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|Erin Phillips and the Indiana Fever are currently riding a six-game win streak|
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Indiana Extends Streak to Six Straight
The Indiana Fever extended their win streak to six straight with a 68-57 come-from-behind victory over the Washington Mystics Saturday night. With the Connecticut Sun losing to the Minnesota Lynx, Indiana now has a two-game lead in the East and a league-best 9-3 record.
One of the biggest concerns for the team as it moved forward from the ACL injury that ended point guard Briann January’s season, was how newcomers Shannon Bobbitt and Erin Phillips would adapt in her absence. So far so good, as Phillips received a chunk of the minutes Saturday night en route to a game-high 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting. The Fever’s defense also came up big, especially toward the end of the game, limiting the Mystics to just seven points in the fourth quarter in an effort to close out strong.
“Halftime can be really good sometimes and it can be really bad sometimes,” said Fever shooting guard Katie Douglas following the win. “If you are playing well you want it to continue. For us it was a matter of getting in here and cleaning up some things. Adjustments, a little more clear. Just took it up another notch mentally. And physically we came out with much better effort. And when you don’t shoot the ball well you have to really tighten up on defense.”
Douglas and Phillips were two of five Indy players to finish with double-figure scoring. Tamika Catchings (10), Jessica Davenport (11) and Shavonte Zellous (11) rounded out Indy’s top five.
Indiana will look to extend on six straight wins as they defend their home court Wednesday against the Sun and Friday against Minnesota before embarking on a three-game road trip.
Change in Tulsa
Following Tulsa’s 86-78 loss at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury Friday night, Shock general manager and coach Nolan Richardson announced he was stepping down from his positions with the team. Teresa Edwards, Tulsa’s Director of Player Personnel, was named interim coach.
“While I am saddened to leave the Tulsa Shock at this time and in this manner, I am also very disappointed in the way we have started the year, and as coach, I accept my share of the responsibility,” said Richardson in his parting words. “I respect our organization and players. This is a class group of individuals who are committed to this community, organization and players.”
Since the Shock’s move to Tulsa at the start of the 2010 season, Richardson finished a 45-game run with an overall record of 7-38. The Shock started the 2011 season with a five-game losing streak before picking up its first win on June 18. Since then the struggles have continued, as the team is currently riding a six-game losing streak after falling to the Mercury Sunday evening in Edwards' coaching debut.
Streak Building in New York
The New York Liberty have opened up the month of July on a high note after winning three straight. The first two wins came against the San Antonio Silver Stars, a team that jumped out to the top of the Western Conference in the first month of play, and added a third this weekend after rallying in the second half to defeat the Chicago Sky at home by the final of 80-73.
“In that second half we were down, at one point, almost 20 points,” said Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter. “But going into the half we kind of rallied it together and under 11 and then we just came out full force in the second half and we made them frustrated.”
Pondexter remains a top candidate for MVP considerations thanks in part to her 18.4 points and 5.3 assists per game. She closed out Sunday’s action with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
The recent string of success is an obvious plus for the Liberty, especially since five of the games remaining on the team’s July schedule will be played on their home court. As teams continue to jostle for position in the Eastern Conference standings, New York will look to pad their record and build a strong case for playoff contention heading into the second half.
“We’re getting better,” said Pondexter. “I don’t know if I want to look over our heads or anything, but I think we’re an OK basketball team. As long as we keep that attitude and continue to strive and be better I think when it’s all said and done we’ll be great.”
Bryant Takes the Helm in Los Angeles
Just as a full weekend of nine games was about to close out, the Los Angeles Sparks announced a coaching change of their own. After Los Angeles dropped its fifth-straight Saturday against the Storm, Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler announced Joe “Jellybean” Bryant would replace Jennifer Gillom as head coach.
“This was a very difficult decision, but I felt it was necessary to take the team in a different direction at this point in the season. Joe’s familiarity with the Sparks organization puts us in the best possible position to compete going forward, and should make for a seamless transition,” Toler said in a team release. “We respect Jennifer’s commitment to the Sparks and understand she has faced adversity with player injuries during her tenure. That being said, with a short season and playing in the competitive Western Conference, winning games early in the year is critical and the Sparks’ goal remains to contend for a WNBA Championship.”
Since losing Candace Parker following the teams win against the Liberty on June 21, the Sparks have gone 0-5 and remain winless on the road this season (0-6). Bryant will make his coaching debut Tuesday against the Silver Stars at 8 ET on NBA TV.
Here’s a look at how the rest of the games played out this weekend:
New York 76, San Antonio 73
Cappie Pondexter scored 20 points, hauled in nine rebounds and dished seven assists to push the Libs past the Silver Stars for the second straight time.
Phoenix 86, Tulsa 78
Diana Taurasi scored 17 and Penny Taylor chipped in 16 as the Mercury handed Tulsa its 10th loss of the season.
Indiana 68, Washington 57
Erin Phillips scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Fever to its sixth-straight win
Minnesota 90, Connecticut 67
Maya Moore dropped a career-high 26 points as the Lynx cruised past the Sun.
Chicago 81, Atlanta 69
Chicago's Epiphanny Prince led all scorers with 24 points to improve the Sky's record to 6-6 in the East.
Seattle 99, Los Angeles 80
Seattle's Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright combined for 47 points to keep the Sparks winless on the road this season.
New York 80, Chicago 73
Essence Carson and Cappie Pondexter each finished with 18 points to power the Liberty past the Sky at the Prudential Center.
Phoenix 102, Tulsa 63
The Phoenix Mercury scorched the Tulsa Shock in Teresa Edwards' coaching debut.
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