Offense leads the way in first half of WNBA season

Offense leads the way in first half of WNBA season

Offense leads the way in first half of WNBA season
By CHRIS BERNUCCA

Does defense win championships?

At the midway point of the WNBA season, it doesn't seem that way. The All-Star Game provided a snapshot after the top players combined to rack up 248 points, surpassing the total with eight minutes to play.

Indiana and Phoenix lead their respective conferences and are among the league's best over teams. Playoff hopefuls Minnesota, Atlanta and Chicago are trying to win with offense and also have strong over marks.

Meanwhile, Sacramento and Detroit are 1-2 in rebounding margin - usually a positive indicator - and occupy last place in their conferences.

That flip in philosophy has turned the standings upside down. The preseason favorites are fighting for their postseason lives, befuddling bettors in the process. The over/under record so far this season for the entire league sits at 124-86-2, a healthy mark for over bettors.

Here's a look at the season so far, and what to look for the rest of the way.

Finals flops

A year ago, the Detroit Shock swept the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA Finals. This year, both squads are struggling to merely make the playoffs.

The Shock (5-9) opened at +250 to repeat but have been impacted by the abrupt resignation of coach Bill Laimbeer three games into the season. With Plenette Pierson and Cheryl Forde sidelined, they could become the second straight defending champion to miss the playoffs. The books have the Shock listed at +2000 now to win the title.

The Silver Stars (7-8) opened at 4-1 but now are +1100. They are not in as much trouble as Detroit but have been inconsistent, winning consecutive games just once.

In need of a Spark

The Los Angeles Sparks opened at the short price of +200 to win the title but have been unable to get their 1-2 punch of injured Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker on the court at the same time. Offseason acquisitions Betty Lennox and Tina Thompson have tried to pick up the slack, but the Sparks (4-9) are now at +1100.

Parker has played five games since returning from giving birth and posted her first double-double in her last game. The Sparks also have a home-heavy schedule the rest of the way and may get some favorable prices based on their stumbling start. To make the postseason, they have to start winning now.

Missing Lynx

When leading scorer Simeone Augustus went down for the season with a knee injury, the Minnesota Lynx didn't stop putting up points. With emerging Charde Houston leading five scorers in double figures, the Lynx are second in the WNBA at 82.7 points per game and have finished above the total in 13 of their 17 games.

The Lynx opened at 30-1 but are now 12-1 without their star. First-year coach Jennifer Gillom has the high-scoring squad on track for its first postseason berth since 2004.

Postseason Dream?

Last year, the Atlanta Dream went 4-30 in their inaugural campaign, then got rid of leading scorer Betty Lennox. They were listed at +5000 to win the title entering the season.

But with the return of Chamique Holdsclaw, a breakout season by Erika de Souza and strong play from rookie Angel McCoughtry, the Dream (8-10) have doubled last season's win total. Atlanta is third at 81.1 points and also among the league's best bets against the spread (11-7).

Rising from the ashes

The Phoenix Mercury (13-5) won the title in 2007 but missed the postseason last year. They opened at +2000 and appear to be the smartest futures bet available entering the campaign. They have ridden their high-powered offense to the best ATS (13-5) and over (15-3) record. 

Catch the Fever

The Indiana Fever also opened at +2000 and looked even longer after dropping their first two games. But coach Lin Dunn replaced rookie point guard Briann January with veteran Tully Bevilaqua, and the Fever rattled off 11 consecutive wins while going 9-2 ATS.

With All-Stars Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas backed by the inside play of Ebony Hoffman and Tamika Whitmore, the Fever (12-4) are now the favorite to win the title at +300.

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