Sep 28, 2016
The WNBA semi-final playoff rounds begin tonight, with Phoenix at Minnesota at 8 pm ET, and Chicago at Los Angeles following that at 10 pm ET.
Both have star power and should be a lot of fun to watch, but we are particularly interested in the second series, the second-seeded Sparks and fourth-seeded Sky going at it.
These teams both have tremendous stories and had tremendous years.
Los Angeles rolled through a historic beginning of the year, and battled the Lynx for top spot in the league most of the season. They feature the league's Most Valuable Player, Nneka Ogwumike, and one of the most versatile players the game has seen in Candace Parker.
Chicago has their own MVP candidate in Elena Delle Donne, who finished fourth in the league balloting, but is out for the series after a thumb injury required surgery. The versatility and overall skill of the Sky has been on display with players like Cappie Pondexter and Courtney Vandersloot picking up their scoring, and Jessica Breland and Imani Boyette rebounding and screening.
Both of these teams also feature talented players that know their roles and execute them to near perfection.
Jantel Lavender of the Sparks was a 2015 All-Star, starting every game for the season. She came into camp a little bit late due to her international commitments, and, as she says on the podcast, there was already some roles defined. Lavender is a win before stats player, and slide seamlessly into the 6th player role, and thrived. She was already named AP and our own "Dishie" 6th player of the year, and the league award is expected to follow.
It is a pleasure to welcome Jantel Lavender to Dishin & Swishin to discuss the Sparks, her team, playing Chicago, looking ahead to a possible date with Minnesota, and more.
Meanwhile on the Chicago Sky side, Tamera Young has been a vital cog in the team's success all season, especially down the stretch with Delle Donne absent.
The longest tenured Sky player ever, Young has always been counted on for the "other things" she brings to the court; hustle, defense, rebounding. Down Delle Donne's 20+ points per game, Young is getting more shots, and her mid-range game has proven to be extremely strong. In the pre-Olympic portion of the season, Young only took ten shots in a game twice. In the last four games, including the playoff win over Atlanta, she has taken 10, 15, 13 and 15 shots.
On the heels of an injury plagued 2015, Young is firmly entrenched now as a key component in the Sky starting lineup. Look no further to see her importance than the job she did on Angel McCoughtry in the second half of the Sky victory. McCoughtry scored 21 in the first half, and, in her own words, Young was disappointed in herself for allowing that. She shut down McCoughtry the rest of the game, holding her six more points.
Young joins Dishin & Swishin for the first time as well, to discuss the Sky's success and facing a playoff series without their star, what makes this season different for her and for the Sky, playing against a team like Los Angeles with so many talented players, and more.
Good luck to both Los Angeles and Chicago in their playoff series! Going to a best of five from the single game first two rounds will give both teams ample opportunities to make adjustments and address what happens in the prior games.
That alone, gives you reason to think Chicago will fare better than the series sweep Los Angeles took during the regular season.
Thanks again to Jantel Lavender and Tamera Young for taking time out of their preparation to talk to Dishin & Swishin!
Enjoy the podcast!
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE