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New York Liberty at Indiana Fever, 7PM EST: Game Preview


New York Liberty (2-3) at Indiana Fever (3-3)

Saturday, June 5, 2010, 7PM EST

WNBA Preview  ||  Live Access  ||  Fever Preview


Don't those team logos clash?  Yes they do. 

The Foxwoods New York Liberty

The New York Liberty are amid a four-game road trip and have just played the Connecticut Sun less than 24 hours ago and lost, 75-68.   The game got as close as a Cappie Pondexter 3 to tie it with 32.5 seconds left, but Caps was her lowercase self, going 3-14 in 32 minutes of play.  With the exception of rookie reserve Kalana Greene, who shot 6-8, 13 points, +7 plus/minus, the New York Liberty shot horribly (35%) last night.

I don't expect the New York Liberty not to snap back from the Connecticut Sun game, but back-to-backs on the road will wear on this team that only gives significant minutes to six players, one of whom (Taj at 39) is ancient.

"It was an off night," Pondexter said. "I've faced a lot of defenders in my life. It was more me. You have off games. We have another game tomorrow night so it's nothing to get down about."


For Mel Greenberg, last night's game was as much about an off-court rivalry as it was on-court.

The game had an extra element of business rivalry because of the news earlier in the week that Foxwoods Resort Casino, located near the Mohegan Sun establishment, had ponied up $1 million to become the fourth to have its name worn on WNBA team jerseys.

Of course, the Mohegans actually own the Sun, having paid the $10 million in the last decade to acquire the former Orlando Miracle.

Although the sponsorship deal is just for 10 by 4 inch space on the jersey, I plan to acknowledge Foxwoods every time I mention the New York Liberty.  Foxwoods Resort Casino deserves to get some bang for their advertising dollar, and I'm more than willing to oblige. 

Later this week, I'll be revealing the five corporate sponsors that should step up and support the Indiana Fever with their advertising dollars. 


The <Insert Your Quality Brand Here> Indiana Fever

The Indiana Fever are coming off a break-out game for Katie Douglas in their 79-57 blowout of the Silver Stars.   The Fever were up by as much as 30 in that game, one where everything seemed to go right for the team. 

The day before the game, the team reaffirmed its identity as a defensive powerhouse. 

"We just talked about the things that we wanted to do as a team and how we wanted to be known throughout the league," Catchings said. "Last year, we were that defensive team that everybody knew. That’s the one thing that we have to get back to. Tonight was a huge night for us from that standpoint."

That defensive team wasn't just about holding a Backy Hammon-deprived Silver Stars offense to 57 points, it was about grabbing 82% of their defensive rebounds and 38% of their offensive rebounds.  38%!


Getting hip with Early Offense

All that heady defensive talk is good coming from the Fever, but there's been more interest on the Fever's anemic offense as of late. 

In Kevin Pelton's most recent pace-adjusted numbers (June 1st), the Fever are second in defensive efficiency but also dead last in offensive ratings.  What hurt most is that the Atlanta Dream have kicked off the season at the top of the defensive ratings and second on the offensive side.  The Fever need to step up on the offensive end, as Kevin Messenger's "first to 74 points wins" post alluded to a few days ago.

There are a few encouraging signs for the Fever's offense. 

  1. First, Katie Douglas got her groove back, to the tune of 22 points on 9-12 shooting. 
  2. Second, Shavonte Zellous may not make her shots (15% on the season!), but she gets to the line, where scoring happens off-the-clock. 
  3. Third, Coach Lin Dunn in last game's postgame presser, uttered some of the most encouraging words yet: "Early Offense".

From Kevin Pelton again:


Team           Pace
Tulsa 85.1 <--- Shavonte Zellous describes this as the "BamBamBamBam" offense
Phoenix 83.6
Atlanta 82.2
Minnesota 81.7
Los Angeles 81.2
San Antonio 79.6
Connecticut 77.7
Seattle 77.0
Washington 76.1
New York 76.1
Indiana 75.2 <--- Where, like in Detroit, Plays Happen
Chicago 73.2


Looking at the pace, it's a lot more clear why some players, including Shavonte Zellous might have been caught off-guard in Nolan Richardson's system, having come from Detroit where there was a much more structured and cantankerous offense.  Like Detroit's offense, so has been Indiana's.

Therefore, to hear Coach Lin Dunn get hip with "early offense" is a great sign for the Fever.  Besides pushing up the pace, early offense should make it easier for the Fever to score.   

What is early offense?   Here's a quick primer.

This simply put is to advance the ball quickly into the front court areas and attack before the defense is able to become organized into a disruptive force.

As defensive specialists over the many years of coaching, we have found the most difficult teams to defend were the ones with offenses that pushed the ball into the front court hash mark areas in the time span of 2 to 3 seconds. This early offense push creates quick medium jump shots, or penetration lay-ups, or kick out passes for scores to occur before the defense had a chance to set up and disrupt any organized set play.

We have also found that when teams walked the ball up the court, they were much easier to defend because the defense was able to get its players back into positions near the basket were they could execute pressure denials, traps to disrupt the offensive flow and to force rushed shots as time on the clock became a factor.

(Check out that link for a few nice schematics and diagrams.)

So, why the reference to early offense from the defensive juggernaut Indiana Fever? 

It's more by accident, actually.  With Briann January out, the ball is more in the hands of primary scoring option Katie Douglas.  This means that when she brings the ball up the court, she can shoot as soon as she's open and shoot in rhythm.  It's a good situation until January comes back, but I hope the team will be looking at incorporating early offense more into their play.