Full-Court Press: Our Weekly WNBA Recap
By Cayla Mcmorris
Key Games of the Week:
May 24: Sun vs. Sparks
It was a battle between two of the best teams in their respected conferences. The best team in the East, the Sun, secured a 102-94 victory against the 2017 finals runner-up, the Sparks. Not only was it a matchup between two top conference teams, it was also a battle between two sisters, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. Nneka scored 19 points, grabbed 4 boards and dished out 4 assists. Chiney scored 18 points and grabbed 5 boards. Nneka might have outscored her sister but Chiney got the victory. It was her first time beating her sister in the WNBA. With help from teammate Alyssa Thomas, who nearly had a double-double at 15 points and 9 rebounds, the Sun outscored the Sparks in the fourth quarter by 17 points. Chelsea Gray led the Sparks in scoring and had another MVP performance with 21 points while dishing out 5 assists. She has scored in double figures in all four of her team’s games. Teammate Odyssey Sims had a 20-point performance along with seven assists, but it just wasn’t enough to get them over the hump. The Sparks had the lead for majority of the 4th quarter until around 4:49 where they went ice cold and couldn’t score a field goal. Sun capitalized on the Spark’s drought and sealed the game hitting four straight free-throws to close it off.
Key Note: Candace Parker did not play in this game and this was their third straight game without her.
May 27: Mystics vs. Lynx
The Mystics made franchise history Sunday night against the Lynx in a 90-78 victory to improve their undefeated record to 4-0. Without question, due to the veteran leadership on the Lynx, many thought they would take this game by storm. It looked exactly like that in the first quarter with their 26-11 advantage over the Mystics. With Sylvia Fowles dominating in that quarter with 14 points many would think this game was over with, but experience had little to do with it and it was all about the younger Mystic players. Once Mystic’s star player Elena Delle Donne left the game early due to dehydration, the Mystics’ bench took over. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored seven straight points to change the momentum of the game. Rookies Myisha Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins helped pick up the pace by combining for a total of 29 points and Hines-Allen recorded her first double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The Mystics led the rest of the second half, but the Lynx found a way to come back by scoring 29 third quarter points giving them a two-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Just when you thought the Lynx were going to take this game away because of their impressive third quarter comeback, the Mystics held them to only 10 points in the fourth quarter.
June 3: Sky vs. Aces
The Aces are coming off their first win Friday night against an impressive Mystics team and the Sky are currently on a three-game losing streak. The Aces are led by their rookie star player A’ja Wilson, who is currently leading their team in scoring and rebounding. Wilson recently posted three consecutive 20-point performances. In order for the Aces to continue their winning streak, Wilson is going to have to continue to dominate for them while Kayla McBride and Nia Coffey provide scoring outlets as well. For the Sky, they are struggling with injuries to two of their starters - Stephanie Dolson and Allie Quigley, who are both questionable for this upcoming game. This is crucial given that Quiqley leads the team in scoring while Dolson provides post defense and veteran leadership. What does this mean for the Sky? Key players like Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot and Gabby Williams are going to have to step up big time in order to snap their losing streak. Also, with the absence of two starters, the bench is going to need to be an outlet in helping the Sky defeat the Aces. Kahleah Copper, Astou Ndour and Cheyenne Parker will also need to increase their production. Matchups on the perimeter should not be a problem for both teams given that both the team’s guards are able to defend. The biggest struggle for the Sky is the absence of post play, with Dolson being questionable, they don’t have anyone to matchup with Wilson’s size and aggressiveness. Therefore, te Aces should take this game and add on to their winning streak.
Key note: Dolson and Quigley are questionable vs. Aces via Don Best.
Current Standings: East
The Sun, who not only have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but have the best record in the WNBA, are led by Alyssa Thomas. Thomas is currently averaging a double-double at 14.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The Sun continues to impress with their success because of their youthfulness but for them it is a huge advantage as they take on veteran teams that may not be able to match-up with their speed and quickness. Standing second in the east are the Mystics, who are currently 5-2. Let’s keep in mind that this team is missing three veteran players and star player Elena Delle Donne but are still finding ways to get the job done. Despite halting their franchise record of being undefeated at 4-0, the Mystics have lost two games against the Storm and Aces. With Delle Donne out, Kristi Toliver has taken the team under her wing and is leading her team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. Rookies Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen have been seeing a lot more time due to the absence of players and have had a huge impact on their team’s success so far. The Dream and Liberty are both standing at exactly a .500 record so far at 2-2. The Dream are just coming off a nail biting win against the Lynx and hopefully that momentum will aid them in another victory against the Mercury Sunday night (June 3rd). Veteran and 2017 All-Star Tiffany Hayes had a dominant performance with 20 points in the victory against the Lynx, and she is currently the leading scorer for the Dream. For the Liberty, they are led by veteran star Tina Charles and rookie Kia Nurse, who just had a 34-point game in a win against the Fever and shot 50 percent from the field. As noted previously, the Sky are struggling as of late to find a way to break their losing streak. Two of their starters are out with injury and did not play in their previous loss against the Sun. The Sky take on the Aces on Sunday June 3rd and just like the Aces, they are a young and rebuilding team. Along with the Sky, the Fever are another team that is struggling in the win column. They have yet to win a game and are at 0-6 making them last in the Eastern Conference. Rookie and the 2nd overall draft pick, Kelsey Mitchell, is the face of this young Fever program. The Fever are definitely in a rebuilding season and with the youthfulness of their team, it is going to take some time for them to see some wins as they gel and mold their younger players.
Not much of a surprise but the Sparks are at the top of the Western standings at 3-1. Candace Parker debuted in her first 2017 game against the Mercury on May 27th. Even though Parker was injured the first three games of the season, the Sparks are still having an outstanding start and have only lost to a really good Sun team. With the return of Parker and adding to their weapons of Ogwumike, Gray and Sims, this Sparks team will definitely do some damage this season. In second place in the west, are the Storm which is a team that has potential to make it to the finals. The Storm are currently 5-2 and exerted a 27-point blow-out against the Aces Thursday night. Stewart, Loyd and Howard have been the trio to lead this team in scoring and success. The Storm have an all-around team that starts with the starting five down to the bench. Rookie guard Jordin Canada brings quickness, energy and a defensive aspect to the game and helps when Sue Bird needs a break. For the Storm, their leading scorers are going to need to continue to produce and the rest of players must maximize on their strengths every minute they are out on the floor in order to go further this season. At 3-3, the Mercury are third in the conference and just beat the Lynx on Friday. They play the Dream on June 3rd and with this win against the reigning champs this a huge confidence booster since they were previously on a 3-game losing streak. The dynamic duo of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage for the Wings are both averaging 20 points per game. The Wings just beat the Storm by 4 points in an exciting game, 94-90. They play the Fever on Friday and should improve their record to 4-3. The Lynx’s start has been a difficult one so far for th 2017 champs. They are currently in second to last place in their conference which has come as much a surprise with the amount of experience and veteran leadership they have. Lynx has one of the most talented starting 5’s in the league but the area they fall short is their production off the bench. They are going to need to figure things out fast in order to not only win another championship but make it to the play-offs this year. The Lynx play the Sparks again on Sunday and hopefully they can redeem themselves and break their losing-streak. Lastly, the new Aces team stand at the bottom of the conference but are trying to work their way up. They just won their first game of the season against the Mystics and are looking to add on to their winning column against the Sky Sunday evening. The Aces currently stand at 1-4 and 0-2 in the conference.