WNBA first half: The good, the bad

Probably not this year. After starting 0-5, Tulsa won four in a row and actually seemed to be on the climb. But that wasn't really the case. They've continued to lose excruciatingly close games. They couldn't take advantage of a recent four-game homestand, losing all four -- two in a row by 78-76 scores, falling in the final seconds. However, they go into the All-Star Game on a positive note, after a 95-90 win Thursday, led by a career-high 22 points from Courtney Paris.

The Shock have talent -- Skylar Diggins and Glory Johnson are All-Stars -- but they've reached the point where just being competitive in most games is not enough. The remainder of this season, even if the playoffs evade their grasp, the Shock must focus on finishing game better, the way they did Thursday.

Eastern Conference

Atlanta: A-

We mentioned McCoughtry's MVP-caliber season earlier, but she is also -- fortunately for the Dream -- getting good help. Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle combine to be as good a post duo as there is now in the WNBA. They score, rebound, defend and can help give McCoughtry more space to work with. Which is tough for other teams, because she doesn't need a lot of space to be dangerous.

Tiffany Hayes is having a very solid season and can be the Dream's "stealth" weapon. Shoni Schimmel is having a good rookie season, learning as she goes. The Dream are rotating three point guards, and while that is working OK, it isn't likely to be ideal in the playoffs against teams with great point guards.

Atlanta acquired veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones in a recent trade to provide some depth inside, but she played just two games before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury.

Indiana: B

Other than Atlanta, every East team goes into the All-Star Game with a record below .500, including the Fever. But they get a higher grade and have a better outlook because they made it this far mostly without All-Star Tamika Catchings. She has played in just five of their 22 games, sitting out until recently with a back injury.

Of course, the future Hall of Famer hit the ground running as soon as she returned, and is averaging 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. All-Star Briann January, Shavonte Zellous and Erlana Larkins led the Fever while Catchings was out, and Indiana also got a boost from players like Marissa Coleman and Karima Christmas. Rookie Natasha Howard should benefit from getting some more court time with Catchings.

Overall, the Fever look as if they will again be the Dream's top challenger in the East, which is fitting in coach Lin Dunn's final season.

Connecticut: C

Not a lot was expected from the Sun this year, with so many young players and the loss of former MVP Tina Charles, who wanted a trade to New York. When the Sun look bad, they really look bad. Take last Sunday's 90-64 loss to Los Angeles for example. And yet there are times when you can see things click for this team, and they have been pretty resilient despite their youth. The Sun bounced back from that pounding at home from Los Angeles by winning at Seattle. Can Connecticut earn a playoff spot? They're in third place now. And considering the struggles most of the East is having, the Sun seem likely to at least stay right in the mix.

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