WNBA play-offs: who to watch and what to watch for


I love women’s basketball. My friends would say “love” is an understatement. One of them, in fact, comes to basketball watching parties not to watch the game, but to watch me watching the game. But how could anyone not love moments like this?

The WNBA play-offs, which started Thursday night (no spoilers ahead), are full of such moments. Even the most casual WBB fan remembers Teresa Weatherspoon’s miraculous half-court buzzer beater in game two of the 1999 championships. (I’d love to post a video of the shot, but wnba.com seems to have deleted it. Why would anyone want to see the greatest moment in WNBA history?)

Of course, if any great moments happened in the first half of Indiana vs. Connecticut last night, I missed them because ESPN2 felt like the Little League World Series was more important. Not U.S. teams, mind you — Taipei vs. Japan. Finally, the WNBA game was moved to ESPN Classic. I bet that baseball game is still going on.

SI.com posted an overview of the play-off teams Wednesday — a good way to catch up if you haven’t followed the season but plan to watch the postseason. And if you like numbers, USA Today has a nice breakdown of the match-ups in the East and the West. I’ll leave predictions to the experts, but will happily provide some suggestions of women to watch during the WNBA play-offs.

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

At UConn, Taurasi won three national championships. At Phoenix, she hasn’t even made the play-offs. This year, things have changed and DT is ready to deliver. Diana is talented and intense — and very emotional. She says what she thinks, especially to the refs, and it’s not always polite. All those things make her fun to watch. Plus the fact that she’s one of the most talented players in the game. If she, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor are all “on” at the same time, the Mercury will be hard to beat.

Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento Monarchs

Basketball coaches say that defense wins championships. Defense certainly is the key to Sacramento’s game. And Yolanda Griffith is the key to Sacramento’s defense. She is the veteran and the team leader — if she maintains a high level of play, the rest of the Monarchs will follow.

Becky Hammon, San Antonio Silver Stars

First of all, Becky is hot. I’m not ashamed that hot women are a big reason I love this game. Second, she’s having an incredible year. Traded to San Antonio after eight seasons with the New York Liberty, Hammon has led the Silver Stars with an average of 18.8 points and 5 assists per game. Combine those stats with her confidence and positive attitude and you get an MVP season. I know Lauren Jackson has scored more points, but in terms of value to her team, Becky Hammon definitely has the edge. To see what I mean, watch Becky’s top ten plays of the season here.

Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm

Before you start throwing things at your computer because I think Becky should be MVP, let me give props to LJ (and her hotness). Jackson leads the WNBA in scoring (23.6 points per game) and rebounding (11.6 rebounds per game). And she has done so in a season that finds the Seattle Storm with some kind of multiple personality disorder. (Who will show up for the play-offs, good Seattle or its lame twin?) Another reason to enjoy LJ’s game is that it might be her last WNBA season. The Storm’s owners may move the team to Oklahoma City next year and Jackson is adamant that she wants to end her WNBA career in Seattle. Here are Lauren’s top ten plays of the season.

Cheryl Ford, Detroit Shock

I’m not a Shock fan, but I have to admire the team’s consistency. After winning the WNBA championship last year, they finished with the league’s best record (24-10) this year. Cheryl Ford has been out since July 20 with a knee injury, but she’s been practicing with the team this week. Ford is such a dominant defender that if she plays, Detroit is well on its way to another championship. She’s just that good.

These aren’t the only players worth watching, of course. I happen to think they all are. By all means, tell me what women you’ll be watching. And what team you think will win.

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