East tightens up with all teams within 2 games of each other

NEW YORK (AP) — As is usually the case, the Eastern Conference is going to be a tight race to the playoffs. Only two games separate first-place Connecticut and last-place Atlanta in the standings.

In fact, the Dream are the only team under .500, sitting a game under the break-even mark.

“It always comes down to a game or two in this conference,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “That’s why every game matters so much.”

Chatman’s team had a successful week sweeping Minnesota and Connecticut in a pair of home contests. The Sky are starting to jell.

Elena Delle Donne, who leads the league in scoring, has been consistent all year. Now, the Sky are getting contributions from Cappie Pondexter, who they acquired in a blockbuster offseason deal for Epiphanny Prince. Pondexter scored a season-high 29 points in a win over Connecticut on Sunday.

“I thought Cappie got off to a great start and that got everyone else comfortable and we were able to close it out, play a lot of people, and do some really nice things to get ready for our next game, ” Chatman said.

The Sky, who are 3-0 this month, have a busy week ahead with games against Washington, Minnesota and San Antonio.

A look at news from around the WNBA:

HEY NOW YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR: Starters for the WNBA All-Star Game will be announced on Tuesday while the reserves will be unveiled a week later. Balloting concluded last Thursday night. When early returns were released, Delle Donne and Diggins were the leaders. Joining Diggins as the top vote-getters among Western Conference backcourt players was Seimone Augustus of Minnesota. The West frontcourt leaders were Maya Moore of Minnesota, Brittney Griner and Phoenix teammate Candice Dupree. Griner missed the first seven games while serving a suspension for her domestic violence arrest.

In addition to Delle Donne, the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards was Atlanta’s Shoni Schimmel, who was the MVP of last season’s All-Star game. Tamika Catchings of Indiana, Angel McCoughtry of Atlanta and Tina Charles of New York lead the frontcourt in the East.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Phoenix guard Leilani Mitchell is hitting 3-pointers at a record pace. She is shooting 53.1 percent (26 for 49) from behind the arc, just at the WNBA record. Temeka Johnson of Tulsa holds the league mark hitting 53.1 percent in 2012. Jennifer Azzi has the next two best years, making 51.7 and 51.4 of her 3s in 1999 and 2001.

Take away one game against New York where Mitchell was 0 for 5 against her former team and she’d be shooting 59 percent.

WELCOME BACK: Tulsa guard Odyssey Sims returned from a left knee injury that had sidelined her since June 9. The second-year pro scored 14 points in her first game back — a win over Los Angeles on Saturday.

“It feels great. I’m just happy to be playing again,” said Sims, who played 24 minutes and provided a boost for the Shock, who were thin at guard with the loss of Skylar Diggins for the season with a torn ACL. “I played as much as I could and did what I could to help my team.”

GAME OF THE WEEK: Lynx at Shock on Sunday. The top two teams in the Western Conference square off in Tulsa. The teams have split their first two meetings this season.


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