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WNBA Decade In Review: 2012

League Champion: Indiana Fever (First title in franchise history)

Top Draft Pick: Nneka Ogwumike (LAS, Stanford University)

 

Awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Tina Charles (CON)
  • Rookie of the Year: Nneka Ogwumike (LAS)
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Tamika Catchings (IND) 5th DPOY
  • Sixth Woman of the Year: Renee Montgomery (CON)
  • Most Improved Player: Kristi Toliver (LAS)
  • Coach of the Year: Carol Ross (LAS)

 

Top Players

  • All-WNBA First Team: Seimone Augustus (MIN), Tamika Catchings (IND), Tina Charles (CON), Candace Parker (LAS), Cappie Pondexter (NYL)
  • All-WNBA Second Team: Sylvia Fowles (CHI), Maya Moore (MIN), Kristi Toliver (LAS), Lindsay Whalen (MIN), Sophia Young-Malcolm (SAS)
  • All-Rookie Team: Tiffany Hayes (ATL), Glory Johnson (TUL), Nneka Ogwumike (LAS), Samantha Prahalis (PHX), Riquna Williams (TUL)
  • All-Defense First Team: Alana Beard (LAS), Tamika Catchings (IND), Sylvia Fowles (CHI), Briann January (IND), Sancho Lyttle (ATL)
  • All-Defense Second Team: Tina Charles (CON), Armintie Price Herrington (ATL), Candace Parker (LAS), Danielle Robinson (SAS), Sophia Young-Malcolm (SAS)

 

Stats Leaders

  • Points Per Game: Angel McCoughtry (ATL): 21.4
  • Rebounds Per Game: Tina Charles (CON): 10.5
  • Assists Per Game: Lindsay Whalen (MIN): 5.4
  • Steals Per Game: Angel McCoughtry (ATL): 2.5
  • Blocks Per Game: Candace Parker (LAS): 2.3

 

Regular Season

Before the end of 2011, the Draft Lottery was held to determine which team would receive the top pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Despite having the lowest odds (104 chances of 1000), the Los Angeles Sparks won the lottery and the first overall selection.

On April 16, 2012, the Sparks used that pick to select forward Nneka Ogwumike from Stanford to pair with 2008 No. 1 pick Candace Parker on the L.A. frontline. The remaining top five picks were: Tennessee’s Shekinna Stricklen (Storm), Notre Dame’s Devereaux Peters (Lynx), Tennessee’s Glory Johnson (Shock), and Miami’s Shenise Johnson (Silver Stars).

After winning their final six playoff games to earn the 2011 WNBA title, the Minnesota Lynx picked up where they left off when the 2012 season tipped off. The Lynx set a WNBA record for the best start to a season by winning their first 10 games before taking their first loss of the season to Seattle.

The Lynx once again finished at the top of the standings as they matched their 2011 record at 27-7. They were one of five teams to finish with at least 21 wins, something that’s only happened one other time in league history (2006).

The Connecticut Sun finished atop the Eastern Conference at 25-9 thanks in large part to the play of Tina Charles, who would win MVP honors after winning her third straight rebounding title (10.5 per game), finishing fifth in scoring (18.0 per game) and second in blocks (1.4 per game). Charles also became the first player in WNBA history to log three 20-20 games in a career after finishing with 23 points and 22 boards in a win over Atlanta on June 17.

Atlanta’s Angel McCoughty won her first scoring title after coming up just short in 2011. In the tightest scoring race in league history, Taurasi edged Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry by less than one-tenth of a point — 21.63 compared to 21.56 points per game. In 2012, McCoughtry averaged 21.4 points per game to lead the Dream back to the postseason.

Tina Thompson – the first pick in the inaugural WNBA Draft in 1997 – hit two major milestones in 2012. Already the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, she became the first player to surpass 7,000 career points. She also became the first player in league history to log 15,000 career minutes (a mark only two other players have hit in 2019 – Sue Bird and Katie Smith).

Tulsa’s Temeka Johnson finished the regular season with the league’s top single-season mark in history for 3-point shooting percentage. Her 53.1% (34-64) record still stands at the end of the decade. On the same day, Chicago’s Ticha Penicheiro played in her final WNBA games as she added two assists to extend her WNBA record to 2,599 (a mark that would eventually be topped by Bird).

 

All-Star

There was no All-Star Game due to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The WNBA took a one-month hiatus from July 14 to Aug. 16 so players could compete for their respective countries in the Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team – comprised of 12 WNBA players – defeated France in the gold medal game. The win gave the United States women their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and, dating back to the bronze medal game in 1992, stretched the team’s winning streak to 41 games.

 

Playoffs

  • West Semifinals: Los Angeles Sparks def. San Antonio Silver Stars, 2-0
  • West Semifinals: Minnesota Lynx def. Seattle Storm, 2-0
  • East Semifinals: Connecticut Sun def. New York Liberty, 2-0
  • East Semifinals: Indiana Fever def. Atlanta Dream, 2-1
  • West Finals: Minnesota Lynx def. Los Angeles Sparks, 2-0
  • East Finals: Indiana Fever def. Connecticut Sun, 2-1
  • Finals: Indiana Fever def. Minnesota Lynx, 3-1

 

In her 12th WNBA season, there was not much that Tamika Catchings had failed to accomplish on a basketball court. She won a title in college, she had three Olympic gold medals, she won league MVP and set the record with five Defensive Player of the Year honors. The only hole in her incredible resume was the WNBA championship. She had her first shot in 2009 when her Indiana Fever lost in five games to the Phoenix Mercury. In 2012, she got her next shot, but would have to dethrone the mighty Minnesota Lynx as they looked to defend their 2011 title.

It wasn’t an easy road to the Finals for Indiana as they were pushed to winner-take-all Game 3 in both the East Semis and East Finals. Their season was on the line in Game 2 of the East Finals against Connecticut.

With the game tied with 12 seconds to play, Connecticut’s Allison Hightower missed a free throw that could have given the Sun the lead. Tamika Catchings corralled the rebound and found a streaking Briann January for what appeared to be an easy transition layup to give the Fever the lead. January missed the layup, but made a great hustle play to save the rebound from going out of bounds and got it to Shavonte Zellous, who drilled a game-winning buzzer-beater to tie the series. The Fever would win Game 3 decisively to advance to the Finals.

In the Finals, the Fever won Game 1 in Minnesota to steal home-court advantage away from the Lynx. Minnesota responded to win Game 2 behind a 27-point night from Seimone Augustus to tie the series as it shifted to Indiana for the next two games. Determined not to go back to Minnesota for a winner-take-all Game 5, the Fever protected their home court with a 76-59 win in Game 3 behind 30 points from Shavonte Zellous.

With a shot to win the title at home in Game 4, it was Catchings who delivered with a game-high 25 points to go with eight assists, four rebounds, three blocks and a steal in the Fever’s 87-78 win to capture that elusive WNBA title. Catchings added WNBA champion and Finals MVP to her incredible resume.