The WNBA Rewind (All-Star Edition): Week ending July 29

A recap of select WNBA games, including the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game, for the week ending July 29, 2018.

Curious about the captions? Check out the WNBA Rewind playlist on Spotify.

Disclaimer: All stats are courtesy of the official WNBA website. Opinions and rankings are solely those of this author. Don’t @ me.

There were a handful of games before the 2018 All-Star break officially began on Thursday, July 26, as those teams tried to solidify or increase their positions in the WNBA standings. Let’s discuss.

The Bounce

The WNBA announced a league partnership with PUMA Basketball to provide footwear for the league (Nike has the partnership rights to the uniforms) during the 2018 WNBA All-Star Weekend. As PUMA actively re-enters the basketball market after twenty years, they are really trying to do it up big -- with their most recent splash being that rapper Jay-Z (government name: Shawn Carter) was named as Creative Director for the basketball division.

While recently drafted NBA rookies are getting the media shine for signing with PUMA (and being featured on the PUMA Basketball website), Dallas Wings point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith has been a PUMA ambassador since August 2017 (yet her picture is not on the PUMA Basketball website, which is an oversight that PUMA needs to correct ASAPtually).

Diggins-Smith debuted her new sneaker, the Clyde Court Disrupt, during All-Star Weekend and wore them during the All-Star game (she was on Team Parker).

Here’s hoping that not only other companies get on the WNBA endorsement bandwagon, but that the league (via the NBA) realize that their rather archaic regulations are hampering opportunities to increase league revenue. Let’s go, Collective Bargaining Agreement opt-out (in 2019)!

Solar Flare

The Washington Mystics visited the Connecticut Sun in what was the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break. It was a very important game for the Sun, given that they were holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot by a wing and a prayer. Connecticut started off strong but miscommunication and defensive lapses allowed Washington to take advantage. Elena Delle Donne (21 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, two 3-pointers) scored 16 points in the 1st quarter. The Mystics were up 26-19 at the end of the 1st. Connecticut took a 30-28 lead at 6:12 in the 2nd quarter behind an 11-0 run spearheaded by Layshia Clarendon (6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) off the bench. The Sun was up 45-35 at halftime behind a strong performance by Morgan Tuck (14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, two 3-pointers), also off the bench. The Sun continued to dominate to start the 3rd quarter and held Delle Donne scoreless until 3:22 in the 3rd quarter. Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones (season-high 23 pts, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, three 3-pointers) started to heat up with two three-pointers and scored over 1,000 career points. The Sun took a 72-50 lead into the 4th quarter, where five Connecticut players were already in double digits and the team shot 60%. Courtney Williams (17 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, one 3-pointer) tied her career high in scored points and flirted with a triple-double. Aerial Powers (3 points), who was traded from the Dallas Wings in exchange for Tayler Hill, made a 3-pointer late in the 4th quarter for her Mystics debut. Superior Connecticut defense held Delle Donne to 2 points and Kristi Toliver (6 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) to 3 points in the second half. The Sun torched the Mystics 94-68 to win their second game in a row and move to half a game behind Washington in the WNBA league standings. Connecticut held Washington to 38% overall shooting in the game and 15% from 3-point range. Jasmine Thomas (14 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) and Alyssa Thomas (12 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) were also in double digits for Connecticut.

Notorious B.I.G.s

The still-struggling New York Liberty visited the Minnesota Lynx in what turned out to be a Battle of the Big Girls:  Tina Charles (32 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal. 1 block, two 3-pointers) of the Liberty vs. Sylvia Fowles (27 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) of the Lynx. The Liberty came out with strong defense and held Minnesota's Maya Moore (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) to 4 points in the first half. Fowles picked up her 3rd foul with 20 seconds left in 2nd quarter. Strong play by Liberty allowed them to take a 50-46 lead into halftime. Things got very interesting in the 3rd quarter. Liberty head coach Katie Smith received a technical foul less than 2 minutes into the 3rd quarter. The Lynx opened up the quarter with aggressive play and came back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead at 8:31 in the 3rd. New York struggled in the 3rd quarter and allowed too many second (and sometimes third) chances for Minnesota. However, they rallied and went on a run to only be down by 2 points late in the 3rd. Charles (of course) hit a key 3-pointer, her second of the game, to give the Liberty a 1-point lead heading into the 4th quarter. Charles and Fowles both combined for 51 points by the 4th quarter and 59 points by the end of the game. New York’s Epiphanny Prince (4 points, 2 assists) was carried off the court at 9:33 in the 4th quarter with a leg injury and did not return. A Flagrant 1 foul was called on Charles at 6:37 for an inadvertent elbow to the face of the Lynx’s Rebekka Brunson (10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block). Amanda Zahui B (15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) hit a clutch 3-pointer for New York to tie the game with less than 40 seconds left in the game.  Moore's clutch free throws, thanks to an ill-advised foul by the Liberty’s Brittany Boyd (4 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), put the Lynx up by 2 points with 13.9 seconds left in the game. A blocked Sugar Rodgers (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal) shot by Brunson and a Moore rebound (with a foul) gave a path for Minnesota to grind out an 85-82 win for their third straight win. Charles' 32 points were the most scored by any of the Lynx’s opponent players this season. Seimone Augustus (14 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists) and Lindsey Whalen (10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, one 3-pointer) were also in double digits for Minnesota. Bria Hartley chipped in 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and one three-pointer for New York.

Eight Is Enough

The Atlanta Dream visited the Los Angeles Sparks in a bid to hang on to their #2  league ranking (the Sparks are currently in the #3 spot). Los Angeles was again without Nneka Ogwumike (illness) and Alana Beard (groin injury).  There was no Damiris Dantas for Atlanta (ankle injury). The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry (19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, one 3-pointer) was all alone out of the opening tipoff to score the first 2 points of the game. Atlanta took an 8-2 lead in the first 3 minutes of the game but also had four turnovers due to miscommunication. Candace Parker (17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, one 3-pointer) tied the game 10-10  for Los Angeles at 5:12 in the 1st quarter and a subsequent 3-pointer gave the Sparks their first lead of the game. The Sparks were up 22-18 at the end of the 1st. Though there were six ties and nine lead changes in the 1st half, Los Angeles had a 41-37 lead at halftime thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Essence Carson (11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, three 3-pointers). Carson was held scoreless in the 3rd quarter as Atlanta went on a 4-0 run to open the quarter and tie the game at 41-41. The game went back and forth and was tied 60-60 heading into the 4th quarter with 15 ties and 14 lead changes. Parker was held to 6 points in the second half. The Dream managed to pull away and win their eighth straight game, 81-71, to start the All-Star break. This was the Sparks’ 5th straight home loss. Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams (12 points, 6 rebounds) scored her 1,000th career point. Brittney Sykes (13 points, 4 rebounds, one 3-pointer) and All-Star snub Tiffany Hayes (12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) were also in double digits for Atlanta. Chelsea Gray (18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and rookie Maria Vadeeva (10 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block) were also in double digits for Los Angeles.

1nce Again

The Chicago Sky visited a severely depleted Phoenix Mercury: Diana Taurasi was out due to suspension (she received her 7th technical foul in the Mercury’s loss to the Las Vegas Aces) and Leilani Mitchell was out due to the birth of her first child in Australia. To make matters worse, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (12 points, 2 rebounds) struggled with back spasms. The lineup omissions for the Mercury were glaring as the team was plagued by turnovers and allowed the Sky to take an assertive lead early in the 1st quarter. Diamond DeShields (25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) was a major thorn on Phoenix's side, scoring 15 pts in the 1st quarter. DeWanna Bonner (season-high 30 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) and Briann January (20 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, four 3-pointers) kept the Mercury in the game thanks to 3-pointers and Phoenix took a 4-point lead. A buzzer-beating, coast-to-coast layup by Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot (17 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal, 1 block) put the Sky up 29-28 at the end of the 1st. Cheyenne Parker (10 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 blocks), Kahleah Copper (7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, one 3-pointer), and rookie Linnae Harper (2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist) were strong contributors off the bench for the Sky, especially in the 2nd quarter. Chicago took a 56-43 lead into halftime. Griner had 3 fouls at halftime and picked up her fourth foul for an inadvertent face hit on the Sky’s Stefanie Dolson (13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) less than 30 seconds into the 3rd quarter, which was upgraded to a Flagrant 2 foul; Griner was ejected from the game (just as she was in the last game against Chicago, which was also due to a face hit to Dolson). The Mercury cut a 16-point Chicago lead to 8 points at 7:05 in the 3rd, thanks to Bonner and Yvonne Turner (8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, one 3-pointer). Phoenix went on an 11-2 run to close the deficit to 3 points. Bonner scored her third double-double of the season late in the 3rd quarter. The Sky led 71-67 to start the 4th quarter and went on to win, 101-87. Allie Quigley chipped in 19 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and five 3-pointers for Chicago.

All The Stars

The 2018 WNBA All-Star game was hosted by the reigning champion Minnesota Lynx in Minneapolis, MN.

The game continued to build upon previous years; this year, there were 15,922 people in attendance including the mayor of Minneapolis, Mark Dayton, and Minnesota Timberwolves NBA owner Glen Taylor. Sandy Brondello (head coach, Phoenix Mercury) was the the coach for the team captained by Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks; 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, one 3-pointer), while Dan Hughes (head coach, Seattle Storm) was the coach for the team captained by Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, two 3-pointers).

As was expected of the mostly exhibition nature of an All-Star game, there were lots of missed shots, not much defense, and this time a failed dunk by Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury (as mentioned above, Griner had been suffering from back spasms).  Both teams combined for ten 3-pointers in the 1st quarter. As is becoming the increasing norm, younger players for both teams got subbed in early so that the veterans, many of whom were multiple All-Stars, could rest. Team Delle Donne was up 31-27 at the end of the 1st quarter and opened up a 12-point in the 2nd quarter before Team Parker went on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 4 points halfway through 2nd qtr. Team Delle Donne led 54-50 at halftime.

Halftime brought the 3-Point Shootout Contest. Defending champion Allie Quigley (Chicago SKy/Team Parker, 18 points, 1 rebound, w assists ,four 3-pointers), Kayla McBride (Las Vegas Aces/Team Delle Donne, 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, one 3-pointer), Kristi Toliver (Washington Mystics/Team Delle Donne, 23 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, seven 3-pointers), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm/Team Parker, 12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, two 3-pointers), Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever), and Renee Montgomery (Atlanta Dream) were the six participants. Montgomery honored her snubbed teammate Tiffany Hayes by wearing Hayes’ jersey during the contest.

Each player played for a charity dear to their hearts, for which the contest winner would receive a $10,000 donation: The Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship (Quigley); Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southern Nevada (McBride); Pender County Humane Society (Toliver); Strong Against Cancer (Loyd); Be A Friend Program, Inc. and Catch the Stars Foundation (Mitchell); and the YWCA of Charleston, West Virginia (Montgomery).

After the first round, the top three scorers were Toliver (19 three-point shots made), McBride, and Quigley (tied at 22 made shots apiece).  Quigley opted to go first in the tiebreaker round with McBride and made 29 (!) threes to win the contest; McBride came in 2nd with 20 made baskets. Quigley's $10,000 charity donation went to the Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship Fund, named after her late father.

The All-Star game picked up in the 3rd quarter with more defense and teammate-on-teammate crime (for those players who play for the same team in the regular season but opposite teams in the All-Star Game). Team Parker took a 4-point lead halfway through the 3rd and the game was tied 64-64 halfway through 3rd, and again late in 3rd. Team Parker was up 84-78 heading into the 4th quarter. For what may have been the first time in league history, a travel was called in an All-Star game on Chiney Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Team Parker) in the 4th quarter. Team Delle Donne went on a run to close the 13-point gap to 5 points late in the 4th. Back to back 3-pointers by Toliver (who made a total of seven 2nd-half 3-pointers). and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury/Team Delle Donne) cut Team Parker’s lead to 2 pts. Team Parker was up 115-112 with 1:07 left in the game; they won 119-112 and finished the game with a Liz Cambage (Dallas Wings/Team Parker) dunk.  Maya Moore (18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) was named All-Star Game MVP and became the second WNBA player in league history to win three All-Star MVP awards. Moore also had the most All-Star Game points by a player in WNBA All-Star Game history (109 points).

Rookie A’Ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/Team Delle Donne, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals) scored the 2nd-highest amount of points for a rookie in an All-Star Game in league history.

The 2019 WNBA All-Star Game will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and hosted by the Las Vegas Aces. Deposits are now being accepted for tickets.

Rookie Watch

Rook of the Week

Regular-season game

Maria Vadeeva (LAS). Though she missed the first few games of the season due to visa issues, Vadeeva has proven herself to be solid off the bench and, like her fellow international rookie Ji-Su Park (Las Vegas Aces), is a big who can shoot, especially from mid-range and top of the key. Teams are becoming increasingly surprised at how good Vadeeva is and the immediate impact she can make on the game; she will be a staple on next season’s scouting reports.

All-Star Game

A’Ja Wilson (LV). Not only was Wilson the only rookie to be voted into this year’s ASG, she scored the second-highest amount of points for a rookie in league history.

Rook of the Weak

None. All of the rookies, including undrafted ones (hi, Linnae Harper) are finding their grooves or regaining it (hi, Kelsey Mitchell) and making their presences felt. Their contributions will be just as important as their teams make a playoff push in the final games of the 2018 season.

Rookie of the Year

A’Ja Wilson (LV)

Diamond DeShields (CHI)

Kelsey Mitchell (IND)

Victoria Vivians (IND)

Kia Nurse (NY)

Defensive Player of the Year

Natasha Howard (SEA)

Liz Cambage (DAL)

Sylvia Fowles (MIN)

Brittney Griner (PHX)

Jessica Breland (ATL)

6th Woman of the Year

Brittney Sykes (ATL)

Courtney Paris (SEA)

Danielle Robinson (MIN)

Riquna Williams (LAS)

LaToya Sanders (WAS)

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