The Adelaide Lightning got back into the WNBL finals after missing out in 2020/2021, this success was short-lived when they were ousted after back-to-back semi-final losses. They showed patches of dominance across the season however their worst and their best were chasms apart, which the more skilled teams took advantage of.
Final ladder position: Fourth (10 wins, seven losses)
The Lightning had high expectations given that they brought in gun recruit Alanna Smith and the disappointing end to last season. They also added two new imports to their roster Kylee Shook and Kianna Williams, hoping it would address their loss of bigs and lack of three-point shooters.
Recruiting Smith to play in the starting five alongside Steph Talbot was a great pairing for the Lightning with the duo becoming one of the best combos to watch in the league.
After losing the first game against the Townsville Fire by 11 points, the Lightning won their next five games against the Capitals, Boomers, Lynx, Flames and Fire. The Capitals broke the Lightning’s five-game winning streak but the Lightning looked as threatening offensively and defensively.
Succeeding this loss and the next (against the Spirit), the Lightning went on another winning streak defeating the Flyers, Spirit, Flames, and Fire.
The next run of games was the most disappointing part of the season for Adelaide players and supporters alike when it lost four of the last five games coming into the finals series. This form was concerning given its defence looked shot and it was conceding large scores against other quality opponents.
This poor form continued into the finals and it saw the Lightning outmatched by the Boomers. Melbourne won both semi-final encounters.
The Lightning was rather ordinary in the semi-finals going down 95-64 in Melbourne and 49-61 in front of their home crowd.
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Adelaide’s offence and the recruitment of Alanna Smith were key in its return to the finals this season.
The offensive efforts of the Adelaide Lightning were key to several wins this season. Smith was the side’s highest scorer this season, averaging 17 points per game. Other than Smith and Steph Talbot (13 points per game), the Lightning’s scoring fell away quickly with Kiana Williams (10.4 points per game), Kylee Shook (10 points per game) and Chelsea Brook (6.8 points per game) rounding out the top five.
Shook and Williams had mixed seasons, however, their form when they played well was solid. Shook ranked third for rebounds for the club this season and Williams ranked second for the Lightning in assists.
After playing one season in South Korea, Alanna Smith returned home to play for the Lightning this season. Previously drafted to Australian head coach, Sandy Brondello’s Phoenix Mercury, Smith flourished as the eighth overall pick in 2019. She averaged a double-double in this WNBL season being a focal point of the team’s offence.
Smith is a certainty to make a run for the Lightning’s MVP award after a stellar season which means re-signing her for next season will be key for the Lightning next season. Without the contributions of Talbot and Smith, the team collected losses during the World Cup Qualifiers mid-season.
Another positive was the leadership shown on the court by captain Steph Talbot. Talbot has always been a classy and competitive player but in recent years has added leadership to her arsenal.
Helping the youth and inexperience in the Lightning, Talbot keeps the group composed and leads by example every game.
There were a few key factors in the undoing of the Lightning’s season as a whole including the depth of their bench and reliance on the star power of Steph Talbot and Alanna Smith.
The depth of the bench was a massive concern and something they will look to address. Their starting five usually consisted of Talbot, Smith, Kianna Williams, Abbey Wehrung, and Kylee Shook which worked really well when they were playing on their terms.
When the Lightning was under siege, it was Smith and Talbot that were giving the opposition trouble. The reliance on the two stars came out of necessity when the imports didn’t fire or were inconsistent.
Adelaide didn’t get enough from experienced players Marena Whittle and Chelsea Brook off the bench.
Chris Lucas tried continuously to change up the look of their offence to keep the opposition guessing however this wasn’t enough and he would consistently go back to Smith and Talbot.
Adelaide’s defence was a concern, particularly towards the end of the season. It was too inconsistent and in its last five games, it gave up big scores and couldn’t outscore its opposition as a result.
Two of the Lightning’s best this season were their captain, Steph Talbot and recruit Alanna Smith.
Talbot personified the Lightning at their best and sometimes played a lone hand in defeat, while Smith played a large role offensively alongside Talbot as a dynamic duo for the Lightning. Both also finished in the top four in the league’s overall MVP count.
In 18 games, Talbot averaged 13 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. She finished the season with the most assists in the league.
Smith was an offensive weapon, averaging 17.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in 18 games.
Both players averaged double-doubles this season with Talbot close to averaging a triple-double.
This looms as a concern for the Lightning with both players off contract in the off-season and will hope they can keep them together.
Adelaide Lightning will look to either stick fat with their imports with the hope they will perform better next season or look to bring in some ready-made talent.
With the team under new ownership, it has been rumoured that head coach Chris Lucas will be moved on in the off-season which could open the door for the much-awaited coach in waiting, former player Nat Hurst to take the role.
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