Time to make picks for the WNBA playoffs, that is. I will say it again: I loathe picking. But it’s one of the things ESPN.com requests that I do, so …
Today, the first full day of the NFL season, I briefly watched the guys on CBS go through their picks. They each pushed a button in front of them, and then it came up with team’s logo to show what team everyone had picked. They seemed to be really enjoying it, of course. I think this is pretty much normal – that people like to “inject” themselves into competitions that they aren’t actually involved in so they have a chance to “win.”
Which means I’m abnormal, because I don’t want to be part of the competition in any way.
I have nothing to do with it other than watching and writing about it. I have zero desire to brag later about how I “picked” the right winners. One might point out that’s because I’m often wrong, but honestly I don’t feel any vindication when I pick “right.”
It has no bearing on the game and, frankly, anybody who watches the league is just as qualified to “pick” as I am. The thing I’d like to believe I do well is write, not predict results.
All that said, since I have to pick, my philosophy is to try to go with the teams that have the most postseason experience. Hence, in the East, I went with Detroit over Atlanta and Indiana over Washington. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Dream or the Mystics can win. Of course they can.
We all know that Detroit is one of those teams that could conceivably win any time against anybody. That’s in large part just because Deanna Nolan when she’s “on” is unguardable. And even when she’s not having a great game, she is capable of suddenly igniting and piling up points in a very short period of time.
We’re waiting to see if Katie Smith (back) will return for the playoffs, and whether Alexis Hornbuckle (hamstring) will be available, too. In some ways, it may seem folly to go with the Shock over the Dream, considering Atlanta beat Detroit in three of their four meetings this season. But again, I’m just going with the experience factor here.
Now, as for the Fever vs. the Mystics, I’m not sure what to make of Indiana’s 3-7 skid to end the regular season. On one hand, there’s not much way you can see positives in that. But you do have to take in account that six of those games were on the road, including four of the last five. That said, there is some shakiness to the East champ.
And if the Fever was playing Detroit in the first round, I think Indiana fans would not be sleeping well. But considering the Fever swept the Mystics in the regular season, there should be a fair amount of confidence that Indiana can prevail here. However, Washington does seem like the kind of team that could click at just the right time. So … maybe Fever fans aren’t going to get a lot of rest until the playoffs are over.
Now, in the West … well, all the teams have plenty of playoff experience. Going with top seed Phoenix over No. 4 seed San Antonio just makes mathematical sense. Maybe Becky Hammon has a couple more 30-plus games in her this season, and perhaps Sophia Young has another crazy game-winning shot up her sleeve. But this is a Phoenix team with some depth in the post to go along with the Diana and Cappie show.
I think the only chance for Phoenix to be derailed in the postseason is if the Mercury lose in the first round or the conference finals, both best-of-three series. It’s just hard to see anyone beating Phoenix three times if the Mercury make it to the finals.
As for the Seattle-LA series, I’m sure that some Storm fans who take this picking nonsense seriously will be upset that I picked a sweep for the Sparks.
The reason I did that was because I don’t know if Lauren Jackson will be able to play or how well she’ll do if she is available. Does that mean I disrespect the rest of the Storm? NOOOOOOOOOO. It means that LJ is that freaking good; she just isn’t a player you can have on the bench and not miss tremendously. Especially when you’re going against Team Flying Elbows. It is no picnic in the post against LA.
Plus, things have been coming together well for the Sparks. It was definitely a great story that Kim Clijsters came back from having a baby a year and a half ago to win the U.S. Open women’s title. But, hey, Candace Parker is just four months past giving birth and has been playing like an MVP. It took Parker about four games to really get her bearings back when she returned to competitive action in July. After that opening stretch, she’s scored in double figures in all but two games. And in both of those, she had nine points.
Parker had her best game, statistically, of the season Sunday when the Sparks beat the Mercury 81-78 in Phoenix. Diana Taurasi rested, sure, but that didn’t take away from Parker’s individual performance: 24 points, 14 rebounds, three blocked shots.
Anyway, I know I’m annoyingly defensive about this picks stuff, but it’s because of the way some readers will infer things from picks. Such as I want this team or that team to win, or I don’t “respect” somebody. It just isn’t the case.