Dishin & Swishin 08/29/14 Podcast: WNBA Eastern Conference Finals coaches Lin Dunn & Pokey Chatman talk about the playoffs
A funny thing happened on the Atlanta Dream’s way to the WNBA Eastern Conference finals, they ran into Elena Delle Donne.
When Delle Donne banked in that runner in the final seconds of game three, and Angel McCoughtry’s final shot bounced, bounced, bounced off the rim, it set forth a series of unexpected outcomes we now get to enjoy.
- For the first time in league history, all four conference final teams are led by female head coaches.
- Homecourt advantage in the conference finals for the Indiana Fever, despite a 16-18 regular season record.
- The first trip to a conference final by the Chicago Sky franchise, despite a 15-19 regular season record.
- Delle Donne versus Tamika Catchings, the youngster versus the veteran, but two of the very best in the league.
By now if you are reading this, you know that Indiana Fever head coach Lin Dunn is retiring at the end of this season. Well, her Fever do not seem to be in any kind of rush to let that happen. Despite opening the season with three losses, they closed the regular season by winning three of the last four games to clinch the number two seed, before sweeping the Washington Mystics in the first round of the playoffs.
Star forward Tamika Catchings missed 18 games to start the season with injuries, but her absence saw players like Erlana Larkins, Briann January and Shavonte Zellous emerge as formidable foes for anyone. With Catchings back in the lineup now and in good health (she is averaging a double-double for the playoffs), the Fever are playing like contenders.
It is worth noting, also, that only those four players plus Karima Christmas were members of the 2012 team that won the championship. The rest are newcomers that Dunn seamlessly integrates into her rotations and sets.
Across the court from the Fever is the Chicago Sky and coach Pokey Chatman. If ever there was a team that took the difficult route to the conference finals, it is the Sky. They opened the season with stars Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince on the sideline. In their absence, Delle Donne, Jessica Breland, and Courtney Vandersloot stepped up and Chicago won their first four games of the season. Consistent play from Tamera Young and Allie Quigley helped balance the rotating injured players.
Just when Fowles and Prince returned, Delle Donne went down with the recurrence of Lyme disease symptoms. Then Vandersloot suffered an ankle injury. It took until the end of regular season for the Sky to get their roster back together, only to lose Breland in the series versus Washington to yet another injury.
As Atlanta learned, however, a healthy Delle Donne, even if she is only at about 75 percent in terms of her conditioning (Chatman says in the podcast), cures a lot of ills.
Indiana took the season series between the two, 3-2. Delle Donne and Catchings will not cover each other most of the series, but all eyes will be on them. Both can take over a game at any time. Both have the skills to go strong in the paint, or take you off the dribble from the top of the key. They create a myriad of problems for defenses. However, that is far from the only key matchup.
Sylvia Fowles versus Erlana Larkins – like the Brittney Griner versus Janel McCarville matchup in the West, this is the tall, athletic post versus the undersized overachiever known for their work ethic.
Courtney Vandersloot versus Briann January – two young point guards from Washington state face off in a prelude to seeing each other in USA Basketball’s camp after the season. Vandersloot will have to be patient and consistent with her ball handling against January’s quick defense
Prince, Young, and Quigley for Chicago as well as Zellous, Marissa Coleman and Christmas will all play important roles as well, and both coaches will need to get maximum performance out of everyone to advance.
The Western Conference finals may be getting the publicity as the series that will determine the WNBA champion, but one thing they have learned in Chicago with the Blackhawks is never underestimate the hot team in the playoffs. And both of these teams are hot!
Enjoy our look at the Eastern Conference finals with coaches Lin Dunn and Pokey Chatman.
If you missed it, here is our podcast from yesterday on the Western Conference finals with coaches Sandy Brondello and Cheryl Reeve.