Perhaps it's the Starzz' turn again tonight to benefit from the frenetic pace of the WNBA season.
Utah opened the season with three home games and won two of them. Then it went east to be home-opener cannon fodder for both Washington and New York. Then there was a 4 a.m. wakeup and late arrival in Cleveland for a nationally televised game Monday. The Starzz felt the fatigue in Cleveland.But tonight, the 2-4 Starzz may catch a break with Eastern Conference-leading Charlotte (5-1) at 7.
The Sting won 77-73 at Los Angeles Wednesday night and had to journey back through time (losing an hour from Pacific to Mountain time zones) to be on the Delta Center floor tonight.
Utah meets the heart of WNBA leadership for the next three games, starting tonight.
The Starzz have an early morning flight to Phoenix for a Friday-night game there; the Mercury's only loss was to Charlotte. Next week, Utah's only home opponent is defending WNBA-champ Houston on Tuesday. Houston lost for the first time Wednesday at Phoenix.
"I wouldn't put the whole season on it. It's still early," says Starzz coach Denise Taylor about this stretch of upper-echelon teams, "but I know we've got to win our home games."
The Starzz, still trying to shake 1997's last-place image, "are headed in the right direction. We learned a lot of things," Taylor says of the eastern road trip. Utah had chances to win at Washington and New York. "We've got heart," she adds. "We've grown as a team. The chemistry is better.
"There are areas we've got to get better at," she admits, citing impatience that led to 42 turnovers in the last two games and missed free throws. "I still like this team and our potential," Taylor says.
But ask her how to cope with Charlotte, and Taylor is moved to say a bad word that she quickly regrets. The Sting led from start to finish despite 30 points from L.A.'s Lisa Leslie Wednesday.
A '97 playoff team, the Sting adds rookie Tracy Reid's 15-point scoring average and icy pregame stare to a veteran lineup with Vicky Bullett (12.6), Rhonda Mapp (10.4) and Andrea Stinson (14.2). Bullett scored 22 Wednesday, Stinson 19 and Reid 18, and 6-3 Sharon Manning had 15 rebounds as the Sting out-boarded the Sparks (with 6-8 Haixia Zheng playing just one minute) 40-29.
"Bullett's going to take it in to Margo (7-foot-2 Dydek); she'll pull her out and take her 1-on-1," Taylor says. "They're a Final Four team that's got all their weapons back, plus Reid is very versatile, can go 1-on-1, post up, run the floor."
Utah is baffled and frustrated that its No. 1 draft pick, Dydek, and World Championships MVP Elena Baranova can't play because of fouls. Taylor is thinking of protesting to the league about the treatment Dydek gets as officials seem to be trying to equalize her height advantage by calling many fouls. "Come on," Taylor says. "Didn't anybody try to equalize for us when we were losing last year. We didn't pick her (No. 1 in the draft) to not be in the game."
"Everyone can bump and foul me and take my arms," says a dejected Dydek. "I can't do nothing."
Dydek had a career-high 18 points Monday at Cleveland, all in the second half, but she was hamstrung with three fouls in the first six minutes, and TV replays showed little or no contact. She then shied from defense. "The second half, I say I don't care," she said.
Tonight's games will again have TV replay available - it's on KJZZ-Ch. 14.