- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Washington Mystics owner Ted Leonsis has turned to using deeper statistical analysis in his search for ways to broaden the appeal of the WNBA.

In addition to a standard scrimmage, the Mystics and Minnesota Lynx participated in a controlled “analytic” version broken into 10-minute sections on Tuesday.

The use of analytics has become a growing trend in the NBA — look no further than the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, two statistically driven teams, advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

“There is a lot of theory that’s talked about regarding analytics, but there really is not a lot of real-life labs where you can really see it,” Leonsis said. “You can report and analyze what happened in the past, but it’s difficult to see how some of these plans that you can implement only in a scrimmage format for now … really mean.”

No fans attended, but members of the Washington Wizards organization, including coach Randy Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld, watched from the Verizon Center stands.

SportVU cameras, used by NBA teams to gather possession-by-possession data used for game planning, recorded the scrimmage.

Leonsis, who also owns the Wizards and the Washington Capitals of the NHL, said he came up with the initial scrimmage idea before discussing it further with WNBA officials and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On the surface, all looked similar, but with subtle changes.

In one session, only shots from 3-point range, in the paint and extended low block counted. Mid-range shots resulted in turnovers.

News of the scrimmage, which surfaced last week, drew the attention of Phil Jackson. The current New York Knicks president, who coached the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to 11 NBA championships, isn’t a huge fan of data that place an increased emphasis on 3-pointers.

Writing on his Twitter account on Saturday, Jackson said, “the 3[-point] shot is not the be all end all of basketball. WNBA is taking their exhibition game to extremes[.] Do not [devalue] the 2[-point] shot.”

Jackson’s reaction was not lost on Leonsis.

“When I saw and read his tweets the other day, I said, ‘This worked. We’ve gotten people’s attention,” Leonsis said. “But we’re not doing [this] to not pay respect to the game of basketball. We’re trying to see for the women’s game. Are there things that we can do to make it more popular, and are there lessons that can be learned from this scrimmage that can be applied [elsewhere]?”

Among the adjustments during the final 10 minutes were a 20-second shot clock that reset to 14 following offensive rebounds.

Players and coaches largely treated the scenario as they would when they practice running a specific play or target a specific section of their offense. They just did it for longer. Over the 20 minutes of controlled scrimmages, the Mystics outscored the Lynx, 48-41.

“We scored 48 points in two quarters,” said Washington guard Kara Lawson. “You can probably count on one hand the amount of halves that prolific in the last couple of years. Small sample size, but it did increase the scoring.”

However, as Mystics coach Mike Thibault noted, numbers and analysis are one thing, talent is another.

”I had a reporter one time say, ‘You have a lot of shooters,’” Thibault recalled. “I said, ‘That’s not the issue. I need a lot of makers.’”

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