Race to the MVP: Week 10

SECAUCUS, N.J., August 14, 2009 -- We've all heard the clich�s more times than we can count:

"We have to take it one game at a time."
"We have to treat each game the same."
"It's just one game out of 34 on the schedule."

I could go on and on, but I'll stop to make my point. While each game during the regular season is weighed the same in the standings, some stand out more than others in the minds of the fans, the players and the media (which comprises the MVP voters). Saturday's game between Indiana and Phoenix was one of those games.

It was billed by many as a possible Finals preview as it featured the top team in the West facing the top team in the East. It is the type of game that shows a team exactly where they stand compared the other elite team in the league. And it provides a grand stage for players to grab the spotlight.

On this night it was Indiana's Katie Douglas that stood apart from the rest in a game that featured the top four players in last week's Race to the MVP rankings.

Here are the numbers:

1. Tamika Catchings: 15 points, 3-13 FG, 1-6 3PT, 8-10 FT, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
2. Cappie Pondexter: 12 points, 6-14 FG, 0-3 3PT, 0-0 FT, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals
3. Diana Taurasi: 16 points, 6-14 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals
4. Katie Douglas: 28 points, 8-27 FG, 6-11 3PT, 6-6 FT, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

The Fever opened the game by jumping out to a 17-2 lead - a run that featured a pair of threes by Douglas. Indiana held a 31-18 advantage at the end of the first quarter with Douglas leading the way with 11 points on 4-7 shooting (3-5 from three-point range) to go along with five rebounds and two assists.

The Mercury made a number of runs to cut into the lead, but they were never able to get over the hump as the Fever went on to win in wire-to-wire fashion, 90-83. Douglas finished with game-highs of 28 points (although she did need 27 shots to get them) and 10 rebounds.

While this performance stands out because of the opponent and circumstance, Douglas has been doing it all year for the Fever. She is the team's leading scorer (17.8 points per game, fifth in the WNBA) and has almost single-handedly carried Indiana to victory on a number of occasions. While she had plenty of help from Catchings and her teammates against the Mercury, Douglas clearly made the most out of the moment.

Now here are the player rankings for the season through August 13.

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  • Race to the MVP - Overall Player Rankings

    1. Katie Douglas, Indiana Fever (18-5)
  • Last ranking: 4
    Douglas has won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors the past two weeks and now overtakes teammate Tamika Catchings in the Race to the MVP. Since the All-Star break, Douglas is averaging 23.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.1 steals as the Fever have gone 6-1 to improve to a league best record of 18-5.

  • 2. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury (17-7)
  • Last ranking: 3
    Another teammate swap happens here with Taurasi leapfrogging Cappie Pondexter in our rankings. Taurasi has been the catalyst for the Mercury in the second half and regains the title of league's top scorer from Becky Hammon this week. While known for her scoring, Taurasi is also among the league leaders in blocks (1.46, 6th), assists (3.3, 11th) and rebounds (6.1, 15th).

  • 3. Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars (10-13)
  • Last ranking: 6
    There is perhaps no player more vital to their team's success than Becky Hammon right now. After posting ridiculous numbers for the first two weeks following the All-Star break, the reigning back-to-back Western Conference Player of the Week cooled off over the past two games (11 points on 3-10 shooting vs. Sacramento and seven points on 2-12 shooting vs. Phoenix) and the Silver Stars lost both games to fall to 10-13.

  • 4. Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever (18-5)
  • Last ranking: 1
    Catchings continues to do her usual work of filling up the stat sheet; however, I had to recognize Katie Douglas this week which forces Catchings to drop down to the No. 4 spot. In addition to her all-around contributions, Catchings is beginning to find her shot as she is shooting .438 from the field in Indiana's seven games since the All-Star break, compared to her season average of .364.

  • 5. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm (13-10)
  • Last ranking: 5
    Jackson is coming off of a poor outing against Connecticut on Thursday, posting 12 points on 3-16 shooting before fouling out in under 30 minutes of play. She did collect 10 rebounds to notch her fourth double-double of the season. Despite dropping three of their last four games, Jackson and the Storm still hold a two-game lead for the No. 2 seed in the West.

  • 6. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix Mercury (17-7)
  • Last ranking: 2
    Cappie Pondexter is coming off of a 19-point performance (9-13 shooting) in Thursday's win over San Antonio. It was her best scoring night in nearly two weeks as she has struggled with her shot since the All-Star break. However, she remains the No. 3 scorer in the league and continues to excel in other facets of her game as she is on pace to set career highs in assists and rebounds.

  • 7. Asjha Jones, Connecticut Sun (12-10)
  • Last ranking: 9
    Connecticut has won two straight and three of their last four to hold the No. 2 spot in the tightly contest race for the final three playoff spots in the East. With players in and out of the lineup and on and off the roster all season, Jones continues to be the most consistent player for the Sun as they look to secure another playoff berth.

  • 8. Alana Beard, Washington Mystics (11-11)
  • Last ranking: 7
    The Mystics are clinging to the final playoff spot in the East and if they hope to fend off Chicago, Detroit and even New York they will need Beard to continue to give them outstanding play on both ends of the court -- Beard is currently sixth in the league in scoring and third in the league in steals.

  • 9. Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta Dream (12-11)
  • Last ranking: 8
    The Dream has won five of its last six games as Sancho Lyttle continues to bring the goods each night. She has posted double-doubles in four of the Dream's five games since the All-Star break. She is currently tied for second in the league in double-doubles and sits along in fourth in rebounds per game.

  • 10. Nicky Anosike, Minnesota Lynx (11-12)
  • Last ranking: 12
    Here are Nicky Anosike's last three games (19 pts, 12 reb, 2 stl vs. Connecticut; 24 pts, 5 reb, 3 blk vs. San Antonio; 14 pts, 16 reb vs. Indiana). While her outstanding performances only produced a 1-2 record, keep in mind that one game was lost at the buzzer and the other came against Indiana. If the Lynx are going to hold on to a playoff spot in the West, they will need Anosike to continue to give them great all-around play.

  • On the Outside Looking In
    11. Deanna Nolan (Detroit)
    12. Candice Dupree (Chicago)
    13. Sophia Young (San Antonio)
    14. Sue Bird (Seattle)
    15. Lindsey Harding (Washington)
  • Dropped out: Sylvia Fowles