WNBA playoffs 2022 – Is teaching chess match the X issue for decisive Connecticut Solar-Dallas Wings Recreation 3?
Playoff basketball sequence are sometimes determined by the chess match between opposing coaches, and the first-round showdown between the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun and the 6-seed Dallas Wings has been no completely different. After Dallas’ 6-foot-7 beginning middle, Teaira McCowan, struggled to get stepping into Recreation 1 — a 93-68 Solar victory — Wings coach Vickie Johnson modified issues up heading into Recreation 2, bringing McCowan off the bench and beginning Isabelle Harrison in her place.
The choice might need appeared minor — McCowan nonetheless logged 24 minutes — however it performed a pivotal function within the Wings’ skill to bounce again to take an 89-79 win and drive a winner-take-all Recreation 3 at their place on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The Wings bought information late Tuesday that main scorer Arike Ogunbowale is possible Wednesday after lacking the previous six video games with an stomach damage. However how efficiently the Solar can counter Johnson’s transfer and guarantee McCowan cannot repeat her Recreation 2 success — and the way shortly McCowan and the Wings reply to that — stays a deciding think about figuring out which group advances to the WNBA semifinals subsequent week.
McCowan’s emergence — in her first season with the Wings after being traded by the Indiana Fever this previous offseason — was an enormous a part of Dallas’ surge down the stretch of the common season. Since being inserted into the beginning lineup after the All-Star break, the previous Mississippi State star averaged 16.2 factors and 10.0 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per recreation to shut the common season; these marks had been 7.6/5.1/13.9 in her 20 prior appearances this season. Moreover, the 9.2-point differential per 100 possessions in Dallas’ web ranking with McCowan on the ground versus on the bench was the second-best mark for any Wings participant, behind Allisha Gray‘s 14.1.
The Wings went 8-5 following McCowan’s insertion into the beginning lineup, together with 6-2 heading into the playoffs, and McCowan took house the primary Participant of the Month Award of her profession in August.
However in Recreation 1, she was largely neutralized, a part of the Solar’s technique to include McCowan, Grey and Marina Mabrey.
With reigning MVP and perennial All-Defensive Staff choice Jonquel Jones matched up in opposition to her, McCowan had a troublesome time attending to her ordinary spots and getting touches. McCowan completed with six area purpose makes an attempt (2-for-6 from the sphere), seven factors and 5 rebounds. Defensively, she was primarily matched up in opposition to the uber-physical Swiss Military knife Alyssa Thomas, who might pull McCowan out of the paint and take her off the dribble — not essentially McCowan’s robust swimsuit.
The Solar completed Recreation 1 plus-16 within the paint and plus-7 on the glass, and so they held the Wings to only seven second-chance factors.
“There isn’t any method we will win with Teaira solely taking six pictures,” Johnson mentioned after Recreation 1. “We have to pound the ball inside and play inside out.”
Johnson approached McCowan between Video games 1 and a pair of to see how she felt about being introduced off the bench. It wasn’t that McCowan was being punished or handed over for Harrison, Johnson mentioned. Reasonably, it had every thing to do with matchups.
Along with beginning the 6-foot-6 Jonquel Jones, the Solar have been bringing in 6-foot-3 Brionna Jones — the WNBA’s reigning Most Improved Participant and a favourite for Sixth Participant of the 12 months — off the bench.
Jonquel Jones can match McCowan’s size and has the sting in physicality. Johnson anticipated placing McCowan up in opposition to Brionna Jones would play to the Wings’ benefit. And it largely did.
Harrison did her half in matching Jonquel Jones in Recreation 2, particularly early on, whereas Kayla Thornton helped decelerate Thomas. Then McCowan and Brionna Jones each checked in on the 4:35 mark of the primary quarter and had been matched up in opposition to one another the remainder of the competition. Towards a smaller and fewer cell defender — and with a renewed intention by Dallas to get the ball inside — McCowan appeared way more comfy working within the paint, ending with 17 factors (second finest on the group) on 8-for-13 capturing, whereas additionally coming away with 11 rebounds, together with eight on the offensive finish, and three assists.
“It was actually to match B. Jones,” Johnson mentioned of the choice to alter the beginning lineup. “B. Jones got here in, [McCowan] got here in. That was the true focus behind every thing. She needed to match B. Jones, she’s the one that can do it, and so they went head-to-head the entire night time.”
McCowan and the Wings flipped the script from Recreation 1, beating the Solar on the glass (plus-3), narrowing the hole in factors within the paint (minus-2) and doubling them up on second-chance factors (23-11).
“It feels nice figuring out I might be on a group the place they will use me in the best way I am supposed for use,” McCowan mentioned, referring to her latest success with Dallas as in comparison with Indiana. “I really feel like simply coming in and staying true to my function, that is what I have been doing.”
After a putrid first quarter during which the Solar managed simply seven factors, the Joneses nonetheless had strong performances offensively, ending with 20 factors apiece in Recreation 2. However protection and rebounding are what Connecticut constructed its success on this season, and the group felt that was missing most of Recreation 2, a part of what allowed McCowan to go off for an enormous night time.
Brionna Jones admitted that the Solar want to enhance their assist protection round McCowan and do a greater job of protecting her off the glass when the groups meet once more Wednesday. If the Solar can efficiently include her and extra broadly management the paint and boards, they are much extra more likely to advance to the semifinals for the fourth straight 12 months.
And if Dallas is ready to break by way of with the upset — and safe the franchise’s finest playoff run because it was positioned in Detroit — it’s going to little doubt be due to the work of McCowan and Dallas’ different bigs in successful that battle.
“McCowan is so massive to maneuver that you have to do your work early,” Jonquel Jones mentioned. “And as soon as she will get in that place, essentially the most you are able to do is simply attempt to tip it out. We simply should be extra proactive and do our work early.”