Storm 77-69

SEATTLE (AP) When the Los Angeles Sparks needed a lift to break open a close game in the second half, Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker took over.

Ogwumike scored 16 of her 22 in the second half and Parker had 13 of her 19 after the break to help the Sparks beat the Seattle Storm 77-69 on Saturday and give general manager Penny Toler her first win as a coach.

Ogwumike scored 11 in the final quarter as the Sparks (11-14) moved three games ahead of the Storm (9-18) for the fourth and final Western Conference playoff berth. Parker scored eight in the third quarter as the Sparks pulled away from a tie at 42.

''I was hoping to get it against New York at home but a win is a win and this is a big one for us,'' said Toler, who will coach for the rest of the season, about her first victory. ''We needed it and they needed a win.''

Toler had lost her first two games after she took over July 20 following the dismissal of coach Carol Ross.

''I think it's great,'' Ogwumike said about Toler's first win. ''Changes happen in seasons and in teams all the time. I think we've done a really great job of maintaining our composure so we can keep going out there and doing what we do best.''

Crystal Langhorne scored 21 and Camille Little added 16 to lead Seattle, which has lost five straight and six of seven. Just seven games remain for the Storm in the regular season as they aim for an 11th straight playoff berth.

''Losing really helped them and hurt us,'' Storm guard Sue Bird said. ''I don't know the exact numbers or how many games we're behind but I know if we want to have a chance we need to take care of our own schedule and hope some teams (above us) lose as well.''

The Sparks are 4-0 against Seattle this year and have clinched any potential tiebreaker.

Little hit a short jumper to tie it at 42 midway through the third quarter before Parker took over. She scored eight, including a 3 just before the third-quarter buzzer, to put the Sparks up 54-44 to conclude a 12-2 run going into the final period.

''I told them this team was built on going inside-out and when we weren't scoring we were settling for jump shots and not penetrating,'' Toler said. ''I told them to move the ball around, reverse the ball and throw it inside. ''

When Seattle made a run early in the fourth quarter, Parker responded with back-to-back assists to Kristi Toliver and Ogwumike.

''That's what people forget,'' Toler said about Parker. ''They always look at Candace to score. Even when Candace wasn't scoring, she was making the great play. She made a skip pass to Toliver, who was wide open and scored a three.''

Despite the win, Parker didn't think the game went too smoothly.

''It was kind of an ugly game, but we'll take it,'' Parker said. ''I think we executed when we needed to and were able to go on a run in the third quarter.''

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Augustus scores 17 points, Lynx beat Stars 88-78

Augustus scores 17 points, Lynx beat Stars 88-78

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Seimone Augustus scored 17 points in her return from a knee injury and the Minnesota Lynx beat the San Antonio Stars 88-78 on Friday night for their sixth straight victory.

After missing eight games and the All-Star Game because of bursitis in her left knee, Augustus received a loud ovation as she was introduced in the starting lineup. The cheers were even louder in the fourth quarter when she fueled a 12-0 run that put the game out of reach.

''At first it was like, `Ugh, got to catch my breath,''' said Augustus, who also had six assists. ''Legs were kind of tired, but once the game got going I got into a rhythm. It felt great.''

The knee sure looked fine during the deciding run. With 6:33 left, Augustus brought the crowd to its feet on a behind-the-back, crossover step-back from 19 feet away. The shot fell, the Lynx went up by 12, and San Antonio called timeout.

''The stuff that Seimone does, she does in her sleep,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. ''The behind the back, the crossover, she's been doing it so long it's really not hard, it's like riding a bike you've just to get right back to it.''

Lindsay Whalen added 14 points to help Minnesota (19-6) beat San Antonio for the 10th straight time at Target Center. Maya Moore had 12 points three nights after scoring a career-high 48 against Atlanta. Rebekkah Brunson scored 10 in her second game back since missing 23 games after right knee surgery.

It was the first time Minnesota's roster was at full strength all season.

''I joke with her and Brunson, they've played so many games in their career so missing a couple of weeks is really nothing for them,'' Reeve said.

Danielle Robinson led the Stars (12-13) with 15 points, Shenise Johnson had 13 and Kayla McBride 12.

Minnesota led by 10 points in the third quarter before San Antonio used a 13-6 run to cut the Lynx's lead to 52-51 with 5:15 to play in the period. The Stars went 8 for 18 from 3-point range to Minnesota's 1-of-9 performance, but the Lynx shot 18 free throws to San Antonio's four.

''That's tough to make up,'' Stars coach Dan Hughes said. ''That's a tough scenario for us to make that differential up in that situation and we had to deal with some foul trouble that we don't normally do.''

Minnesota outscored the Stars in the paint 38-30 and had 17 second-chance points to San Antonio's nine, mostly thanks to tough inside play by Brunson and Janel McCarville, who finished with 11 points.

''It's good to be able to have the physical presence of all 12 members of our team,'' Moore said.

Now they just have to get used to each other again.

''It's just a matter of putting all those pieces together, and making sure that we are all continuing to focus on what we can bring to the game when it's our turn to go in,'' Moore said.

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Mystics survive bad 4th quarter to beat Shock

Mystics survive bad 4th quarter to beat Shock

WASHINGTON (AP) Ivory Latta scored 17 points and the Washington Mystics held off the Tulsa Shock 82-77 on Friday night despite making only field goal in the fourth quarter.

Monique Currie scored 16 points - all on free throws - for Washington (12-13). The Mystics have won three in a row and five of six.

''Survive and move on,'' coach Mike Thibault said. ''The good part is in 10 days, (looking at the) standings, nobody will remember how or why, just that we survived.''

Survive they did. The Mystics entered the fourth quarter leading by 15 points and proceeded to miss their first 12 field-goal attempts of the period.

Tulsa (8-17) closed to 70-69 with 2:20 remaining by outscoring Washington 17-2. Skylar Diggins scored 19 points for the Shock, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

The Mystics, who made 26 of 32 free throws overall, countered with four straight from the line. Kara Lawson's jumper, their first basket of the period, came with 45.9 seconds left and gave Washington a 76-71 lead.

''I don't know if I've ever been in a game where (we) won with one field goal in the fourth quarter,'' Thibault said. ''Interesting game. You guys ask the questions. I don't even know where to start.''

Tulsa coach Fred Williams' postgame take focused on ''missed opportunities'' in the final minutes. The Shock had 10 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but converted them into only one second-chance point.

''We had four of five rebounds there at the end to maybe put us up one or so.'' Williams said after Tulsa's third straight loss by five points or less.

''There are no moral victories on this team, but we're not getting blown out,'' Diggins said. ''We just got to be professionals, try to get better and get ready for the next opponent.''

Washington's Monique Currie scored 16 points - all on free throws -- to set a WNBA record for most points without a field goal.

''Yes! I'm in the record book, somehow,'' Currie exclaimed.

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Prince helps Sky beat Dream 79-75

Prince helps Sky beat Dream 79-75

ATLANTA (AP) Ephiphanny Prince scored 21 points and the Chicago Sky held off the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Dream 79-75 on Friday night at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion.

Jessica Breland added 15 points, Allie Quigley had 13, and Sylvia Fowles finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Sky (10-14). Chicago led by 18 points in the second quarter and was up 43-29 at the half.

Sancho Lyttle and Tiffany Hayes each had 15 points for Atlanta (15-8). The Dream have lost three straight for the first time this season.

Atlanta had a 19-2 fourth-quarter run, capped by Angel McCoughtry's free throws with 4:57 left that tied it at 66. Prince made a 3-pointer 21 seconds later to give the Sky the lead.

Dream assistant coach Karleen Thompson continued to fill in for head coach Michael Cooper, who is on medical leave after undergoing tongue cancer surgery Thursday in Atlanta. A team representative said Cooper's procedure was successful and that he will return to the bench soon.

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Mercury rout Sparks for 14th straight victory

Mercury rout Sparks for 14th straight victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Phoenix Mercury's winning streak has evolved so that they don't need Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree or Brittney Griner to lead the way.

DeWanna Bonner took her turn with a season-high 22 points to lead the Mercury to their 14th straight victory, 93-73 over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night.

Taurasi and Griner each had 18 points and Dupree added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Mercury (20-3), four wins shy of the Sparks' WNBA record of 18 straight wins in 2001.

Bonner recorded a season high in the first half with 20 points and finished with 22 on 7-for-9 shooting. It was the first time this season Bonner led Phoenix in scoring.

''We had a talk recently and I wanted her to be more aggressive on the offensive end,'' Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ''People talk about our big three, but we actually have a big five . it was good for her to get going. I just want her to be aggressive. She can put numbers on the board, so I just wanted her to get involved as much as she can.''

Bonner and Griner combined to shoot 15 for 18 from the field to help Phoenix shoot 54 percent overall and score 48 points in the paint. The Mercury will go for No. 15 on Saturday against the New York Liberty, but they maintain that it's not on their mind.

''I think we worked hard for it,'' Bonner said. ''Nothing came easy. But we don't look ahead. We don't look behind at what we did or what we're doing.''

Nneka Ogwumike scored 23 points and Jantel Lavender had 16 for the Sparks (10-14), who lost their fifth straight home game and are 0-2 under new coach Penny Toler. Candace Parker returned from a strained knee and had 14 points and nine rebounds.

It was a big challenge for the Sparks, who played on Wednesday and fell into a deficit early. The Mercury set season highs for points in a first half (61) and first quarter (36).

The Sparks are in the middle of five games in seven days, and Toler said they have to stay positive.

''The things we're doing are fixable,'' Toler said. ''Now I need everybody to continue believe in what we're doing. This is a tough one. These cats are hot. It's tough to play them even when you've got days between, let alone on a back-to-back. And they were coming in fresh. It was the first half that killed us.''

Phoenix led by double digits from 25-15. Taurasi made a 3-pointer early in third quarter to give Phoenix its biggest lead at 64-38 before the Sparks went on a 23-9 run finished by Candice Wiggins' 3-pointer to get to 73-61.

The Mercury's Shay Murphy scored on a drive with the shot clock winding down on the next possession and the Sparks never got closer.

Ogwumike scored 19 points in the second half but that was the main Sparks highlight on a night when owner Magic Johnson was in attendance. Toler, the longtime general manager, was hired on Sunday and said she is getting a lot of input from assistant coaches and players to ease the transition.

''I'm actually proud of them because this is a lot of distractions that we have right now and that's recognizing that even as GM,'' Toler said. ''We're trying to change some things and go forward, and it may take a minute. Obviously we want things to be instant, but it doesn't work like that.''

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Charles helps Liberty beat Storm in OT

Charles helps Liberty beat Storm in OT

SEATTLE (AP) Tina Charles broke a tie on a put-back with 23 seconds left in the New York Liberty's 84-80 overtime time victory over the Seattle Storm on Thursday night.

Cappie Pondexter scored 20 points, and Charles added 18 points and 14 rebounds to help New York (10-13) win its third straight game. The Liberty, fighting for a playoff spot, have won six of their last eight after a 4-11 start.

After Charles gave New York the lead, Pondexter added a basket just before the buzzer after Seattle missed two shots in the final 13 seconds.

Camille Little scored 22 points, and Crystal Langhorne added 17 for Seattle (9-17). They Storm have lost four in a row and five of their last six.

Seattle guard Temeka Johnson had a triple-double with 13 points, 11 assists and a career-high 10 rebounds. She started in place of Sue Bird, sidelined by a strained neck.

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Charles scores 31 to lift Liberty over Sparks

Charles scores 31 to lift Liberty over Sparks

LOS ANGELES (AP) Tina Charles had 31 points and 15 rebounds to lead the New York Liberty to a 66-64 win against the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday night, spoiling the coach debut of Penny Toler.

Cappie Pondexter scored 16 points as the Liberty (9-13) snapped an eight-game road losing streak.

The Sparks played without leading scorer Candace Parker, who sat out with a left knee strain and is considered day-to-day, a team spokeswoman said.

Charles scored on a jumper to give the Liberty a 66-62 lead and blocked Jantel Lavender on the Sparks' next possession. The Sparks pulled to 66-64 when Nneka Ogwumike scored on a baseline jumper. Plenette Pierson missed two free throws to give the Sparks a chance to win or tie, but Kristi Toliver missed a 3-point attempt and Lavender missed the putback.

Ogwumike led the Sparks (10-13) with 23 points and eight rebounds and Lavender had 16 points and eight rebounds. Toler was named interim coach in addition to her general manager duties Sunday after former coach Carol Ross was fired.

Pondexter made back-to-back long jumpers to give New York the lead for good at 64-62.

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Stars Guard Becky Hammon to Retire Following 2014 WNBA Season

Stars Guard Becky Hammon to Retire Following 2014 WNBA Season

SAN ANTONIO, July 23, 2014 - San Antonio Stars guard and 16-year WNBA veteran, Becky Hammon, will retire at the conclusion of the 2014 WNBA season, the team announced today. Hammon will end her career as the Stars all-time leader in assists, points per game and three-point field goals made.

A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time in July of 2011.

Hammon holds career averages of 13.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 28.0 minutes in 440 games. She was named to the All-WNBA First Team twice and the All-WNBA Second Team twice in her 16 seasons.

In eight seasons with the Stars, Hammon has appeared in 213 games, averaging 15.9 points, 5.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 31.8 minutes. Her best season came in 2009 when she averaged 19.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.58 steals in 33.8 minutes. Among Stars all-time leaders, Hammon ranks second in minutes (6,766) and field goals made (1,109). She was the top vote getter for the Stars All-Decade Team in 2012.

In WNBA history, Hammon ranks seventh in total points (5,756), second in three-point field goals made (817), fourth in assists (1,663), sixth in games played (440), first in free-throw percentage (89.6, min. 300 attempts), 11th in field goals made (1,887), 11th in total minutes (12,323), and 11th in free throws made (1,165).

"Becky Hammon has made a lasting mark on the San Antonio Stars and the WNBA," Stars General Manager and Head Coach Dan Hughes said. "She has worked tirelessly to become the best she could be on and off the floor. She has inspired in a wonderful way. The beauty of her game has been an amazing thing to have had a front row seat for."

The Stars acquired Hammon on draft night in 2007 when the team traded the number four overall pick, Jessica Davenport, to the New York Liberty along with a 2008 first round draft pick in exchange for Hammon and a 2008 second round draft pick.

Hammon has made the playoffs twelve times in her career including in six straight seasons with the Stars from 2007 to 2012. She leads the Stars in playoff games started (24), minutes played (877), total points (507), three-point field goals made (70), assists (105) and points per game (21.1).

In 2008, Hammon led the Stars to the only WNBA Finals appearance in franchise history. San Antonio finished the regular season with a franchise-best 24-10 record, earning the best record in the Western Conference. The Stars posted playoff series victories over the Sacramento Monarchs and the Los Angeles Sparks before falling to the Detroit Shock in the 2008 WNBA Finals.

"Becky Hammon epitomizes what the WNBA is all about: she has truly shown the world what is possible," said WNBA President, Laurel J Richie. "Having gone undrafted in 1999, Becky was determined to make her dream of becoming a professional athlete come true. Hard work and talent got her noticed and earned her a roster spot, and she never looked back. In addition to all her accomplishments, Becky’s feisty leadership and no-look passes have made her a fan favorite. We thank Becky for all her contributions to the growth of this wonderful game and we wish her all the best on her future endeavors."

Hammon originally joined the league in 1999, signing with the New York Liberty after going unpicked in the 1999 WNBA Draft. In eight seasons with the Liberty, Hammon averaged 10.4 points and 2.5 assists per game in 227 games and helped guide New York to six WNBA Playoff appearances.

The 37-year-old spent four years at Colorado State from 1995 to 1999 where she was a three-time All-American and the 1999 Naismith Award winner. In her senior season, she led the Rams to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 1999 NCAA Women’s Tournament.

During the 2014 season, Hammon is averaging 8.1 points, 4.1 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes in 22 games.

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Dominant 4th quarter leads Mystics past Sun 89-75

Dominant 4th quarter leads Mystics past Sun 89-75

WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Mystics may have needed a reminder on how to find their own arena. They didn't need to remember how to defeat coach Mike Thibault's former team.

All-Star Ivory Latta scored 23 points and Monique Currie had 17 as the Mystics beat the skidding Connecticut Sun 89-75 on Tuesday afternoon.

Former University of Connecticut stars Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley also scored in double figures for the Mystics (11-13), who last played a home game July 2. They then had five consecutive road games, winning three of the last four.

''Oh my God, I didn't know how to get back to the gym,'' a smiling Latta cracked shortly after Washington outscored Connecticut 30-16 in the fourth quarter.

The victory moved the Mystics into a tie with Indiana for second place in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta.

Chiney Ogwumike had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Sun (10-15). Connecticut has lost nine of its last 11 games but remains in possession of the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.

The decisive stretch came with Washington Wizards guard John Wall sitting courtside and before an announced crowd of 16,028 on ''Camp Day.'' Latta credited the energy needed for the final push to the loud atmosphere created by thousands of enthusiastic kids rooting for the home team.

The two-time All-Star and her teammates also recognize the matchup's symbolism. Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, was fired after 10 seasons by Connecticut in 2012.

''(Coach) never emphasizes anything like that, but as players we know this is something we need to get (for him),'' Latta said.

Washington is 3-0 against Connecticut this year and has won six of seven since the start of the 2013 season, when Thibault joined the Mystics as coach and general manager.

''I won't lie. It's fun beating them,'' Thibault said. ''Right now, I don't think about them necessarily. It's just one more team in our way.''

Latta made 5 of 7 3-pointers, including one with 6:52 remaining during a 19-4 run that gave Washington the lead for good. Dolson scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter. Hartley added 11 points.

The Mystics shot 50 percent from the field. The Sun missed 10 of 15 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.

Kelsey Bone and Alex Bentley each scored 15 points for the Sun.

''It was a typical kind of grind-it-out game,'' Sun coach Anne Donovan said. ''They take the lead; we take the lead. Back and forth. Then with six minutes left, they imposed their will, and we didn't respond.''

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Mercury win 13th straight, clinch playoff berth

Mercury win 13th straight, clinch playoff berth

SEATTLE (AP) Diana Taurasi isn't focused on winning streaks. She's just trying to get the Phoenix Mercury to keep improving.

Taurasi scored 22 and Candice Dupree added 19 to help the Phoenix Mercury win their 13th straight game and clinch a playoff berth with an 89-71 victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.

Brittney Griner added 17 points, seven rebounds and five blocks for Phoenix (19-3), the first team to win 13 straight since the Storm in 2010 and the third longest win streak in league history. The Mercury are five shy of tying the Los Angeles Sparks' record of 18 consecutive set in 2001.

''We really don't talk about it,'' Taurasi said about the long winning streak. ''We're so focused on every little moment, whatever team we're playing, shoot-around, practice, the next game. If it keeps going, great, if not, hopefully we'll start another one.''

Phoenix hopes to win its third WNBA title this year to go with championships in 2007 and 2009.

''Everyone wants to win a championship that's what's it about,'' first-year Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. ''But we have to keep our feet on the ground. Championships are not won in July they are won in September this year. It's a long way to go. We've got a tough scheduled to finish the season off.''

Phoenix spoiled what the Storm billed as Championship Night with a halftime ceremony featuring trophies displayed from Seattle's two WNBA titles in 2004 and 2010, the SuperSonics 1979 Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Lombardi Trophy. Earl Thomas carried the NFL trophy to midcourt while Slick Watts carried the NBA trophy.

The Mercury could have another trophy of their own this year.

''One small goal of our many goals that we have,'' Dupree said about clinching a playoff berth. ''Ultimately we want to have the best record in the league and the number one spot for the playoffs.''

Crystal Langhorne had 22 points and nine rebounds to lead Seattle (9-16), which dropped 2 1/2 games behind Los Angeles for the fourth andl final Western Conference playoff berth. The Storm have lost four of their last five and three in a row.

Seattle coach Brian Agler said the Mercury are tough to defend.

''I've been in this league a long time and they're one of the better offensive teams I've seen come through here,'' Agler said. ''I'm not talking about their numbers, how many points they score, I'm talking more or less on the pressure they put on you at a lot of different positions and how they space the floor. To beat a team like this you've got to really eliminate your mistakes.''

Seattle committed 22 turnovers to just 10 for the Mercury, so the mistakes were too many to overcome. Phoenix shot 53.8 percent (35 of 65) from the floor.

''We're a talented team and they're fun to coach because they love playing together,'' Brondello said. ''They're very unselfish. When we move the ball from one side to the other and inside and outside we're hard to guard.''

The Mercury won the first three meetings at home with the Storm by an average of 17.3 points. Phoenix is 9-2 on the road.

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Moore has 48 points in the Lynx's 112-108 2OT win

Moore has 48 points in the Lynx's 112-108 2OT win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore put on one of the best scoring displays in the history of the WNBA and it was barely enough to lift Minnesota.

Moore scored 48 points, the second most ever in the league, to help the Lynx beat the Atlanta Dream 112-108 in double-overtime.

She hit 16 of 30 shots from the field, including 7 of 9 from beyond the arc. The 48 points are just short of the record 51 scored by Tulsa's Riquna Williams last season.

''We needed every one of them,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Moore's points. ''And she had their full attention. That's what's impressive. They're not trying to let her drop 48 points on their heads.''

Moore now has scored 30 or more points in 10 games this year, tying the league record with 10 games to play. She also displayed her versatility on Tuesday with 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.

She attributed her big night to keeping the game plan simple.

''I knew the one way I could hurt my team was by thinking too much,'' Moore said. ''If it's my shot and I'm open, shoot the ball. If it's not, pass it to an open teammate. . I'm just thankful. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't.''

Lindsay Whalen scored 26 points and Rebekkah Brunson added 17 points and 12 rebounds in her first game of the season. The 2013 All-Star missed the first 23 games of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Sancho Lyttle had 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Tiffany Hayes scored 22 and Angel McCoughtry added 21 for the Dream, who were playing without coach Michael Cooper. The team announced Monday that Cooper is taking a temporary leave of absence and will have surgery this week in Atlanta. The Dream say a full recovery is expected.

''As a group, to go through what they're going through and remain focused, and to come in here and play in this type of environment and play so well, I'm really proud of this team,'' Atlanta assistant coach Karleen Thompson said.

The Dream trailed by as much as 14 in the fourth quarter, but they closed regulation on an 18-4 run to force overtime. In the first extra session, Hayes and McCoughtry hit consecutive 3s to put Atlanta on top 95-89. But Moore answered with a 3 of her own and Whalen eventually tied it with a jumper.

In the second overtime, Moore drained two long jump shots as the Lynx pulled out to a five-point lead and Tan White made a pull-up jumper with 38.4 seconds left to ice Minnesota's fifth straight win.

Moore had 23 points in a fast-paced first half and finished regulation with 40. She's had to pick up some of the scoring burden in the absence of Seimone Augustus, who missed her eighth straight game with bursitis in her left knee.

''This team has a lot, and you have to pick and choose your poison with them,'' Thompson said. ''But Maya was just in the zone tonight. She's obviously a great player, and she's capable of doing that on any given night.''

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McBride and Stars edge Shock 95-93

McBride and Stars edge Shock 95-93

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Kayla McBride scored 23 points and the San Antonio Stars overcame career-highs by Odyssey Sims and Skylar Diggins to beat the Tulsa Shock 95-93 on Tuesday night.

Danielle Robinson scored 21 points, including the game-winning basket for San Antonio (11-12). Danielle Adams had 15 points and Becky Hammon had 10 points as the Stars remained in third place in the West ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks (10-12).

Sims had 39 points and Diggins had 34 for Tulsa (8-15), which fell to 3-9 on the road. Sims scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a driving layup to tie the game at 91 with 1:19 remaining. Adams followed with a pair of free throws, but Sims had another driving layup to forge another tie.

Robinson responded with a driving layup to put the Stars ahead 95-93 with 3.9 seconds remaining. Following a Shock timeout, Sophia Malcolm-Young tipped away the inbounds pass to McBride to seal the victory, leading Tulsa coach Fred Williams to kick the scorer's table in frustration.

Diggins missed two open layups to start the game before making her third on a contested attempt that resulted in a three-point play. The Notre Dame product also made her team's next three shots in a personal 9-2 run that put Tulsa up 13-6 with 2:19 remaining.

Reserve post Kayla Alexander sparked San Antonio's own 9-2 run to open the second quarter, cutting Tulsa's lead to 24-21. After completing a three-point play, Alexander followed a miss by McBride to complete the run with 7:41 remaining in the half.

Alexander's pull-up jumper tied the game at 30 and Robinson's 19-footer gave San Antonio its first lead at 32-30. Robinson later crossed over Sims, freeing herself for an open jumper and a 34-30 lead.

San Antonio held Tulsa to 28 percent shooting in the second quarter.

An aggressive approach helped Tulsa get nine free throws free throws in the third quarter, making all but one. The Shock tied the game at 61 on Johnson's jumper, but the Stars closed with a 3-pointer by Adams and a driving layup by Robinson for a 66-61 lead.

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Fowles helps Sky edge Fever 60-57

Fowles helps Sky edge Fever 60-57

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Sylvia Fowles had 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots to help the Chicago Sky beat the Indiana Fever 60-57 on Tuesday night, snapping a six-game losing streak.

Epiphanny Prince added 13 points for the Sky, who had lost 13 of 16.

Prince hit a driving layup for a 57-55 Sky lead with 21.3 seconds left. Fowles fouled Erlana Larkins, who made one of two free throws with 16.1 seconds remaining. After the Sky's Jamierra Faulkner hit one of two free throws, Fowles tried to block a driving Tamika Catchings but was called for the foul with 4.1 seconds left.

Catchings made one of two free throws. On the other end, Allie Quigley hit both free throws for the final. The Sky shot 16 of 17 from the free-throw line while the Fever were 9 for 20.

Fowles scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to extend the Sky's lead to 49-41. But the Fever tied it at 51 after Karima Christmas' 3-pointer with 5:12 left and Catchings' two free throws at 3:54.

Catchings missed both free throws with 1:32 remaining, but hit a layup with 1:02 left. Fowles answered with a layup with 48.4 seconds left before Coleman made both free throws to tie it again with 38.5 seconds left.

The Sky remained without starters Courtney Vandersloot (knee) and Elena Delle Donne (Lyme disease). Delle Donne, who is averaging 21.2 points, hasn't played since June 25.

The teams were playing their second straight game against each other. The Fever beat the Sky 82-64 on Thursday in Indianapolis in its most lopsided win of the season.

The season series is tied at 2-2.

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Race to the MVP: Week 10

Race to the MVP: Week 10

Race to the MVP is WNBA.com’s weekly feature where we evaluate who’s getting closer to that coveted crown. Starting this week, post All-Star Break, the list has been narrowed to five spots to reflect the amount of play left in the season.

Maya Moore holds on to the top spot this week heading into the second leg of the season with only a month left to go.

#1 MAYA MOORE

Last week, Maya Moore only played one game before the break, but she made it count with her third 30+ point game in the past four games. While the Lynx were struggling a little on the road, they've regained their momentum winning the last four games in a row which places them two games behind Phoenix at 17-6. While Maya certainly isn't slowing down and, really, neither are the Lynx, the one thing that could threaten their chances at another title this season is the Phoenix Mercury. But do they feel threatened?

"We're definitely a team that respects Phoenix," Moore said during a break in the All-Star action. "We definitely struggled against them earlier by not having the defensive presence that we need to to stop a really good offensive team. We're gonna definitely see them again and being in the Western conference is gonna be a great contest especially when we get together. That's what the WNBA's all about."

#2 ANGEL McCOUGHTRY

LAST WEEK: #3

Although the Dream lost this week in an exciting tilt with the Liberty, Angel McCoughtry sitll had 20 points and nine assists and still led the Dream on a 5-0 run before that. The Dream are sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference.

The Dream's success is possibly due to a hunger for the championship that has eluded them in their last three finals appearances or just the drive of a natural born competitor.

"We definitely do want that Championship, but we also have to get better each day of the season and that's what we're working on," McCoughtry said. "I know we're number one in the East, but that's not really our focus. Our focus is getting better and getting to the Big Dance. That's all we talk about."

And getting better every day is what Angel seems to be doing, immensely benefiting the Atlanta Dream.

#3 DIANA TAURASI

LAST WEEK: #2

This week Diana Taurasi helped lead Phoenix to two solid wins over Washington and Connecticut with 32 points in two games. Those two wins were the latest in a 12-game Phoenix winning streak. According to Taurasi, Phoenix's season so far can be attributed to the incredible synergy of the team and the very "well-prepared" coach Sandy Brondello.

"As you get older you learn how to prepare better," Taurasi said. "You're more secure in your game, you know the things that need to be done to win a game. And that only comes with experience, with playing a lot, with being in this league a long time and I think all of those things have helped me and us feel pretty confident in what we have to do."

It shows.

#4 CANDACE PARKER

Candace Parker is still putting up strong numbers for the Lost Angeles Sparks, but unfortunately the numbers aren't translating to Ws. The Sparks are now 10-12 and in the bottom half of the Western pack despite another banner season from the reigning MVP. This week she had 34 and 18 points leading the Sparks to a win over Indiana, but a close loss to Washington.

Why aren't the numbers converting though? "Obviously there are a lot of close games that we've had and things like that," Parker ventured. "But at the same time, you know, we've got to fix it. We can't expect it to fix itself."

#5 BRITTNEY GRINER

Brittney Griner had 16 and 21 points this week to help defeat Connecticut and Washington as part of Phoenix's 12-game winning streak. (Not to mention, a particularly acrobatic All-Star weekend.) But what stands out the most about Brittney Griner is her immense improvement from her rookie season. She is now putting up consistent numbers, working very well with her Mercury teammates and moving better than you'd ever expect a 6-foot-8 inch center to move.

"It's really just confidence and getting stronger, honestly, from last season and I put on a little weight," Griner said of her improvement. "I got back from China and got in the weight room."

And it shows.

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Schimmel's 29 leads East over West 125-124 in OT

Schimmel's 29 leads East over West 125-124 in OT

PHOENIX (AP) Shoni Schimmel scored an All-Star game record 29 points and had eight assists as the East pulled out a 125-124 victory Saturday over the West in the first WNBA All-Star Game to go into overtime.

Tamika Catchings, an All-Star for a record-tying ninth time, made a layup with six seconds to go to give the East the lead and then knocked the ball away from Skylar Diggins on the defensive end to seal the victory.

Diggins finished with 27 points and seven assists, leading a furious West rally to force overtime. She lost the ball on the baseline in the final seconds.

Brittney Griner, of the host Phoenix Mercury, scored 17 points, including a first-half dunk, for the West.

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Meet the East All Stars

Meet the East All Stars

TAMIKA CATCHINGS - Indiana Fever - Frontcourt: Catchings hit a game-winning shot against Tulsa in just her second game back this season after missing the first 14 games of the year with a sore back.

ELENA DELLE DONNE - Chicago Sky - Frontcourt: Delle Donne set her career high in points (33) and rebounds (14) on June 6th against Los Angeles.

CAPPIE PONDEXTER: New York Liberty - Backcourt: Pondexter hit a game-winning jumper against Atlata in the Liberty's last game before the All-Star break.

ANGEL McCOUGHTRY - Atlanta Dream - Frontcourt: McCoughtry is the only player in the league to be in the top five for points (4th) and steals (1st).

SHONI SCHIMMEL - Atlanta Dream - Backcourt: Schimmel opened her rookie season and WNBA career with 21 assists in her first two games. matching the WNBA rookie record.

JESSICA BRELAND - Chicago Sky - Frontcourt: A cancer survivor, Breland has more than doubled her points per game and nearly doubled her rebounding average from last season.

TINA CHARLES - New York Liberty - Frontcourt: This season, Tina Charles donated half of her WNBA salary to Hopey's Heart Foundation.

ERIKA DE SOUZA - Atlanta Dream - Frontcourt: De Souza is currently the only player in the top three in blocks and rebounds.

KATIE DOUGLAS - Connecticut Sun - Backcourt: Douglas (at 35 years and two months old) is the oldest 2014 All-Star.

BRIANN JANUARY - Indiana Fever - Backcourt: January is averaging a career-high in points in her 6th WNBA season.

IVORY LATTA - Washington Mystics - Backcourt: Ivory Latta, making her second-straight All-Star appearance, is replacing an injured Elena Delle Donne.

CHINEY OGWUMIKE - Connecticut Sun - Frontcourt: Ogwumike currently leads rookies in points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, and double-doubles.

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Meet the West All Stars

Meet the West All Stars

SKYLAR DIGGINS - Tulsa Shock - Backcourt: Diggins has more than doubled her scoring average from last year.

BRITTNEY GRINER - Phoenix Mercury - Frontcourt: Griner is leading the league in blocks with 77 total. She has more individual blocks this season than the Lynx, Stars, Storm, Shock, Liberty, and Mystics have team blocks.

MAYA MOORE - Minnesota Lynx - Frontcourt: Maya is in striking distance of the WNBA record of 25.3 points per game set by Diana Taurasi in 2006.

CANDACE PARKER - Los Angeles Sparks - Frontcourt: Parker scored an All-Star record 23 points en route to winning All-Star Game MVP last year.

DIANA TAURASI - Phoenix Mercury - Backcourt - Taurasi became the second all-time leading scorer in the WNBA this season after surpassing Katie Smith on July 2.

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS - Minnesota Lynx - Backcourt: This is the fifth time Augustus has been selected to the WNBA All-Star team.

SUE BIRD - Seattle Storm - Backcourt: Sue Bird, making her eighth All-Star appearance, is replacing an injured Seimone Augustus.

CANDICE DUPREE - Phoenix Mercury - Frontcourt: This is Dupree's first All-Star Game since 2009.

GLORY JOHNSON - Tulsa Shock - Frontcourt: Johnson is currently leading the league in double-doubles.

NNEKA OGWUMIKE - Los Angeles Sparks - Frontcourt : Nneka is one of nine former No. 1 overall picks selected to play in the 2014 Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game.

DANIELLE ROBINSON: San Antonio Stars - Backcourt: Robinson was voted the fastest player with the ball by WNBA GMs in our 2014 GM Survey.

LINDSAY WHALEN - Minnesota Lynx - Backcourt: Whalen currently has the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league.

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Ruffin-Pratt scores career-high 18 in Mystics win

Ruffin-Pratt scores career-high 18 in Mystics win

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Washington Mystics had enough energy left at the end of a long road trip to head into the WNBA All-Star break on a high note.

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored a career-high 18 points and Monique Currie added 16 as Washington beat the Los Angeles Sparks 79-75 on Thursday night.

Ivory Latta scored 15 points for Washington (10-13), which had lost four of six. The Mystics moved into third place in the Eastern Conference just before All-Star weekend.

''It helps you relax more over the break, but also gives us some momentum going into the second half of the season,'' Currie said. ''This is the end of a 10-day road trip, so it shows a lot for us to stay together and play hard and grind this win out.''

Currie helped Washington finish the trip 3-2 by clogging the paint for Sparks forward Candace Parker, who missed nine of her first 11 shots attempts and went 5-for-16 overall. The Mystics made 10 of 13 field goals and outscored the Sparks 27-16 in the third quarter.

Kia Vaughn had 14 points and nine rebounds and netted the go-ahead basket inside to make it 74-72. Latta sank two free throws with 18 seconds left, and the Sparks' Kristi Toliver missed an ensuing 3-point attempt.

''They're definitely a great team. What we can take from this is the way we played against them is how we have to play in our own conference,'' Latta said. ''We can't let up. The way we guard (Parker) is how we've got to guard the Cappie Pondexters, the Tina Charles, Angel McCoughty.''

Jantel Lavender scored a season-high 23 points to lead the Sparks (10-12), who had their season-best, three-game winning streak end. Parker scored 18 points, with seven rebounds and six assists, and Toliver had 13 points.

Parker, coming off a season-high 34-point game, scored eight points in the fourth quarter and pulled the Sparks into a 72-72 tie with two free throws. But Toliver and Parker turned it over on the Sparks' next two possessions, and Emma Meesseman rebounded Latta's miss for Washington.

The Sparks had 19 turnovers and were outrebounded 10-5 on the offensive boards. It was their sixth game in 11 days, and Parker said the break might be beneficial.

''I think it's good for everybody to regroup and get time away, and then you come back with a fresher outlook,'' Parker said.

The Sparks, 3-7 at home, haven't won there since June 24.

''The past two years, it's been a great haven for us and a great advantage,'' Sparks coach Carol Ross said. ''But every team is different, and for whatever reason, this team is not focused. We've got to give our fans something to get behind us about, and we just haven't done it. But fortunately, the best part of the season is in front of us, and we have to recapture that magic here at Staples Center.''

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Mercury rout Sun, extend win streak to 12

Mercury rout Sun, extend win streak to 12

PHOENIX (AP) Penny Taylor had a season-high 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals and the Phoenix Mercury extended their franchise-best winning streak to 12 games with a 101-85 rout of the Connecticut Sun on Thursday.

All-Star Brittney Griner added 21 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, giving her 80 at the All-Star break for Phoenix (18-3).

Katie Douglas hit a season-high five 3-pointers and had 23 points, five rebounds and six assists for the Sun (10-14), who have lost eight of their past 10.

Phoenix - which hosts the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday - is one win or a Seattle loss, away from clinching a playoff spot, with a month left in the season.

Alex Bentley added 20 points for Connecticut, which was the last team to beat the Mercury, 96-95, on June 12.

All-Star Diana Taurasi had 14 points and six assists for Phoenix.

After trailing by as much as 14 in the first half, Connecticut used some hustle - Chiney Ogwumike's put-back after being blocked by Griner, Douglas' steal of an inbounds pass before Phoenix ran off nine straight points and led 76-61 going into the final quarter.

Ogwumike had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, her 10th double-double of the season.

Candice Dupree, an All-Star reserve, had 14 points and seven rebounds for Phoenix.

Taylor had 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in the first half as Phoenix opened up a 51-39 lead. Phoenix led by as much as 21 in the fourth quarter.

Taylor scored 12 points during a 3 1/2-minute stretch of the second quarter, then hit a 3-pointer from the baseline in the final minute of the period to put the Mercury up 50-36. Griner added nine points despite picking up her third foul with 1:53 left in the half. She had 17 points in the period.

The Sun hit 10 of 17 from the field in the second quarter to stay close after trailing 24-14 following the first period.

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Catchings scores 25, Fever top slumping Sky 82-64

Catchings scores 25, Fever top slumping Sky 82-64

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The message on the board in the Indiana locker room was ''Finish Strong,'' something the Fever have struggled to do.

But in a matchup with the slumping Chicago Sky, the Fever found their game and surged to a win.

Tamika Catchings scored 25 points, and Briann January added 14 as the Fever sent the Sky to their sixth straight loss, 82-64 on Thursday night.

Indiana outscored Chicago 29-16 in the fourth quarter.

''We have been talking about it,'' Catchings said. ''We were determined to not to lose.''

Catchings scored 14 points in the fourth quarter for the Fever (11-12).

Indiana built a 53-36 lead late in the third quarter after first half runs of 17-2 and 9-2. But, Chicago (8-14) stormed back with an 11-0 spurt to close the period and get within 53-48.

''I made some subs, and my bench came in with energy, a little bit of enthusiasm,'' Sky coach Pokey Chatman said.

Indiana answered with an 11-0 run to open the final period, stretching its lead to 80-56 with 1:37 to play when January rolled in a fast-break layup.

January returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday's game. Her bucket gave the Fever a 24-point lead, their biggest of the season.

''Our bench came in and gave us some great minutes,'' January said. ''It gave (the starters) time to catch our wind and rest up.''

Allie Quigley had 17 points to lead Chicago, which has dropped 13 of 16. Sylvia Fowels had 15 points - all in the first half - and 11 rebounds.

''Sylvia dominated the first half,'' Catchings said. ''In the second half we all came together and was collectively going to help (Erlana Larkins) out and not put her one-on-one with her.''

The Sky were again without starters Courtney Vandersloot and Elena Delle Donne and fell to 1-6 without them.

The Fever trailed by four with 21.5 seconds left in the first period, but Krystal Thomas hit a jumper, and Layshia Clarendon made a buzzer-beating reverse layup to tie it 21-21.

Clarendon, who finished with four points, then rolled in another layup nearly two minutes into the second quarter to give the Fever a lead they didn't relinquish.

''I thought as a staff we did a better job keeping our starters under 30 (minutes),'' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ''That was our goal. I thought that we were less fatigued at the end of the game.''

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Shock beat Stars 95-90 behind 22 points from Paris

Shock beat Stars 95-90 behind 22 points from Paris

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Courtney Paris scored a career-high 22 points and the Tulsa Shock made three late free throws to beat the San Antonio Stars 95-90 Thursday.

Jennifer Lacy sank a pair of free throws with 33.7 seconds remaining and Roneeka Hodges added another with 13 seconds left to seal the win.

Glory Johnson added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds to help the Shock (8-15) snap a five-game losing streak. Skylar Diggins had 19 points and Odyssey Sims scored 15. Lacy finished with 12.

Danielle Adams scored 17 points for San Antonio (11-12) and Sophia Young-Malcol had 16. Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride scored 15 apiece.

Paris performed well before her former college coach at Oklahoma Sherri Coale, who traveled the turnpike from Norman to Tulsa.

''I saw them on the baseline and I knew I had to finish,'' said Paris, who shot 9 for 9 from the field with two blocks. ''It's always great to have the support of people around you. I had a great experience at the University of Oklahoma. So whenever those guys come out you have an incentive to play a little harder, a little better.''

Asked if having her former coach and assistants courtside made her nervous, Paris joked, ''No, because I know tomorrow she won't yell at me. Seriously, she congratulated the team on the win. It was nice to have her here.''

Tulsa trailed 45-38 at halftime but used a 26-8 run to take control of the game. The eight points by the Stars in the third period were the fewest by an opponent in one quarter at the BOK Center this season.

''We knew we had an advantage in the low post,'' Johnson said. ''Courtney does a great job and I try to feed her the ball in the high-low. She's powerful down there. We talk a lot about teams coming in and (averaging) 50 percent on us. It was a focus in the third quarter.''

The Stars made 11 3-pointers, including four in the final period. Adams and McBride did most of the damage, hitting a combined seven from beyond the arc.

But Lacy and Hodges made free throws in the final minute to secure the victory.

''I didn't care if we had a game the day before, we needed to get out there and play hard,'' said Tulsa coach Fred Williams. ''Our rotation was good. They shot some 3's and we were able to get some run-outs. We know we have to tighten up our defense in the second half of the season.''

Tulsa shot 50 percent for the game and outrebounded the Stars 32-25.

''The team really fed Glory and Paris and cleared out giving them room to operate,'' Williams said.

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Bird, Latta Named All-Star Replacements

Bird, Latta Named All-Star Replacements

NEW YORK, July 16, 2014 -- Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm and Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics have been named by WNBA President Laurel J. Richie as replacement players for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, the league announced today.

Bird will join the Western Conference roster, filling the spot of Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus, who has missed the last six games due to bursitis in her left knee. Latta joins the Eastern Conference roster in place of frontcourt star Elena Delle Donne, who has been sidelined for 12 of the Chicago Sky’s last 13 games due to the effects of Lyme disease. Delle Donne had been voted into the game as a starter by fans, while Augustus was selected as a reserve by Western Conference head coaches.

For the 33-year-old Bird, this marks her eighth All-Star appearance, having previously been voted as a starter seven times. The two-time WNBA champion most recently participated in the 2011 All-Star event held in San Antonio, when the league officially unveiled and honored its Top 15 Players of All Time, of which Bird was a member. Now in her 12th WNBA campaign, the former University of Connecticut standout ranks second in WNBA history in total assists (2,035) and assists per game (5.4).

Latta, who participated in her first Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star event last year as a reserve, currently leads the Mystics in scoring (11.0 ppg). The former University of North Carolina star is also tied for second in the league in three-point field goals made this season (42).

Eastern Conference Head Coach Michael Cooper will select a player to start in place of Delle Donne.

Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will take place at US Airways Center in Phoenix on Saturday, July 19, and will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).

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Moore scores 32 in Lynx's 93-82 win over Shock

Moore scores 32 in Lynx's 93-82 win over Shock

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After a rocky midseason stretch, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve believes the defending-champion Lynx have just started to play their best basketball.

Maya Moore scored 32 points and the Lynx handed the Tulsa Shock their fifth straight loss with a 93-82 win on Wednesday afternoon.

''A strong, strong testament to how good Lindsay (Whalen) and Maya are to be sitting here at 17-6,'' Reeve said. ''With all we've been through, it's a testament to the leadership of Lindsay and Maya.''

After a .500 record across a 12-game stretch in late June and early July, the Lynx have now won four straight heading into the All-Star break this weekend - but the Shock (7-15) didn't make it easy.

The Lynx jumped out to double-digit leads in the first, second and third quarters, but saw them each erased by the Shock's efficient offense. Led by second-year player Skylar Diggins' 19 points, the Shock were plagued by 16 turnovers, which led to fast-break opportunities and 26 points for Minnesota.

Moore, the WNBA's leading scorer, continued her MVP-like season as she was one of six Lynx players to score in double figures. With her team's lead dwindling to as little as three points, Moore scored 12 of her points in the fourth quarter.

The Lynx never trailed.

''Maya's the Michael Jordan of this league,'' Shock coach Fred Williams said. ''When you have guards and players like her and Whalen, they make a lot of great plays together. But we learned a lot from this game.''

Whalen, who was announced as an All-Star reserve on Tuesday, commanded a Minnesota offense that shot 49 percent from the field and produced 21 assists - on par with their league-leading 20 assists per game. She'll be joined by teammates Moore), Seimone Augustus and coach Reeve at the All-Star game on Saturday.

''When we can get the rebound secured, we can push,'' Moore said. ''We have great athletes on this team. Lindsay Whalen, she's hockey like, the way she runs and feels the floor.''

Even though the Shock got efficient offense out of their starters - Diggins, Glory Johnson, Odyssey Sims and Courtney Paris combined to shoot 44 percent - they failed to capitalize when the score drew close.

Tulsa pulled within 77-74 with four minutes left in the game before a 15-6 run by the Lynx put the game away. Lynx guard Monica Wright had three of her career-high five steals in the final four minutes.

''We had that stretch where we were a .500 ball club for 12 games,'' Reeve said. ''We're not accustom to that. Twelve games is a long time for us to be mediocre. I think we're on the other side of that, and our trajectory is upward. We haven't peaked.''

Minnesota overcame the absence of Augustus for the seventh straight game as she sat out with bursitis in her left knee. Rebekkah Brunson also continued to sit and rehab her right knee after May surgery has kept her out all season.

The Lynx plan on both Brunson and Augustus returning to the lineup at some point after the All-Star break.

''We know what we need to do for those next 11 games,'' Reeve said. ''Without the shortcomings, we may not have known that.''

The Lynx hosted thousands of children for their annual Camp Day at the Target Center. Minnesota announced 16,413 in attendance, setting a regular-season franchise record.

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Results for August 2014

Results for September 2013

Lynx sweep Mercury, advance to 3rd straight finals

Lynx sweep Mercury, advance to 3rd straight finals

PHOENIX (AP) Maya Moore scored 27 points, Seimone Augustus had 22, and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury 72-65 Sunday to advance to the WNBA Finals for the third straight year with a sweep in the best-of-three Western Conference finals.

Minnesota will open the finals on Friday at home against Atlanta, which completed its sweep of Indiana earlier Sunday.

Diana Taurasi had 21 points for Phoenix, but was 6 of 21 from the field. Candice Dupree added 17 points, while No. 1 draft pick Brittney Griner was held to six points and 10 rebounds.

Minnesota beat Phoenix 85-62 in Game 1 on Thursday.

The Lynx swept Atlanta in the 2011 finals and lost to Indiana in four games last season.

Minnesota led by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, but Taurasi hit a 3-pointer and another basket to cut the lead to 69-63 with 1:24 remaining. Dupree got loose for a layup with 33 seconds left to get Phoenix within 69-65.

The Lynx, who won eight of nine at the end of regular season, have won all four of their playoff games in the postseason, winning by an average of 12 points a game.

Minnesota won all seven meetings with the Mercury this year and has beaten Phoenix 14 straight times dating to 2011.

The Lynx advanced despite missing 12 free throws and the Mercury holding Lindsay Whalen to three points on 1-for-12 shooting. Whalen had 20 points in Game 1.

Minnesota ran off seven straight points after Phoenix had tied it 41-all with 7:45 left in the third quarter and went into the final period with a 53-45 lead.

Griner, after hitting two quick shots in the first two minutes, was held to 3-of-6 shooting in 32 minutes.

The Mercury made a concerted effort on the glass, starting the game by outrebounding Minnesota 8-1 in the first five minutes and grabbing an early 15-9 lead. Phoenix led 21-19 after the first quarter.

Minnesota scored the first nine points of the second quarter and opened up a 38-29 advantage after Augustus hit a 3 with 1:46 remaining. But Dupree scored the last four points for Phoenix and the Mercury got within 38-35 at the break. Augustus had 14 points and Moore 13 for Minnesota in the first half.

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McCoughtry leads Dream to WNBA Finals

McCoughtry leads Dream to WNBA Finals

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Angel McCoughtry led Atlanta to its third WNBA Finals spot in four years, scoring 27 points in the Dream's 67-53 victory over the Indiana Fever on Sunday.

Seeking their first title, the Dream swept the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals. They will face the winner of the Western Conference series between Minnesota and Phoenix.

Dream center Erika de Souza added 12 points and eight rebounds. Atlanta dominated inside, making 14 layups, scoring 48 points in the paint and controlling the glass, 43-33.

Tamika Catchings led Indiana with 24 points and six rebounds. The short-handed Fever were trying to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

Atlanta dominated the second half behind smothering defense. Indiana shot 28.1 percent for the game and went 7 for 32 after intermission. All-Star Shavonte Zellous was held to six points, nearly nine below her regular- season average.

McCoughtry was the league's scoring champion and made the all-WNBA second team. She averaged 21.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. On Sunday, she was at her best, making 10 of 21 shots and going 6 for 6 at the line.

The Dream led 34-33 after a tight first half marked by five ties and 14 lead changes.

Indiana led 33-28 with under a minute to play in the half but came undone. McCoughtry made a short jumper and Briann January had a pass stolen, fouling Jasmine Thomas to stop the fast break. Catchings received a technical foul, leading to McCoughtry's free throw, and Atlanta's Armintie Herrington converted a three-point play with 3 seconds left.

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Lynx gang up on Mercury for 85-62 win

Lynx gang up on Mercury for 85-62 win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore scored 20 points apiece and Seimone Augustus added 18 to lead the Minnesota Lynx to an 85-62 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night.

Diana Taurasi scored 15 and Brittney Griner had 13 points and six rebounds for the Mercury, who now face a must-win situation in Game 2 in Phoenix on Sunday.

Both teams started out cold on, but Minnesota recovered quickly and turned the first half into a mismatch. After hitting just one of their first six field goal attempts, the Lynx made 16 of their next 23 shots, while Phoenix was just 9 for 37 (24.3 percent) for the half.

Whalen, a first-team all-WNBA pick, scored just 13 points in Minnesota's two-game sweep of Seattle in the conference semifinals. The changed Thursday when she hit her first five shots and finished the first half 7 for 10 for 14 points, one of three Lynx in double figures before halftime. She finished the game with six rebounds and five assists - team highs in both categories.

Minnesota has won all six meetings with the Mercury this season, but they hadn't played since July 24. The Mercury went 9-4 down the stretch after naming Russ Pennell their interim head coach.

The Mercury advanced to the conference finals by upsetting second-seeded Los Angeles, winning both road games in their best-of-three semifinal series. But they quickly discovered that the Lynx were going to be a tougher out.

Minnesota's 12-2 playoff record at Target Center is the best postseason home-court advantage in WNBA history, and the Lynx swept Phoenix in the conference finals en route to winning the 2011 league title.

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Dream beats Fever 84-79 in Game 1 of East finals

Dream beats Fever 84-79 in Game 1 of East finals

ATLANTA (AP) Tiffany Hayes scored 23 points, Angel McCoughtry had 18 points and the Atlanta Dream beat the Indiana Fever 84-79 on Thursday night for a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Armintie Herrington finished with 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists for the Dream. Erika de Souza had 10 points.

McCoughtry scored on a three-point play to give the Dream an 81-75 lead with 1:07 left.

The league's leading scorer made three free throws down the stretch to help Atlanta seal the win.

Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 21 points, while Erlana Larkins had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Karima Christmas and Shavonte Zellous each had 15 points.

It's the third straight year the teams have faced each other in the East finals.

Game 2 is at Indiana on Sunday. The Dream split their two games at Indiana in the regular season.

With the score tied at 56, the Dream scored the last six points of the third quarter.

McCoughtry made a running layup, Hayes scored on a layup and Alex Bentley made a jumper to close out the quarter strong for Atlanta.

Despite the Dream's third-quarter surge, they had a tough time pulling away from the Fever. Indiana stayed in the game with timely baskets from Catchings and a couple of 3-pointers from Erin Phillips.

Hayes provided offense, while Herrington made several hustle plays to help give the Dream the edge.

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Maya Moore Receives WNBA Cares Community Assist Award Presented by State Farm

Maya Moore Receives WNBA Cares Community Assist Award Presented by State Farm

-- Two-Time WNBA All-Star Receives Award for First Time in Career --

NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2013 -- Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx was awarded the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by State Farm for her contributions to the community in September. This marks the first time Moore has received the honor.

Through her Maya Moore Academy, Moore, who helped the Lynx to the 2011 WNBA title, hosted young girls (ages of 12 to 17) to an exclusive basketball experience, which included valuable life lessons of leadership and building character. Moore also works with United Way to emphasize the importance of education and teaching youth how to read, in hopes of providing them with opportunities to advance in the world.

Additionally, through Lynx initiatives, Moore appeared at the Minneapolis YWCA summer basketball camp and MidCountry Bank camp, as well as led the Lynx annual Faith and Family night program, guiding the group in prayers and song.

"I was given a lot growing up, people helped and guided me to get opportunities to be the best that I could be," Moore said. "Because of that I want to do my best to bless others, especially through basketball camps with my Academy. The pillars of my academy are basketball, leadership, character and service, and instilling those things into our next generation gives me a lot of joy because it makes a huge impact in their lives."

In recognition of her efforts, the WNBA and State Farm are donating $5,000 to the United Way and Athletes in Action.

The WNBA Community Assist Award presented by State Farm is awarded monthly during the season to the players that best reflects the WNBA’s passion to make a difference in the community. Please visit wnba.com/statefarmcommunityassist for more information on the award and its recipients.

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Fowles, Taurasi Headline 2013 All-WNBA First Team

Fowles, Taurasi Headline 2013 All-WNBA First Team

-- Taurasi Earns Record-Tying Eighth First-Team Nod --

NEW YORK, Sept. 25, 2013 -- Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi headline the 2013 All-WNBA First-Team, the WNBA announced today. Fowles was the leading vote-getter (167 points), followed by Taurasi (162), who earned a record-tying eighth First Team nod.

A pair of Minnesota Lynx -- forward Maya Moore (161) and guard Lindsay Whalen (143) -- and Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (119), the 2013 WNBA MVP, round out the First Team. Parker is the only First-Team returnee from 2012.

An All-WNBA First Team member in 2004, 2006-11, Taurasi ties Lisa Leslie for the most First Team selections in WNBA history. While this marks the third First Team honor for both Parker (2008, 2012) and Whalen (2008, 2011), and the second for Fowles (2010), it is a first for Moore, who was a member of the Second Team a year ago.

Voting for the All-WNBA First and Second Teams was conducted by a panel of 39 national and local sportswriters and broadcasters at the conclusion of the regular season. Players were selected by position and received five points for each First Team vote and three points for each Second Team designation.

Fowles, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year winner (2013, 2010), led the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg), finished second in blocks (2.44 bpg), and was one of only two players (Connecticut’s Tina Charles) to average a double-double on the season, finishing with a scoring average of 16.3 points. Fowles captured WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in July, August, and September, as the Sky finished with a record of 24-10, good for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, as Chicago reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

Taurasi finished second in the league in both scoring (20.3 ppg) and assists (6.2 apg) in 2013, while guiding Phoenix into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Mercury opens play in the Western Conference Finals tomorrow against the top-seed Lynx at the Target Center (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

Parker, who also earned MVP honors as a rookie in 2008, guided the Sparks to a 24-10 record, tied for the second-best mark in the league as Los Angeles secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. She ranked fourth in the WNBA in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and double-doubles (eight), and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg).

The runner-up to Parker in the 2013 MVP voting, Moore helped Minnesota to the league’s best record (26-8) and the top overall seed in the playoffs. Moore led the WNBA in three-point field goal percentage and three-point shots made (.453 on 72-of-159), and ranked third in scoring (18.5 ppg). She also finished sixth in steals (1.74 spg), seventh in free throw percentage (.882 on 90-of-102 from the line), and 15th in rebounds (6.2 rpg).

Whalen, an All-WNBA Second Team selection a year ago, averaged a career-high 14.9 ppg, good for 15th in the league. She also ranked third in assists (5.8 apg, the second-best figure of her career), and contributed an average of 4.4 rebounds.

The Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings (116 points) and WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky (105) were voted as forwards on the 2013 All-WNBA Second Team. Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream (97) and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx (62) were selected as guards, while the 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player, Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles (52), rounds out the Second Team.

In honor of being named to the All-WNBA First and Second Teams, each player will receive a Tiffany & Co. designed trophy. In addition, $10,000 will be awarded to each member of the First Team, while each member of the Second Team will receive $5,000.

Below are the results of the 2013 All-WNBA Team voting:

2013 ALL-WNBA FIRST TEAM

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx, Forward - 161 points

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks, Forward - 119 points

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky, Center - 167 points

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury, Guard - 162 points

Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx, Guard - 143 points

2013 ALL-WNBA SECOND TEAM

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever, Forward - 116 points

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky, Forward - 105 points

Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun, Center - 52 points

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 97 points

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx, Guard - 62 points

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Conference Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury

Conference Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Phoenix Mercury

This may very well be the most exciting matchup of the entire 2013 postseason as the star-stacked rosters of the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury collide. Both powerhouse teams have been favorites this season to win it all, which comes as no surprise considering the two teams have collectively been in four of the last six WNBA Finals series.

Phoenix started the season with ginormous expectations drafting game-changing center Brittney Griner and the return of Diana Taurasi, who sat out most of last season with injuries. Injuries, changes in personnel and offense well into the season muddled the team's path to the postseason, but the squad pulled together and are playing in true championship form.

The Mercury are also coming off an explosive first round win over the Los Angeles Sparks which came down to Griner's game-winning shot in the final throes of Game 3. Griner has had her confidence tested this season, dealing with injuries and rookie adjustments to the league, but expect the victory over L.A. to help restore her game-changing potential. And Taurasi will be Taurasi, one of the strongest killer-instinct players in the history of the WNBA. Mix that in with the deadly pick-and-roll combination of Taurasi and Candice Dupree and Phoenix will have several offensive weapons that the Lynx will need to give every ounce of strength in trying to stop.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is the league's top team enjoying one of the best regular season runs in the history of their franchise. They've arguably got the league's strongest pool of talent with four All-Stars in their starting lineup in Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson. Each player is one of the league's best in the specialties they bring to the table and once they all get going, they will be tough to stop.

With the injuries that have slowed the Mercury this season, expect the Lynx to rely heavily on their sheer athleticism, led by leap-frog flyer Maya Moore. The Mercury, on the other hand, are likely to rely heavily on their physical gameplay and frenzied offensive tempo to really get into the Lynx's head and shake up their confidence.

Considering the pool of talent both teams bring to the table, no squad has a clear advantage over the other. Both franchises are equally capable of winning this series, making it a matchup that would be a grave mistake to miss.

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Conference Finals Preview: Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever

Conference Finals Preview: Atlanta Dream vs. Indiana Fever

It was a battle for Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Washington, but the Dream pulled out the series with an 80-72 win in game 3. While the Dream fought to the very end, the Indiana Fever took care of the Chicago Sky with dominating defensive performances in both game of the series.

Now, the Dream will take on the defending champion Fever in the Eastern Conference Finals--which will feature a big matchup between 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team members the Dream's Angel McCoughtry and the Fever's Tamika Catchings.

During the regular-season, the Dream took the series 3-1. Angel McCoughtry posted high numbers in each game, reaching a game-high 30 points and adding 9 rebounds and 8 assists during the final matchup between the two back on September 4. Her big offensive play helped lead the Dream over the injury-riddled Fever during the regular-season.

Back in June, the Fever lost center Jessica Davenport to a stress fracture in her lower leg and another three players were out of the lineup through mid-July. During the regular-season series, the Fever's Erin Phillips, Katie Douglas, Shavonte Zellous and Briann January all sat out games due to injuries. On the Dream's side starting guard Tiffany Hayes sat out in the team's one loss to the Fever.

The Fever's Katie Douglas is still day-to-day with a back injury, but the team was able to pull together in the semifinals and shutdown the top-seeded Sky and Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne without her. With the team mostly back to health and the confidence from the dominating win in the semifinals, expect this to be a competitive matchup.

The two teams have tangled in the post-season for the past two years. In 2012 the Dream lost to the Fever in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, 2-1, (Indiana went on to win the 2012 WNBA Championship) and the year before that the team defeated Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-1, but eventually fell to Minnesota in the 2011 WNBA Finals.

Last year's post-season matchup was a physical series and Indiana was just on fire. The Fever's starters all put up big number in games 2 and 3 and were able to contain then WNBA scoring-leader Angel McCoughtry, only allowing her to score two points in the second half of game 3, to close out the series.

The year before, Angel McCoughtry led her team to the 2011 WNBA Finals with a stellar performance against Indiana in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. She posted 26 points and 8 rebounds, using the opposing crowd's chatter as motivation to win.

This year, Angel McCoughtry is once again the league's scoring-leader and is determined to get her team back into the finals. However, with the Fever mostly back to health, the chemistry flowing again and previous postseason and championships experience, this series is sure to be a battle. The Fever are also on a streak. With the win over No. 1 seeded Chicago in the semifinals, Indiana has now a streak of three consecutive postseason series wins over high-seeded opponents (Indiana is the No. 4 seed). With 2012 WNBA Finals MVP Tamika Catchings rounding into playoff form, the Fever may be peaking at just the right time.

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Tulsa Shock's Riquna Williams Named 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year

Tulsa Shock's Riquna Williams Named 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2013 -- Tulsa Shock guard Riquna Williams was named the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, the WNBA announced today. Williams received 17 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters to earn the award. Minnesota Lynx Monica Wright (13) finished second in the voting.

In 27 games, including 21 as a reserve, Williams averaged 15.6 points -- a five-point increase from her rookie season last year and the second-highest average on the Shock -- 2.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game. The second-year guard from the University of Miami tied for fourth overall in the league in free throw percentage, converting 90 percent of her attempts from the free throw line. She also topped the 20-point plateau nine times, including a WNBA-record 51-point explosion late in the season.

Williams' record-setting game came on Sept. 8 in a 98-65 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars. She shot 17-for-28 from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point land. Williams scored eight points in each of the first two quarters before erupting for 20 in the third and 15 in the fourth. The 51-point effort surpassed the previous mark of 47 set by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi in 2006 and Seattle's Lauren Jackson in 2007. Williams earned the first Western Conference Player of the Week Award in her career following that performance.

An All-Rookie Team selection in 2012, Williams finished her inaugural WNBA campaign ranked third among rookies in both assists (2.1 apg) and steals (1.55 spg), and fourth in scoring (10.5 ppg).

In honor of being named the Sixth Woman of the Year, Williams will receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co.

Below are the results of the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year voting and a list of previous winners:

2013 SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Riquna Williams, Tulsa Shock - 17 votes

Monica Wright, Minnesota Lynx - 13 votes

Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream - 7 votes

Jantel Lavender, Los Angeles Sparks - 1 vote

WNBA SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Riquna Williams, Tulsa Shock

2012 - Renee Montgomery, Connecticut Sun

2011 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2010 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2009 - DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury

2008 - Candice Wiggins, Minnesota Lynx

2007* - Plenette Pierson, Detroit Shock

* Inaugural award

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Tina Thompson Says Farewell

Tina Thompson Says Farewell

It’s been 17 years. 17 years filled with WNBA Championships, gold medals and broken records. 17 years in a career that was never imaginable before 1997. And 541 games later, it all comes to an end--but the history will never be forgotten.

Tina Thompson was the first player to ever be drafted into the WNBA in the inaugural draft on April 28, 1997 (by the Houston Comets). Thompson, who was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection at USC and led her team to three NCAA Tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance, had been planning to go to law school until she got a call from the WNBA and found a new career.

"My plan was just to play a few seasons, stack up a little cash so I could pay for law school and avoid student loans. So being here 17 years later is amazing. It’s a blessing, and it’s something I never could have predicted."

In her 17 seasons with the league, Thompson has racked up the numbers. She holds the league record for points scored (8,074) and minutes played (17,669) and is the only player to compete in all 17 WNBA seasons. She is an MVP (2000), a nine-time All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA Champion. She was also honored as a member of the league’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and was named to the WNBA’s Top-15 Players of All-Time list in 2011.

And in her 17th season, she absolutely dominated.

During the regular-season, she averaged 14.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. She was just under her career averages of 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and above her 4.4 average assists per game. And in her last season, she found herself in the playoffs once again. While the Storm was eliminated by the Lynx in the Western Conference Semifinals, Thompson was determined to fight until the very end. Late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the series, Thompson put in a layup with 1:20 left to give the Storm its first lead since late in the second quarter-- almost extending her career one more game.

Thompson’s head coach over the past three seasons, Brian Agler, was inspired by what the 38-year-old All-Star was able to do in her final season.

"She takes a lot of pride how she is as a professional. And I know that she’s one of the elite competitors in our league. So it doesn’t surprise me that she’s going out in a strong manner because she takes so much pride in herself and the team that she plays on. So knowing her the way that I do, it’s not surprising. But I still sit there in awe, like a lot of people do, and see what she’s doing at her age and just am amazed and impressed and just appreciative of what she’s done not only for our team this year but what she’s done for the league."

For Thompson, she’s just doing her job.

"I’m just basically doing whatever I can to help our team win games...I just do whatever I have to do in order to fill our team’s needs."

Not only was Agler awed by her play, but he also enjoyed seeing the impact she had on her teammates and the younger players in the league.

"That’s what’s really impressed me this season is just her impact off the floor and her leadership abilities.

"She does such a good job with all of our players. And I think they sort of look to her because of her resume and the respect they have for her. Even the ones that have been on our team and won championships, like Tanisha [Wright] and Camille [Little]. They still look at Tina and in a lot of ways she helps them a great deal to be better leaders themselves."

While Thompson has become a leader and a role model for many young basketball players, she never thought that she would play this kind of role.

"I don’t play the game for recognition or something like that, I play because I absolutely love it and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for most of my life. I think it’s cool because I go out and work really hard and because I love and respect the game so much that I’m able to be a role model and I’m able to do the things that I’ve been able to do for such a long time, but it’s not necessarily my motivation."

Now that her 17-year career has come to an end and her life quiets down, she has time to focus on what is most important to her--her son Dyllan.

"Initially, I don’t plan to do anything. I just plan to rest. Basketball has been my focus for such a long time. To play at this level for such a long time consistently is physically grueling. So my main focus is just to relax and just rest and focus on my son. He’s always my main priority, you know, now we’re in this position for me to just spend a lot more personal time with him, although he’s with me all the time, it’s different now, the scheduling and everything is different. His schedule is the priority and I’m looking forward to that."

While she is putting an end to her career, she will always keep the special memories with her.

"Probably my most favorite [memory] is our third season--our third championship--we dedicated it to my late teammate Kim Perrot. It was a tough season for us, very emotionally grueling. But the meaning of the season and us being able to overcome so many emotional trials, for me, it told the character and the fight in our team, but it was special because we played for and we did it all for Kim."

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Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

- McCoughtry Repeats; Fowles and Robinson Topple Mainstays -

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 -- Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) have won the 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Awards for scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively, it was announced by the WNBA today.

The WNBA presents the Peak Performer awards annually to the players who lead the league in each of those categories during the regular season. Each player will receive a trophy crafted by Tiffany in honor of her accomplishments.

McCoughtry earned her second straight Peak Performer award for scoring, averaging a league-best 21.5 points. The fifth-year veteran averaged more than 20 points for the fourth consecutive year and shot 41 percent from the floor. McCoughtry scored 20 or more points in 19 games this season, including six games of 30 or more.

On Sept. 6, McCoughtry became the third-youngest player to reach the 3,000-point plateau, accomplishing the feat four days before her 27th birthday. She reached the milestone in 154 games, tying for third fewest in WNBA history. Her career average of 19.5 points ranks third all-time.

Leading the league in rebounds per game with 11.5, Fowles bested three-time defending rebounding champion Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun, who had edged the Sky center for the award by fewer than one rebound in each of the last two seasons. The Louisiana State University alumna had her two best rebounding totals of the season against Connecticut, pulling down a career-best 22 on May 31 and 21 on Aug. 18. Fowles grabbed double-digit rebounds in 20 games this season, including seven consecutive games to start the season. She ranks second all-time with 9.8 rebounds per game, and recorded the third-highest single-season rebound total in league history (369) this season.

San Antonio Silver Stars guard Danielle Robinson earned her first Peak Performer award, averaging 6.7 assists to hold off Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi who finished second (6.2 apg). Robinson also topped two-time defending assists champion Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota who finished third, averaging 5.8 assists. Robinson dished out five or more assists in 20 games this season, reaching the 10-assist plateau twice, on Aug. 6, against Minnesota and June 25, against Phoenix. She also ranked second in the league in assist-turnover ratio with a 2.63 mark.

2013 WNBA Peak Performers -- Final Statistics

Top Five: Scoring Average

1. Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) - 33 G - 246 FG - 196 FT - 711 PTS - 21.5 PPG

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) - 32 G - 200 FG - 182 FT - 651 PTS - 20.3 PPG

3. Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) - 34 G - 233 FG - 90 FT - 628 PTS - 18.5 PPG

4. Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky) - 30 G - 172 FG - 157 FT - 543 PTS - 18.1 PPG

5. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) - 29 G - 218 FG - 85 FT - 521 PTS - 18.0 PPG

Top Five: Rebounding Average

1. Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) - 32 G - 117 OR - 3.6 ORPG - 252 DR - 7.8 DRPG - 369 TOT - 11.5 RPG

2. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) - 29 G - 98 OR - 3.3 ORPG - 195 DR - 6.7 DRPG - 293 TOT - 10.1 RPG

3. Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream) - 34 G - 90 OR - 2.6 ORPG - 247 DR - 7.2 DRPG - 337 TOT - 9.9 RPG

4. Jayne Appel (SA Silver Stars) - 29 G - 75 OR - 2.5 ORPG - 184 DR - 6.3 DRPG - 259 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx) - 33 G - 89 OR - 2.6 ORPG - 205 DR - 6.2 DRPG - 294 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock) - 29 G - 95 OR - 3.2 ORPG - 163 DR - 5.6 DRPG - 258 TOT - 8.9 RPG

Top Five: Assist Average

1. Danielle Robinson (SA Silver Stars) - 25 G - 168 AST - 6.7 APG

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) - 32 G - 197 AST - 6.2 APG

3. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) - 34 G - 197 AST - 5.8 APG

4. Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) - 33 G - 184 AST - 5.6 APG

5. Lindsey Harding (L.A Sparks) - 33 G - 170 AST - 5.2 APG

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Delle Donne, Griner Headline 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as Unanimous Selections

Delle Donne, Griner Headline 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as Unanimous Selections

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- The 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky and the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner headline the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team as unanimous selections, the WNBA announced today. The Atlanta Dream’s Alex Bentley, New York Liberty’s Kelsey Bone and Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins round out the first-year standouts being recognized.

The voting panel consisted of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches, each of whom voted for five players regardless of position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players on their own team. Delle Donne and Griner each garnered the maximum of 11 votes. Bentley and Bone notched 10 votes apiece and Diggins tallied eight.

The No. 2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, Delle Donne led all rookies in scoring (18.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), three-point field goal percentage (.438, 42-for-96), and minutes (31.4 mpg). She ranked second amongst her fellow rookies in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). Overall, she led the league in free-throw percentage, while ranking second in three-point field goal percentage, fourth in scoring, and fifth in blocks. The 6-5 forward/guard swept the Rookie of the Month honors this season. The Delaware product appeared in 30 games, scoring in double digits in all but two, and helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. She became the first rookie to be the leading vote-getter in WNBA All-Star balloting.

Griner, the top overall selection in the draft out of Baylor, paced all rookies (and the league) in blocks at 3.0 bpg, and also led all first-year players in rebounds (6.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (.556, fourth in the league). She was the only rookie other than Delle Donne to average double-digit scoring, posting 12.6 ppg. She led all rookies in double-doubles with three.

A second-round draft selection out of Penn State, Bentley ranked fourth among rookies in scoring (8.3 ppg), third in assists (2.8 apg) and third in steals (1.0 spg) as she helped the Dream to a 17-17 record and the number two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Bone, the fifth overall selection out of Texas A&M, ranked fifth among rookies in scoring (6.9 ppg) and third in rebounding (5.4 rpg). Bone was the only rookie aside from Griner with multiple double-doubles, posting two on the season (15 points, 11 rebounds on July 31 at Washington; 11 points, 10 rebounds on Aug. 11 at Atlanta).

Diggins, a product of Notre Dame, was the third overall selection in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. She led all rookies in assists (3.8 apg), steals (1.28 spg), and ranked third in scoring at 8.5 ppg. Diggins twice dished out 11 assists (May 27 vs. Washington, June 23 at Minnesota) and had five games with three-or-more steals.

Below are the top finishers in the vote for the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team: :

2013 ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky, Forward/Guard - 11 votes

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury, Center - 11 votes

Alex Bentley, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 10 votes

Kelsey Bone, New York Liberty, Center - 10 votes

Skylar Diggins, Tulsa Shock, Guard - 8 votes

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Chicago's Fowles and Indiana's Catchings Headline 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team

Chicago's Fowles and Indiana's Catchings Headline 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Team

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles, the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, headline the 2013 WNBA All-Defensive First Team, the WNBA announced today.

Fowles received 10 of a possible 11 First Team votes and finished with 53 points to lead all players, while Catchings earned nine First Team nods and finished with 51 points. Angel McCoughtry (42) and Armintie Herrington (36) of the Atlanta Dream, and the Seattle Storm’s Tanisha Wright (22) round out the First Team.

Fowles, the 2011 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, captured First Team honors for the third consecutive season after leading the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg) and defensive boards (7.9 drpg), and ranking second in blocks (2.44 bpg). This marks her fourth All-Defensive Team honor overall; she earned Second Team honors as a rookie in 2008.

Catchings, recognized as the league’s top defender in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012, makes her ninth consecutive appearance on the All-Defensive First Team. Catchings led the league in steals (2.82 spg) and was tied for ninth in blocks (1.03 bpg).

This is the fourth First Team appearance for Wright, who tallied two First Team votes and averaged 3.7 rebounds from the guard position to go with 1.1 steals. McCoughtry, who tallied six First Team votes after finishing second in the league in steals (2.70 spg), earns All-Defensive Team honors for the fourth time, having previously being selected to the First Team in 2010 and 2011, and to the Second Team in 2009. Herrington (six First Team votes) captured First Team honors for the first time after finishing fourth in the league in steals (2.32 spg). Herrington was voted to the All-Defensive Second Team in 2011 and 2012.

The WNBA All-Defensive Second Team is comprised of Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson (29 points, four First Team votes), Indiana Fever guard Briann January (21, three), San Antonio Silver Stars guards Jia Perkins (20, four) and Danielle Robinson (20, one), Tulsa Shock forward Glory Johnson (19, two) and Atlanta Dream center Erika de Souza (14, one). A panel of the WNBA’s 12 head coaches voted on the WNBA All-Defensive Team, selecting First- and Second-Teams by position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team. Players earned five points for each First Team vote and three points for a Second Team vote.

Below are the top finishers in the voting for the 2013 WNBA All-Defensive Teams:

2013 WNBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever, Forward - 51 points

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream, Forward - 42 points

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky, Center - 53 points

Armintie Herrington, Atlanta Dream, Guard - 36 points

Tanisha Wright, Seattle Storm, Guard - 22 points

2013 WNBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM

Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx, Forward - 29 points

Glory Johnson, Tulsa Shock, Forward - 19 points

Erika de Souza, Atlanta Dream, Center - 14 points

Briann January, Indiana Fever, Guard - 21 points

Jia Perkins, San Antonio Silver Stars, Guard - 20 points

Danielle Robinson, San Antonio Silver Stars, Guard - 20 points

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Indiana Fever Guard Shavonte Zellous Named 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year

Indiana Fever Guard Shavonte Zellous Named 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 22, 2013 -- Indiana Fever guard Shavonte Zellous is the winner of the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today. Zellous received 30 of 39 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

Zellous nearly doubled her scoring average in 2013 (14.7 ppg) from 2012 (7.5 ppg), and also improved her rebounding numbers in 2013 (3.4 rpg) from 2012 (2.7 rpg). She also took her overall field goal percentage up from .369 in 2012 to .415 in 2013.

In her fifth season in the league, Zellous started all 29 games in which she appeared this season. She posted career highs in scoring, rebounds, steals (0.9 spg), blocks (0.7 bpg) and three-point field goal percentage (.348). Zellous opened the season with 15 consecutive double-figure scoring efforts, and tallied 10-or-more points in 24-of-30 contests overall. Zellous poured in a season-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from distance on June 8 against Phoenix.

Zellous is in her third full season with the Fever, which finished the 2013 campaign with a 16-18 mark, and earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. She spent part of the 2010 season with Indiana as well, also splitting time with Tulsa. Zellous was drafted 11th overall by Detroit in the 2009 WNBA Draft following a standout career at the University of Pittsburgh.

There was a nine-way tie for second place, with each of the following players receiving one vote: Jane Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars); Elizabeth Cambage (Tulsa Shock); Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream); Kelsey Griffin (Connecticut Sun); Allison Hightower (Connecticut Sun); Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock); Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars); Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky); and Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx).

In honor of being named the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, Zellous will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete voting results for the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award and a list of past recipients:

2013 WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS

Shavonte Zellous, Indiana Fever - 30 votes

Jane Appel, Phoenix Mercury - 1 vote

Elizabeth Cambage, Tulsa Shock - 1 vote

Erika de Souza, Atlanta Dream - 1 vote

Kelsey Griffin, Connecticut Sun - 1 vote

Allison Hightower, Connecticut Sun - 1 vote

Glory Johnson, Tulsa Shock - 1 vote

Danielle Robinson, San Antonio Silver Stars - 1 vote

Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky - 1 vote

Monica Wright, Minnesota Lynx - 1 vote

PREVIOUS WINNERS -- WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2013 - Shavonte Zellous, Indiana Fever

2012 - Kristi Toliver, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Kia Vaughn, New York Liberty

2010 - Leilani Mitchell, New York Liberty

2009 - Crystal Langhorne, Washington Mystics

2008 - Ebony Hoffman, Indiana Fever

2007 - Janel McCarville, New York Liberty

2006 - Erin Buescher, Sacramento Monarchs

2005 - Nicole Powell, Sacramento Monarchs

2004 - Wendy Palmer/Kelly Miller, Connecticut Sun/Indiana Fever

2003 - Michelle Snow, Houston Comets

2002 - Coco Miller, Washington Mystics

2001 - Janeth Arcain, Houston Comets

2000 - Tari Phillips, New York Liberty

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Washington's Mike Thibault Named 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year

Washington's Mike Thibault Named 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept 21, 2013 -- Washington Mystics Head Coach/General Manager Mike Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, is the recipient of the 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today. Thibault, who also won the award in 2006 and 2008, received 12 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters.

The Seattle Storm’s Brian Agler and Chicago Sky’s Pokey Chatman tied for second with 11 votes apiece. Lin Dunn of the Indiana Fever (three), Gary Kloppenburg of the Tulsa Shock (one), and Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx (one) rounded out the vote-getters.

Thibault’s three Coach of the Year awards are tied for the most in WNBA history with Van Chancellor, who earned the honor in each of the league’s first three seasons (1997 through 1999). Thibault also joins Dan Hughes (2001, 2007) as the only coaches to win the award with two different teams.

In his first season at the helm in Washington, Thibault returned the Mystics to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, guiding the club to a 17-17 record and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Thibault led a 12-game turnaround from a year ago when the Mystics finished 5-29. Just one year prior to that, Washington posted a 6-28 mark.

Thibault achieved a milestone on July 6, when the Mystics defeated the visiting Seattle Storm, 62-59. The win was the 212th regular-season victory for Thibault and moved him ahead of Chancellor into the top spot on the WNBA’s all-time wins list.

Under Thibault, the revamped Washington roster features seven players who were not with the team in 2012, led by guard Ivory Latta, who signed with the Mystics as an unrestricted free agent this past winter and went on to be selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad. Thibault also orchestrated a trade that brought center Kia Vaughn to Washington, and added four rookies to the roster. Three of those rookies -- Tayler Hill, Emma Meesseman, and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt -- made Washington the only team with three players receiving votes toward the All-Rookie Team.

Prior to joining the Mystics, Thibault spent 10 seasons (2003 through 2012) as head coach of theWNBA’s Connecticut Sun, leading that club to eight playoff appearances and two WNBA Finals. During his tenure with the Sun, Thibault compiled a 206-134 (.605) record and achieved several other milestones, including becoming the second coach in WNBA history to reach 200 regular-season victories, the third-fastest coach in league history to compile 100 wins (doing so in 159 games), and the fourth WNBA head coach to work at least 300 regular-season games.

In addition to his WNBA coaching duties, Thibault served as an assistant to Head Coach Anne Donovan on the U.S. Women’s National Team that won a gold medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Prior to joining the Sun in 2003, Thibault spent numerous years in various roles with NBA teams. He first joined the NBA in 1978 as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and was quickly promoted to director of scouting and assistant coach in 1980. During his tenure with the Lakers, the team won two NBA championships. From 1982-86, he served as the director of scouting for the Chicago Bulls, when that organization selected Michael Jordan, Charles Oakley, and John Paxson. Thibault went on to serve as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and also as a scout for the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks.

Below are the voting results for 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year Award as well as a list of past recipients:

2013 COACH OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics - 12 votes

Brian Agler, Seattle Storm - 11 votes

Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky - 11 votes

Lin Dunn, Indiana Fever - 3 votes

Gary Kloppenburg, Tulsa Shock - 1 votes

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx - 1 votes

COACH OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics

2012 - Carol Ross, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

2010 - Brian Agler, Seattle Storm

2009 - Marynell Meadors, Atlanta Dream

2008 - Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun

2007 - Dan Hughes, San Antonio Silver Stars

2006 - Mike Thibault, Connecticut Sun

2005 - John Whisenant, Sacramento Monarchs

2004 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Minnesota Lynx

2003 - Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Shock

2002 - Marianne Stanley, Washington Mystics

2001 - Dan Hughes, Cleveland Rockers

2000 - Michael Cooper, Los Angeles Sparks

1999 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

1998 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

1997 - Van Chancellor, Houston Comets

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Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings Win 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings Win 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

NEW YORK, Sept. 20 2013 -- Swin Cash of the Chicago Sky and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever were named the recipients of the 2013 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, the WNBA announced today. The co-winners each received seven of 39 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.

Catchings, who also won the award in 2010, becomes the fourth player to be honored multiple times, joining Kara Lawson (2012, 2009), Dawn Staley (2006, 1999), and Suzie McConnell Serio (2000, 1998). Three players tied for second place in this year’s voting, Alana Beard (Los Angeles Sparks), Armintie Herrington (Atlanta Dream), and Candice Wiggins (Tulsa Shock), each receiving four votes.

Honored as the recipient of the July Community Assist Award presented by State Farm, Catchings is actively involved with a number of organizations on both a national and local level including her Catch the Stars Foundation. Through her foundation, she works to inspire others to give back to the community, promote literacy, fitness, and mentoring, while empowering youth to achieve their dreams. The MVP of the 2012 WNBA Finals Catchings serves as the league’s ambassador for the "Dribble to Stop Diabetes" campaign.

"Tamika defines hard work, dedication, leadership, and reliability," said Coach Lin Dunn. "We could not be more proud of what she has accomplished not just as a basketball player but as a person, role model and leader for fans all over the world."

Cash, a three-time WNBA champion and 12-year veteran is deeply engaged in the Chicago area where she participates in numerous community events and speaking engagements. Through her Cash for Kids Foundation she works to inspire today’s youth through sports and other activities to motivate, educate, and elevate.

"From the day she arrived, Swin has been a vocal leader on and off the court" said Coach Pokey Chatman. "I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. As successful as she has been on the court, Swin is equally respected for her extensive community outreach."

The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is presented each season to honor a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court -- ethical behavior, fair play and integrity -- the award is named for the late Kim Perrot, who helped guide the Houston Comets to their first two WNBA championships before passing away in August 1999, after a seven-month battle with cancer.

In honor of being named the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award co-winners, Cash and Catchings will each receive $5,000 and a specially-designed trophy from Tiffany & Co. An additional $5,000 will be designated to the charity of her choice.

Below are the voting results of the 2013 WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award and a list of past recipients.

2013 KIM PERROT SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD RESULTS

Swin Cash, Chicago Sky - 7 votes

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever - 7 votes

Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks - 4 votes

Candice Wiggins, Tulsa Shock - 4 votes Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks - 4 votes

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury - 3 votes

Crystal Langhorne, Washington Mystics - 3 votes

Leilani Mitchell, New York Liberty - 3 votes

Allison Hightower, Connecticut Sun - 2 votes

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx - 2 votes

ALL-TIME KIM PERROT SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD WINNERS

2013 - Swin Cash, Chicago Sky

2013 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2012 - Kara Lawson, Connecticut Sun

2011 - Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

2011 - Ruth Riley, San Antonio Silver Stars

2010 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2009 - Kara Lawson, Sacramento Monarchs

2008 - Vickie Johnson, San Antonio Silver Stars

2007 - Tully Bevilaqua, Indiana Fever

2006 - Dawn Staley, Houston Comets

2005 - Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Connecticut Sun

2004 - Teresa Edwards, Minnesota Lynx

2003 - Edna Campbell, Sacramento Monarchs

2002 - Jennifer Gillom, Phoenix Mercury

2001 - Sue Wicks, New York Liberty

2000 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Cleveland Rockers

1999 - Dawn Staley, Charlotte Sting

1998 - Suzie McConnell Serio, Cleveland Rockers

1997 - Haixia Zheng, Los Angeles Sparks

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Sylvia Fowles Named 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of Year

Sylvia Fowles Named 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky was named the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today.

Fowles, who also was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, received 21 out of 39 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. She edged out five-time winner Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever who collected 16 votes. The Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry and the Seattle Storm’s Tanisha Wright each received one vote.

The 6-6 Fowles finished second in the WNBA in blocks (2.44 bpg), anchoring a stout Sky defense that led the WNBA in opponent field goal percentage (.404), while allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (73.59). Fowles led the WNBA in rebounding (11.5 rpg), and was one of only two players (Connecticut’s Tina Charles) to average a double-double on the season, finishing with a scoring average of 16.3 points.

Fowles captured WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors in July, August, and September, as the Sky finished with a record of 24-10, good for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, as Chicago reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history. She joins Catchings, Teresa Weatherspoon, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie as the only players to win the award more than once.

Fowles, the second overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, was named an All-Star for the third time this season, and sports career averages of 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over a distinguished six-year career.

In honor of being named the Defensive Player of the Year, Fowles will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year votes and a list of past recipients:

2013 DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky - 21 votes

Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever - 16 votes

Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream - 1 vote

Tanisha Wright, Seattle Storm - 1 vote

ALL-TIME DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

2012 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2011 - Sylvia Fowles, Chicago Sky

2010 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2009 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2008 - Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

2006 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2005 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2004 - Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks

2003 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

2002 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

2001 - Debbie Black, Miami Sol

2000 - Sheryl Swoopes, Houston Comets

1999 - Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento Monarchs

1998 - Teresa Weatherspoon, New York Liberty

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Elena Delle Donne Named 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Elena Delle Donne Named 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2013 -- Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky is the recipient of the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Award, the WNBA announced today. Delle Donne was a unanimous selection by a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters who voted for the award.

The No. 2 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, Delle Donne led all rookies in points (18.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), three-point field goal percentage (.438, 42-for-96), and minutes (31.4 mpg). She ranked second amongst her fellow rookies in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). Overall, she led the league in free-throw percentage, while ranking second in three-point field goal percentage, fourth in scoring, and fifth in blocks. The 6-5 forward/guard swept the Rookie of the Month honors this season.

The Delaware product appeared in 30 games, scoring in double digits in all but two, and helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. The first rookie to be the leading vote-getter in WNBA All-Star balloting, Delle Donne averaged double digits in scoring every month. She averaged 19.1 points during June and finished her rookie season by averaging 17.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in September, while connecting on all 26 of her free-throw attempts during the final month.

In her professional debut on May 27, she collected 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a 102-80 win against the Phoenix Mercury. Perhaps Delle Donne’s best game came on Aug. 11, in a 94-86 overtime victory against the league-leading Minnesota Lynx. In that game she produced a career-high 32 points, her first time hitting the 30-point plateau as a professional, and forced overtime with her fourth three-pointer of the game with 4.5 seconds left in regulation. In another notable performance, Delle Donne posted 18 points including the buzzer-beating game winner to give the Sky the 70-68 edge over the visiting Mercury on Sept. 11.

In honor of being named the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Delle Donne will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year voting, followed by a list of previous winners:

2013 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RESULTS

Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky - 39 votes

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR WINNERS

2013 - Elena Delle Donne, Chicago Sky

2012 - Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

2011 - Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

2010 - Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun

2009 - Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream

2008 - Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Armintie Price, Chicago Sky

2006 - Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx

2005 - Temeka Johnson, Washington Mystics

2004 - Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

2003 - Cheryl Ford, Detroit Shock

2002 - Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

2001 - Jackie Stiles, Portland Fire

2000 - Betty Lennox, Minnesota Lynx

1999 - Chamique Holdsclaw, Washington Mystics

1998 - Tracy Reid, Charlotte Sting

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Sparks' Candace Parker Named 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player

Sparks' Candace Parker Named 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player

-- All-Star Wins Award for Second Time in Six-Year Career --

NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2013 -- Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks has been named the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player, the WNBA announced today. Parker received 234 points (10 first-place votes) from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters.

Candace Parker in Pictures: 2013 MVP Season | Through the Years

This marks the second time Parker has won MVP honors in her six-year WNBA career. As a rookie in 2008, she became the first player in WNBA history to earn both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. Parker becomes the fifth player to earn multiple WNBA MVP awards, joining Lauren Jackson (three), Lisa Leslie (three), Sheryl Swoopes (three), and Cynthia Cooper (two).

This season, Parker guided the Sparks to a 24-10 record, tied for the second-best mark in the league, and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. She ranked fourth in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and double-doubles (eight), and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg). She paced the Sparks in scoring, rebounding and blocks, while ranking second on the team in assists and steals (1.29 spg). Parker scored at least 20 points 13 times, including a season-best 30 points in a 94-78 win over Tulsa on July 11.

After the Sparks started the season 5-4, Parker’s strong play in July led the team to a 7-2 mark for the month. In those nine July contests, Parker averaged 19.8 points and 9.0 rebounds while earning Western Conference Player of the Month honors. She scored at least 20 points in six of the nine games and averaged 23.2 points over two weeks (five games) to earn back-to-back Western Conference Player of the Week awards. Overall, she earned three Player of the Week awards this season, increasing her career total to 13.

Also in July, Parker was crowned MVP of the 2013 Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game after setting a scoring record with 23 points. Her stat line for the star-studded event included 11 rebounds and 10-for-13 shooting from the field as she led the Western Conference to a 102-98 victory over the East.

Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore finished second in the voting with 218 points (10 first-place votes) and Chicago Sky rookie forward/guard Elena Delle Donne finished third with 189 points (seven). Rounding out the top five vote-getters were Sky center Sylvia Fowles (109, six first-place votes) and Atlanta Dream forward/guard Angel McCoughtry (90 points, two first-place votes), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for third, three for fourth and one for each fifth-place vote received.

In honor of being named the WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker will receive $15,000 and a specially-designed trophy.

Below are the complete results of the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player of the Year award votes and a list of past recipients:

2013 WNBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER VOTING RESULTS

Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks - 234 points

Maya Moore - Minnesota Lynx - 218 points

Elena Delle Donne - Chicago Sky - 189 points

Sylvia Fowles - Chicago Sky - 109 points

Angel McCoughtry - Atlanta Dream - 90 points

Diana Taurasi - Phoenix Mercury - 69 points

Tamika Catchings - Indiana Fever - 43 points

Lindsay Whalen - Minnesota Lynx - 34 points

Tina Thompson - Seattle Storm - 13 points

Lindsey Harding - Los Angeles Sparks - 7 points

Nneka Ogwumike - Los Angeles Sparks - 5 points

Seimone Augustus - Minnesota Lynx - 1 point

DeWanna Bonner - Phoenix Mercury - 1point

Tina Charles - Connecticut Sun - 1 point

ALL-TIME WNBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD WINNERS

2013 - Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks

2012 - Tina Charles - Connecticut Sun

2011 - Tamika Catchings - Indiana Fever

2010 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2009 - Diana Taurasi - Phoenix Mercury

2008 - Candace Parker - Los Angeles Sparks

2007 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2006 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2005 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

2004 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2003 - Lauren Jackson - Seattle Storm

2002 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

2001 - Lisa Leslie - Los Angeles Sparks

2000 - Sheryl Swoopes - Houston Comets

1999 - Yolanda Griffith - Sacramento Monarchs

1998 - Cynthia Cooper - Houston Comets

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Every Cloud Has a Sylvia Lining

Every Cloud Has a Sylvia Lining

She may not get the spotlight like many of the league's other superstars garner, but Chicago's Sylvia Fowles has quietly become one of the league's most dominant player on both ends of the floor this season.

"She's the cleanup woman," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "I mean, she's shooting almost 60 percent from the field, she's leading the league in rebounding, she's blocking shots and she can score. As a coach, she allows you to play her so many different ways and that is pretty darn valuable to me."

Fowles finished the regular season as the league's top field goal shooter at 59 percent in addition to leading the league in rebounding with 11.5 boards per game. Throw that in with the fact that she is also one of the league's top shot blockers and scorers and you have a force to be recogned with.

Fowles said her stride this season has been cathartic alongside the team's success this season. She's been on the team since 2008 and this year marks the first time the Sky have made the playoffs in the franchise's history - and they did it with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"It's very humbling," she said. "It makes you apperciate all the struggles you've been through with this organization. It all has been working towards this moment."

Fowles has been a dominant player ever since she stepped into the league so her numbers should come as no surprise. But injuries in past seasons stunted her opportunities including last year when she missed 9 games as the Sky missed making the playoffs by one game. Chatman said Fowles' rejuvination this year began in the offseason. She played basketball in Turkey on the same team as established bigs like Atlanta Dream's Sancho Lyttle and Seattle Storm's Ann Wauters.

"What that translates into is she didn't have to play 35, 36, 37 or 38 minutes a game," Chatman said. "It allowed her to go in later, it allowed her to play in fewer minutes. She wanted to give herself an oppportunity to get better overseas, but it was an opportunity to stay fresh and prepare for what was to come."

In addition to staying healthy, Fowles' improvements this season have been complimented by the meteoric run of rookie teammate Elena Delle Donne. The two have been playing at MVP caliber levels all season long and Chatman said it's because of how well the duo play together.

"They're a perfect compliment to one another," Chatman said. "You look at the personalities of those two and they don't cancel each other out. When I hear talk about both of them having a chance at MVP, it makes me smile because they understand each other and respect how important one is to the other."

Fowles added having Delle Donne in addition to a prolific scorer in Epiphanny Prince on the team has helped cement her role for the team and hone in on what she does best.

"Rebounding and blocking shots has always been my bread and butter," Fowles said. "I'm pretty much the garbage woman. When you have an Elena Delle Donne and Epiphanny Prince, they can score anytime they touch the ball. I think my main thing is get some offense boards, rebounds and putbacks."

She added the team's solidified structure this season has helped create a tough-as-nails mentality going into the postseason.

"There's a different mindset (than previous years) among the 11 girls that we have here," she said. "We all want to go out and compete to the best of our ability. I think that's what's making the difference."

She added the team's goofy and outgoing chemistry off the court has made a difference this season as well. A big factor in that has been Fowles' presence, her coach said.

"You see that big body and that beastly game, but a lot of people don't know she's also one of the most endearing, kind, thoughtful and appreciative people out there," Chatman said.

On the surface, it appears Chicago would be heavy favorites in the first round as a No. 1 seed going against the No. 4 seeded Indiana Fever. But the Indiana Fever are the defending WNBA champions who can scrap with the league's best, including the Sky as they prepare for their first ever playoffs series.

"Yeah they're the fourth seed, but you can't write them off," Fowles said. "Indiana is going to come out and be very aggressive and very strong and we know what they're capable of. So we have to come out and be as aggressive too and step up our mental game."

The Fever are known for their tenacious defense, led by veteran superstar Tamika Catchings. But Indiana doesn't have a dominant center the way the Sky do. Considering the Fever beat the Sky, 3-1, in their regular series matchups, big games from Fowles could be the Sky's X-factor in winning the series.

Chatman said Fowles and the rest of the Chicago lineup will be ready.

"They're the team that beat us three times," Chatman said. "There's the motivation. Indiana is going to be physical. They're going to switch and they're going to trap. We've learned from that. If we continue to bring high level basketball both physically and mentally, then we should be ok."

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Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

Angel McCoughtry, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson Capture 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Honors

NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 -- Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) have won the 2013 WNBA Peak Performer Awards for scoring, rebounding and assists, respectively, it was announced by the WNBA today.

The WNBA presents the Peak Performer awards annually to the players who lead the league in each of those categories during the regular season. Each player will receive a trophy crafted by Tiffany in honor of her accomplishments.

McCoughtry earned her second straight Peak Performer award for scoring, averaging a league-best 21.5 points. The fifth-year veteran averaged more than 20 points for the fourth consecutive year and shot 41 percent from the floor. McCoughtry scored 20 or more points in 19 games this season, including six games of 30 or more.

On Sept. 6, McCoughtry became the third-youngest player to reach the 3,000-point plateau, accomplishing the fear four days before her 27th birthday. She reached the milestone in 154 games, tying for third fewest in WNBA history. Her career average of 19.5 points ranks third all-time.

Leading the league in rebounds per game with 11.5, Fowles bested three-time defending rebounding champion Tina Charles of the Connecticut Sun, who had edged the Sky center for the award by fewer than one rebound in each of the last two seasons. The Louisiana State University alumna had her two best rebounding totals of the season against Connecticut, pulling down a career-best 22 on May 31 and 21 on Aug. 18. Fowles grabbed double-digit rebounds in 20 games this season, including seven consecutive games to start the season. She ranks second all-time with 9.8 rebounds per game, and recorded the third-highest single-season rebound total in league history (369) this season.

San Antonio Silver Stars guard Danielle Robinson earned her first Peak Performer award, averaging 6.7 assists to hold off Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi who finished second (6.2 apg). Robinson also topped two-time defending assists champion Lindsay Whalen of Minnesota who finished third, averaging 5.8 assists. Robinson dished out five or more assists in 20 games this season, reaching the 10-assist plateau twice, on Aug. 6, against Minnesota and June 25, against Phoenix. She also ranked second in the league in assist-turnover ratio with a 2.63 mark.

--

2013 WNBA Peak Performers -- Final Statistics

--

Top Five: Scoring Average

Player (Team)

1. Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

3. Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)

4. Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)

5. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)

--

Top Five: Rebounding Average

Player (Team)

1. Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)

2. Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)

3. Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream)

4. Jayne Appel (SA Silver Stars)

Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx)

Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock)

--

Top Five: Assists Average

Player (Team)

1. Danielle Robinson (SA Silver Stars)

2. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

3. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)

4. Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky)

5. Lindsey Harding (L.A Sparks)

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Chicago's Fowles and Minnesota's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month

Chicago's Fowles and Minnesota's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month

NEW YORK, Sept. 17, 2013 -- Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in September.

Fowles led the WNBA in both rebounding per game (11.6 rpg) and field goal percentage (.569) in September. She ranked second in blocks per game (3.0 bpg) and total blocks (15), and 13th in scoring (15.6 ppg). Fowles also recorded three double-doubles, ranking second in the WNBA.

Highlights of Fowles’ play in September included:

- Sept. 6 vs. Indiana: 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while adding eight rebounds and four blocks in an 82-77 loss.

- Sept. 11 vs. Phoenix: Double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in addition to four blocks in a 70-68 victory.

- Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-66 loss.

Moore averaged 18.0 points in September as Minnesota (26-8) finished its 2013 regular season with a 4-1 mark, clinching the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the WNBA playoffs. Moore also averaged 3.2 assists and ranked fifth in the league with a .523 field goal percentage, as well as in the top-10 in total three-pointers made.

Highlights of Moore’s play in September included:

- Sept. 4 vs. Los Angeles: 20 points, six rebounds, two blocks in an 83-74 victory.

- Sept. 10 at Seattle: 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting, five steals, three assists and four rebounds in a 73-60 win.

- Sept. 14 vs. Chicago: Double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, in addition to six assists in a 79-66 victory.

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Fans Contribute to Successful WNBA Season

Fans Contribute to Successful WNBA Season

NEW YORK, Sept. 17, 2013 -- Fans responded to one of the WNBA’s most compelling seasons as the league experienced double digit growth in television viewership, increase in attendance and soaring traffic on WNBA.com.

The 2013 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile begin Thursday, Sept. 19, with the Atlanta Dream taking on the Washington Mystics at 8 p.m. ET followed by the Phoenix Mercury against the Los Angeles Sparks at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2. NBA TV will then tip off its postseason coverage on Friday, Sept. 20 when the Indiana Fever begin their defense of the WNBA crown against the Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the Seattle Storm against the defending Western Conference champion Minnesota Lynx. All 23 possible postseason games will be airing on ESPN, ESPN2 and NBA TV. Information on game tickets and TV schedules can be found on WNBA.com.

The 2013 WNBA regular-season highlights include:

WNBA on TV:

- The WNBA regular season on ESPN2 averaged 231,000 viewers, up +28% over last season (180,000)

- ESPN2’s telecast of the Chicago Sky vs. the Phoenix Mercury on opening day was the most viewed WNBA regular season game on the network since 2004, delivering 455,000 viewers.

- NBA TV had its most viewed WNBA season up 19% over last year, with the Seattle Storm vs. the San Antonio Silver Stars (Friday, June 21) becoming the most watched WNBA game in the network’s history with 113,000 viewers.

WNBA Attendance:

- Led by the Chicago Sky (+17%), the Phoenix Mercury (+9%), and the Indiana Fever (+8%), WNBA saw increases in attendance (+1.0%).

WNBA Digital:

- WNBA.com experienced double digit growth during the 2013 season for daily unique visits (+27%), total visits (+20%,) and total page views (+11%). - WNBA games streamed online at WNBA.com via LiveAccess saw a 24% increase in unique users.

WNBA Social Media

- The WNBA Channel on YouTube (youtube.com/wnba) set a new record with 635,000 videos viewed during opening week and has experienced a three- fold increase in video views this season.

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Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne Named Rookie of the Month for September

Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne Named Rookie of the Month for September

NEW YORK, September 17, 2013 -- Chicago Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne has been named Rookie of the Month for games played in September, the WNBA announced today. This marks the fourth consecutive Rookie of the Month honor for Delle Donne.

For September, Delle Donne led rookies in scoring (17.2 ppg), free-throw percentage (1.000, 26-for-26), minutes (33.6 mpg), and ranked second in rebounds (5.8 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg). The WNBA All-Star led her team to a 3-2 record for the month, which included a 70-68 win on Sept. 11, over the visiting Phoenix Mercury. Delle Donne’s 18 points included a buzzer-beater to give the Sky the win.

The Delaware native has helped the Sky to the best record in the East (24-10) and a franchise-first playoff berth. Delle Donne finished the season ranked first overall in three-throw percentage (.929, 157-for-169), fourth in points (18.1 ppg), and fifth in blocks (1.8 bpg). Delle Donne appeared in 30 games, scoring in double-digits in all but two.

Highlights of Delle Donne’s month included:

- Sept. 8 vs. Washington: 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line in a 93-79 win

- Sept. 11 vs. Phoenix: 18 points including a buzzer-beater in a 70-68 win

- Sept. 13 vs. Atlanta: 18 points and eight rebounds in an 87-82 win

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Series Preview: (2) L.A. Sparks vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

Series Preview: (2) L.A. Sparks vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

The No. 2 seeded Los Angeles Sparks are set to take on the No. 3 seeded Phoenix Mercury in a series that is sure to be competitive and feature two dynamic MVP candidates in forward/center Candace Parker of the Sparks and guard Diana Taurasi of the Mercury.

There is no doubt that these two players will have a large impact on the outcome of the playoffs series. Parker leads her team averaging 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists, while Taurasi leads the Mercury averaging 20.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists and ranks second in the league in scoring average and in assists--just 1.2 points behind Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry and .5 assists behind San Antonio's Danielle Robinson, respectively.

During the 2013 season, the teams broke even in the series at 2-2. In those four games, Taurasi averaged 24.3 ppg, with her highest mark coming from the game back on June 14 when she put up 34 points. Parker posted 19.3 ppg, scoring her series-best at 25 points when the two met on July 18.

The previous matchups paint the picture that this will be a sure to be an aggressive series. Both teams have top-notch supporting casts and played tight games during half of the series. Just to show the competitiveness between the teams, in the third-game the Mercury snapped the Sparks' 19-game regular-season home winning streak. While the Sparks have homecourt advantage, that advantage could easily be taken over by the Mercury. Overall, the Sparks are the second-highest scoring team in the league (just behind Minnesota) averaging 81.94 points per game, but Phoenix is just right behind them with an average of 79.71 points per game. The teams faced each other in the last regular-season game of the year, with the Sparks getting a huge 89-55 win, but both teams sat out their stars during most of the game.

Between two of the league's top all-stars and competitive matchups during the season, the supporting casts on both teams make it hard to say that either team will get a sure victory in this playoffs series. Rookie center Brittney Griner has overcome injury issues and managed to lead the league in blocks, while her offensive game is improving just as the playoffs approach. As for the Sparks, forward Nneka Ogwumike is second in the league for field-goal percentage at .566. Just behind Parker, Ogwumike, last year's Rookie of the Year, put up and average of 14.6 points-per-game and 7.6 rebounds.

With a back-and-forth regular-season series, it is hard to predict who will make it to the Conference Finals. Yes, Taurasi has had some high-scoring games in this series and the Mercury have pulled away by more points in the matchup, but with the depth on each roster it is hard to count out the higher-seeded Sparks. With under 400 miles between the two teams, this is sure to be a battle that will create excitement out West.

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Series Preview: (1) Chicago Sky vs. (4) Indiana Fever

Series Preview: (1) Chicago Sky vs. (4) Indiana Fever

The No. 1 seeded Chicago Sky take on the No. 4 seeded and defending champion Indiana Fever in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Being the top seed in the East, Chicago looks like a clear favorite but what happened during the regular-season tells a different story.

In the four regular-season meetings between the two teams, Indiana took the series 3-1 with the Fever winning by as much as 20 points in one meeting. While Indiana easily took three games against the Sky, injuries were a factor for both teams this year, particularly for the Fever. Chicago hit a dip midway during the 2013 campaign rookie sensation and MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne suffered a concussion. Influential Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot also sat out a game against the Fever.

For Indiana, Perennial All-Star Tamika Catchings, who carried the squad to the 2012 WNBA Championship with an epic Finals MVP performance, averaged 17.7 points and 7.1 rebounds leading into this year's playoffs. But unfortunately, several starters, including Catchings, have battled injuries all season. Back in June, the Fever lost center Jessica Davenport to a stress fracture in her lower leg and another three players were out of the lineup through mid-July. Currently, the team doesn't have a true center listed on its roster. So expect the team to play small in this series. While seasoned WNBA veteran Katie Douglas (15 points and 2.8 rebounds) is back on the court, Catchings sat out of the last game of the season with a sore back, but is expected to be back by Friday. Even with these setbacks, don’t expect the Fever to go down without a fight.

While the Fever took the WNBA Championship this year, the path isn’t so clear this year. The Chicago Sky, headed into its first playoffs and is led by one of the most dynamic young players to ever enter the WNBA in Delle Donne. Additionally, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Sylvia Fowles has had a monster year, adding impressive offensive numbers to her customary stellar defensive work in the paint. Look for this playoff series to be a competitive series, just based on the regular season series. Also, look for young talent to shine in the big spotlight.

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Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (4) Seattle Storm

Series Preview: (1) Minnesota Lynx vs. (4) Seattle Storm

The Seattle Storm were just two points away from beating the Minnesota Lynx to advance to the Western Conference Finals last year when nobody thought they even had a chance to be competitive in the series. Now they have a chance at a rematch.

This year, the Storm are continuing to buck expectations by even making the playoffs without their superstar players Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. With multiple wins against the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks, in addition to other wins against the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream, the Seattle Storm have held their own against some of the league's finest this season.

But they'll need to scrap with everything they've got against the Minnesota Lynx, currently on one of their best regular season runs ever. The ferocious Lynx are on the warpath to make it to their third consecutive WNBA Finals. If any team wants to get a crack at a championship this season, it is widely believed they'll have to go through Minnesota.

It's going to be a bittersweet affair watching the Storm's playoff run this season as it will be the last time fans will get to see Tina Thompson in WNBA action. As the first player ever to be selected in the WNBA in 1997, the legendary guard will hang it up after 17 historic seasons. And don't get it twisted, at 38, she can still play, capable of putting up 20-25 points on any given night.

For the young Storm roster going against the goliath lineup on the Lynx, Thompson's leadership will be crucial in keeping the team focused. And there's a lot of budding talent on the Storm that can keep things interesting. Expect the trio of Shekinna Stricklen, Temeka Johnson and Camille Little to do some scoring damage in this series.

The Lynx on the other hand have the league's most star-studded lineup with four of their starters named to the All-Star team this season. Maya Moore has taken over as the team's general and her sheer athleticism and ability to knock down threes will be a constant worry for the Storm. And the increased scoring production from Lindsay Whalen and always reliable Seimone Augustus will keep the Storm on their toes too.

The Storm will have to give everything they've got to stay competitive in this series. And having one of the notoriously strongest fan bases in the WNBA, it will come in handy for them. The Lynx meanwhile may be the favorites on paper, but it's the playoffs so anything can happen. In order to win, the Lynx will have to play the same way they did to get into the playoffs - and that's steamrolling through their opponents no matter what team they play for.

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Series Preview: (2) Atlanta Dream vs. (3) Washington Mystics

Series Preview: (2) Atlanta Dream vs. (3) Washington Mystics

The Atlanta Dream are on a warpath led largely in part by 2.0 version of Angel McCoughtry. She's faster, stronger, better and most importantly she's wiser. And this season she's led the squad to new heights as they attempt to reach the WNBA Finals for the third time in the past four seasons.

New heights can't be mentioned in the WNBA without mentioning the coach Mike Thibault's brilliant turnaround of the Washington Mystics. Thibault joining the team this season, alongside All-Star Ivory Latta, has helped the team clinch a playoffs spot and squash its reputation as being one of the worst teams in the league. It's been nothing short of exciting to see how much turnaround this squad has made in just one season.

McCoughtry finishes the season with some of the most stellar numbers of her career, leading the league in scoring for the second consecutive year and in steals. She's also been the driving force behind the improvements of Tiffany Hayes and Erika de Souza, who have both taken the scoring burden on the team that McCoughtry used to carry.

Ivory Latta's animated presence both on and off the court has been the team's spark in generating some badly needed team chemistry. She's the backbone of the team and an excellent three-point shooter (leads the league in most 3 point field goals made this season) that will be a tough force for the Dream to stop. Add that to rookie guard Tayler Hill slowly hitting a stride this season and the Mystics will have a speedy backcourt that will be tough to stop.

The Dream may have the homecourt advantage in this series but their records this season are the exact same at 17-17. For the Dream to win this series, they will need to stay healthy. McCoughtry is likely to be a dominant force again this post season but she'll need help from her teammates to stay competitive. Tiffany Hayes has been in and out of the lineup this season with nagging injuries and a question mark still hangs over Sancho Lyttle being ready for playoffs action. McCoughtry is likely going to draw a double-team, if not triple-team, from the Mystics this series and her teammates will need to step up their production.

The Mystics, on the other hand, will need to focus heavily on their defense starting with Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie stepping up their presence in the paint. The Dream's Erika de Souza is emerging as a dominant finisher under the rim and the Mystics will need to neutralize her since she's one of McCoughtry's favorite people to pass to. And speaking of McCoughtry, the Mystics will need to throw every resource available at her on both ends of the floor to slow down her and her team's momentum in the series.

Washington's resilience this season is likely to make this series not one to sleep on. Atlanta may be the favorite going into the series but expect Thibault and the Mystics to have a few tricks up their sleeves to try and shut the Dream down.

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Mystic's Latta, Lynx's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week

Mystic's Latta, Lynx's Moore Named WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week

NEW YORK, September 16, 2013 -- Ivory Latta of the Washington Mystics and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx were named the WNBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 15.

Latta averaged 15.3 points last week, leading Washington to a 3-0 record as the Mystics clinched the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Her 3.7 assists per game tied for fifth in the East, while her mark of .600 from three-point land ranked second. This is the third time Latta has been named Player of the Week, with each of the honors coming this season.

In a 69-67 win over Indiana on Sept. 10, Latta scored 15 points and recorded four assists to help Washington clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2010. Later in the week she scored a game-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field as the Mystics defeated Connecticut, 82-56. Latta also shot 5-for-7 from behind the three-point arc. To wrap up the week, Latta chipped in 12 points as the Mystics defeated the Liberty on Sept. 15, 70-52.

Moore’s 19.7 points per game last week ranked second in the West as Minnesota posted a 2-1 record and clinched the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. She also averaged 5.3 rebounds while ranking sixth in the West in assists (3.7), field goal percentage (.561) and three-point percentage (.462). This marks Moore’s third Player of the Week award this season and fifth of her career.

To help defeat Seattle 73-60 on Sept. 10, Moore scored 20 points and tallied a personal season-best five steals. Two days later, she scored 17 points in an 85-84 loss to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, Moore recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds to help Minnesota defeat Chicago 79-66 and earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. She also tied a personal season-high with six assists.

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne, Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles in the East, as well as Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike, Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen, San Antonio’s Danielle Adams and Tulsa’s Riquna Williams in the West.

Week 1: McCoughtry, Parker ; Week 2: Latta, Brunson; Week 3: McCoughtry, Taurasi; Week 4: McCoughtry, Glory Johnson; Week 5: Delle Donne, Taurasi; Week 6: Delle Donne, Parker; Week 7: Fowles, Parker; Week 8: Catchings, Cambage; Week 9: Latta, Thompson; Week 10: Cambage, Charles; Week 11: Moore, Delle Donne; Week 12: Fowles, Toliver; Week 13: Moore, Delle Donne; Week 14: Catchings, Thompson; Week 15: McCoughtry, Riquna Williams

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Race to the MVP: And the Winner Is...

Race to the MVP: And the Winner Is...

The 2013 WNBA season comes to a close this weekend and it is time to select an MVP. This is one of the closest MVP races in recent memory with no clear favorite leading the pack of candidates.

Speaking of history, congratulations to Tulsa's Riquna Williams for setting the all-time WNBA single-game scoring record on Sunday with a 51-point outburst. With her upside, she could very well be in the MVP conversation in future seasons.

As for this season, five candidates have valid arguments to win the award, and if any of them claim the honor, it should come as a surprise to nobody. At the end of the day, however, there can only be one winner.

In alphabetical order, here are the five candidates worthy for this year's MVP Award and WNBA.com's selection to win it.

NOTE: WNBA.com is not involved in selecting the actual MVP award. The Most Valuable Player Award is selected by a national media panel of several dozen sportswriters and broadcasters.

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Elena Delle Donne

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in Free-Throw Percentage (90%), #2 in three-pointers (50%)

Did you see her game winning spin-move to jumper against the Phoenix Mercury this week? Enough said.

She's one of the most exciting storylines of the season. With all the "3 to See" hoopla surrounding the incoming class of rookies this season, Elena Delle Donne's meteoric run this season was a pleasant surprise to us all. But for her fans that have been following her since her high school and college days, it shouldn't. Delle Donne has helped transform the Chicago Sky from a franchise that has never made the playoffs in its history to the anointed team in the Eastern Conference that is a favorite to make it to the WNBA Finals.

At 6'5, she exploits her height advantage at the perimeter to drain buckets against her mismatched defenders. She has one of the league's highest 3-point percentages and is by far the league's best free-throw shooter. (As of 9/12/13, of the 159 free throw attempts she's taken this season, she has made 147 of them!). Her ability to knock down shots and fearless ability to get to the foul line leaves teams scratching their heads on how to stop her night after night.

Her superb gameplay makes it all but inevitable to win this year's Rookie of the Year honors, but it almost feels like calling her a rookie would be a disservice to appreciating how good her game already is.

And while this isn't a qualification for MVP, it's worth noting she has one of the strongest fan bases this season as the league's top vote getter for the WNBA All-Star game and during these weekly Race to the MVP column, the overwhelming majority of emails that come in have been for her.

If she's putting up 18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in her rookie season, just imagine what she will be capable of in seasons to come.

"The clear frontrunner for this year's WNBA MVP award is Elena Delle Donne. Her presence in that lineup has transformed a less-than-mediocre team into a team that may very well end up playing for the league championship. When she was first drafted, the buzz was that the Sky could possibly earn their first postseason spot. Now there's talk of the Sky taking it all.

She has made every one of her teammates better players. When the time calls for a big play - a defensive stop or a big bucket - it is Delle Donne who usually gets the call. Her own individual play has been magnificent.

There is one other gift that Delle Donne has that makes her special. She can take over a game - defensively and offensively. She has the ability to alter the tempo and course of a game through enormous talent and sheer willpower. This ability tends to appear when the outcome of a game is undetermined or when the game is an important one. We will all see this special talent of hers in the postseason and those of us with long enough memories will realize that Michael Jordan is back in Chicago."

- Pat in Washington DC

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Angel McCoughtry

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in Scoring (21.8 ppg), #1 in Steals (2.8 spg)

Her stats speak for themselves. McCoughtry is leading the league in scoring (21.8 PPG) and in steals (2.8 spg) making her an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor. She is currently also leading the league in the Points/Rebounds/Assists category at 31.7, further outlining her vitality to her team.

And she's done all this with an injury-riddled supporting cast. Tiffany Hayes and Sancho Lyttle, the team's other high-volume scorers, have been on and off the team's injury list all season, forcing Angel to crank up her game to even higher notches. The Dream started off the season with a bang winning 11 of their first 12 games, and despite the few losing skids they've had since then, the Dream still managed to finish in second place in the Eastern Conference and clinch their fifth consecutive playoff appearance - a playoff appearance for each year McCoughtry has been in the league.

While her stats could be enough, McCoughtry's most important reason for deserving the MVP honors is her growth in leadership. For several seasons she had often been portrayed (and just as often unfairly) as a selfish player that didn't have much of a relationship with her teammates. Often times it was all the rumors and chatter of what she was doing off the court that clouded fans from seeing what she was doing on the court.

This season, she has put all her critics to rest. McCoughtry has spent extensive effort bonding with her teammates and the investment shows in how she interracts with them and makes them better. Erika de Souza and Hayes are putting up some of the best numbers of their careers and each credit McCoughtry's guidance as the reasons for why. Angel's growth and maturity this season cannot be overlooked.

In the past, many teams in the playoffs have been able to neutralize the Dream by positioning their defensive guns on McCoughtry. But with McCoughtry stepping up her leadership role and making players around her better, the Dream now have many more offensive options like Hayes and deSouza that opponents will need to stop too.

"I believe Angel McCoughtry is this year's MVP. Focused on the numbers alone, McCoughtry has been leading the league in points and steals for nearly the entire season. Secondly her team has been firmly in the playoff hunt since the start of the 2013 season (all while playing with many new players and without Sancho Lyttle this year).

As a fan of the Minnesota Lynx, it pains me to admit the absolute truth: Angel McCoughtry is the 2013 MVP of the WNBA, because no one has maintain the level of greatness and has made the players around them better like she has. Comparable to any other player in the league she has been the most valuable, because without McCoughtry there is no Atlanta Dream."

- Erica in Illinois

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Maya Moore

KEY STATS: Ranks #1 in 3-point FGs (50%), #3 in Scoring (18.4 ppg)

She was WNBA.com's favorite going into this season to win the MVP award. She's put up so many video-game like performances this season to live up to the expectations including her career-high 35 points against the Indiana Fever last month. And since the All-Star break, there really hasn't been anyone playing better than her.

Moore was already playing at a terrific pace last season and she's improved this year in just about every statistical category. The most significant one is her 3-point shooting. She leads the league in downtown buckets with a 46 percent 3-point average. Mix that in with her freakish athleticism and you've got an explosive athlete that is an unstoppable force both inside and outside the permiter.

Her shining jewel this season has been her growth in leadership. Moore has stepped it up this season in leading the Minnesota Lynx to one of their best seasons ever. While it would be foolish to not acknowledge the contributions of All-Stars Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson's for the Lynx's ferocious run this season, Moore is the squad's general and she'll be the one leading them into the post season.

"Hands down the MVP this year belongs to Maya Moore. She is the focal point of the Lynx this year and she never shies away from it. She has put up an MVP caliber Stats and kept Lynx in the spotlight. She continues to up her game every year."

- Adebayo in Maryland

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Candace Parker

KEY STATS: Ranks #2 in Efficiency (23.1), #1 in Defensive Rebounds (10.1 per 40 minutes)

Parker winning the MVP would be the ultimate redemption story. She came into the league in 2008 and hit the ground running for the Los Angeles Sparks becoming the first player ever to win Rookie of the Year and MVP. But then she took time off to have a child and subsequent seasons were marred with injuries. Last year was her first full season back since 2008 and her team lost in the Western Conference Finals by one painful point. She told WNBA.com earlier this year that winning the MVP award would be a much needed catharsis from all the ups and downs she's experienced since her rookie year.

And this season, she has certainly been playing at a top-notch level to deserve the award. She's one of the league's top scorers that it's almost futile for opponents to try and stop her when she's in the paint. It's also hard to keep track this season of all the comebacks she's shepherded for her team this season. Parker going into beast-mode when her back is against the wall is one of the most entertaining things to watch in the league this season.

Her most intriguing skill this season is her ability to influence the game without solely relying on her ability to score. She makes players around her better with Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver enjoying All-Star seasons by playing off Parker in the team's transition offense. As a tenacious force on both ends of the floor, Parker has adopted an almost Matrix-like ability to control the flow of the game in more ways than one.

"Hands down, Candance Parker is the 2013 MVP. Remember MVP is not the individual that scores the most points in a game. It is the individual that leads the team and elevates the level of play of the surrounding players. Now, look at Parker's game and presence on the floor. She plays every position on the floor (no other candidate does this). Even if she does not score 20 per game, her presence on the floor warrants every team to focus on her and double team."

-Nathaniel in Georgia

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Diana Taurasi

KEY STATS: Ranks #2 in Scoring (20.8 ppg), #2 in Assists (6.2 apg)

Towering expectations to bring home a championship, crucial teammates that have been marred with injuries, a game-changing draft pick that hasn't hit her stride yet, a change in coach midway into the season and several strategy shifts in how the team should run their offense. No superstar has had more mountains to climb this season and excelled than Diana Taurasi.

The Phoenix Mercury were a heavy favorite to win the WNBA Championship going into this season and with all the roadblocks on the way, Taurasi has been the driving force to keep those hopes alive. With all the ups and downs, Taurasi has been the Mercury's stabilizing force heading into the postseason.

Statistically, she is playing at a top-notch level, only about a point away from leading the entire league in scoring. She's also shed her reputation of being a selfish player by coming close to leading the league in assists too (6.2 per game). She's also playing at the same, if not higher, level she was at in 2009 - the year she won the league's MVP award.

This may not be a substantive reason for deserving the MVP award, but Taurasi is also one of the most fun players to watch on the court. A genuinely warm and friendly person off the court, Taurasi dials in to a ruthless state of mind when she's on the court striking fear into her opponents because of how hard she plays. Her relentless desire to win is what makes fans love her.

And it's that desire that has restored the Mercury's winning ways this season. Taurasi sat out most of last season with injuries, forcing the Mercury to slide down to one of the worst records in the league. This year she has been healthy and now the team has a solid chance of getting their hands on the franchise's third WNBA championship.

"She is the second scoring leader and second in assists rankings. The Mercury are in the playoffs right now, and Diana is the only leader for this team. We are waiting to get a little bit of respect please for Diana Taurasi."

-Defne from Turkey

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Winner: Angel McCoughtry

With all due respect to the other players on the Atlanta Dream, who are a tough and talented bunch, McCoughtry has led her squad to new heights with significantly less star power that the other candidates on this list enjoy.

If all of these candidates were sidelined this season for any reason, each of their teams could still make the playoffs. Except Atlanta. Chicago almost did last season even with Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles missing several games with injuries.

Statistically, McCoughtry is leading the league on both ends of the floor. And through the wear and tear of the season that has slowed down other players on this list in terms of scoring, McCoughtry has been the most consistent force all season long.

In this crowded list of candidates where no clear player leads the pack, WNBA.com selects Angel McCoughtry as the league's Most Valuable Player.

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Diggins' Diary: Sky's View of History

Diggins' Diary: Sky's View of History

She may not be through her first full WNBA season, but this past weekend Skylar Diggins was witness -- and active participant -- to two WNBA firsts.

In Tulsa’s 98-65 win over San Antonio on September 8, Skylar’s backcourt mate Riquna Williams famously scored 51 points -- the most ever in a WNBA game. Meanwhile, Diggins, who’s seen her scoring increase in the past few weeks, chipped in with 20 points of her own, two shy of her career high. The 71 points that the two guards combined for is the most ever for teammates in a WNBA game, besting the 70-point outburst by perennial All-Stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter in 2006.

For Diggins, however, the performance was meaningful for more than just the obvious historical reasons.

"It was an amazing experience for me being a rookie seeing (Williams) break out like that in just her second year," Diggins said. "She is somebody who is a great offensive player all around, so it was inspiring for me to watch her play and to be able to do that in her second year in the league."

Diggins also said that during the game she could feel the gravity and excitement of the moment building.

"I thought it was an amazing experience for me as a rookie because I’ve never seen anything like that. Nobody has," Diggins said. "It was unbelievable to watch and when you get respect from the other team, that’s how you know this is exciting. When you have the other team’s fans starting to get anxious when she got to 42 or 43. They’re like, ‘is she gonna get 50?'"

Diggins, playing the role of supportive teammate in addition to secondary scorer, encouraged Williams as well.

"Throughout the game when she had 20-something, I was like, ‘get 40, get 40,’" Skylar remembered. "And then she gets 40, so then I’m like, ‘get 50 then, get 50!’ We were just egging her on."

Diggins also applauded Williams’ performance because the Miami product was able to score while staying within the general principles of the offense. The team was not running isolation plays for Williams, Diggins said, and that alone proves the kind of offensive threat Williams -- now the 11th leading scorer in the league -- has evolved into.

"She’s a player we all know can score in bunches," Diggins said of Williams. "She’s a blow-by guard that can also really shoot the three too, so you kind of have to pick your poison with her and she was showing it off. She had some mid-range jump shots, she shot some threes and she got to the basket, got a few and-ones, got to the free-throw line, so it was a complete game for her."

Williams’ iconic effort underscores the overwhelming feeling that Tulsa is a team on the rise. The Shock have two elite bigs in the frontcourt with Liz Cambage and Glory Johnson, but they also sport a strong quartet in the backcourt. There, Williams and Diggins are joined by promising rookie Angel Goodrich and veteran Candice Wiggins, each with their own definable skillset.

"Candice rarely misses an open three and is a player that can also explode and make it from the 3-point line and is somebody that is one the best defenders in the league in my opinion," Diggins said. "Then you have Angel who is such a great passer and kind of like my partner in crime, I’ll say. And just a player that is so heads up about everything and that’s fun to play with when you have players who are smart and who know the game of basketball and can play it pretty well."

As a result, Diggins says she feels confident that the players in the Tulsa locker room -- as young as they may be -- can compete at the highest level. All it’s going to take is a little bit of seasoning.

"I’ve always thought we had the right pieces, but nothing can teach you about this league like game experience and now that we have a year under our belts, I’m excited for what’s to come for this team the next few years," Diggins said. "This year we knew we were going to be rebuilding and we just decided to lay the foundation down for something good in the future."

Williams’ record-setting game is a pillar of that foundation. It is simultaneously a glimpse into the future and a demonstration of existing talent. It’s also evidence that Diggins and the rest of the team can reference as validation for their optimistic outlook.

"I was just glad to be in the game and say I was in the game with her," Diggins said. "It was just a great night for our young team. We’re continuing to make history with our young franchise and Tulsa and we have a very bright future and (Williams is) one of the players that we’re really going to build this program around. I’m glad to be a part of it."

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Lynx clinch top spot in West with 73-60 win

Lynx clinch top spot in West with 73-60 win

SEATTLE (AP) Maya Moore scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen added 19 to help the Minnesota Lynx clinch their third consecutive Western Conference title with a 73-60 victory over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday night.

Monica Wright added 14 points for Minnesota (25-7), which won its seventh straight game.

The two teams will face each other again next week in the best-of-three first-round series since Seattle already had clinched the fourth and final seed.

Moore hit 7 of 10 shots from the field and Whalen 7 of 9. The Lynx pulled away from Seattle with a 23-14 run in the second quarter.

The Lynx beat Seattle in the first round last year. They won the WNBA title in 2011.

Tanisha Wright led Seattle (15-17) with 14 points. Tina Thompson had just five points and shot 2 of 8 from the field.

Minnesota has won 11 of the past 13 games against the Storm, including a 4-0 sweep this year. The Lynx last swept Seattle in a regular-season series in 2001.

Whalen scored 17 and Moore 10 to help the Lynx to a 40-28 halftime lead. Whalen scored four during a 10-0 run late in the second quarter to give the Lynx an 18-point lead. They led by 24 early in the fourth quarter.

Seattle starting point guard Temeka Johnson missed the game with a heel injury and is considered day to day. She averages 10.4 points and four assists per game.

The Lynx beat Seattle 75-60 on Saturday and 97-74 on Aug. 31. Both teams have two regular-season games left.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Mystics clinch playoff spot with win over Fever

Mystics clinch playoff spot with win over Fever

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Kia Vaughn had 15 points and six rebounds to lead the Washington Mystics to a 69-67 victory over the Indiana Fever on Tuesday to clinch a spot in the playoffs on Tuesday.

Ivory Latta had 15 points and four assists and Tayler Hill added 12 points for the Mystics (15-17), who reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Briann January had 16 points and Shavonte Zellous added 14 points and six rebounds for the Fever (15-17), who could have clinched a No. 3 seed in the playoffs with a win.

The Mystics went on an 8-2 run midway through the second half. Michelle Snow scored a basket and Hill hit two 3-pointers to give Washington a 60-55 lead with 7:11 left and the Mystics held on the rest of the way.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Dupree and Bonner lead Mercury over Liberty

Dupree and Bonner lead Mercury over Liberty

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner each scored 18 points to help the Phoenix Mercury beat the New York Liberty 80-76 on Tuesday night.

Diana Taurasi added 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Phoenix (18-13), which is trying to lock down the third playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Mercury lead Seattle by three games and can clinch the third seed with one more win or a Storm loss. Seattle hosted Minnesota later Tuesday night.

The Mercury will visit Chicago before closing the regular season against San Antonio and Los Angeles.

While Phoenix is already in the postseason, New York (11-21) was eliminated from the playoff chase. This is only the second time in the past seven years that New York didn't make the postseason.

Katie Smith scored a season-high 17 points to lead the Liberty.

With the game tied at 69 midway through the fourth quarter, Phoenix went on a 9-3 run to take control. Taurasi started it with a jumper and capped it with a rebound and assist to Bonner for a 3-pointer that made it 78-72 with 2:16 left.

New York wouldn't go away as Kelsey Bone hit consecutive baskets to make it 78-76 with 30 seconds left.

Taurasi tried to seal the win with 9.3 seconds left, but her deep 3-pointer was off the rim giving New York one last chance.

Smith's inbounds pass was stolen by Briana Gilbreath and Taurasi hit two free throws to clinch it.

Phoenix will be without Taurasi for Wednesday night's nationally televised game as she picked up her ninth technical foul in the third quarter for flailing.

Under WNBA rules, a player or coach is automatically suspended without pay for one game upon receiving a seventh technical foul during the regular season. For every two additional technical fouls received during that regular season, the player or coach will be automatically suspended for an additional game.

That seemed to energize Phoenix which rallied behind Penny Taylor, who was playing in her second game since coming back from a right knee injury that sidelined her for 13 games. She scored 10 straight points for the Mercury, who led 62-61 after three quarters. Taylor finished with 12 points.

New York was without star Cappie Pondexter, who was sidelined with a knee contusion. Coach Bill Laimbeer said that the team will see how she's feeling as to whether she'll sit out the final two games of the season or not.

Tuesday night marked the last game at Newark for the Liberty. The team will head back to Madison Square Garden next season with the renovations there finished.

The Liberty honored Smith before the game. Smith announced earlier this year that she would retire at the end of the season. The 15-year veteran, who is the league's No. 2 all-time leading scorer, was given a framed USA basketball jersey, a collage of photos of her playing career among her gifts.

Smith kept the Liberty in the game early on scoring nine points in the first quarter. New York trailed by 34-24 midway through the second before rallying behind Alex Montgomery. Her consecutive 3s made it a one-point game.

Phoenix led 43-41 at the half behind 13 points from Bonner and 12 from Taurasi.

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Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Storm Overcome Adversity to Clinch Playoff Spot

Storm Overcome Adversity to Clinch Playoff Spot

It was last winter when the Seattle Storm learned that two of its top players would miss the 2013 season. Guard Sue Bird and forward/center Lauren Jackson, both perennial All-Stars and multiple WNBA Champions and Olympic Medalists, were sidelined with injuries.

With the Big Two out, all odds seemed to be against a Seattle squad which prided itself on a strong playoff tradition. It also didn’t help that the competition in the West appeared particularly fierce in 2013, with the traditional powers in Minnesota and Los Angeles reloading and Phoenix and Tulsa bolstered by the addition of Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins, respectively.

While outsiders saw this as a problem, the team didn’t listen. Players stayed focused and took on new leadership roles. "We started talking with Camille [Little] and Tanisha [Wright] and Tina [Thompson] about how important their leadership was going to be this year for the success of our team," said head coach Brian Agler. "We’ve had a strong tradition here of making the playoffs and we want to compete for championships and we just didn’t want to have that go away just because we’re missing two really good players."

Seattle had made the playoffs for the last nine seasons and won the WNBA Championship in 2004 and 2010.

A big reason the Storm are vying for a championship once again is because of the play of one of those leaders, 17-year veteran forward Tina Thompson. This year, she is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, her best numbers since the 2010 season when she played for Los Angeles, having struggled with injuries in between. For Thompson, the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA, clinching the playoffs is a testament to the team’s focus.

"We knew before we all got together what we were up against, but we didn’t have any doubts that where we are right now was possible," said Thompson, who was key part of the legendary championship Houston Comets teams which dominated the early years of the WNBA. "So I think that because we had the same goal, we were all focused on doing that and be in this position that allowed us to be here. I mean of course there are a lot of outside things going on and expectations, or lack of, that people didn’t have for us in the beginning of the season. But again, that’s the outside looking in. We never felt how other people felt, we always thought this was possible."

The Storm is advancing to yet another post-season, but this will be the last for Tina Thompson. Thompson, who was the first ever player drafted in the WNBA back in 1997, is retiring after this season and will player her last home game at Key Arena on September 14 against Tulsa.

Coach Agler has been really impressed with what she has contributed to the team in her 17th season in the league.

"She’s really impacted our team in a positive way, obviously with her play. She’s had just a tremendous season, but also with her leadership and her maturity. She does such a good job with all of our players. And I think they sort of look to her because of her resume and the respect they have for her. Even the ones that have been on our team and won championships, like Tanisha [Wright] and Camille [Little]. They still look at Tina and in a lot of ways she helps them a great deal to be better leaders themselves."

For Thompson, the goal is just like it is for any other season.

"I’m just basically doing whatever I can to help our team win games."

Adjusting to her leadership role this year wasn’t problem with that goal in mind.

"Coming to this team, or this part in my career, my expectations weren’t this. I went to Los Angeles, then I came to Seattle expecting to be a contributing player to a very good team," said Thompson, whose superlative efforts this season were recognized with an All-Star berth. "But like in LA, here in Seattle we’ve been kind of riddled with injuries and things just don’t go like you planned and I’ve just been put in a role where I have to be the go-to player or one of the go-to players, but it’s not something that I’m unfamiliar with, it’s something that I’ve had to do most of my career. So it’s pretty familiar and I just do whatever I have to do in order to fill our team’s needs."

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Riquna Williams sets WNBA record with 51 points

Riquna Williams sets WNBA record with 51 points

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Riquna Williams set a WNBA record with 51 points to help the Tulsa Shock rout the San Antonio Silver Stars 98-65 on Sunday.

The second-year guard out of Miami surpassed the previous record of 47 points set by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi against Houston on Aug. 10, 2006 and matched by Seattle's Lauren Jackson against Washington on July 24, 2007.

Williams was 17 for 28 from the field and hit eight 3-pointers for Tulsa (11-21). She had 20 points in the third quarter after scoring 16 in the first half.

The 5-foot-5 Williams had 16 points in the first half, continually rising high above taller defenders for 3s and long jumpers. She hit a 21-foot jumper over Jia Perkins before draining a 3 to pull Tulsa within 33-25 with 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Tulsa took control in the second half outscoring San Antonio 59-22. Williams had 35 herself in the final 20 minutes.

With Williams approaching the record, fans were cheering for her to get the ball in the final minutes of the game on every possession. She tied the mark with a layup with 1:22 left in the game and then broke it with jumper 24 seconds later.

She added two free throws with 5 seconds left for her final points.

Perkins scored 21 points to lead San Antonio (11-21)

Skylar Diggins added 20 points and Tiffany Jackson-Jones had 10 for Tulsa.

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Sky pull away to beat Mystics 93-79

Sky pull away to beat Mystics 93-79

WASHINGTON (AP) Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points and the Chicago Sky beat Washington 93-79 on Sunday to prevent the Mystics from clinching a playoff spot.

Epiphanny Prince added 21 points for the Sky (22-9), who have already clinched the Eastern Conference's top playoff spot and finished the five-game season series with four victories over the Mystics.

Swin Cash had 16 points and Sylva Fowles had 13 points and nine rebounds as Chicago won its seventh game in its last eight.

Ivory Latta scored 18 points on six 3-pointers for Washington, which closed within two points in the third quarter but never led after the first. The Mystics have lost two straight.

Crystal Langhorne added 16 points for the Mystics, who can still clinch their first playoff berth in three seasons with a win or a loss by New York. Washington visits Indiana on Tuesday night, while New York hosts Phoenix.

Down 63-58 at the end of the third, Washington closed within three on Kia Vaughn's inside basket to open the fourth.

But Chicago responded with a 12-2 game-sealing run sparked in part by Prince's drawn charge on Tierra Ruffin's layup attempt.

Delle Donne hit two fading jumpers in the spurt and a free throw after a technical foul was assessed to Latta. Delle Donne's latter jumper, off the dribble from the baseline, made it 75-62 to cap the run.

Chicago kept building its lead. Murphy's 3-pointer made it 78-64, Tamera Young's free throws stretched it to 82-66 and Prince's 3-pointer made it 85-68.

Latta and Tayler Hill's 3-pointers helped the Mystics to an 8-0 spurt close it to 85-76. But the Sky got offensive rebounds on their next two possessions and led 90-76 after Delle Donne's second 3-pointer of the game with 1:05 to play.

Delle Donne left inside the final minute to a loud ovation from a crowd that included a large contingent of supporters from the University of Delaware, the rookie's alma mater.

Monique Currie scored 13 points and Vaughn added 11 for Washington, 8-8 at home with one game left to play.

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Taurasi, Dupree lead Mercury past Atlanta 79-71

Taurasi, Dupree lead Mercury past Atlanta 79-71

ATLANTA (AP) Diana Taurasi scored 25 points, Candice Dupree added 15 and the Phoenix Mercury won their third straight game with a 79-71 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Sunday.

Angel McCoughtry finished with 25 points and Erika de Souza had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Dream (17-14). The loss ended Atlanta's three-game winning streak.

Phoenix (17-13) never trailed after Taurasi's layup midway through the first quarter.

Tiffany Hayes, who scored 19 points off the bench for Atlanta, cut the lead to 74-67 with a 3-pointer. But in the last 3 minutes, she had a turnover and missed two layups and two 3s.

McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer, hit a free throw to cut the lead to 74-71, but she missed a 3 and a 20-footer before fouling out with 25.8 seconds to go.

Centers Brittney Griner and de Souza tangled at the 6:46 mark of the third and had to be separated by officials and teammates.

Griner was assessed a technical foul, but Atlanta failed to cut the lead to single digits when McCoughtry missed the ensuing free throw and Armintie Herrington threw the ball away to end the Dream's possession.

Over the next 2 minutes, Griner hit an 8-foot hook shot, Taurasi hit two jumpers and Bonner scored a 3-pointer that made it 59-42.

Griner finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Mercury led by as much as 19 in the second quarter on Taurasi's 15-footer midway through the period, but Atlanta closed with an 18-6 run to cut the lead to six on McCoughtry's 3-pointer.

Taurasi, the league's second-leading scorer, had a season-tying nine rebounds and six assists.

McCoughtry was just 8 for 21 from the field and Dream starter Jasmine Thomas went 3 for 13.

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Lynx beat Storm 75-60, clinch tie for West title

Lynx beat Storm 75-60, clinch tie for West title

SEATTLE (AP) Rebekkah Brunson scored 19 points to help the Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm 75-60 on Saturday night, clinching at least a tie for the Western Conference title.

Seimone Augustus had 14 points, Maya Moore added 11 and Lindsay Whalen 10 to lead the Lynx (24-7) to their sixth straight win.

Minnesota can secure its third straight conference title outright with its next win or loss by second-place Los Angeles. The Lynx play the Storm here again Tuesday night and then visit Los Angeles on Thursday.

Tanisha Wright scored 17 of her 22 points in the first half for Seattle (15-16). Shekinna Stricklen added 12 points.

The Storm, who are assured of a postseason spot, can catch Phoenix for the No. 3 seed, but now trail the Mercury by two games with three left.

The Lynx used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to turn two-point deficit to a 19-11 lead. They extended the advantage to 34-16 in the second quarter.

However, Seattle closed the first half with a 17-6 run over the final 6 minutes to pull to 40-33 at the break.

Minnesota pushed the lead back to 15 by the end of the third quarter, and led by 18 in the fourth.

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Fever beat Sun, clinch 9th straight playoff berth

Fever beat Sun, clinch 9th straight playoff berth

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The road back to the playoffs for the defending WNBA champion Indiana Fever hasn't been easy.

The Fever fell behind early in the season and had to endure injuries to several players. Still, they managed to persevere to return to the postseason for a ninth straight year.

Tamika Catchings had 15 points, six rebounds and four steals to help the Fever beat the Connecticut Sun 69-60 Saturday night, clinching another playoff berth.

``When we came in (the locker room) it was just like a relief,'' Catchings said. ``I would like to see us going into the playoffs on a winning streak.''

Erlana Larkins had 12 points and Jessica Breland added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Fever (15-16), who have won three of four.

Kelsey Griffin had 14 points and seven rebounds and Tan White had 13 points for Sun (8-23), who lost for the eighth time in their last nine games.

Rene Montgomery tied the score at 44-all before Catchings made two free throws and a jumper to give the Fever a 48-44 lead.

The Fever went on an 8-2 run in the fourth to take a 58-48 lead when Breland hit a free throw with 6:16 left.

``Indiana had better focus in the fourth quarter,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ``The fourth quarter, the backboard hurt us. (And) both teams were on back-to-back games.''

Indiana was coming off a win at Chicago and Connecticut beat Washington at home on Friday.

After winning the season opener, the Fever lost seven straight. Indiana has had a .500 record just three times. The single win at the start of the year was the only time Indiana had a winning record.

And the Fever have dealt with injuries from the start.

``I've never had this many injuries,'' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ``But I've been in situations where injuries were huge. We've dealt with tough situations before and we know you fight through it.''

Indiana has had seven different starting lineups this year and Larkins is the only player to start every game. Seven of Indiana's top scorers from the 2012 championship team have missed games, including forward Katie Douglas who has played in only two games because of a back injury.

Nine different Indiana players have combined to miss a total of 107 1/2 games. To help, the Fever signed three different replacement players this season, including Jasmine Hassell, who the Fever drafted in the second round this year, waived, and resigned three times. Breland was also signed and came through for Indiana on Saturday.

Breland put the game out of reach when she was fouled on a shot and scored a free throw to give Indiana 65-54 lead with 3:12 left.

``For us, we've talked about from the beginning of the season to now, and just how valuable (the bench) is to our team,'' Catchings said. ``Having the minutes they've had throughout the season brings us to this point where they're confident enough to go in there and to make things happen.''

Indiana has three regular season games left before the start of the playoffs, including one more matchup at Connecticut on Sept. 15.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Results for October 2013

Lynx blast Dream 88-63; 1 win from title

Lynx blast Dream 88-63; 1 win from title

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Seimone Augustus scored 20 points and Lindsay Whalen had 14 points and five assists to push the Minnesota Lynx to the brink of their second title in three seasons with an 88-63 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night.

Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Maya Moore chipped in 14 points and eight boards for the Lynx, who lead the best-of-five series 2-0.

Angel McCoughtry scored 15 points for the Dream, but she made just 5 of 18 shots and was in foul trouble for most of the night.

Game 3 is on Thursday night in Georgia.

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Moore leads Lynx past Dream 84-59 in Game 1

Moore leads Lynx past Dream 84-59 in Game 1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Maya Moore had 23 points, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter to propel Minnesota from the start, and the Lynx delivered a dominant 84-59 victory over the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday night.

Moore shot 10 for 16 from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds, and Monica Wright pitched in 20 points off the bench. Seimone Augustus scored her usual 19 points, and the Lynx overwhelmed the Dream by leading the entire game and shooting 49.4 percent from the field.

Angel McCoughtry finished with 17 points for the Dream, but she needed 24 shots to get there, making just six field goals. Aneika Henry added 14 points for the Dream, who fell to 0-7 in the finals since 2010. They were swept by the Lynx in 2011.

Game 2 is here in Minnesota again on Tuesday night.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

The X-Factors: Monica Wright and Tiffany Hayes

Atlanta’s slogan for the playoffs reads: "Teamwork makes the dream work!" That theme was true in the path to the Finals for both the Dream and Lynx. While both teams have standalone stars, each team wouldn’t be in this place without the supporting cast, specifically the X-factors.

Each team has a spark. That one player behind the stars that really puts the team over the edge in order to win the big games. For Minnesota that energy lies in fourth-year guard Monica Wright and for Atlanta it's in Angel McCoughtry’s go-to shooter, second-year guard Tiffany Hayes.

These teams are where they are today because of the improvements made and the tenacity that these two possess. Now, let’s look at what makes these two the X-factors for their respective teams.

Wright plays with some of the best stars in the league, sharing the court with the "three to fear" -- Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. Outside of those three, Wright has become a strong force. She’s been able to adapt to any role and any situation that she’s thrown into.

It’s clear by looking at her stats that something has changed since the last time she was in the Finals back in 2011. This season she’s put up her best numbers since her rookie year in 2010--averaging 9 points per game, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists. So far in the playoffs she’s at 7.3 points per game, 2.3 rebounds and .5 assists, which are higher than her numbers from the last two years.

While her stats have improved, where she really stands out is in her will to fill in at any time and wherever needed. This has been her goal and has become her role for the Lynx this year.

"I’m trying to fit in to whatever role or whatever’s needed because every game is different," said Wright who finished second in the 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman award race. "You never know what might happen during in the course of a game. And to be a bench player you have to be very adjustable and you have to be ready whenever your number is called and pretty much be ready for anything."

Tiffany Hayes has quickly adopted this mentality. In only her second year in the league, she’s become a key piece in the Dream’s playoffs run. Her numbers have also increased since her rookie year. In 34 games played in 2012, she averaged 8.6 points per game, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. In 2013, she’s played 23 games, sitting out 7 games due to knee surgery. Still, she’s improved her numbers to 11.3 points per game and 3.7 rebounds. And in the playoffs, she’s made a big statement, averaging 13.6 points per game and 5.8 rebounds compared to last year’s 4.3 and 2.3, respectively. And she posted 18 points in the crucial game 3 against Washington in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, plus 23 in game 1 of the Conference Finals against Indiana.

Hayes credits her improvements this year to her time off when she was injured. During that time, the Dream lost six of seven games, which shows how important of a factor she is to the team. Hayes took advantage of that time off to go to the gym and work on her shot in order to help her team win when she was healthy. But besides just helping her team with her improved stats, Hayes has found her role as that spark of the team.

"When I was the sixth man, my goal was to come in and be a spark and now I’m being it as a starter," said Hayes who was voted as the league’s third best sixth woman behind Wright. "I just have to make sure that whoever’s out there starting the game is starting it off right. So people coming in off the bench are coming in with the same intensity."

And now both X-factors are ready for this moment in the spotlight of the Finals.

For Hayes, her teammates have contributed to that.

"It’s really my teammates building my courage and encouraging me to take it to the hole and nobody can stop you...it definitely builds your confidence and makes you play a lot better."

Wright’s adaptability throughout the regular-season helped her prepare for the Finals series.

"I’ve been able to practice a lot doing that [filling in wherever needed] all season long and kind of prepared myself for this moment."

And what’s going to lead to holding that trophy championship in their hands?

According to Wright, "It’s mostly going to be about the X-factors, who wants it more, and who wills themselves to get there."

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Angel Leads the Way

Angel Leads the Way

After a frustrating 2012 season with the Atlanta Dream, Angel McCoughtry made very clear in the offseason what her expectations were for this year.

"Trust me and believe," she told WNBA.com while playing basketball abroad in Turkey. "It’s coming. Real soon. I will win a WNBA Championship. Mentally, after this experience, I’m stronger than ever."

The numbers don't lie, she is. At 21.5 points and 2.7 steals per game this season, McCoughtry led the league in scoring (for the second year in a row) and in steals, making her a major threat on both ends of the floor. But McCoughtry said it's her ability to make players better is what she's tried to step up the most this year.

"You always want to improve your game every year," she said while stretching before a recent game. "I knew I had to work on my passing skills, so I look at things each year I can improve on and sharpen them up."

In seasons past, McCoughtry has often been labeled -- perhaps unfairly -- as a selfish player, hesitant to rely on her teammates in crunchtime situations. But this year she has been anything but that, something Head Coach Fred Williams said McCoughtry was quick to point out.

"She's been a good leader for us throughout the course of this season," he said. "That was something we talked about extensively in the offseason. She's matured a lot as a player, she's emerged as a full-fledged triple threat player getting us steals, points and passing the basketball."

Teammate Tiffany Hayes said McCoughtry's leadership has been the driving force as the Dream prepare for their third WNBA Finals appearance in the past four years.

"I think she motivates us more this year," she said. "She's always led by example, but this year she encourages by being more of a vocal leader and I think that's really been helping us."

Hayes has had a stellar season in her own right and credits a lot of that to Angel's support.

"People see her all the time on the court but a lot of people don't know what kind of leader she is off the court," said Hayes, the second-year southpaw out of UConn. "For me, I can look to her, when I don't know what to do in games and in practice as that support."

McCoughtry is in the prime in her career and already has a decorated list of accomplishments under her belt, including WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, an Olympic Gold Medal and two All-Star appearances. But that coveted WNBA championship is what's missing.

"It would mean a lot," she said. "The mindset going in just making sure we just have a go getter mentality. Trying to go in attack mode, no fear. We're going to go in confidently."

The Minnesota Lynx swept the Atlanta Dream in the 2011 WNBA Finals 3-0. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she isn't taking anything for granted in trying to stop McCoughtry.

"I can speak from a coach's perspective, having watched a lot of video, that she [McCoughtry] has amazing athletic gifts that make it very challenging," said Reeve as the 2013 Finals approached. "Despite knowing what you need to do to defend her, it's a challenge to get it done because she is so gifted."

Lynx guard Seimone Augustus went toe-to-toe against McCoughtry in the 2011 Finals and will likely match-up against her in this series. She said it was tough to guard her in that series and anticipates this one being difficult too.

"Angel is going to do things that we don't know what Angel is going to do," she said. "And Angel doesn't know at times what Angel is going to do. So it makes it a lot more difficult at times to guard her."

While McCoughtry has taken her game to new heights this season, the Lynx's Maya Moore has done the same for her squad. All in all, Augustus said the series is going to be one to remember.

"It's going to be a great game," she said. "Two great teams going against each other with two or three of the best players in this league just going head-to-head, playing great basketball."

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Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream

Finals Preview: Minnesota Lynx vs. Atlanta Dream

The rematch is here. Back in 2011, Minnesota swept Atlanta in the WNBA Finals. Now, the Dream are looking for revenge against a Lynx team that is making its third-consecutive trip to the Finals.

2011 was a different story, though. All-Star Maya Moore was a rookie and the Lynx captured the title largely because of a stellar Finals MVP performance by Seimone Augustus. Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry, who is making her third finals appearance in her five year-career, dominated scoring the ball in 2011, but since then, has been more committed to getting her teammates involved. McCoughtry has become more well-rounded, and while she is the team's leading scorer, it has become more about wins than points.

During the three-game Minnesota sweep in 2011, Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson were major factors, with Brunson posting 26 points in the opener, Augustus pouring in 36 in Game 2, before they combined for 29 points in the Game 3 series-clincher. Veteran point guard Lindsay Whalen and then-rookie Maya Moore provided balance for the Lynx.

As for Atlanta, Angel McCoughtry stepped up and posted some big numbers with 33 points in Game 1, 38 in Game 2 and 22 in Game 3. Lindsey Harding provided support, but the Lynx were able to wear the Dream out with the support of the whole squad.

Now these teams are back stronger than before. Maya Moore has found her groove and is leading the Lynx in scoring, while Augustus, Brunson, Whalen and a solid supporting cast make Minnesota strong favorites for a second WNBA crown. For the Dream, McCoughtry is the scoring leader with support from Tiffany Hayes and Erika de Souza. Hayes is in her second year in the league and has improved her numbers over the past year, while de Souza is putting up her best numbers since the 2010 season.

The key for Atlanta is to balance the matchup with the Lynx. Atlanta will need to play team ball and get everyone involved and productive to compete with the talent-rich Lynx. For Minnesota, if Moore, Augustus and Whalen perform up to their abilities, another title is firmly within their grasp.

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Results for November 2013

Mercury Hire Brondello

Mercury Hire Brondello

Nov. 15, 2013 , PHOENIX -- The two-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury today named veteran WNBA player, coach and former Australian Olympian Sandy Brondello (braun-DELL-oh) the ninth head coach in franchise history. Brondello was also named the team’s vice president of player personnel.

"In a thorough search of very qualified candidates, Sandy separated herself as the right coach for this team and the right person for this job," said Mercury Executive Vice President Jim Pitman. "She is a winner, a leader, an excellent communicator and a detail-oriented tactician. Her lifetime of basketball experience and her ability to evaluate talent year-round will greatly benefit our organization, and we are thrilled to add such a great ambassador of the women’s game."

"I am very humbled and excited about the opportunity to be the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury," said Brondello. "It is an organization that I have respected and admired for so long. The team has great past achievements and I will be working hard to continue that legacy of success. I am looking forward to having the great fans in Phoenix behind me now and not against me."

A nine-year veteran of the WNBA coaching ranks, Brondello has been affiliated with the WNBA for 14 of the league’s 17 seasons, including her time as a player. A proven winner internationally and in the WNBA, her nine total years as an assistant coach and head coach have featured six playoff appearances, including three conference finals berths and a spot in the 2008 WNBA Finals. Brondello joins the Mercury after most recently serving as lead assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks (2011-13) under 2012 WNBA Coach of the Year Carol Ross. Brondello led the San Antonio Silver Stars to a 2010 playoff berth in her lone season at the helm following five seasons on the Silver Stars bench as an assistant under Dan Hughes (2005-09), the third-winningest coach in league history.

During the WNBA offseason, Brondello serves an assistant coach with Russian League team UMMC, the squad for which Mercury star Diana Taurasi plays in the winter and spring. Now the Mercury’s head of player personnel, Phoenix’s pro scouting efforts will be buoyed by Brondello’s knowledge of and exposure to overseas talent.

"Having played for Sandy overseas I know the dedication and passion she will bring to the Phoenix Mercury," said Taurasi. "We are all excited for the future."

Brondello finished a stellar 17-year professional playing career with a five-year run in the WNBA in which she played for Detroit (1998-99), Miami (2001-02) and Seattle (2003), and was named a 1999 WNBA All-Star. She began her career with the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in Australia (1986-96), and was named the league MVP in 1995. The 5-7 guard was a 10-time German Cup champion while playing with BTV Wuppertal (1992-2002), a three-time European Cup All-Star selection (1994, 1996, 1997), and the 1996 European Cup MVP when she led her team to the title.

An 18-year member of the Australian National Team, Brondello is a four-time Olympian, a two-time silver medalist (2000, 2004), and was named the 1992 Australian International Player of the Year. In her time with the national team, she was a teammate of Mercury forward Penny Taylor.

"I am so excited to get to work with Sandy," said Taylor. "Her knowledge of the women's game, and basketball experience in the WNBA and around the world are second to none."

Brondello is married to Olaf Lange, who is the head coach of UMMC (Russia), and the couple has two children, Brody and Jayda.

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Nancy Lieberman: Giving Back

Nancy Lieberman: Giving Back

New York, November 12, 2013 -- Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman dreamed of becoming the best basketball player in the world as a young New Yorker, honing her skills and love of the game on the court at P.S. 104 in Brooklyn. And this past weekend Lieberman was in Long Beach, New York unveiling a new basketball court that she hopes will be the source of inspiration for a new generation of players.

"I was a poor kid from a one parent family growing up in New York and it was hard at times, not having the advantages that others had, but sports was a great equalizer," Lieberman told WNBA.com after she and fellow New Yorker comedian/actor Billy Crystal partnered in announcing the opening of the DreamCourt in Long Beach.

"And sports taught me self-esteem and teamwork and confidence, and playing on the court at P.S. 104 in Brooklyn and other courts in Brooklyn and Queens and around the city was a safe haven for me and a place where I could grow. And now that I’m blessed and in a position where I can contribute and help, that’s why I’m dedicated to trying provide a safe environment for kids today to make friendships and learn about teamwork and responsibility and the benefits of hard work."

Through her personal foundation and her partner World Ventures, Lieberman has built and opened DreamCourts across the country, from Frisco and Austin Texas, to Denver, Nashville and Minneapolis and now New York. The goal of the DreamCourt progam is to build high-quality basketball courts for children living in underprivileged communities and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, building a court in Long Beach as part of the recovery efforts was a worthy goal.

"If I had my way, we’d have DreamCourts in every city, but we are off to a good start and we’re working," said Lieberman. "The game of basketball has been so good to me, that I am honored to be in a place where I can help give back and help kids to grow where they can do the same."

Lieberman is a true pioneer of the game, earning the moniker of "Lady Magic" while leading Old Dominion University to consecutive AIAW National Championships in 1979 and 1980 and a NIT crown in 1978, in addition to medaling with Team USA in the Pan Am Games (1975) and the Montreal Olympics (1976). She later competed professionally in the WBL, the USBL before competing with the Phoenix Mercury in the inaugural season of the WNBA in 1997 at the age of 39, then the older player in league history.

Lieberman’s achievements didn’t end upon her retirement as a player as she later served as Head Coach/GM of the WNBA’s Detroit Shock for three season. She later became the first women to coach a professional men’s team when she took the helm of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends in 2009. Currently Lieberman is an analyst for Fox Sports’ coverage of the NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder. Despite this impressive list of achievements, Lieberman is most proud of the work of her charitable Lieberman Foundation, including the DreamCourt program.

"You could take all the points I scored and assists, all the records, medals and championships won, and awards received and it doesn’t even come close to the impact of helping kids," said Lieberman. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my achievements on the court, and the fact that young girls and boys may have seen or heard of me playing, or Anne Myers or Cheryl Miller or any of the other great players, and that we were role models is a great thing and I’m very proud of that. And we, athletes, we are role models, whether we like it or not. I take that very seriously."

"And I love it that the current players in the WNBA are getting more exposure. There are not only girls, but boys, and even some of the guys I talk with in the NBA, our brothers, who watch players like Diana Taurasi or Elena Delle Donne and they say, ‘ Wow, I want to play like Taurasi,’ or ‘Look at that, I want to play like Delle Donne,’ and that is tremendous. But that’s where ultimately it all comes together and it’s about giving back."

Check out the Lieberman Foundation for more information.

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Parker, Bird Win SuperCup

Parker, Bird Win SuperCup

The European SuperCup, a competition pitting last season's EuroLeague Champions (UMMC Ekaterinburg) and the EuroCup Champions (Dynamo Moscow) was a Los Angeles Sparks heavy affair last week as Candace Parker's UMMC edged Kristi Toliver's Dynamo Moscow72-63 to claim the first significant bragging rights of the European women's sports calendar.

Parker led UMMC with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Toliver led all scorers with 21 points while chipping in with four rebounds and three assists.

Former W player Deanna Nolan scored 15 points for UMMC and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird began her road back to health after missing the 2013 WNBA season due to injury by scoring five points and dishing out five assists in 33 minutes of action.

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Diggins: March of Dimes Honoree

Diggins: March of Dimes Honoree

Mariano Rivera, longtime New York Yankees great and the all-time saves leader in baseball, and Skylar Diggins, WNBA star and former All-American at Notre Dame, will be honored as Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, respectively, by the March of Dimes New York Division at its 30th Anniversary Sports Luncheon on Wednesday, December 4 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network President, and Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, will be honored with the Corporate Leadership and Sports Leadership Awards, respectively.

Each year, March of Dimes honors the outstanding achievements of men and women in the sports industry. Past recipients include New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, NBA Commissioner David Stern, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripken, Jr., tennis legends Andre Agassi and Venus Williams, basketball Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing and Lisa Leslie, and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Rivera, one of the most accomplished and popular Yankee players in history, recently retired after an extraordinary 19 seasons in Pinstripes. During his storied career, the future Hall of Famer set the all-time record for saves (652) and earned five World Series rings as the game’s preeminent closer. In addition to his career saves record, Rivera’s accomplishments are numerous. He earned at least one save in 18 straight seasons; recorded a 40-save season (twice, actually) at age 40 or older; pitched for the Yankees in 19 different seasons (1995-2013), which tied him with teammate Derek Jeter (also 1995-2013) for most seasons played with the Yankees; and recorded a career ERA of 2.21, second-lowest all-time (minimum 1,000 innings pitched) since earned runs became an official statistic. His remarkable mound mastery earned Rivera a host of honors, including: five American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year awards; World Series MVP (1999); League Championship Series MVP (2003); and 13 selections to the American League All-Star Team.

Before joining the Tulsa Shock as the number three pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, Diggins enjoyed one of the most accomplished careers in NCAA history. The standout guard was the only Notre Dame player ever to be a four-time All-American selection, earning consensus first-team honors in 2012 and 2013. In addition, she broke new ground in the Notre Dame record books as a three-time NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player (2010-Dayton, 2011-Raleigh, 2012-Norfolk), a two-time Big East Player of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard (the past two seasons making her just the third two-time honoree in the award's history), along with being the 2013 recipient of the Dawn Staley Award. She is also the only player (male or female) in Notre Dame basketball history to register 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in her career, and one of only six NCAA Division I women's basketball players since 1999-2000 to reach those impressive marks. During her stellar rookie season with Tulsa, Diggins was named to the WNBA’s All-Rookie team.

Miller is President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network where he oversees programming and is prominently involved in sales for both networks. Previously, Miller served as Executive Vice President, NBC Sports since November 2006. He reports to Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. Miller, who is credited for co-creating the NHL Winter Classic, an event that the New York Times said "has stolen New Year’s Day",oversees nearly 9,000 hours of annual programming on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network NBCSN including the Triple Crown and its surrounding horse racing coverage, the NHL, French Open, Notre Dame Football, MLS, Tour de France, IndyCar and NBC’s golf properties, which include the PGA TOUR’s Players Championship and Presidents Cup, the PGA of America’s Ryder Cup and the USGA Championships including the U.S. Open. Miller, who has been with NBC for more than three decades, is also responsible for original programming on NBCSN and has been integral in creating programs such as Pro Football Talk and NFL Turning Point. Most recently, Miller has been instrumental in the acquisition of some of the world’s top sports properties, helping solidify multi-year agreements for Formula One, the top international open-wheel racing series; NASCAR, America’s top motorsports franchise; and the Premier League, the preeminent soccer league in the world.

As the Chief Executive Officer of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Yormark has overseen all aspects of the team’s move to the new arena in Brooklyn, including the rebranding, marketing, and sponsorship sales. Since he joined the Nets in 2005, Yormark's mission has been to make it the most accessible, inventive, fan-friendly, and community-active team in sports. In his role as CEO of Barclays Center, Yormark has oversight for all facets of the sports and entertainment venue, including operations, event programming, sales, and marketing. In January 2007, Yormark secured a 20-year strategic marketing partnership with Barclays, which includes the naming rights to Barclays Center. In addition to Barclays, Yormark has signed agreements with 10 major partners for Barclays Center, including Honda, American Express, Calvin Klein, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, Foxwoods Resort Casino, GEICO, MetroPCS, Stolichnaya, and Ticketmaster. Yormark joined the Nets after a successful six-year tenure with NASCAR, for which he helped build the stock-car racing organization into a major sports property. He has been named the maximum three times to the "Forty Under 40" list by Sports Business Journal and was selected twice to the "40 Under 40" list by Crain's New York Business.

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Looking Back on 2013 Season

Looking Back on 2013 Season

Coming into the 17th WNBA season there was great anticipation that the influx of exciting new talent, coupled with the continuing emergence of already established top players -- including the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalists -- would drive the league to new heights on and off the court. As the Minnesota Lynx and their fans bask in the glow of a second championship in three years, it's fair to say this did indeed happen, with the quality of play on the court and general buzz around the league registering at an all-time high. Below, in no particular order, are some of the top highlights of the 2013 WNBA season.

LYNX DYNASTY It all starts with the Minnesota Lynx, who for the third straight season posted the best regular season record in the league and reached the WNBA Finals. This year, like in 2011, the Lynx topped the last team standing in the East, the Atlanta Dream. Minnesota's loss to the Indiana Fever in the 2012 WNBA Finals is the only true blemish in what is indisputably the top collection of players in the WNBA.

The Big Three (or "Three to Fear" as they've been referred to in Minnesota) of Maya Moore (2013 Finals MVP), Seimone Augustus (2011 Finals MVP) and Lindsay Whalen are deservedly now household names to fans of the W, and were the top contributors on the 2013 title team. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention key off-season acquisition Janel McCarville, X-Factor Monica Wright, perennially under-the-radar stud Rebekkah Brunson, and emerging energy player Devereaux Peters.

Led by Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx closed the deal again this season with Moore's power and athleticism, Augustus' silky smooth moves and Whalen's old school, point-guard-as-floor-leader skills. But with McCarville, Wright, Brunson and Peters as capable supporting players, an argument can be made that the 2013 Minnesota Lynx were the most talented and deep team in the history of the league, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.

DREAMING BIG Although the Atlanta Dream ultimately fell to the aforementioned Lynx in the Finals, there is plenty of reason for optimism in A-Town. The league's leading scorer for the second straight season, Angel McCoughtry, had arguably her best campaign ever in 2013, adding significant playmaking ability to her already impressive arsenal of offensive weapons. Brazilian post-player Erika de Souza's contributions were recognized with a 2013 All-Star appearance.

Despite the three-game Finals sweep, Game 3 may be a key indicator of big things to come in Atlanta as two young players, second-year southpaw Tiffany Hayes (out of UConn) and rookie guard Alex Bentley (Penn State) both demonstrated fighting spirit against Minnesota. Hayes scored 20 points, including 4-of-6 from three, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists, while Bentley had 18 points, 3-of-5 from three, six assists and three steals.

MERCURY RISING Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury came up short in 2013, as nothing less than a WNBA championship is acceptable to the fiery, title-driven Taurasi. That said, 2013 was a tumultuous season for Phoenix, with the addition of much-heralded rookie center Brittney Griner and the return of the injury-slowed Taurasi and Penny Taylor, coupled with a mid-season coaching change resulting in a topsy-turvy run that didn't end until the Mercury ran into the significant roadblock of the Lynx. Perhaps the season's biggest highlight was Griner's clutch game-winning shot against the star-studded L.A. Sparks in the playoffs, a snapshot of the things-to-come in Phoenix, particularly if Griner can overcome the nagging injuries which slowed her progress in 2013.

HEART OF A CHAMPION Tamika Catchings and the Fever harbored high hopes of defending their hard-earned 2012 WNBA crown at the start of 2013, as evidenced by the raucous reception they received at the White House as the season tipped. Injuries took their toll, however, but true to form, Catchings and the Lin Dunn-led Fever made a passionate late-season run to the playoffs and managed one of the upsets of the year by knocking off the Chicago Sky in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

EDD, SKY'S THE LIMIT There is a new team in town in the East and it's the Chicago Sky. The debut of rookie sensation Elena Delle Donne was nothing short of spectacular, with the 6-5 newcomer unveiling a dizzying display of skills: long-range shooting, sick handle and mid-range game resulting in landslide Rookie of the Year acclaim. EDD's abilities exceed the box score, as her intangibles, from her veteran-like calm in the clutch, to her savvy court-awareness, were just as impressive as her league-best percentage from the free-throw line.

Toss in an All-WNBA Team and Defensive Player of the Year performance by Sylvia Fowles and the Sky were the class of the East in 2013 before succumbing to the defending champs in their first taste of the WNBA postseason. Look for EDD and Fowles to make the Sky a perennial contender, and a legit threat for the title in 2014.

PARKER COMES OF AGE Candace Parker made a big leap in 2013, taking MVP honors in her first All-Star Game appearance (injuries and Team USA duties prevented previous potential trips) and then earning her second league MVP crown after a stellar campaign, memorably exemplified by an overzealous celebration forever captured in this video. Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver also had strong individual campaigns, each joining Parker on the West All-Star squad. Unfortunately L.A. drew Phoenix in the highly-competitive Western Conference playoffs and in a first-round matchup of the ages, fell short to a rampant Taurasi and emerging Griner.

MR. THIBAULT GOES TO WASHINGTON After two straight playoff-less seasons in 2011 and 2012, the Mystics opted for regime chnage in 2013 and with one broad stroke -- the hiring of proven WNBA winner Mike Thibault -- Washington enjoyed a remarkable turnaround, winning more games (17) than in the two previous seasons combined. In retrospect, bringing in Thibault was a no-brainer, as he passed legendary Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor as the winningest coach in WNBA history in his inaugural season in D.C., in addition to leading the Mystics to the playoffs, where they succumbed to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Atlanta Dream.

Thibault relied on a mix of established veterans (Crystal Langhorne, Monique Currie and Matee Ajavon), key acquisitions (Ivory Latta and Kia Vaughn) and draft picks (Tayler Hill, Emma Meesseman and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt) to rebuild the Mystics, who can now build on the post-season experience gained in 2013 when preparing for what could be a promising 2014.

FAREWELL TO THE QUEEN With two of the top players in the history of the game, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, unavailable due to injury, many expected a stormy season in Seattle, but a stellar swansong by another all-time great, Tina Thompson, and gritty performances by veterans Tanisha Wright, Camille Little and Temeka Johnson resulted in a solid year for the Storm, including an impressive 10th straight postseason appearance.

Thompson, the only W player to compete in all 17 seasons, the first No. 1 pick in league history and the leading points scorer in league history, turned back the clock in her final season, leading the Storm in both scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg), in addition to earning a well-deserved All-Star game nod. With the recovering Bird and Jackson slated for a return in 2014, Brian Agler's Storm are on course to keep their playoff streak alive.

HISTORIC NIGHT Riquna Williams made history on Sept. 8 2013, scoring more points in a single WNBA game than any player in the history league when she exploded for 51-points in the Shock's 98-65 win over the Silver Stars in San Antonio. The second-year guard out of the University of Miami, broke the record of 47 points, previously held by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi (in 2006) and Lauren Jackson (in 2007). Other highlights for the Shock include the development of a promising nucleus of young players, including 2013 All-Star Glory Johnson, Aussie center Liz Cambage and much-heralded No. 3 pick Skylar Diggins.

KATIE SAYS GOODBYE When Bill Laimbeer returned to the W for the 2013 season as Head Coach/GM of the New York Liberty, one of the first things he did was acquire the rights to one of his former Detroit Shock players, Katie Smith, for her leadership and on-court skills. While the Liberty had a challenging 2012, Smith, a two-time WNBA champ and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, didn't disappoint, becoming the second leading scorer in WNBA history, surpassing her former Olympic teammate Lisa Leslie, before hanging up her sneakers for the last time as a WNBA player.

SILVER LININGS With Becky Hammon and Sophia Young unavailable due to injury, several players stepped up and grabbed the additional minutes and responsibility for the San Antonio Silver Stars, particularly guards Danielle Robinson and Jia Perkins and post-presence Danielle Adams. Robinson, perhaps the speediest player in the W, not only led the league in assists, averaging 6.7 per game, but earned a Second Team All-Defense nod, as did Perkins, who averaged 13.9 ppg for San Antonio. Adams posted a team-high 14.4 ppg. Robinson also made some noise in her first WNBA All-Star game.

CHARLES IN CHARGE Tina Charles averaged a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Sun in a difficult transition year for Connecticut. One year after landing WNBA MVP honors, Charles was her consistent self in 2013 and also served as a hometown ambassador at the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

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Moore, Brunson lead Lynx to title sweep

Moore, Brunson lead Lynx to title sweep

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) Another WNBA championship for the Minnesota Lynx. Another three-game sweep of the Atlanta Dream in the finals.

Maya Moore, though, says that nothing came too easily for the Lynx.

``That's what a championship is supposed to be,'' she said. ``It's supposed to be hard, and when it got hard, we came together and stuck with it and secured that victory. I'm just really proud.''

Moore scored 23 points, Rebekkah Brunson had 15 points and 12 rebounds and the Lynx beat the Dream 86-77 on Thursday night to win their second WNBA title in three years.

Tiffany Hayes finished with 20 points and Alex Bentley had 18 in reserve roles for Atlanta, which was swept in the best-of-5 finals for the third time in four years.

Moore was playing at the Gwinnett Arena for the first time since leading nearby Collins Hill H.S. to the last of three consecutive state championships in 2007, and she had strong support from the suburban Atlanta crowd.

Moore, the WNBA rookie of the year three years ago after helping Connecticut win two straight national championships, was a big reason why the Lynx won their first championship in 2011.

This time, she was named the finals MVP as Minnesota became the second team to go unbeaten in seven playoff games and win a championship, joining the 2010 Seattle Storm.

``I have so many people around me that I appreciate and who have helped me so much from middle school to high school,'' Moore said. ``I'm sure there's some Connecticut faithfuls here, too, but when you think about all the things you want your team to be - we don't just talk about it. We do it.''

Lindsay Whalen scored 15 points and Seimone Augustus had 14 for the Lynx, who improved to 14-6 on the road this year.

The Dream cut the lead to three points early in the third quarter, but Moore came off a screen on the next possession and hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-39. She and Brunson combined for 19 of Minnesota's 26 points in the third.

Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry, the WNBA's two-time defending scoring champion, finished with 13 points - a career low in nine finals games - and shot just 28.5 percent in the series.

The Dream, forced to move the elimination game to the northern suburbs with their home court booked for an ice skating event, dropped to 6-16 outside Philips Arena.

Injuries dragged on Atlanta all season, the worst of which was the loss of forward Sancho Lyttle in midseason.

``It's tough, but we're not going to make that an excuse,'' McCoughtry said. ``I'm pretty sure Minnesota has injuries, too. They're beat up just as bad as you are. But it takes mental toughness to fight through. It's a long season, and most of play overseas, too. I'm proud of everyone to be strong and fight hard.''

Minnesota never trailed and made life tough on them from the start. By the 4:52 mark of the first quarter, the Dream had committed five turnovers and was 1 for 5 from the field when coach Fred Williams called a timeout with Atlanta trailing 13-3.

After McCoughtry scored inside to make it 47-42 early in the third, the Dream missed six of their next seven shots and committed four turnovers on their next eight possessions.

Monica Wright followed with a three-point play put the Lynx up by 16.

Augustus was grateful to return to the top after losing the finals in four games last year to Indiana.

``I'm sorry if we make it look easy, but it's very hard to get back here,'' said Augustus, the 2011 finals MVP. ``Look at what Washington did this year, what Chicago did this year. We're just lucky to be in this position, and we're willing to sacrifice some parts of their game to make this team better.''

Atlanta cut the lead to eight early in the fourth, but Devereaux Peters, standing at the top of the key, hit Moore with a backdoor pass for a layup that made it 68-58.

``We know it's not going to be perfect, but the sign of a mature championship team is `How are you going to get through those tough moments?''' Moore said. ``And that's what we did.''

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

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Results for December 2013

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Women's college ball really picked up this week - especially for Maryland and Connecticut. No. 8 Maryland brought home two 49 plus wins and UConn, No. 1, met Duke, No. 2, in a highly anticipated battle on Dec. 17 where UConn came out on top. Maryland and UConn also have two of the hottest seniors in the nation right now in Alyssa Thomas and Stefanie Dolson. The two share an incredible talent, work ethic and dedication to the sport, but their presence couldn't be any more different. Thomas is a strong, silent straight-to-business type, while Dolson is a spirited, high-energy center.

Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

Although Alyssa Thomas is reportedly quiet and somewhat shy, she is anything but on the court. The senior Maryland guard-forward proved exactly that last season when the Terrapins were forced to shuffle things around due to numerous season-ending injuries. Thomas, a 6-2 forward, switched to the point guard position and excelled. She led Maryland to a second-place ACC finish that year despite their early adversity.

This year Thomas is averaging 16 PPG and 11 rebounds. The Terps are ranked No. 8 and are 10-1 on the season. Thomas has 10 straight double-doubles this season and is the only player in Maryland history to put up three career triple-doubles. This week she was named ACC player of the week for the ninth time in her career.

The Terrapins are healthy this year and Thomas is back at the forward position. They - and she - are expected to do well in the tournament.

Stefanie Dolson, UConn

Stefanie Dolson is often regarded as the heart of UConn basketball. She is know for her incredible spirit, charisma and drive on and off the court.

When she started as a freshman, the 6-5 center was not as fast nor as athletic as some of the other posts in the league. But at the conclusion of her first season, Dolson changed her work habits and worked on her game. When she returned for her sophomore season, she was one of the most athletic centers in the league and also one of the smartest.

Dolson is averaging 14 PPG, 10 rebounds and - an almost unheard of for a center - four assists. "How many assists did Stefanie have? Six? There are some centers in the country who don't get six assists in a full year," Coach Geno Auriemma told espnW after the Duke game last night.

Dolson also put up 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Huskies vs. Duke.

Other Notable Seniors

Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg is averaging 18 points per game for Oklahoma this season. Oklahoma is ranked No. 20 and is 7-3 this year.

Michelle Plouffe, Utah's senior forward, is averaging a double-double with 19 ppg and 11 rebounds.

And Duke's 6-1 guard Tricia Liston is averaging 18 ppg for the Blue Devils.

Updates as of 12-17-2013

Chiney Ogwumike - Stanford - 25 ppg, 11, rpg, 1 apg.

Chelsea Gray - Duke - 12 ppg, 5 rpg, 8 apg.

Odyssey Sims - Baylor - 29 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg.

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Swoopes Finds Love for Coaching

Swoopes Finds Love for Coaching

It’s been two years, three months, and five days since Sheryl Swoopes last played a game of basketball, but I was still surprised when she said she didn’t miss playing.

"My passion for the game doesn’t come from playing anymore, my passion for the game now comes from watching and teaching, instructing and coaching and giving back," Swoopes told WNBA.com over the phone from her new office in Chicago. She had just gotten off a post-practice conference call - one of her many new duties as the head coach of Loyola Chicago’s Women’s Basketball team.

Sheryl Swoopes is often - and rightfully - heralded as the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball. She, like Jordan, was known for consistent dominance on both ends of the court and a raw emotion and competitive drive that set her apart from everyone else. Also like Jordan, Swoopes was offered a Nike contract for her own shoe, the Air Swoopes. But probably the most Jordan-esque thing about her was her genuine love for the game of basketball - a love that resulted in one of the most storied careers in professional basketball history prior to retirement in 2011.

Swoopes was a successful college player for Texas Tech, but she saw even more success as a professional player, leading the Houston Comets to 4 WNBA Championship titles. Swoopes was the first WNBA three-time MVP and the first WNBA three-time Defensive Player of the Year. She was also a 6-time WNBA All-Star and even became the second WNBA player to be named the regular season MVP and the All-Star MVP in the same season.

In 1997-2000, Swoopes played with Cynthia Cooper, the first WNBA MVP and two-time WNBA All-Star, and Tina Thompson, a nine-time All-Star and the eventual WNBA all-time leading scorer. The "Big Three," as they were known, launched the first ever WNBA dynasty with the Houston Comets, winning the WNBA championship four years in a row for the first four years the league was in existence.

Before, during, and after her prime years with the Houston Comets, Sheryl Swoopes was able to compete in three Olympic games taking home the gold for Women's basketball all three times.

"I know I made the right decision to retire," she says with confidence now. "So I can actually sit and watch WNBA games now and not say 'Oh my gosh, I miss it and I want to get out there and play.'"

But while crossing over to coaching may seem like the logical next step after the WNBA - many of Sheryl’s peers are now coaching college teams as well - Sheryl took her time getting there, spending a year as a broadcast analyst for Texas Tech, her alma mater. In fact, Swoopes had never held a coaching position in any respect before she was named the head coach at Loyola.

Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t seem to matter to Sheryl. If she approaches coaching the same way she approached playing for so long, then there is no doubt that Sheryl Swoopes will be a successful coach.

But of course that doesn’t mean she isn’t met routinely with challenges and obstacles. Right now that means injuries and rebuilding.

And while the Ramblers are off to a rough start - they are 2-7 on the year - Coach Swoopes assured me that they had had a good practice this morning and are making their way back to good health.

But those are the challenges Sheryl expected to face as a coach. When I asked her what the hardest part of coaching really was?

"Patience." She laughed.

"You know because as a player you always felt like you could go out there and take over a game if something wasn’t going well or shots weren’t falling. I wanted to believe that I was always that player who could do that. And now being a coach, all I can do is prepare my team in practice and say 'here’s a game plan and now we have to go out and execute it.'"

I was curious, though. How could a player who held herself to such high standards as a professional basketball player set reasonable expectations for an entire team of younger, less experienced players?

But Sheryl Swoopes is more grounded than that.

"I don’t expect any of my players to be who I was, the type of player I was. The things that I expect from them are things that I think they’re very capable of doing - or being - and that’s to come to practice and work hard every single day and to compete. I don’t care what the outcome is or who you’re playing. We don’t ever quit. We don’t ever give up. And as long as I’m getting those things from my players I can walk into the locker room at the end of the day whether we win or lose and feel good about the product that we just left on the floor."

It’s a sentiment she’s likely heard before from the many coaches she played for during her career - most notably Coach Marsha Sharp at Texas Tech and Coach Van Chancellor with the Comets - but 100 percent effort is not a learned behavior for Swoopes and it’s no surprise she would ask for nothing less from her own players. The grit and the passion that she wants to bring to coaching is so completely Sheryl that it’s hard to imagine she’s picked up a few things from watching other coaches.

And her list of model coaches isn't scarce.

There’s Cynthia Cooper at UNC Wilmington and now at USC, Dawn Staley who left Temple with the best overall women’s basketball record, and Jennifer Rizzotti who has coached the University of Hartford to four trips to the NCAA tournament and coached the USA Olympic U-18 and U-19 teams to gold medals. But those are just the coaches she played with.

"Granted, what Pat Summit has done - what she did - her mark that she left on coaching, no one will ever be able to touch that. And of course what Gino’s doing over at UConn, Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, and Tara Van DerVeer at Stanford, I think everybody has hopes and dreams about being able to build that type of a program and that’s exactly what I’m doing here is trying to build a program and I know I’ve got to take small steps."

And so Swoopes has a plan for her team that far exceeds the bounds of a single season.

"I think anytime you come in and take over a program you have to work with what you got," she said. "I really want to be able to create our offense around our defense. And I don’t really have those types of players right now that allow me to play that style, so we’re really trying to adjust to what we have. But it takes time, change takes time, and bringing in a whole new coach and a new coaching staff who have a different philosophy and a different style, it’s something that the players have got to adjust to and I do think they’ve done a really good job with it."

And that adjustment period is hard for everyone, even off the court.

"I have a brand new appreciation and respect for coaches, because as a player you don’t realize all the time and effort that goes into running a program and preparing for practices, all of the scouting you have to do, all the recruiting. It’s just a lot that goes into it. To me the actual coaching part is about 20 percent of the job, the other 80 percent is everything else."

But even with all of her new coaching duties and generally busy schedule, Sheryl still finds time to check in with the WNBA - the league she helped garner credibility, notability, and traction since its inception in 1996.

"I do think it’s competitive, there’s so much talent in the league, from your worst team to your best team, there’s some great individual talent. Being in Chigaco, I got a chance to go out and catch a couple of games this summer. I really got to see Elena Delle Donne play up close and personal and I have so much respect for her as a player."

"My goal," she added matter-of-factly, "is to be the first coach to send a player from Loyola to the WNBA and that’s what we’re working on."

And while that’s proof she still sets some lofty expectations, we already have proof enough that Sheryl Swoopes can not just meet, but far exceed even her own goals.

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Sun Ride the Odds

Sun Ride the Odds

SECAUCUS, N.J., Dec. 10, 2013 - Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Connecticut Sun, appeared positively shocked when WNBA President Laurel Richie announced that the Sun would have the first pick in the upcoming 2014 WNBA Draft despite Connecticut’s almost 45 percent chance of winning. "We’re in the casino business," he told ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi, "We know the odds don’t always work for you, but I’m really glad they worked for us today."

Who wouldn’t be, of course. Top prospects for 2014 include Stanford powerhouse Chiney Ogwumike - sister of current Los Angeles Sparks center Nneka Ogwumike - and Odyssey Sims, a Baylor guard who played with Brittney Griner.

"There are a lot of great players, it’s a very deep draft. You know I think the key is we can have whoever we want and I think that’s the most exciting thing," Etess said. "I think we’ll use this pick to fortify what we need in the best way possible and that’s kind of what the plan is."

With that same plan in mind, Tulsa Shock representative and part-owner Sam Combs was happy with the No. 2 pick.

"We also have a high enough pick that we’ll have the ability to take someone that these other teams might like or need better than us. So it gives us maximum flexibility in terms of retaining players in the pick or maybe trading it for a very good solid veteran."

The Shock, who also have No. 3 pick from last year Skylar Diggins, are still building up their roster.

"There’s a good workman group of players this year not a flashy group of players [like last year] and we’re still young," Combs said. "Our best basketball is still out there."

The third pick overall went to the San Antonio Silver Stars. Though it wasn’t the top pick, Silver Stars’ head coach Dan Hughes seemed happy with the outcome anyway. Hughes, whose pre-game (or in this case pre-lottery) ritual includes going to a concert - this time it was Rod Stewart at MSG - was as cool and as calm as ever.

"I think we can go a lot of ways. You know, we were really beat up last year and we’re going to have players returning to health. There aren’t a lot of glaring needs when we’re healthy. We’ll try to take it to where we think is the best place for us in the long term and kind of spin it that way."

He did note, however, that this year’s class was going to need a lot of observation. "It’s not an easy class to determine who’s going to [get picked] ahead of our pick."

And, lastly, while Bill Laimbeer - former NBA great and head coach of the New York Liberty - does not share Hughes’ laid-back demeanor or thoughtful analysis, he is looking for one thing in particular.

"Players," he said. "Good players. That’s what we’re looking for."

Which, I guess, is why we’re all here.

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WNBA Announces Rule Changes

WNBA Announces Rule Changes

NEW YORK, Dec. 11, 2013 - The WNBA Board of Governors approved six rules changes for the upcoming 2014 season, the league announced today.

Instant replay may now be used:

Instant replay may now be used during the last minute of the game or any point during an overtime period:

When reviewing a block/charge play to determine whether the defender was inside or outside the restricted area, officials will now be permitted to reverse a charge call, or uphold a blocking call, when the defender was outside the restricted area but was not set when the offensive player began her upward shooting motion.

To determine if a whistled goaltending or basket interference was correctly called.

Instant replay may now also be used at any point within a game:

To determine whether an off-ball foul occurred before or after a player has started her shooting motion on a successful shot attempt, or before or after the ball was released on a throw-in.

To permit the officials to assess the appropriate penalties of any unsportsmanlike and unnecessary acts (e.g. flagrant fouls) that are observed during the instant replay reviews.

Additional rules modifications:

On clear-path-to-the-basket fouls, it will no longer be considered a clear-path foul if, at any point before the foul is committed, the defender who commits the foul is positioned ahead of the offensive player in the frontcourt.

A team on offense will lose possession if its player leaves the floor and does not immediately return to the floor, unless she is injured, attempting to save the ball or in other extenuating circumstances.

Each of these rules was recommended by the WNBA’s Competition Committee at its meeting on Dec. 4.

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Sun Win Draft Lottery

Sun Win Draft Lottery

The Connecticut Sun won the 13th annual WNBA Draft Lottery and earned the top pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm, the league announced today. The lottery was conducted in a televised event live on ESPN during SportsCenter.

The Sun had 442 chances out of 1,000 to receive the first overall selection, the most of any of the four teams in the lottery mix. It marks the first time Connecticut has won the WNBA Draft Lottery. Entering 2010, Connecticut held the No. 2 overall pick but sent that pick and Lindsay Whalen to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for the No. 1 overall selection and Renee Montgomery. The Sun used the pick to take University of Connecticut center Tina Charles, who went on to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year honors.

Tulsa, which along with the New York Liberty, shared the second largest chance of winning the lottery (22.7 percent each), will have the second pick in the 2014 Draft presented by State Farm, and will be followed by the San Antonio Silver Stars, which had the smallest chance (10.4 percent). The Liberty will have the fourth pick.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young conducted the lottery in Secaucus, N.J., to establish the order of selection for the first four picks of the 2014 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round, as well as the second and third rounds, is determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records in 2013.

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Draft Watch: Senior Standouts

Draft Watch: Senior Standouts

On the eve of the WNBA draft lottery and with the college hoops season well underway, it's about time we start to take a better look at some of the top eligible WNBA Draft contenders. Compared to last year's stacked 3 to See Draft, 2014 offers a well-distributed wealth of talent. Nevertheless, the two players currently leading the pack are the spirited, driven addition to the Ogwumike legacy, Chiney Ogwumike, and the balanced, level headed point guard, and former Brittney Griner teammate, Odyssey Sims.

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford:

It's no secret that Chiney Ogwumike is the younger sister of Los Angeles Sparks forward and No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 WNBA draft Nneka Ogwumike, but Chiney is certainly not in anyone’s shadow. The 6-3 power forward is averaging 25 points per game and 11 rebounds on the season for No. 6 ranked Stanford. Last season, Chiney was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a Capital One Academic All-American. Chiney is known for her willingness to step outside her comfort zone, which in last season’s win over Brittney Griner's Baylor even meant stepping out beyond the arc.

Back in 2010, Chiney, a Texas native, opted for Stanford over Connecticut and Notre Dame where she played with her sister until Nneka graduated in 2012. The two carried Stanford to NCAA Final Four appearances in both 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Chiney is as of this moment regarded as one of the top picks available for the 2014 WNBA Draft, which means that she isn’t likely to join her sister in Los Angeles. The Sparks have the second to last pick in the first round.

But while Chiney might not be in her sister's shadow, she’s looking forward to following in Nneka's footsteps just the same.

Odyssey Sims, Baylor:

Though Odyssey Sims looks a lot like Chiney Ogwumike on paper, Sims is averaging 30 points per game, four rebounds and three assists, the similarities end there. Odyssey Sims is Baylor's 5-8 point guard who is making over 50 percent of her outside shots and supplementing that with heads-up fast-break layups and aggressive drives to the basket. A former teammate of Brittney Griner's, Sims has learned how to play with a dominate big and take matters into her own hands when the time calls. Just last week, she surpassed the record for Baylor’s most career assists with 492, the last 13 of which she got in Baylor's win over UTSA. And over the weekend, despite Baylor's quadruple-overtime loss, Sims put up a career-high 47 points.

Sims and the Lady Bears are off to a 7-1 start this year without Griner, and could be well on their way to another Final Four appearance, Griner and Sims led Baylor to a National Championship in 2012.

Sims has already been named the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year for this season.

Other notable seniors:

Penn State's Maggie Lucas is averaging 22 points per game and brought in her 2000th career point on Sunday.

Stefanie Dolson is bringing down an average of 10 rebounds a game and putting up 14 points for No. 1 ranked UConn.

Shoni Schimmel, Louisville's explosive, dynamic guard is averaging 13 ppg and four ssists.

Hallie Christofferson is hitting 24 points per game on average and 8 rebounds for Iowa State.

Jordan Hooper for Nebraska is averaging 20 points per game with 10 rebounds.

No. 4 Notre Dame Kayla McBride has 14 points per game, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Jennifer O’Neil for Kentucky is putting up 14 points per game.

Chelsea Gray, a 5-11 guard for No. 2 Duke is averaging 12 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Note: All statistical information above as of Dec 10, 2013

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Diggins Hits Off Season Hard

Diggins Hits Off Season Hard

December 4, 2013 -- Skylar Diggins can command a room like she can command the court -- even without her signature headband.

When we met this afternoon at the March of Dimes 30th Anniversary Sports Luncheon, the 5'9" Tulsa Shock point guard (6'1" in heels) was using her height to look out over a room full of journalists and photographers -- a setting she's now more familiar with than ever after her career skyrocketed over the past year. Skylar is here to accept an honor as the March of Dimes 2013 Sportswoman of the Year after a stellar WNBA rookie season with the Tulsa Shock and she couldn't be more grateful.

"You know when I first heard about it I was surprised that such a great organization wanted to honor me. They do so much for the community and for infants and babies, it was humbling," she said of the award.

Humbling, maybe, but certainly not undeserved.

After graduating from Notre Dame as the all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 career points (and an oft-mentioned even bigger number of twitter followers), Diggins was immediately drafted third overall in the WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock and targeted by ESPN as one of the WNBA's "3 to See." In her first ever WNBA season, she went out averaging 8.5 points per game and 3.8 assists and made the WNBA All-Rookie team.

True to form, she hasn't slowed down since. In fact, she's working harder than ever both on and off the court, which is why March of Dimes -- and so many others -- took notice.

She was eager to talk about her training: "You know, I'm glad I'm home and I get to work on things and just really hone in on working on my body and my strength," which is why, she told me, she wasn't worried at all about skipping out on overseas play. "You know, I got a few great trainers both in New York and in South Bend that I'm working with so it's been good for me and just being able to be seen and get out here and really work."

But hard work isn't the only reason why Skylar's here today.

The immensely popular pro athlete has used her position as a social media star and fashion icon to stand up as a role model and an advocate for young girls everywhere. Most notably, Sklyar is the supreme leader of #HeadbandNation, which is what she calls her thousands of social media fans that sport her signature headband. Her face lights up at any mention of her beloved following. "I love headband nation!" she said. "I miss them."

Not for much longer though.

"Look forward to the headbands dropping soon in January," she wanted #HeadbandNation to know. "I've got some new designs coming out so I'm excited!"

So now with her off-season workouts going swimmingly, her headbands all set for release, plus a few secret projects she's working on ("You'll just have to wait and see!") all lined up, you'd think Skylar would be looking forward to taking it easy.

"I'm just [ready] to get back to work. I hate this break."

Should've figured.

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WNBA Draft Lottery

WNBA Draft Lottery

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2013 -- For the second consecutive year, the WNBA Draft Lottery will be televised live on ESPN. The 2014 WNBA Draft Lottery -- to be held in Secaucus, N.J. on Tuesday, Dec. 10 -- will be hosted by Kevin Negandhi and air at 4:30 p.m. ET during SportsCenter.

The Connecticut Sun, New York Liberty, Tulsa Shock, and San Antonio Silver Stars -- all of whom did not qualify for the playoffs this past season -- will be looking to secure the top pick in the 2014 Draft presented by State Farm, to be conducted next April.

Connecticut, which posted a record of 10-24, has the best opportunity (44.2 percent) to win the top pick in the 2014 Draft. New York and Tulsa, who both finished the year at 11-23, will have the second most chances to land the top pick (22.7 percent each). San Antonio, which ended the campaign at 12-22, rounds out the lottery-eligible teams and has a 10.4 percent chance to win the first overall selection.

WNBA officials and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will conduct the Draft Lottery. The Lottery will establish the first four picks of the draft. The order of selection for the remainder of the first round, as well as the second and third round, is determined by inverse order of the teams’ respective regular-season records from 2013.

Fourteen balls numbered 1-14 will be placed in a lottery machine and mixed. Four balls will then be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that four-ball combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The four balls will then be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated to determine the second and third picks. The team that does not win one of the top three picks will be slotted fourth.

There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. One thousand of those combinations will be assigned to the four non-playoff teams based on their order of finish in the 2013 regular season. The remaining combination will be unassigned. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls will be placed back into the machine and the process will be repeated until an assigned combination is drawn.

Only once in history has the WNBA Draft Lottery, instituted prior to the 2002 draft, gone exactly according to the odds. The Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and Chicago Sky, respectively, entered the eighth annual Lottery with the most chances to earn the top pick in the 2009 Draft, and came away with, in order, the first, second and third selections.

On two occasions, the team with the fewest chances of earning the top pick has come out on top. The Phoenix Mercury was the first to do so, winning the Lottery for the 2007 Draft. The Los Angeles Sparks also overcame the longest odds and earned the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. Phoenix used its No. 1 overall pick in 2007 to take Lindsey Harding of Duke; Los Angeles used its No. 1 selection in 2012 on Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford.

Phoenix also won the most recent WNBA Draft Lottery, conducted on Sept. 26, 2012, and subsequently selected Baylor’s Brittney Griner first overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. That pick was followed, in order, by Chicago (Elena Delle Donne), Tulsa (Skylar Diggins), and Washington (Tayler Hill).

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Results For January 2014

Draft Watch: Big Winners

Draft Watch: Big Winners

Things are heating up in the NCAA. This past Monday was a huge double header with big wins from Notre Dame and Stanford. Other big wins this week included Baylor’s overtime win over Oklahoma State and Tennessee’s thumping of Texas AM.

The usual suspects were still up to no good. Chiney Ogwumike had 30 points for Stanford and Odyssey Sims put up 25 points for Baylor's 92-43 win over Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Stefanie Dolson grabbed 13 rebounds for UConn against Temple.

Particularly notable, however, were big performances from Notre Dame's Kayla McBride, Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, and Tennessee's Meighan Simmons.

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame)

Kayla McBride will be a Top 7 WNBA draft pick according to WNBA draft expert and head coach of the New York Liberty Bill Laimbeer. Bill Laimbeer is probably right. Especially if Kayla McBride continues to play the way she did this week. The Notre Dame guard/small forward had 20 points in their win against Maryland and that’s even though she got into foul trouble early on in the game. McBride and the Notre Dame "trio" contributed 80 points to the team’s 87-point win.

"I think McBride played with a lot of confidence," Laimbeer also told the South Bend Tribune "She's playing solid basketball this year. She's taught herself to handle the ball a little bit better than she has in the past. That's a big step up for her for the next level. She gained a lot of confidence playing with USA Basketball. That really helped her out as far as knowing that she can play at a higher level."

McBride is averaging 16 points per game, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Shoni Schimmel (Louisville)

This week Shoni Schimmel was voted espnW’s Senior of the Week and for a very good reason. Schimmel scored 29 points in the game versus Memphis. Twenty-seven of those points were from beyond the arc. And those 9 three pointers tied the school record for the most 3s in a game.

But that’s not the only trick Schimmel has up her sleeve. ESPN has called her "explosive" and "dynamic" and has said that she "fears no one." Which is likely true if you recall that time she drove right into Britney Griner for an and-1 in a 2012 Baylor-Louisville game before getting up in her face a little bit. How could you forget?

But all that talking has served her well. Schimmel is a vocal leader for the Cards and is averaging 18 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Other notable seniors:

Meighan Simmons, out of Tennessee had a huge 26 point game against Texas AM. She is averaging 14 points per game, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Samarie Walker is averaging 10 points per game, 9 rebounds and 2 assists for Kentucky.

Bria Hartley has 15 points per game, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists for No. 1 UConn.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Tricia Liston (Duke) - 17 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 12 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 20 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Chiney Ogwumike (Standford) - 26 ppg, 12 rpg, 1 apg

Odyssey Sims (Baylor) - 29 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg

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Cappie Checks in from Turkey

Cappie Checks in from Turkey

It’s not easy to keep up with someone like Cappie Pondexter. The Liberty guard is known for her determination to get and be better, on and off the court. When she’s not playing for the Liberty she’s either heading up her own business 4 Seasons Style Management or playing full-time overseas for Turkey’s elite Fenerbahce club in Istanbul alongside the Dream’s Angel McCoughtry.

This is Cappie’s fifth year with the club and she has found the competition getting stronger as more and more Americans have joined the Turkish league. "The competition’s not far off from the WNBA now. Obviously in the WNBA we only have 12 players on a team and all our 12 players are great. Here the completion is probably about half - or a little bit more than half - of what the WNBA has." And we can only assume it will keep getting better.

Fenerbahce, according to Cappie, is one of the best clubs in Turkey. And the statistics agree. This year the team is 15-2 in the Turkish Basketball League and a solid 7-0 in Group B of the Euroleague (the best record in the Euroleauge so far).

Of course it helps to have 2-time WNBA scoring champion Angel McCoughtry on your side.

"Angel, man, she’s funny!" Cappie laughed when I asked what it was like to play with the animated Dream guard. "It’s great though! I think she’s one of the league’s best at her position. She’s super athletic. Sometimes just watching her is amazing."

And while there is a lot to be excited about overseas, Cappie is still pumped for the upcoming Liberty season. "It’s been a long journey," she said of the last three Liberty seasons, "of being in New Jersey and now we’re headed back to the Garden. There’s a lot of excitement behind that and not just from me."

The past season was admittedly a rebuilding season for the Liberty, the franchise has the fourth pick overall in this year’s draft and head coach Bill Laimbeer has made it incredibly clear as to what they are looking for this season: "players."

But if anyone knows exactly what Laimbeer’s talking about now it’s Cappie: "I think our first year was just us trying to learn each other. Now we have a year under our belt and I know the system, what he expects, and I’m looking forward to it. I think we’re gonna have a super year."

And with all these expectations, you better be sure that Cappie Pondexter is working hard to get ready. She’s focusing in Turkey on elevating her shooting percentage for the coming season. Last year she was 36 percent from the field and she plans to get those numbers up.

Come May, Cappie and the New York Liberty will be on top of their game and there's every reason to expect that "super" year.

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EDD, Diggins Back on Court

EDD, Diggins Back on Court

NEW YORK, Jan. 29, 2014 - The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today stars from film and TV will take the court for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 on Friday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET. Two-time MVP Kevin Hart will play alongside Victoria’s Secret model, actress and philanthropist Erin Heatherton; "America’s Got Talent" host Nick Cannon; ESPN Radio’s "Mike & Mike" hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg; Jesse Williams ("Grey’s Anatomy"); Columbus Short ("Scandal"); Michael B. Jordan ("That Awkward Moment"); U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; three-time NBA Champion and ESPN NBA analyst Bruce Bowen; "E! News" anchor Terrence Jenkins; NBA TV’s "NBA Inside Stuff presented by Samsung Galaxy" co-host Kristen Ledlow; ESPN anchor Stan Verrett; and WNBA stars Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky. Tickets for the game, airing live on ESPN from Sprint Arena at NBA All-Star Jam Session, will go on sale today Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m. ET/ 10 a.m. CT.

ESPN’s "NBA Countdown" hosts Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose will coach this year’s teams. An assistant coach will be selected through Sprint’s Assistant Coach For A Day Sweepstakes. The winning fan will be flown to New Orleans for NBA All-Star 2014 and serve as assistant coach for the West or East.

Tickets for the Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 start at $50 and include admission to NBA All-Star Jam Session on Feb. 14, where fans of all ages will be surrounded by wall-to-wall NBA All-Star basketball action. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in basketball activities; meet celebrities, NBA stars and legends; and collect free autographs. General admission tickets for NBA All-Star Jam Session start at $10. Tickets for both events can be purchased at NBAEVENTS.com, Ticketmaster.com and at the New Orleans Arena Box Office.

For the 10th consecutive year, ESPN will televise the game beginning at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. Fans can also view the game on Watch ESPN, available on your computer, smart phone, tablet, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Apple TV and Roku. The game rosters are subject to change without notice. Visit NBA.com/allstar2014 for more information.

A $20 TICKET (STANDARD PRICE OF ADMISSION) TO JAM SESSION ON FRIDAY, FEB. 14, DOES NOT INCLUDE ADMISSION TO THE CELEBRITY GAME.

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2014 Draft Watch: Name Games

2014 Draft Watch: Name Games

With the NCAA regular season moving closer and closer to its conclusion in March, the name of the game these days - especially for seniors - is making a name for yourself. Whether that’s finally stepping into the spotlight like Uju Ugoka who came back her senior year for Virginia Tech to average 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, or whether it’s stepping out of the shadow of someone with your same name like Chiney Ogwumike has already proven she can do. But it’s also making sure that no one ever forgets your name. Which they certainly won’t if you’re Odyssey Sims who had another big game against Kansas State.

And of course - if you’re Connecticut - it’s all about trying to hold on to your good name. That is to say, keep beating teams by over 30 points, which they did in their 83-49 win over Memphis.

Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford)

We already knew there was something special about the Ogwumike name thanks to big sis and WNBAer Nneka Ogwumike, but what’s really in a name? Apparently, a lot more than just legacy. As Chiney Ogwumike really continues to make a name for herself, she talked with ESPN about the literal meaning of the name Ogwukmike in Nigerian: "he who does not tire."

Ogwumike dropped 30 points again against Arizona State, which bumps her average up to 27 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Odyssey Sims (Baylor)

Also still living up to her name this week: Odyssey Sims. Her stats continue to be nothing short of epic. Sims is now averaging 31 points per game. This week she helped Baylor sail past Kansas State 71-47 with 20 points. And while 20 points in one game is nowhere close to Odyssey's average, we're starting to see an Odyssey that responds to increased defensive pressure by freeing up her teammates for wide open shots.

Other notable seniors:

Uju Ugoka, who before her senior year only started 10 games, came back this year to start every game for Virginia Tech and is averaging 19 points per game and 10 rebounds.

Tricia Liston of Duke is still stepping up in Chelsea Gray’s absence and averaging 17 points per game and 6 rebounds.

Tyaunna Marshall, Georgia Tech’s 5’9" guard, is averaging 18 points per game and 8 rebounds.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 17 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 10 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 20 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) - 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg

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Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 Set for Phoenix

Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 Set for Phoenix

NEW YORK and PHOENIX, Jan. 22, 2014 -Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will take place at US Airways Center in Phoenix, on Saturday, July 19, and will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30pm PT), WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced today.

In addition, Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014 will be televised globally in more than 200 countries and territories.

This marks the second consecutive year that Boost Mobile, which became the WNBA's first league-wide marquee partner in 2011, will serve as the title partner of the All-Star Game. It’s also the second time the All-Star Game will be played in Phoenix. In July 2000, US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) hosted the WNBA's mid-season showcase event.

"We're thrilled to again partner with Boost Mobile and bring the WNBA All-Star Game back to Phoenix," said Richie. "There has been significant demand for the All-Star Game to be held in the West, and we cannot think of better hosts than the Phoenix Mercury organization and US Airways Center. We look forward to an incredibly memorable All-Star weekend and to showcasing the extraordinary talent of the WNBA in front of the great fans of Phoenix as well as a national television audience."

"As an organization and a facility, we want to provide the best sports and entertainment experience to our fans, and we are committed to bringing the best events to US Airways Center," said Jason Rowley, Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury President. "Hosting the Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game 2014 will do both of those things, and it will give our great players and the league's great players the opportunity to play in front of the best fans in the WNBA."

The 2000 WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix saw the Western Conference defeat the Eastern Conference, 73-61, in front of capacity crowd of 17,717 fans. The West, led by a quartet of frontcourt stars - center Lisa Leslie and forwards Tina Thompson, DeLisha Milton, and Yolanda Griffith - helped the West dominate in the paint both in terms of scoring (46-28) and rebounding (60-40). Thompson earned Most Valuable Player honors after posting a game-high 11 rebounds and adding 13 points. Leslie led all scorers with 16 points while Milton added 10 and Griffith contributed a double-double off the bench (10 points and 10 rebounds). Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Tari Phillips led the East with 10 points apiece.

"The only thing that could top playing in All-Star games in front of the great fans in Connecticut, who have always treated me so well, would be the opportunity to play in front of my home fans, the X-Factor, in Phoenix this summer," said Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury Guard. "Hosting the WNBA All-Star Game is an honor and a reward that our fans and organization have earned. I can’t wait."

Mercury season ticket holders - exclusive X-Factor Members - have the first opportunity to secure their seats at the best price for Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, reserved now through Feb. 7, by contacting their account experience specialist. Boost Mobile All-Star tickets are available now to the general public through the purchase of a 2014 Mercury season ticket package or a Mercury All-Star Pack that includes four can’t-miss regular season matchups and the July 19th Boost Mobile All-Star Game at US Airways Center. Log on to PhoenixMercury.com/allstar for more information or call 602.252.WNBA today.

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Draft Watch: Upsets

Draft Watch: Upsets

This week in women s college ball we saw two major upsets go down - Vanderbilt (No. 24) took down (then) No. 8 Tennessee and No. 25 Texas AandM pulled off an overtime win vs. (current) No. 8 South Carolina.

Meanwhile Duke broke out a stellar performance from Tricia Liston who had 21 points and tied her career-high with 12 rebounds. Duke still managed a blowout over Virginia (90-55) despite Chelsea Gray s first absence due to her season ending knee injury.

Also announced this week, USA Basketball posted the national team pool which includes Alyssa Thomas, Odyssey Sims, Kayla McBride and Stefanie Dolson. Alyssa Thomas (Maryland)

Maryland continues to slowly, steadily, and almost stealthily take down opponents, suffering their only loss to Connecticut earlier in the season. Alyssa Thomas is still putting up an average of 17 points per game and bringing down around 11 rebounds. This past week, Maryland put up a solid 77-62 win over Syracuse and

Thomas had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Thomas seems to be emerging as the league s most consistent all-around player. She doesn t quite have the flash of a player like Odyssey Sims or bring home half the praise of a player like Chiney Ogwumike, but Alyssa Thomas knows how to win basketball games.

I should also mention that Alyssa Thomas has put up two triple doubles so far this season.

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska)

Breaking out and onto the radar as another all-around player these past few weeks is no. 18 Nebraska s 6 2 forward with solid stats (20 points per game, 10 rebounds) and a killer last name to boot.

Hooper became the 4th player for Nebraska ever to reach the career mark of 2,000 points in Thursday night s OT win over Minnesota. Not only that, but Hooper has also racked up 1,000 rebounds as well. And, on top of that, she s No. 2 at Nebraska in career 3-pointers, looking at just shy of 50 more to break the current record.

Other notable seniors:

Christina Foggie, who helped lead Vandy past Tennessee this week, is averaging 18 points per game and 4 rebounds.

Tricia Liston, who stepped up for Duke in the wake of Chelsea Gray s injury, is averaging 16 points per game and 5 rebounds.

Karla Gilbert, who led Texas AandM to an overtime victory vs. South Carolina, is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds.

Updates as of 1/14/2014:

Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford) - 27 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apg

Odyssey Sims (Baylor) - 31 ppg, 4rpg, 4 apg

Chelsea Gray (Duke) - Season ending knee injury

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Kayla McBride (Notre Dame) - 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg

Previous Draft Watches:

Draft Watch: Sister, Sister

Draft Watch: Opposites Attack

Draft Watch: The Odyssey

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WNBA Stars Dominate US Women Pool

WNBA Stars Dominate US Women Pool

USA Basketball has announced the pool of women's players who will represent the USA in internal competition for 2014 2016, and what a pool it is. The list includes veteran WNBA and USA Basketball players like Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Sue Bird, WNBA sophomores and USAB newcomers such as Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, and Brittney Griner, and 6 college players. USA Basketball will use this pool of talent to select a national team to compete at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship in Moscow June 5 7, 2014 , the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey Sept. 27 Oct. 5, 2014, the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto July 10 26, 2015, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil August 5 21, 2016.

Since women's basketball became an Olympic event in 1976, the United States has won 7 gold medals including an unprecedented five straight team Olympic gold medals, culminating with the legendary 2012 London Olympic squad. In 1976 the USA lost to the former Soviet Union and in 2006 they lost to Russia in the semi finals settling for bronze. The United States has also won a total of 8 FIBA World Championships since the tournament's beginning in 1953 and are the current defending champs after defeating the Czech Republic 89 69 in 2010.

The full list of players selected for the pool is below.

2014 16 USA Women's Basketball Pool

DIANA TAURASI

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2004 , 5 time WNBA All Star 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2007, 2009 , 5 time WNBA scoring champion 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2009 , WNBA Finals MVP 2009

TAMIKA CATCHINGS

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , 2 time FIBA World Champion 2010, 2002 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006 WNBA

7 time WNBA All Star 2002, 2003, 2005 through 2007, 2009, 2011 , 5 time Defensive Player of the Year 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012 , Rookie of the Year 2002 , 2 time Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award 2010, 2013 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2011 , WNBA Champion 2012 , WNBA Finals MVP 2012

SUE BIRD

INTERNATIONAL 3 time Olympic gold medalist 2004, 2008, 2012 , 2 time FIBA World Champion 2010, 2002 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006 , Jones Cup Gold Medalist 2000

WNBA WNBA All Decade Team, 7 time WNBA All Star 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2004, 2010

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic gold medalist 2008, 2012 , FIBA Bronze Medalist 2006

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2006 , 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013 , WNBA Finals MVP 2011

CANDACE PARKER

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic gold medalist 2008, 2012

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2008 , WNBA MVP 2008, 2013 , 2 time WNBA All Star 2011, 2013 , WNBA All Star MVP 2013 , 2 time WNBA rebounding champion 2008, 2009

MAYA MOORE

INTERNATIONAL Olympic gold medalist 2012 , FIBA Gold Medalist 2010

WNBA 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA All Star 2011, 2013 , WNBA Rookie of the Year 2011 , WNBA Finals MVP 2013

TINA CHARLES

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2010 , WNBA All Star 2011 , WNBA Most Valuable Player 2012 , 3 time WNBA rebounding champion 2010, 2011, 2012

ANGEL MCCOUGHTRY

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , Pan American Games Gold Medalist 2007

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2009 , WNBA All Star 2011 , 2 time WNBA scoring champion 2012, 2013

LINDSAY WHALEN

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 , 3 time WNBA Peak Performer Assists 2008, 2011, 2012 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013

CAPPIE PONDEXTER

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2008

WNBA 4 time WNBA All Star 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 , 2 time WNBA Champion 2007, 2009 , WNBA Finals MVP 2007

KARA LAWSON

INTERNATIONAL Olympic Gold Medalist 2008

WNBA WNBA All Star 2007 , WNBA Champion 2005

SYLVIA FOWLES

INTERNATIONAL 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist 2008, 2012 , FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star 2009, 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year 2011, 2013 , 2 time WNBA blocks leader 2010, 2011 , WNBA rebounds leader 2013

JAYNE APPEL

INTERNATIONAL FIBA World Champion 2010 , Pan American Games Gold Medalist 2007 WNBA

2010 first round draft pick for the San Antonio Stars

CANDICE DUPREE

INTERNATIONAL FIBA World Champion 2010

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star

DEWANNA BONNER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 3 time Sixth Woman of the Year

ELENA DELLE DONNE

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2013 , WNBA All Star 2013

SKYLAR DIGGINS

INTERNATIONAL 3x3 World Champion 2012

WNBA Third overall 2013 draft pick for the Tulsa Shock

BRITTNEY GRINER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2013

LINDSEY HARDING

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA First overall 2007 draft pick

BRIANN JANUARY

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA Sixth overall 2009 draft pick for the Indiana Fever

GLORY JOHNSON

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA First round 2012 draft pick for the Tulsa Shock

JANTEL LAVENDER

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA Fifth overall 2011 draft pick for the Los Angeles Sparks

NNEKA OGWUMIKE

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA Rookie of the Year 2012

DANIELLE ROBINSON

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2013 , WNBA Peak Performer Assists 2013

COURTNEY VANDERSLOOT

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA WNBA All Star 2011

MONICA WRIGHT

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 2 time WNBA Champion 2011, 2013

SOPHIA YOUNG

INTERNATIONAL International Rookie

WNBA 3 time WNBA All Star

Also included in the pool Stefanie Dolson University of Connecticut , Kayla McBride University of Notre Dame , Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis University of Connecticut , Odyssey Sims Baylor University , Breanna Stewart University of Connecticut , Alyssa Thomas University of Maryland

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San Antonio Stars Reveal New Logos and Wordmark

San Antonio Stars Reveal New Logos and Wordmark

SAN ANTONIO Jan. 14, 2014 - Spurs Sports and Entertainment unveiled today an updated look for its WNBA franchise that will be reflected in the 2014 season. Changes include new logos for the San Antonio Stars, which were previously known as the Silver Stars. Additionally, San Antonio-based retailer H-E-B has signed on as the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars and will have the iconic H-E-B logo prominently displayed on the front of their jerseys. The updated logos and jerseys were unveiled today at a press conference held at the AT T Center.

The Stars new primary logo utilizes the familiar silver, black and white color palate and features the San Antonio Stars wordmark above a shooting star. The secondary logo contains a stylized S above the shooting star. Fans can check out the new designs and get the latest news on the Stars at SAStars.com, as well as via the team’s social media channels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

"The new look for the Stars provides an updated design that more closely aligns with the brand and feel of our entire Spurs family of teams," said Rick Pych, Spurs Sports and Entertainment President of Business Operations. "We have been very fortunate to have H-E-B as our business and community partner for well over 20 years and they are the perfect fit to be the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars."

Last year, H-E-B and SS and E announced a five-year renewal as corporate and community partners. H-E-B is the presenting sponsor of the Spurs 2013-14 season and will be the presenting sponsor for the Stars 2014 season. H-E-B also has a presence with the San Antonio Rampage AHL and Austin Toros NBA Development League.

"We’re elated to expand on our collaboration with Spurs Sports and Entertainment as the first-ever marquee sponsor for the Stars, " said Cory Basso, H-E-B Group Vice President of Marketing and Advertising. "The WNBA is the premier women’s sports league in the world and we want to continue to support women’s sports and make a positive impact in our community."

The 2014 campaign will mark the Stars’ 12th season in San Antonio. The team relocated from Utah in 2003 and was then known as the Utah Starzz, one of eight original WNBA franchises.

"Strong brands continue to be attracted to the WNBA, not only for its elite athletes, outstanding entertainment and high level of play, but also for its authentic connection to their communities," said WNBA President Laurel Richie. "Today's announcement marks a milestone in the long standing partnership between H-E-B and the Stars, and we look forward to the great things these two iconic Texas brands will do together in 2014 and beyond."

In celebration of the H-E-B partnership, Stars players Becky Hammon and Danielle Robinson will make an appearance today at the H-E-B plus! on Bandera Rd and 1604 for an appreciation event for Stars fans and H-E-B customers. Featuring free food, games and prizes, the fan appreciation event will be held from 4-6 p.m. and is open to the public.

Spurs Sports and Entertainment is the premier provider of sports and entertainment in South Texas. SS E owns and operates the San Antonio Spurs NBA, San Antonio Rampage AHL, San Antonio Stars WNBA and Austin Toros NBA Development League and also manages the day-to-day operations of the AT T Center.

The San Antonio Stars are one of four professional sports franchises owned and operated by Spurs Sports and Entertainment - the San Antonio Spurs NBA, the Rampage AHL and the Austin Toros NBA Development League - and play their home games at the SS E operated AT T Center. The 2014 season will mark the teams 12th year in San Antonio, as the Utah Starzz relocated to the Alamo City in 2003. In operation since 1997, the WNBA - which features 12 teams - is the most successful women's professional team sports league in the world.

H-E-B, with sales of more than 19.4 billion dollars, operates more than 350 stores in Texas and Mexico. Known for its innovation and community service, H-E-B celebrated its 105th anniversary in 2010. Recognized for its fresh food, quality products, convenient services, and a commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability, H-E-B strives to provide the best customer experience at everyday low prices. Based in San Antonio, H-E-B employs more than 80,000 Partners and serves millions of customers in more than 150 communities. For more information, visit www.heb.com.

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Draft Watch: The Odyssey

Draft Watch: The Odyssey

Last week, the NCAA finally entered conference play and we saw movement in the rankings. Among them, No. 7 Baylor, formerly No. 9, won their first two conference games over Kansas and Kansas State while No. 14 Baylor bought down Iowa and moved up from the No. 15 spot. Those wins can largely be attributed to the performances of Odyssey Sims for Baylor and Maggie Lucas with Penn State. Sims put up 30 points breaking the Baylor record for career 3 pointers in the process against Kansas and that was after her 40 point performance against Kansas State the game before. Meanwhile, Maggie Lucas scored 27 points against No. 22 Iowa, drilling 5 3 pointers.

Odyssey Sims, Baylor

After her 70 point conference start, Odyssey was named espnW's Senior of the Week. She is the first player to win the weekly honor twice. Sims is now averaging 30 points per game plus a solid four assists and four rebounds. When we first highlighted Odyssey on Draft Watch, Baylor was only eight games into the season and Sims was averaging 30 points per game. Today, Baylor is 12 and 1 and she has shown no signs of slowing down.

According to ESPN, "Sims is averaging nearly one-third of Baylor's points this season, has taken 27 percent of the Lady Bears' shots from the floor and 30 percent of their free throw attempts." Which speaks more than volumes for her role on one of the league's strongest teams.

Sims and the Lady Bears take on No. 1 Connecticut on January 13.

Maggie Lucas, Penn State

Maggie Lucas's nickname is Machine Gun Maggie. That's almost all I need to say about Maggie Lucas except that maybe you should watch this video. The 5 10 shooting guard was the Big Ten player of the year last season and is this season averaging 21 points per game, which puts her at No. 11 on the list of top senior scorers in in women's college basketball this year. Last month she scored her 2000th career point at Penn State.

Lucas is also known for being the face and energy of Penn State. You can read her blog posts over at espnW.

Other notable seniors:

No. 2 Notre Dame's Natalie Achonwa, who carried the Irish past Clemson in the ACC opener, is averaging 13 points per game and 8 rebounds.

Christina Foggie of Vanderbuilt is averaging 18 points per game, grabbing 4 rebounds and handing out 4 assists. Vanderbuilt is 12 3 this season.

Asya Bussie is averaging 14 points per game and 7 rebounds for West Virginia which 13 and 1

Updates as of 1.7.2012

Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford, 26 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Gray Duke, 11 ppg, 4 rpg, 7 apg

Stefanie Dolson UConn, 14 ppg, 10, rpg, 3 apg

Alyssa Thomas Maryland, 17 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg

Chelsea Douglas Wake Forest, 20 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Katherine Plouffe, Marquette, 19 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apg

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Results For February 2014

Draft Watch: Grand Marshall

Draft Watch: Grand Marshall

It's off to the races for the rest of the women's college basketball season as records are starting to reflect who will be seeded where for the big tournament (and who won't be there at all). Georgia Tech was one of the teams that could have missed the NCAA tournament boat, but thanks to a season-changing performance from senior Tyaunna Marshall, the team is still in contention for a spot.

There's also much chatter about who will take the number one seed (besides Connecticut and Duke). There are 4 weeks left to play before the seeds are sewn. Kara Lawson and Rebecca Lobo discuss:

Tyaunna Marshall (Georgia Tech)

Tyaunna Marshall is a newcomer to espnW’s player of the week spotlight, but that doesn’t mean her season has gone unnoticed. The Georgia Tech senior is averaging a solid 20 points per game with 7 rebounds and 3 assists to boot. Although the odds didn't look too great for Georgia Tech going into two weeks ago, Marshall kept up her efforts throughout. But what could have been a dismal outlook for Georgia Tech for the second year in a row started to look a little brighter when Marshall, now Georgia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, lit up the court to put away No. 11 North Carolina.

Marshall put up 32 points, grabbed 8 rebounds with 5 assists and 3 steals. The Yellow Jackets took down the Tar Heels 94-91. To top it all off, the last two points of the incredibly close game were two free throws from Marshall with 4.2 seconds left to go. They officially sealed North Carolina's fate and Marshall's place in Georgia Tech history, bumping her up to the all-time leading scored for the Yellow Jackets.

Marshall was also recently named one of the 30 contenders for the Naismith Women’s College Player of The Year award.

Bria Hartley (UConn)

UConn is unsurprisingly still going strong at this point in the season. The Huskies are still putting teams to shame with huge wins by large margins. This past week they breezed by unranked South Florida with a 63-38 W. The spotlight fell on Bria Hartley, though, who had 18 points to lead the Huskies. Followed by another star senior Stefanie Dolson who put up 15. Hartley is now averaging 15 points per game.

Other notable seniors:

Kendra Suttles led Oklahoma State to a 73-57 win over Oklahoma with 13 points.

Tricia Liston and Duke rolled past Alyssa Thomas's Maryland 84-63.

This week Odyssey Sims threw down yet another 30 plus point game with 34 points to fend off Texas.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 19 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 12 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

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Hammon Pops in on Spurs

Hammon Pops in on Spurs

It’s hard for anyone - even the most optimistic among us - to find a silver lining to a season-ending injury like Becky Hammon’s torn ACL last year. But while Hammon herself admits that it was tough to watch from the sidelines last season (and watch from afar this offseason) her injured knee was "actually a big blessing in disguise." In fact, the Stars’ star guard said that when she wasn’t rehabbing her knee or working on her strength, she was sitting in on practice with the San Antonio Spurs, learning from none other than Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

"It’s actually been a very, very good situation for me," she told WNBA.com at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. "I’m just kind of a fly on the wall. I listen in on the Spurs’ film sessions and go to their practices and just kind of see how Coach Popovich runs things. It’s just really interesting to me to see how he interacts and how he coaches the team."

Coach Popovich doesn’t have the warmest of coaching styles. In fact, he is known for his brief and often rather terse halftime interviews as well as his straight-to-business "motivational" strategies. His fierce knowledge of the game shows as does his sometimes frustrating (or "boring") rudimentary approach to the game. He’s all drive and no flash. Gregg Popovich is the Honda Civic of basketball coaches.

"They obviously have a couple championships," says Hammon on the matter. "To me, the Spurs just play the game the way it’s supposed to be played with the movement and the cutting and stuff like that. So to me, I really love watching them play. Some people think they’re boring, I think that some of the cutting and the passing that they do is exceptional. And they win," she added, "so you can’t argue with that."

And from an insider’s perspective, it seems that not much is different. Hammon says it’s no surprise, really, that what you see is what you get with Popovich.

"Obviously there are things that go on behind the scenes in the huddle and stuff that the general person wouldn’t get to see," she let on. "At that point I feel like a lot of times Pop’s prepared them - they’re very well prepared, they know what’s gonna happen, and they know their system and they know what they’re supposed to do so. Then it’s just a matter of getting them to do it perfectly as a coach. So it’s not reinventing the wheel or anything, it’s basketball."

Hammon and the Stars seems to share Coach Pop’s general "it’s not rocket science" attitude, which serves the team well. And that’s not the only shared quality between the two franchises. "We run a lot of the same stuff," Hammon said. "Coach Hughes is right there watching a lot of the Spurs games." (In fact, in a previous setting Coach Hughes had told me that he worked closely with Popovich and considered him to be one of the smartest coaches in basketball.)

But then of course even Gregg Popovich can’t be successful without healthy players. The Spurs "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been plagued by on and off injuries in the recent weeks and racked up a few losses in the process.

And so Becky Hammon spent most of her time making sure her body - her knee in particular - was in good enough shape for the vigor required of a professional athlete.

"The first five months it’s just a lot of strength training," Hammon said, "these little muscles that you never think to train and just getting confidence in the knee. I’ve been working on jumping and just trying to get those muscles to bounce back and respond. But now I’ll get back on the court and start getting comfortable in the brace and what that feels like getting hit. You know, you can be cleared to play but it doesn’t really mean that you’re ready to play - that’s two different things."

And that goes for not only Becky Hammon but also the Stars’ Sophia Young, who was out last season with a knee injury as well.

For the Stars that meant a less-than-spectacular season, which ended with 22 losses and just 12 wins - the fourth worst in the league. But there’s a silver lining there as well: the Stars landed the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Plus with Hammon and Young back on track, this season is already looking up.

"I feel really good about the players we have," Hammon said, "the experience they got last year. Bring in the people that were injured, at least if we just stay healthy we’ll have as good a shot as anybody. It’s a tough league, it’s gotten better, it keeps getting better, so now it’s just a matter of getting the pieces to gel as quickly as possible and staying healthy."

And I think Popovich might agree.

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Cash, Bosh, Wilkins Win 2014 Shooting Stars

Cash, Bosh, Wilkins Win 2014 Shooting Stars

Winner - Team East: Chris Bosh (Miami), Dominique Wilkins (Legend) and Swin Cash (Chicago Sky)

Team Bosh wins with 31.4 seconds in Championship Round

Team East's win resulted in a $100,000 donation to the American Heart Association & U.S. Fund for UNICEF

Team East: Chris Bosh (Miami), Dominique Wilkins (Legend) and Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) dropped Team Durant - Kevin Durant (OKC); Karl Malone (Legend); Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock) - in the final round to defend their 2013 title.

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2014 All-Star Celebrity Game

2014 All-Star Celebrity Game

East 60, West 56

MVP: Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education)

NEW ORLEANS - As usual, Duncan and Jordan were the best players on the floor.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and actor Michael B. Jordan led their respective teams at the Sprint Celebrity Game on Friday, with Duncan's East prevailing 60-56. Duncan filled the box score with 20 points (a Celeb Game record), 11 rebounds and six assists - the last of which was a sweet, behind-the-head dish to a cutting Skylar Diggins of the WNBA for a critical bucket down the stretch.

A couple of possessions later, Diggins found musician/actor Romeo Miller on the right wing for a 3-pointer that put the East up for good. The West missed six free throws and several lay ups in the closing moments and simply didn't have the chemistry that the East had with Duncan, Diggins and Miller.

"I'm just happy to get a win," Duncan said afterward. "This was a really competitive game."

Beyond the East's big three, NBA TV's Kristen Ledlow earned some redemption for her Inside the NBA performance (when she lost a free-throw contest to Shaquille O'Neal) by hitting two first-half buckets that helped the East climb out of a 10-point hole.

"I wasn't thinking about anything except scoring a couple of buckets in order to redeem myself after losing to Shaq on national television," she said. "Shaq could not do what I just did. Well, he could at one point. But not anymore and I know that."

Jordan tried his best to lead the West to victory, but was the focus of the East's aggressive defense. He finished with 16, to go along with seven rebounds.

"He's not the best Michael Jordan I've ever seen," Ledlow said. "But he's a pretty solid Michael Jordan."

That wasn't enough for the West, who were undone by Kevin Hart's over-dribbling. Fittingly, Hart was voted as MVP by the fans for his selfish play that helped his opponent pick up the victory, but he smartly and selflessly gave the due to the game's true MVP, Duncan.

Also representing the WNBA, 2012 WNBA Finals MVP Tamika Catchings and 2013 WNBA Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne who played well but admitted to toning down the competitive drive a little in the spirit of having fun.

"You know that's what it's all about," Catchings told WNBA.com after the game. "Everybody's like 'we need you to take over' and I'm like 'I'm trying not to get hurt, how about that?' But it was fun and it was great to have Skylar and Elena out there."

You can catch Diggins and Delle Donne as well as Swin Cash and Becky Hammon tomorrow in the Shooting Stars contest.

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Defending Champ Minnesota Tips Off WNBA’s 18th Season as League Releases 2014 Game and Telecast Schedules

Defending Champ Minnesota Tips Off WNBA’s 18th Season as League Releases 2014 Game and Telecast Schedules

NEW YORK, Feb. 6, 2014 - The defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx tips off the league’s 18th season as part of WNBA Tip-Off 2014 presented by Boost Mobile on Friday, May 16 when 2013 WNBA Finals MVP Maya Moore leads the Lynx into the nation’s capital to face the Washington Mystics at 7 p.m. ET.

WNBA Tip-Off 2014 presented by Boost Mobile will feature 22 games from May 16, through Memorial Day (May 26), culminating with the launch of ESPN2’s season-long coverage of the WNBA. ESPN2 will debut its schedule of WNBA games with a matchup of three of the top four vote-getters in last year’s MVP race - Minnesota’s Moore, who finished second, and the Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles, who finished third and fourth, respectively. The Sky will host the Lynx at Allstate Arena at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The national television schedule includes Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2014, with ESPN showcasing the best women’s basketball players in the world on Saturday, July 19. Tip off at US Airways Center in Phoenix, is set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

ESPN2, ESPN, ABC, and NBA TV will televise over 80 regular season and postseason contests, showcasing the league’s most talented players and highlighting the top rivalries.

ESPN2 will air 19 games throughout the regular season and cap it off with extensive coverage of the WNBA Playoffs and Finals presented by Boost Mobile. All games will be available in high definition, and telecasts on ESPN2 and ESPN will also be available on WatchESPN. In addition, WNBA LiveAccess provides online and mobile viewing of live and archived WNBA games all season long.

In March, 2013, the WNBA and ESPN announced a six-year extension to their current eight-year deal, extending through 2022 the agreement that allows ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 to televise games. The deal extends the league’s relationship with ESPN, which commenced in 1997, to 26 years.

NBA TV will broadcast more than 40 games throughout the regular season and provide additional post-season coverage. The NBA TV schedule will be announced at a later date.

Other must-watch television match-ups during the 2014 WNBA regular season include:

- Five ESPN2 telecasts featuring former league MVPs going head-to-head - June 3, when Seattle (Lauren Jackson, 2007, 2010) visits Phoenix (Diana Taurasi, 2009); July 6, when Taurasi and Phoenix visit Los Angeles (Candace Parker, 2013), July 15, when Parker and the Sparks visit the Indiana Fever (Tamika Catchings, 2011), July 22, when the Taruasi-led Mercury takes on Jackson and the Storm in Seattle; and July 29, when Parker leads Los Angeles into Phoenix to meet Taurasi and the Mercury.

- The Lynx, Sky, Sparks, and Mercury will each appear on six ESPN2 telecasts. Minnesota is led by past WNBA Finals MVPs Moore and Seimone Augustus, while Chicago’s roster features reigning Rookie of the Year Delle Donne, and Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles. In addition to Parker, the Sparks feature 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike and 2012 WNBA Most Improved Player Kristi Toliver, while Taurasi teams up in Phoenix with the WNBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick a year ago, Brittney Griner.

- Western Conference rivals Minnesota and Phoenix, which met for the right to advance to the WNBA Finals in both 2011 and 2013, tip off on June 15, at Target Center (ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET).

- The Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever, which battled in the Eastern Conference Finals in two of the past three seasons, continue their rivalry when they meet in Atlanta on July 1 (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

- Season-long coverage on ESPN2 will include a total of seven doubleheaders, with six of those airing on Tuesday evenings. The 2014 WNBA regular season runs from Friday, May 16, to Sunday, Aug. 17. A complete listing of the game-by-game schedule is available at http://www.wnba.com/schedules/index.html .The ESPN2/ESPN game telecast schedule follows:

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WNBA Announces Sale of Sparks to Investment Group Led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter

WNBA Announces Sale of Sparks to Investment Group Led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter

NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, Feb. 5, 2014 - The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark R. Walter, WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced today. The investment group includes Dodger co-owners Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten. Richie was joined by Johnson at the press event at STAPLES Center.

The franchise will remain in Los Angeles and play at STAPLES Center. The WNBA’s 2014 game and television schedule will also be announced this week.

"We are thrilled to welcome Magic Johnson and Mark Walter to the WNBA," said Richie. "With their proven track record in the business realm, their commitment to the city of Los Angeles through civic engagement, and their passion for the game of basketball, we look forward to partnering with our new owners to usher in a new era for this iconic team. This is a great day for Los Angeles, the Sparks franchise, its players, and of course, the loyal fans who have been so supportive of the team for 17 seasons."

"This is a great day for the city of Los Angeles and the Sparks," said Johnson. "The leaders of this great city came together quickly to keep this franchise right where it belongs - in the city of Angels. Thanks to my sister, Evelyn, playing college basketball, I have a great appreciation of the talented players that represent the WNBA. Our group will now work together to bring our loyal fans another WNBA championship."

"Earvin came to me and said we need to help save the Sparks and keep them in Los Angeles," Walter said. The decision was quite easy for our investment group due to the passion Magic has for this city, these great athletes and our phenomenal fans. This team and its great players should remain a part of the sports fabric of this wonderful city."

One of the league’s original eight teams, Los Angeles won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002, and is the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons. Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Finals in three of the past six seasons, most recently in 2012. A trio of WNBA All-Stars - forward/center Candace Parker, forward Nneka Ogwumike, and guard Kristi Toliver - headline a talented roster. The reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker also earned the honor during her rookie season in 2008. Ogwumike took home the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2012, the same year Toliver earned the WNBA Most Improved Player award.

About Mark Walter: Mr. Walter is Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a controlling shareholder of Delaware Life Holdings. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Capital, LLC. Mr. Walter serves as a trustee or director of several organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Security Benefit Corporation and the EquiTrust Life holding company. Mr. Walter grew up in Iowa and received a B.S. from Creighton University and a J.D. from Northwestern University.

About Earvin "Magic" Johnson:

An NBA legend and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as a noted entrepreneur, philanthropist, and motivational speaker, Johnson serves as part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, most notably, as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). Following his playing career - during which he amassed a national championship at Michigan State (1979), five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988), and earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award three times - Johnson began a meteoric rise through the business world. The driving force behind MJE, whose multiple business entities and partnerships provide products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities through strategic alliances, investments, consulting and endorsements, Johnson and MJE have partnered with or invested in the likes of Sony Retail Entertainment, Starbucks, Founders National Bank, Burger King, Cadbury Schweppes, Aetna, Best Buy, and AON among others. After divesting himself of his interest in Starbucks and the Los Angeles Lakers beginning in 2010, Johnson invested in Vibe Holdings, LLC, becoming Chairman and focusing on Vibe (the multi-cultural media company that houses the Vibe, Uptown, and Soul Train brands), and in 2012 launched the ASPiRE television network and notably joined Guggenheim Baseball Management to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club. He also serves as Chairman and Founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation, one of the most recognizable philanthropic organizations around the world.

About the WNBA:

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its leaguewide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season in May 2014. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

Press Contacts:

Dina Skokos, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8840, dskokos@nba.com

Ron Howard, WNBA Communications, 212-407-8641, rhoward@nba.com

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From the Desk of WNBA President Laurel J. Richie

From the Desk of WNBA President Laurel J. Richie

Dear Los Angeles Sparks Fans:

I know that the past few weeks have been full of uncertainty as we looked to find a new ownership group for your beloved Sparks. I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your patience and ongoing support.

Today, I have some very good news to share. The WNBA and NBA Board of Governors have unanimously approved the sale of the Los Angeles Sparks to an investment group led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Mark Walter, Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We are thrilled to welcome Magic, Mark and their partners to the WNBA. As owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, this group is no stranger to the L.A. sports community, and Magic is clearly no stranger to L.A. basketball, having spent his entire professional career with the Lakers. We are proud to have them join the WNBA family, and we are equally proud to be joining their family.

The future for the Sparks couldn’t be brighter under the leadership of this new ownership group. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the season to begin.

Thanks again for your patience, and here’s to a terrific 2014.

Laurel J. Richie, WNBA President

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Phoenix Mercury Announces Marquee Partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort

Phoenix Mercury Announces Marquee Partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort

PHOENIX - Today, the Phoenix Mercury entered into an exclusive, multi-year marquee partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort that includes branding on the Mercury’s home and away jerseys. The new agreement also designates Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort as the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Mercury.

The partnership was announced this morning by Mercury President Jason Rowley, Mercury VP Ann Meyers Drysdale and Casino Arizona’s Senior Director of Marketing Peter Arceo, during a press conference inside the Casino Arizona Pavilion at US Airways Center.

Highlighting the partnership is the appearance of the Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort logo across the front of the Phoenix Mercury home and away jerseys, as well as on the team’s warm-ups. Images of the jerseys are below. With the deal, the Mercury remains one of five WNBA teams with a corporate-branded jersey, after becoming the first team in WNBA history to sign a marquee partnership in 2009.

"The Phoenix Mercury is thrilled to announce our new marquee sponsorship with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort," said Mercury President, Jason Rowley. "Having served as the presenting partner for the Mercury’s 2007 WNBA Championship run, Casino Arizona has been a loyal supporter of women’s basketball and we are excited to take that collaboration to an unprecedented level."

Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort’s logo will also be featured on the Phoenix Mercury’s home court at US Airways Center, and incorporated into the team’s official logo. Images of the court and logo are attached. The new co-branded logo will appear on Mercury tickets and other collateral.

"The partnership between Casino Arizona and the Phoenix Mercury is truly an obvious fit," said Peter Arceo, Senior Director of Marketing for Casino Arizona. "We both provide the ultimate entertainment in our respective fields. We are proud to be a part of all the excitement the Mercury will bring this season and beyond."

In addition to marquee placement on player jerseys and on-court logo recognition, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort will receive brand exposure on the team’s website, in-arena signage and throughout various in-game promotions. During each Friday and Saturday home game, one lucky Mercury fan will compete in the Casino Arizona Lucky 7’s Shootout for the opportunity to win up to $77,777.

IT’S OFFICIAL! The Phoenix Mercury will host the 2014 WNBA All-Star games on July 19, 2014 at US Airways Center. Secure your tickets today. Log on to PhoenixMercury.com/allstar for more information or call 602.252.WNBA.

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Results For March 2014

2014 WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun

2014 WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun

NEW YORK, Mar. 28, 2014 - WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm will be held on Monday, April 14, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. ESPN2 will provide coverage and analysis of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET and ESPNU will air the second and third rounds beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

"WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm will be a significant milestone in the life of these talented young players," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "Through ESPN2’s in-depth coverage, our fans will have the opportunity to see these players as they embark on their professional careers and make their mark on the WNBA."

"ESPN is pleased to present the WNBA Draft in primetime for the second straight year," said Doug White, ESPN senior director, programming and acquisitions. "The 2014 draft class will be an impressive addition to an already strong league. We look forward to showcasing them on our 2014 television schedule."

The Sun holds the top pick in the draft for the second time in franchise history after garnering the top selection in this year’s WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm, which aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter in December. Rounding out this year’s top five picks are the Tulsa Shock (second), San Antonio Stars (third), New York Liberty (fourth), and Indiana Fever (fifth).

"We are delighted to be the host for such a significant event for women’s basketball," said Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess. "This will be an outstanding opportunity for our fans to see the draft in person, welcome the Connecticut Sun’s Number one pick, and see the next phase in the career of some of their favorite collegiate players."

Last year, the excitement generated by the "3 to See" - Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins - made the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm one of the most followed drafts in league history. Delle Donne, selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Sky, went on to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and became the first rookie in the history of the WNBA to lead all vote-getters for the All-Star Game presented by Boost Mobile. Griner, taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick, and Diggins, selected third overall by the Tulsa Shock, each went on to earn a place on the 2013 WNBA All-Rookie Team.

This year’s telecast will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku via WatchESPN to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. is the home of the Connecticut Sun and has hosted the WNBA All-Star Game three times (2005, 2009, and 2013).

WNBA.com, in addition to providing comprehensive draft-day coverage, will serve as the web destination for fans who want to track the top seniors in advance of the draft.

About State Farm:

State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 18,000 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts - more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com or in Canada http://www.statefarm.ca.

About the WNBA

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its league-wide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season in May 2014. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

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McCarville Re-Signs With Lynx

McCarville Re-Signs With Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx got their storybook ending last season when they beat the Atlanta Dream in three games top clinch the 2013 WNBA title. For Janel McCarville, however - who was a clutch player for the lynx in the finals - the storybook ending led to the beginning of uncertainty and free agency.

Thankfully that story now also has a happy ending - one where McCarville gets to stay with the Lynx to help defend their 2013 title. The team has announced that they have resigned the center to a new multi-year contract.

"It's like something out of a fairytale movie," McCarville said in a media conference after the announcement."Who would've thought I could be thrust into the situation I was in in a matter of months. This just fell right into place and hopefully we can keep that momentum going."

It's no secret that Minnesota has always been the end goal for McCarville, who is a Wisconsin native and a University of Minnesota alum. "I made it pretty clear I wanted to play in Minneapolis with the Lynx and finish my career here if possible," she said to that regard. But it's also no secret that McCarville's return to the league was a little rusty after a two-season hiatus after her tenure with the New York Liberty.

The Lynx acquired McCarville as part of a three-team trade in order to fill a void left by Taj McWilliams-Franklin's retirement. The move also allowed for McCarville to reunite with her former University of Minnesota teammate, starting Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen. And despite initial rust, McCarville (whose career is one of many comebacks) successfully gelled with the team, averaging 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game (2nd best for centers in the league).

McCarville really stepped up for the Lynx in the finals where she averaged 9.3 points per game and shot 61 percent from the field. Not to mention 3.7 assists (including the between the legs pass to Rebekkah Brunson embedded above). It's safe to say that with her finals performance in consideration, Minnesota would have been hard pressed not to re-sign her.

"I'm thrilled Janel has decided to remain a Lynx," head coach Cheryl Reeve told lynxbasketball.com. "Her personality and her on-court talent are a perfect match for our team. To have players that teammates love to play with and players that coaches love to coach has been the trademark of our successful teams and Janel embodies this."

In turn, McCarville said that the deal was "comforting... It shows me that they want me, that they have faith in me, and I'm gonna go out there and thank them in my own way."

Comfort, however, should not be mistaken for complacency. McCarville has a game plan for next season and unsurprisingly it centers on getting the ball to her teammates in scoring positions.

"Along with conditioning and consistently trying to get on the boards," she said when asked what she'd be working on for next season, "I want to be opening up the court more than ever for Whalen to get in there and for Maya to get in there."

Can't argue with a strategy that works.

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2014 Free Agent List

2014 Free Agent List

The following is a list of Core Players, Reserved Players, Restricted Free Agents and Unrestricted Free Agents that were on team rosters at the end of the 2013 season.

Teams can begin to negotiate with their own Core and Reserved Players and any Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents on March 16. Deals may not be finalized, and Contracts and Offer Sheets may not be signed, until March 20.

Players who ended the 2013 season on the Suspended List remain suspended and can negotiate only with their prior team.

CORE PLAYERS

Swin Cash (CHI) Erika DeSouza (ATL)

RESERVED PLAYERS

Abby Bishop (SEA) Alysha Clark (SEA) Courtney Clements (ATL) Briana Gilbreath (PHX) Jasmine Hassell (IND) Jasmine James (PHX) Ha Eun Joo (LAS) Lynetta Kizer (IND) Ewelina Kobryn (SEA) Emmeline Ndongue (LAS) Jenna O’Hea (LAS) Chelsea Poppens (SAN) Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (WAS) Krystal Thomas (PHX) Joselyn Tinkle (SEA) Avery Warley (CHI)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Jayne Appel (SAN) Tina Charles (CON) Marissa Coleman (LAS) Kalana Greene (CON) Kelsey Griffin (CON) Allison Hightower (CON) Quanitra Hollingsworth (WAS) Erlana Larkins (IND) Courtney Paris (TUL) Allie Quigley (CHI) Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (WAS) Monica Wright (MIN)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Mistie Bass Agnieszka Bibrzycka Michelle Campbell Sydney Carter Iziane Castro Marques Jessica Davenport Katie Douglas Kristen Haynie Armintie Herrington Ebony Hoffman Alexis Hornbuckle Chelsea Hopkins Catherine Kraayveld Edwige Lawson-Wade Camille Little Janel McCarville (Signed with Minnesota, March 20) Shay Murphy Deanna Nolan Ruth Riley Ashley Robinson Katie Smith Michelle Snow Tina Thompson Jana Vesela Tan White Candice Wiggins

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WNBA, Players Sign New CBA

WNBA, Players Sign New CBA

NEW YORK, March 7, 2014 - The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) announced today that they have entered into a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement, commencing with the 2014 season and continuing through 2021.

"I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the collective bargaining process and have reached an agreement with the WNBPA that provides the league with a long-term foundation for growth while also guaranteeing increases in player salaries and benefits," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "This agreement caps a successful 2013 season both on and off the court, and we are now focused on delivering the best basketball in the world."

The new collective bargaining agreement includes an additional 12th roster spot, salary cap increases and reduced revenue sharing thresholds, making it more likely that the players will share in league revenue growth.

"We are pleased that we have a completed collective bargaining agreement in place and that 2014 free agency negotiations and signings can begin. Although the additional roster spot was the players’ primary goal, we expect all of the league’s constituencies to benefit from the teams’ ability to sign a 12th player," said WNBPA Director of Operations Pamela Wheeler. "Throughout these negotiations, as always, the players demonstrated a strong commitment to the growth and success of the league."

The following are additional points agreed to by the WNBA and the Players Association in their new collective bargaining agreement:

- A new "Time Off Bonus" of up to 50,000 dollars that players can earn for limiting their overseas play to three months or less during the offseason.

-The number of times that a player can be subject to a "core" designation has been lowered from 5 to 4, shortening the path to unrestricted free agency for star players. (Each team can designate one of its players as a core player and receive exclusive negotiating rights to that player in exchange for an offer of a one-year, fully-guaranteed maximum salary contract.)

-The term of the agreement is eight years with both the WNBA and the WNBPA having the ability to opt out after the sixth season.

"As players, we are certainly pleased to conclude our business with the owners. We can now focus on the upcoming season and build on the momentum from last year. We are committed to promoting the growth of the WNBA and helping this league get to the next level," said WNBPA President Tamika Catchings. "Over the past eight months the players on our Negotiating Committee have put in tremendous time, effort and thought into these negotiations and we hope that every player in the league will be the beneficiary of those efforts."

The collective bargaining announcement follows a successful 2013 season in which the league experienced double-digit growth in television viewership, increase in attendance and soaring traffic on WNBA.com. In addition, the 2013 campaign introduced a new brand identity and was highlighted by a new six-year television agreement with ESPN, extending the league's relationship with the network through 2022.

About the WNBA

The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. The league, which counts Boost Mobile as its leaguewide marquee partner, will tip off its 18th season on May 16, 2014.

Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women’s health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

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Draft Watch: Totally Bias

Draft Watch: Totally Bias

It's almost March now and there are fewer and fewer surprises to speak of when it comes to college basketball. Teams have (for the most part) already showed us their true colors and, in turn, so have those teams' star players. Of course we all know, though, that anything could happen. Especially as we get closer and closer to the NCAA tournament where tension runs high and so do the stakes.

Perhaps feeling a little bit of that pressure this week, No. 8 Penn State fell to No. 16 Nebraska 94-74. Everything else went mostly as planned with Notre Dame, Baylor and Stanford putting away Duke, Oklahoma and UCLA respectively. Also unsurprising by now, Norte Dame's Kayla McBride dropped a career-high 31 points, Odyssey Sims scored 38 points for Baylor, and Chiney Ogwumike put up 26 points and grabbed a stunning 15 rebounds to lead Stanford.

Also this week, Oklahoma State pulled off a gripping one-point win over Texas Tech where OK State star Tiffany Bias went coast-to-coast for the winning layup - a testament to her focus, resilience and determination in all aspects of the game.

Tiffany Bias (Oklahoma State)

Tiffany Bias could be the toughest guard in the country, but you'd never know it from her demeanor. The Oklahoma State star is small (5'6") and youthful (albeit astute and well-spoken on camera). But Bias has played in all 40 minutes of 9 out of the 11 conference games that the Cowgirls have played this season. She is averaging a more than solid 14 points per game and 6 assists. Last year she became the 20th Cowgirl to score 1,000 career points. That aside, though, Bias has an incredible mental and physical endurance that can outlast any of her opponents'.

It should also be noted that Bias and her teammates have dealt with a remarkable tragedy off the court; in 2011 - after Bias's first year with the Cowgirls - Head Coach Kurt Budke and Assistant Coach Miranda Serna died in a devastating plane crash returning from a recruiting trip in the fall of that year. Bias and her teammates handled the news with incredible strength and integrity and went on to win the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

"A lot of the grief, a lot of the internal stuff, came later. And it affected us all differently," Bias said of the accident in an interview with Kansas.com. "I know it changed me as a person, changed my personality."

And either in spite of or because of this change, Bias has managed to push herself to an even greater level of toughness and resilience that can't be matched.

Aaryn Ellenberg (Oklahoma)

Aaryn Ellenberg is a sharp-shooter on and off the court. The senior for Oklahoma was highlighted by espnW this week for both of her talents. Ellenburg is known for her excellent outside shooting (she's averaging 18 points per game for the Sooners) and her aspiring career as a filmmaker and sports photographer. Ellenburg says that knowing the game of basketball really helps out her photography - and I'm willing to bet that her photographer's eye also informs her incredible court presence.

Other notable seniors:

Kayla McBride led Notre Dame to a 81-70 win over Duke with a career-high 31 points.

Odyssey Sims and Baylor rolled past Ellenberg's Oklahoma 96-89.

This week Chiney Ogwumike put up a 26 point game with 15 rebounds to seal the deal for another Cardinal Pac-12 title.

Updates:

Alyssa Thomas (Maryland) - 18 ppg, 10 rpg, 3 apg

Jordan Hooper (Nebraska) - 20 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 apg

Stefanie Dolson (UConn) - 13 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg

Maggie Lucas (Penn State) - 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg

Chelsea Douglas (Wake Forest) - 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

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Results for April 2014

Draft Preview: Storm

Draft Preview: Storm

This Seattle team has been riddled with injuries and retirements of late (last year Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Ann Wauters were out; this year Lauren Jackson is injured again and Tina Thompson retired), but that’s not to say that the team is without true veteran talent this year. Sue Bird will make her return to the league for her 13th season and Tanisha Wright for her 10th.

Last year (and the year before that) the Storm were ousted by the Minnesota Lynx in the first round of the playoffs. This year, they hope, that curse will be reversed.

And while they’re looking to makeup some of that lag in Lauren Jackson’s post absence, according to Coach Agler "one person can't fill that whole void."

What’s tough, though, is knowing exactly how to navigate a draft where you have a void to fill and three middle-of-the-round picks.

"Everybody has a plan going in but we're sitting at number 7 so who we draft will rely on who's still there. We certainly have an idea who will be drafted early, but really we have to make a decision at the time."

But if there’s one thing that Coach Agler is definitely looking for, it’s "someone that fits our culture and a need we have specifically."

He says, however, that "it's really tough for rookies to come in and be a starter right away." Meaning that they’re looking for someone (or several people) who can fill a specific need without filling Lauren Jackson’s shoes completely.

But that doesn’t worry Agler who says he "feels good about his core group" as well as the team’s "solid defense and two exceptional point guards."

And while Seattle seems to be waiting with bated breath for the draft to happen, Coach Agler encourages fans "to be there in in an excited sort of way but with an open mind because anything could happen."

The Storm just like to keep everyone on their toes. Which is a good thing, come basketball season.

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Draft Preview: Mercury

Draft Preview: Mercury

Phoenix does not have a first round draft pick this year (they traded it to Indiana for Australian point guard Erin Phillips), but rest assured head coach Sandy Brondello still has a plan for the draft.

"Trading for Erin Phillips was great for us as we needed to add a quality point guard to the team and thus giving away our first round pick made sense," Coach Brondello said. "We have two second round picks where they should be good players available for us to take. Who we pick will depend on how we complete our team in lead -up to the draft this next week but I would like for us to have another back-up guard or another athletic wing player to compete for a spot in training camp."

Which makes sense because Phoenix spent their 2013 draft first pick building up their frontcourt with Brittney Griner.

But let’s not forget (and who would?), Phoenix has savy, dynamic veteran Diana Taurasi who has led the franchise to 2 WNBA titles in the past 7 years. The last of which was in 2009.

Since then, the Mercury have made it to and lost in the conference finals 3 times (and once did not qualify for the playoffs). But what does the team need to get over that hump?

"Toughness, defense, depth and staying healthy," Coach Brondello emphasized.

And what to do with their first pick (No. 17 overall)?

"We would like to add a player that is different from what we have," Borndello said. "Ideally, one with athleticism, creativity and who plays hard."

Knowing the Phoenix Mercury, they will do just that.

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2014 WNBA Draft Attendees

2014 WNBA Draft Attendees

NEW YORK, April 10, 2014 - Odyssey Sims of Baylor, winner of the 2014 Wade Trophy as the NCAA Division I Player of the Year, and Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike, a four-time First Team All-American and two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, headline a list of 12 prospects who will attend the WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm, which will be held on Monday, April 14, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Live coverage of the first round will begin on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage of the second and third rounds will be televised on ESPNU from 9-10:30 p.m.

Center Stefanie Dolson and guard Bria Hartley will represent the 2014 NCAA Champion Connecticut Huskies, while center Natalie Achonwa and guard Kayla McBride will be on hand for the runner-up Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Rounding out the list players are guards Chelsea Gray (Duke), Shoni Schimmel (Louisville), and Meighan Simmons (Tennessee); forwards Natasha Howard (Florida State) and Alyssa Thomas (Maryland); and center Markeisha Gatling (North Carolina State).

The Connecticut Sun holds the top pick in the draft for the second time in franchise history after garnering the top selection in this year’s WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm, which aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter in December. Rounding out this year’s top five picks are the Tulsa Shock (second), San Antonio Stars (third), New York Liberty (fourth), and Indiana Fever (fifth).

The left-handed shooting Sims was a consensus All-American and finalist for all major National Player of the Year awards the last two seasons. A four-time All-Big 12 First Team and three-time All-Defensive Team honoree, Sims’ 1,054 points as a senior were the second highest single-season total in Division I history (Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles,1,062), while her career total of 2,533 points surpassed former Baylor teammate Brittney Griner’s Big 12 record.

Ogwumike, whose resume also includes three Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, is the younger sister of Nneka Ogwumike, whom the Los Angeles Sparks made the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 Draft. Chiney entered the recent Final Four as the only Division I player to rank among the top 10 in the nation in scoring (third), field goal percentage (fourth), double-doubles (fourth), and rebounding (ninth), and leaves Stanford as the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

Dolson and Hartley, a pair of AP All-American Second Team picks - as well as roommates for the past three years at Connecticut - helped the Huskies to four straight Final Four appearances and were key contributors during each of the past two seasons as UConn won consecutive national titles, raising the school’s total to a record nine championships. In 2014, both were finalists for multiple National Player of the Year awards and members of the All-American Athletic Conference First Team. Dolson also was named the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Achonwa and McBride helped the Irish to a berth in the NCAA Championship Game in each of the past three seasons. As seniors, the duo led Notre Dame to the first undefeated regular season in program history and to a third straight regular-season conference title (BIG EAST crowns in 2012 and 2013, and an Atlantic Coast Conference title this season). Achonwa, an AP All-America Second Team pick, ranked third in Division I in field goal percentage as a senior, while McBride earned a spot on the AP’s All-American First Team and was voted by ACC coaches as the league’s 2014 ACC Player of the Year.

Gatling led all Division I players in field goal percentage (.663) and was an All-America Honorable Mention pick (AP) and All-ACC First Team selection. She leaves NC State as the school’s all-time career leader in field goal percentage (.628). Gray, despite having the past two seasons cut short by knee injuries, earned Co-ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior and All-America Honorable Mention (AP) as a senior. At the time of her injury in January, she was sixth in Division I in assists and was just 35 shy of Duke’s career record. Howard ranks as the Seminoles’ all-time leader in rebounds (1,047), is No. 2 in both points (1,811) and double-doubles (41), and No. 3 in blocks. She capped her senior season as a finalist for the Wade Trophy and was selected to both the All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team.

Schimmel finished her Louisville career with 387 made three-point shots, five shy of the Division I mark of 392 held by Kansas State’s Laurie Koehn. The first player in Cardinals’ history with 2,000 points and 500 rebounds, Schimmel was an All-America Second Team pick and an All-American Athletic Conference First Team honoree as a senior. Simmons was voted by AP as the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year as a senior (AP), one year after being named Co-Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches along with A’dia Mathies. She finished her Tennessee career as the fifth Lady Vol in history with 2,000+ points, joining such luminaries as Chamique Holdsclaw, Candace Parker, and Tamika Catchings. Thomas, a four-time All-American, three-time ACC Player of the Year, and a candidate for multiple national Player of the Year awards, joined former Duke star Alana Beard as the only players to follow up ACC Rookie of the Year accolades with three straight ACC Player of the Year honors (2012-14). As a senior, Thomas led Division I with four triple-doubles, bringing her career total to seven.

Last year, the excitement generated by the "3 to See" -- Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins -- made the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm one of the most followed drafts in league history. Delle Donne, selected No. 2 overall by the Chicago Sky, went on to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and was the first rookie in history to lead all vote-getters for the WNBA All-Star Game presented by Boost Mobile. Griner, taken by the Phoenix Mercury with the top pick, and Diggins, selected third by the Tulsa Shock, each earned a place on the All-Rookie Team.

This year’s telecast will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku via WatchESPN to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.

Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. is the home of the Connecticut Sun and has hosted the WNBA All-Star Game three times (2005, 2009, and 2013).

WNBA.com, in addition to providing comprehensive draft-day coverage, will serve as the web destination for fans who want to track the top seniors in advance of the draft.

The players invited to attend WNBA Draft 2014 presented by State Farm are:

Natalie Achonwa Notre Dame Forward 6’3"

Stefanie Dolson Connecticut Center 6’5"

Markeisha Gatling North Carolina State Center 6’5"

Chelsea Gray Duke Guard 5’11"

Bria Hartley Connecticut Guard 5’8"

Natasha Howard Florida State Forward 6’3"

Kayla McBride Notre Dame Guard 5’11"

Chiney Ogwumike Stanford Forward 6’4"

Shoni Schimmel Louisville Guard 5’9"

Meighan Simmons Tennessee Guard 5’9"

Odyssey Sims Baylor Guard 5’8"

Alyssa Thomas Maryland Forward 6’2"

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Draft Preview: Lynx

Draft Preview: Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx are not going away anytime soon. In fact, the 2013 WNBA Champs are looking to build up their roster even more with this year’s group of draft hopefuls.

This year Minnesota finds itself with the last pick in every round - as well as the third pick in the second round (from Tulsa) - which shouldn’t leave them feeling anxious as they boast one of the strongest rosters in the league. Janel McCarville and Monica Wright just signed contracts to return and Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Agustus will all be back as well.

"(With) Monica, (we have a) luxury there, we have something no other team has," head coach Cheryl Reeve told LynxBasketball.com. "We have four players that we can put on the floor at any given time." But how do you navigate a draft with 4 late picks and still find someone to gel with a system that - in theory - already works?

"It's funny," Lynx Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson said, "but some people say ‘you guys don't need anything,’ but you always need something."

"I don’t know if there's as much of a strategy when you pick as late as we do," she continued. "You have to do your homework and hopefully you can get someone to kind of compliment the players you already have."

That said, Patterson adds: "We need to bump up our post play." As well as: "We need to strengthen the bench."

But with the 12th pick, who that next addition to the team will be is anyone’s guess.

"Depends on who’s left by then," said Patterson.

Whoever it is though, you can be sure that they’ll be a good fit for the Lynx whose team atmosphere Coach Patterson describes as a "family" that "trusts each other completely."

Which (don’t tell) is probably the biggest secret to the Minnesota Lynx’s success.

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Draft Preview: Mystics

Draft Preview: Mystics

Last year, the Washington Mystics fell one draft pick short of nabbing a member of the "Three to See" with the No. 4 pick in the Draft. The Mystics had just hired Mike Thibault as the new head coach and were ready for an improved season.

Then, Washington went on to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but fell short of advancing to the Finals after losing to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Coach Thibault, the winningest coach in WNBA history, was later named the 2013 WNBA Coach of the Year. Now the Mystics hope the winning continues for the 2014 season.

"The first goal we put on our board is to get better every day," said Thibault. "Obviously we’d like to get back to the playoffs and go farther--but just being more consistent everyday than we were last year. I thought we kind of played in streaks last year--players getting used to me, me getting used to them--kind of believing in what we’re doing. We’ll have a better jumping off point to start training camp this year in that they know what to expect from me and vice versa."

So, with the sixth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Thibault hopes to fill some holes that can help the team get better every day--and with multiple needs, that player could be any position.

"Probably because of where we draft, I’m going to be in a situation where I take whoever I think is the best basketball player," Thibault stated. "Because we have needs throughout our team, it’s not necessarily going to be by position."

With the middle pick in the first round, the Mystics still have multiple players to choose from.

"I think there’s a consensus that there’s a group of eight right now that are a little bit above everybody else--not that somebody else couldn’t crack that group...I think it’s a draft that has some depth to it. Throughout the first round, people are going to get good players. You might not have the same household names this year (as last year), but you’re going to have players down at the ninth and tenth pick who could help teams right away."

With the playoff experience that last year’s core group gained and leaders in Ivory Latta, Crystal Langhorne, Kia Vaughn and newly acquired Kara Lawson, this year’s rookie class will have a good foundation to start the season in hopes of grabbing a Finals spot.

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Draft Preview: Sun

Draft Preview: Sun

In 2012, the Connecticut Sun came close to making it to the WNBA Finals but slipped up in the Eastern Conference Finals. The next season, the Sun hired a new head coach in Anne Donovan, and behind double-double machine Tina Charles, hoped to continue their winning ways. Unfortunately, some injuries derailed those plans and the team failed to make the playoffs. But with the luck of the draw, the Sun now have the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Last year, Tina Charles had another stellar season--ranking second in the league for double-doubles, second in rebounds, fifth in points per game and fourth overall in points, rebounds and assists together. But even with those numbers, the whole team couldn’t pull it together.

This season could change that. In her second year, Coach Donovan and her players have learned how to work together and the Sun even added former Connecticut Sun guard/forward Katie Douglas to the roster--bringing another strong leader to the team.

In addition to the added leadership, the Sun have the chance to scoop up the best player with the No. 1 pick in this year's Draft.

"To have the No. 1 pick is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often," said Donovan. "And based on the season we had last year, we feel like we deserved that pick and we know that we can really build around it and get some momentum. So, we are super excited about that."

The Sun would like to fill a couple of roles with this year’s picks--at the point guard position or in the post--and being at the top of the Draft, there is plenty to choose from.

"Players at the top of the draft: Odyssey Sims, Chiney Ogwumike, Alyssa Thomas, Kayla McBride [have caught our eye]. There’s some really good quality college players that I think will be great WNBA players."

Having taken the time during the past year to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the team, Coach Donovan is ready to fill the gaps and focus on the main goal: Winning championships.

"That’s what our mindset has always been," said Donovan. "And even last year with the injuries and a less than successful season, it’s never wavered. So as we move forward, that’s exactly what we’re trying to build--A championship team and a championship personality that will get that done."

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