The WNBA Rewind: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

A weekly recap of select WNBA games, ending the week of Sunday, May 28, 2018.

DISCLAIMER: Stats are taken from the official WNBA site. All opinions and rankings are solely from this writer. Don’t @ me.

The Jigsaw

The Las Vegas Aces played the Seattle Storm Sunday night, May 28. While most expected  Seattle to win, no one (including Seattle) expected it to be that close (a seven-point loss by the Aces). The Aces also lost to the Washington Mystics in the game prior, but only by five points (again, unexpectedly close).  However...if Vegas had come out in the beginning with the intensity they showed in the late 3rd and 4th quarters, there might have been upsets. Aj'a Wilson continues to have a sparkling rookie career and has a tendency to double-double; Tamera "Ty" Young provided veteran hustle and flow (I’m officially a fan), and Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum added much-needed offense. This freed up Nia Coffey to take more perimeter shots. Even Dearica Hamby got in on the action, though rookie Jamie Nared didn’t. Lindsay Allen finally woke up in the late 3rd quarter; she needs to get hot a lot earlier. Moriah Jefferson is the missing piece of the jigsaw; hopefully, she comes back soon. I can see this team making the playoffs if they are fully healthy.

The Sun Also Rises

Don't sleep on Connecticut this season. They have started the season with a 3-0 record behind Chiney Ogwumike's return from sitting out last season due to recovery from an Achilles injury sustained while playing overseas.  Granted, two of those wins were against the league’s bottom two teams, the Las Vegas Aces, and the Indiana Fever, but every win counts in this compressed WNBA season (thanks to the upcoming FIBA Women’s Basketball Cup in September). There was a quality win against the Los Angeles Sparks (Chiney finally got a win against her sister, former league MVP Nneka Ogwumike).  Role players and the bench have stepped up in a big way, which means that Ogwumike doesn’t have to shoulder most of the load. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Mystified

The Lynx played the Mystics in another game where most felt the outcome was assured, given that the Mystics won their first 3 games against two of the weakest teams in the league (hi, Las Vegas and Indiana) and Sylvia Fowles has been her usual dominant self in the low post. But, but, but...when Delle Donne went out of the game early with a stomach bug, Rookie Twin Powers...activated! Myisha Hines-Allen (double-doubled, with 15 points and 13 rebounds) and Ariel Atkins (4 three-pointers, a total of 14 points, and outhustled Minnesota) showed up, showed out and, quite frankly, knocked the Lynx on their championship asses.

Minnesota didn't look like champions after reigning league MVP Sylvia Fowles went down in the second quarter with a rolled ankle and played rather conservatively for the rest of game--of which Washington took full advantage. Add a heartbreaker loss (by one point on a Chelsea Gray stunner) to the Sparks and barely escaping the New York Liberty by two points, and the Lynx are not looking like early favorites for a back-to-back championship.

Storm Front

The 3-1 Seattle Storm have officially inserted themselves into the 2018 championship conversation, with their only regular-season loss so far being to their first season meeting with the Phoenix Mercury (they won the second meeting, along with games against the Las Vegas Aces and the Chicago Sky). Sue Bird continues to play at a high level (she turns 38 in October), Jewell Loyd continues to get even better (is that possible?), and Breanna Stewart is elevating her game in a big way. Perhaps the most pertinent contributions are coming from rookie Jordin Canada, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, and offseason acquisition Natasha Howard (from the Minnesota Lynx). Teams haven’t yet found an answer for them, and Howard has worked herself into the starting rotation, to great success. But, but, but...as revered and respected as Seattle is, 4- and 7-point wins over the Sky and Aces, respectively, show that this team can’t take anything for granted if they want to hoist the championship trophy at the end of the season.

Mercury Sinking

This was the hottest game on Sunday, and it didn't disappoint. Candace Parker returned after being out with a back injury and played with nary a bit of rust nor minutes restrictions. Nneka Ogwumike did Nneka things because she's Nneka.  The Sparks had no true answer for Griner, as usual (though they did hold her to only two blocks), and had no clue what to do about Sancho Lyttle (who, like Briann January is proving to be an extremely valuable offseason acquisition). But Phoenix still couldn't come up with an answer for Chelsea Gray (which is becoming the norm), Essence Carson, and Odyssey Sims.

The Mercury dropped their second straight game (they lost their second season meeting with the Storm on Wednesday) and ended the week at 2-2. BTW: they still haven't won in LA for the past six seasons. On a positive note, the "Brittney Blocks" initiative, sponsored by ABUS, has netted $400 so far for Phoenix Children's Hospital (8 recorded blocks over the past four games x $50 per block donated).

Wings, Prayers, Blessings

“Watch Me Work” is more than the WNBA league catchphrase; it’s the new mantra for the Dallas Wings. They are showing and proving this early in the season. Skylar Diggins-Smith is going to another level in her leadership; Allisha Gray is building upon her 2017 Rookie of the Year honors, and fellow second-year player (and Gray’s former college teammate) Kaela Davis is elevating her game as well. Karima Christmas-Kelly continues to be solid, and Liz Cambage has folks quoting an old LL Cool J song: "Don't call it a comeback..." That the team is progressing despite Glory Johnson sitting out due to injury and integrating Cambage’s return to the league after a six-season hiatus is a testament to their cohesion this season.

Sweet Dreams and Beautiful Nightmares

Though they have yet to get above .500, the Atlanta Dream have the makings of a really good team. I don't see them dwelling in the league cellar for long this season. Angel McCoughtry's leadership is invaluable, and the games of Elizabeth Williams and Tiffany Hayes continue to grow. Role players such as Brittney Sykes (FEAR THE ‘FRO), Jessica Vreeland, and Layshia Clarendon are x-factors that can help turn the tide. I look forward to seeing the team gel more under rookie head coach Nicki Collen as the season progresses. And, given the chippy nature of the team’s Saturday game against the Dallas Wings, that is one series (and, dare I say, a brewing rivalry?) that bears watching.

Rookie Watch

Rook of the Week

Jordin Canada, Seattle Storm. Seattle, y'all got a real one. She is playing like a first-round pick and has the increasing trust of franchise cornerstone Sue Bird. If Sue ever needed to take a rest or *gasp* got injured, I could see Canada starting in her place.  If she continues playing at this level, she'll be in the mix for Rookie of the Year.

Rook of the Weak

Alaina Coates, Chicago Sky. To paraphrase the humorous GIF, "Oh no, baby, what is you doing?"  Seriously: Coates is showing none of why she was picked in the first round of the 2017 draft. She often seems hesitant and looks a bit confused, and lacks fire -- the direct opposite of fellow rookies DeShields and Williams, who are repaying the trust shown in their starter status. And yes, I know Coates sat out all last season with injuries (which makes her a second-year rookie). Still, she may be one of those players that just doesn't transition well to the pros. But, it’s still early in the season, and she has time to get her mind right and turn things around.

Rookie of the Year (ROY) Watch

  1. Jordin Canada (SEA)
  2. A'ja Wilson (LV)
  3. Ariel Arkins (WAS)
  4. Diamond DeShields (CHI)
  5. Gabby Williams (CHI)

Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Watch

  1. Sylvia Fowles (MIN)
  2. Natasha Howard (SEA)
  3. Brittney Griner (PHX)
  4. Liz Cambage (DAL)
  5. Sancho Lyttle (PHX)

Most Valuable Player (MVP) Watch

Sylvia Fowles (MIN) *reigning

  1. Brittney Griner (PHX)
  2. Chiney Ogwumike (CON)
  3. Angel McCoughtry (ATL)
  4. Skylar Diggins-Smith (DAL)

6th Woman of the Year (6WOY) Watch

  1. Danielle Robinson (MIN)
  2. Jamierra Faulkner (CHI)
  3. Tianna Hawkins (WAS)
  4. Shekinna Stricklen (CON)
  5. Tamera Young (LV)
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