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Does Atlanta suffer from a second half jinx?

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Sancho Lyttle suggested as such in her comments after the Atlanta-New York game. Let's look at the record and see if such a thing is true.

Photo by Getty Images.

A comment from Sancho Lyttle during yesterday's game between the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty definitely caught my interest.  She was asked by a reporter if the Dream's recent setbacks were due to being unfocused or somehow out of sync.  Lyttle answered:

I say it’s the curse of the second half. In the six years that I’ve been here, every time it’s the second half; we play this way until the playoffs. I don’t know why. I hope to live to see the day that we don’t. I don’t know what it is. Maybe we’ve lost focus a little bit, maybe we’re playing like we know too much or something. I’m not too sure.

It would certainly be very convenient to explain away Atlanta's lack of fortune to a second half of the regular season curse - that way, we could just claim, "it's that time of year again".  But was there any way to verify Lyttle's statement?

I excluded the incomplete 2014 season and looked at the 2009 through 2013 regular seasons - the seasons that Lyttle has been a part of the Dream lineup.  For every team currently in the WNBA, I looked at the number of wins they had in the first half of the regular season and the number of wins they had in the second half.  Adding up the second half wins over the last five years and comparing this sum to the sum of first half wins over the same time frame should give me an idea of how much the team slumps in the back half of the regular season.  If second half wins minus first half wins is negative, then there's evidence that the team fades as the season progresses.  If the number is positive, the team has been better in the second half than in the first half over the last five years.

The numbers:

2009 A 2009 B 2010 A 2010 B 2011 A 2011 B 2012 A 2012 B 2013 A 2013 B Slump? Slump per season
Connecticut 9 7 10 7 11 10 13 12 5 5 -7 -1.4
Chicago 8 8 8 6 8 6 8 6 12 12 -6 -1.2
Minnesota 10 4 6 7 13 14 13 14 14 12 -5 -1.0
Indiana 13 9 11 10 11 10 10 12 8 8 -4 -0.8
Washington 9 7 12 10 3 3 3 2 8 9 -4 -0.8
San Antonio 8 7 6 8 11 7 12 9 5 7 -4 -0.8
Atlanta 7 11 13 6 8 12 8 11 11 6 -1 -0.2
Phoenix 12 11 6 9 10 9 4 3 9 10 1 0.2
Seattle 11 9 15 13 9 12 8 8 7 10 2 0.4
New York 6 7 8 14 10 9 6 9 7 4 6 1.2
Tulsa/Detroit 7 11 3 3 1 2 3 6 4 7 11 2.2
Los Angeles 6 12 4 9 7 8 11 13 12 12 14 2.8



So it looks like if there's any team that can claim a second-half slump over the past five seasons, it's Connecticut.  The Sun have generally been a weaker team in the second half of the season by one or two games.  Minnesota's result is skewed by a second half collapse in 2009. 

The we can look at the opposite end of the scale.  Los Angeles has generally done better in the second half of the season that the first half.  Tulsa is in second place, most likely because they're still playing for a playoff spot - or pride - when other teams phone it in.

The Dream sit right in the middle.  We have years when we do better in the second half than the first (+4 in 2009) and years where the reverse is true (-7 in 2010).  But Lyttle is right in one sense - the second half of our season tends to be a different beast than the first half.  We'll see if 2014 breaks the pattern or confirms it.