Basketball is a funny game. On Friday night the San Antonio Stars were shrouded by Seattle's Storm clouds, but on Saturday they walked all over the Los Angeles Sparks to secure a weekend split.
The difference between the two games isn't exactly complex: On Friday, the Stars shot 3-18 from 3-point range. On Saturday, they shot 9-15. Live by the 3-pointer and die by the 3-pointer -- that appears to be the San Antonio game plan in 2014. They aren't the most efficient from 3-point range, technically speaking, as the New York Liberty are draining 41.5 percent of their 3-pointers this season compared to the Stars' 37.6 percent.
While the Liberty have been more efficient from 3-point range, the Stars have attempted far more of them. New York has 106 3-point attempts in 2014 -- the Stars have 202 attempts. Here, enjoy a fairly nebulous and useless statistic: In wins, the Stars shoot 47.3 percent from 3-point range. In losses they shoot 31.9 percent from beyond the arc. I know, breaking news: When a team shoots better that team tends to win more basketball game.
What stands out more to me there is the Stars seem to only win games when they shoot an unbelievable percentage from 3-point range. League average 3-point shooting is around 33 percent -- dipping below that by less than two percentage points should not equate to losing most of your basketball games. I don't think the Stars problem is an offensive one, mind you; it's their defense that gets them into trouble.
As of Sunday evening, the Stars have the second-worst defense in the league. They allow 80.66 points per game, just barely ticking under the Sparks' 81.44 allowed per contest. The Stars have long been billed a defense-first team, but after two seasons of abysmal defense it has to be time for that label to be put to rest. The Stars may find more defensive cohesion over the course of the season, but allowing 80 points per game isn't just mediocre, it's terrible.
That isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world for San Antonio, mind you. Their offense is extremely dynamic (fifth in the league in points scored per game) and revolves around Danielle Robinson's ability to get points in the paint. When Robinson is on it opens up the floor for the Stars' barrage of excellent jump shooters. Becky Hammon has been great from 3-point range (50 percent on 15-30 shooting), Jia Perkins has been excellent (41.5 percent on 17-41 shooting) and Kayla McBride has lived up to expectations (40.2 percent on 21-52 shooting).
Combine that with the second-best free throw shooting in the league (tied with the Mercury at 83.2 percent) and you have one of the better offensive teams in the league...when they make their 3-pointers. That just might be the story of the 2014 Stars: When they make their 3-pointers they can play with anyone. When they don't? The Seattle Storm make them look like chumps.
San Antonio will get another crack at the Storm on Thursday night in Seattle before wrapping up another week of play against Los Angeles at Staples Center. While it was primarily bench play that got the Stars back into Friday night's game (or, made the scoreline respectable anyway), I don't expect the Stars to come out QUITE so flat against the Storm on Thursday. That's primarily because I can't imagine the Sparks looking that garbage-y again this season -- it might happen, but I won't ever predict it.
Meanwhile around the WNBA:
- The Minnesota Lynx are finally mortal again. Enjoy that while it lasts.
- The Phoenix Mercury are much better this year than last year, particularly defensively.
- While everything looked pretty lopsided early on in the season, both conferences are tightening up now. The difference between the first place and last place team is 4.5 games in the eastern conference and just four games in the west.
- Speaking of Phoenix, they currently have the best point differential at +7.32.
- I don't make a habit of watching the Atlanta Dream, but Erika De Souza has been incredible this year.
- The next WNBA game is Indiana/Connecticut on Tuesday night, so..........if you literally have nothing else going on.......you can watch that.