The WNBA Rewind: Week ending August 12

A recap of select WNBA games and league news for the week ending August 12, 2018.

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

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

The playoff race just got even tighter, more WNBA her-story was made, and the first team regime change occurred. Let's discuss.

The Bounce

  • Travel and exhaustion woes continue to plague the league, as Dallas Wings guard Skylar Diggins-Smith is the latest to speak out against the league's travel policy, but this time with regard to scheduling.

Say what you want about the Las Vegas Aces sitting out a game in protest of the league's current travel policies and getting a forfeit for their troubles, but they have jump-started the conversation about those policies in a way the league has not seen in quite some time, if ever. Diggins-Smith, who supported the Aces' decision, is one of the more vocal veterans in the league; this is not going to go away and continues to be an unfavorable look for the league Powers That Be. 

  • Injuries are piling up as teams gear up for the playoffs. Unfortunately, it's key players that are being injured, which means that this year's playoffs are going to be even more exciting as we see which teams will speak about "next man up" and which teams will actually live that principle.
  • In case you missed it, August is Breast Health Awareness Month in the WNBA. Each team has designated home games in which to wear custom BHA uniforms (I'm not a Nike fan, but this season's charcoal gray unis with bright pink insets are quite classy). Breast cancer survivors are also honored and resources for better breast health are shared. 

In Other News

  • Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) continued to make WNBA league history by becoming the first player to record 50 assists across four consecutive games.  (this happened last week)
  • Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) scored her 5,000th career point last week in the game against the Phoenix Mercury. She passed Taj McWilliams-Franklin (currently the interim head coach for the Dallas Wings -- see below) on the list.
  • Alex Bentley (Atlanta Dream) scored her 2,000th career point vs. the Minnesota Lynx last week.
  • Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream, Eastern Conference) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks, Western Conference) were named Players of the Week (again).
  • Kia Vaughn (New York Liberty) surpassed franchise legend Teresa Weatherspoon to become 5th on the franchise's all-time rebounds list.
  • ICYMI: the WNBA ruled that the Las Vegas Aces forfeited their no-play game, which gave the Washington Mystics the win. The Aces have been the favorite butt of color commentators’ jokes (Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, and Phoenix Mercury commentators in particular) since the decision was handed down.
  • Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) became the league’s all-time leader in minutes played (16,089) when the Storm played the Indiana Fever, passing WNBA legend, Naismith Hall Of Famer and current University of Virginia head coach Tina Thompson.
  • Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury combined for 84 points against the Washington Mystics, the most scored by a trio of teammates in WNBA regulation history.
  • Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream) signed a multi-year contract extension with the team.
  • The Connecticut Sun, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, and Phoenix Mercury officially clinched playoff spots this week. That leaves one playoff spot available. The Dallas Wings, Las Vegas Aces, and Chicago Sky are battling for that final spot at the beginning of Sunday's (more on that below).
  • Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians of the Indiana Fever set a league record for the most three-pointers (119) by a rookie duo in WNBA history in their game against the Phoenix Mercury.
  • Renee Montgomery (Atlanta Dream) made seven 3-pointers in one half to set a WNBA record in the Dream's 86-77 win over the New York Liberty; her eight total 3-pointers tied the league's record for 3-pointers made in a regular-season game. The win helped Atlanta maintain their hold on the #2 seed.
  • The Dallas Wings' playoff hopes took another blow in Sunday's 93-80 loss to the Washington Mystics AND the subsequent firing of head coach Fred Williams (assistant coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin will be the interim head coach). At this rate, the Aces might actually make the playoffs (at the time of publication, Dallas was in 8th place and Las Vegas was in 9th place). 
  • The Seattle Storm maintained their top spot in the league with an 81-72 win over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Sunday, despite Sylvia Fowles' 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 assists for the Lynx. Minnesota dropped to the 7th seed. 

It’s A (Block) Party

The Las Vegas Aces visited the Atlanta Dream as they continued to try and make the playoffs after the official forfeiting of the game against the Washington Mystics. The Dream was still without Damiris Dantas (ankle); Angel McCoughtry (21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, three 3-pointers) under the weather (cold). The Aces started off strong with the first 4 points of the game, then went on a 9-2 run early in the 1st quarter. Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams (career-high 22 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks) was aggressive in the 1st quarter. Two fouls were called on The Dream’s Jessica Breland (6 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 5 blocks) late in the 1st quarter. Alex Bentley (season-high 22 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) was a spark off the Atlanta bench, scoring 6 immediate points. A 3rd foul was called on Breland early in the 2nd quarter. A steal + buzzer-beating layup by The Dream’s Brittney Sykes (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, two 3-pointers) narrowed Aces lead 31-27 end of 1st. 2 quick fouls on Coffey in less than 2 minutes in the 2nd quarter.  McCoughtry’s free throws tied the game 34-34 at the 8:00 marl. Las Vegas’ Nia Coffey (2 points) picked up her 3rd foul 7:22. The Dream went on an 8-3 run at 5:50 in the 3rd quarter. The Aces returned with a quick run of their own to take a 1-point lead at 4:30. Back to back 3-pointers by Kelsey Plum (20 points, career-high and franchise-tying 13 assists, 2 steals) and Jaime Nared (6 points) put Las Vegas up 60-56 halftime. The Aces’ Tamera Young (7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) picked up her 3rd foul early in 3rd. Tiffany Hayes (21 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, two 3-pointers) tied the game for Atlanta at 4:48; there were 8 ties and 8 lead changes in the 3rd quarter alone. A 4th foul was called on Young at 1:07, but the Aces still had an 84-80 lead heading into the 4th quarter. McCoughtry injured her knee with 5:34 left in the game and left the court; she did not return. A technical foul was called on the Aces' trainer from Las Vegas bench at the 3:30 mark. A 3-pointer by Hayes put the Dream up 101-97. Atlanta managed to limit Las Vegas’ Kayla McBride (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) to only 1 point in the 4th quarter. A block party by Atlanta was hosted by Breland, Williams, Bentley, and Sykes in the 4th (14 total in the game, the highest number of blocks in a game in franchise history). Atlanta wins and secures a playoff spot with a franchise-high 109-100, won 11 of last 12. Rookie A’ja  Wilson (18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals) and Dearica Hamby (13 points, w rebounds, 2 assists) were also in double digits for Las Vegas.

I Put A Spell On You

The Washington Mystics visited the Phoenix Mercury, fresh off an extra win thanks to the Las Vegas Aces’ forfeit.  Washington came out strong; every starter except rookie Ariel Atkins (4 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) scored for the Mystics. A technical foul called on Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi (29 points,7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, three 3-pointers) in the previous game against the Aces was rescinded, which also nulled her league-mandated one-game suspension. A technical foul (dead ball foul) was called on Brittney Griner (35 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block) with 24.7 seconds left in the 1st quarter. Washington led 30-20 at end of the 1st quarter. DeWanna Bonner (20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, two 3-pointers) went scoreless for the Mercury in the 1st quarter. Phoenix was more aggressive behind the play of Bonner and Griner in the 2nd quarter but the Mystics had a 57-50 lead at halftime. Griner played the entire first half. Washington’s Natasha Cloud (15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, four 3-pointers) opened the 3rd quarter with a 3-pointer. The Mystics’ Kristi Toliver (25 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, four 3-pointers) picked up her 4th foul at the 6:43 in the 3rd quarter.  The Mercury went on a run to overcome a 15-point deficit to tie game 64-64 at 5:23 in the 3rd quarter. The Mystics took lead late in the 3rd and went on a run but Phoenix had a 76-75 lead headed into the 4th quarter.  A Toliver 3-pointer gave Washington the lead at 8:23 in the 4th quarter, then an immediate bucket pushed the lead to 82-79, thanks to an 11-3 run by Washington. A 4th foul was called on Phoenix’s Briann January (9 points, 4 rebounds,4 assists, 1 steal, one 3-pointer) with 5:19 left in the game. A 5th foul was called on Toliver with 4:25 left in the game. Stephanie Talbot (2 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) hit a clutch 3-pointer for Phoenix to cut the Washington lead to 4 points with 30 seconds left in the game; January was called for her 5th foul. Taurasi was fouled in the act of shooting a 3-pointer with 17.5 seconds left; she made all three to cap a Mercury 10-2 run late in the 4th quarter. Toliver was fouled a third time with 4.3 seconds left in the game and made her free throws. The Mystics won their fourth straight game 103-98 to secure a playoff berth and win the season series against Phoenix. Elena Delle Donne (30 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, two 3-pointers) and LaToya Sanders (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) were also in double digits for Washington.  Griner, Taurasi, and Bonner combined for 84 points in the Mercury's fourth straight loss at home.

Icarus

The Dallas Wings hosted the Connecticut Sun in an effort to stop their losing streak and try to gain a foothold in the postseason. The Wings started out strong, but the Sun started raining 3-pointers. The Wings didn't give up and Skylar Diggins-Smith (18 points, 3 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers), who returned after missing the previous two games due to a facial injury, tied the game with a 3-pointer of her own at 3:40 in the 1st quarter. Connecticut went on 9-0 run to take a 9-point lead. Dallas’ Tayler Hill (8 points, 2 assists, one 3-pointer) drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut Connecticut's lead to 28-22 at the end of the 1st quarter. Liz Cambage (29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block) picked up her 2nd foul for Dallas late in the 2nd quarter. Dallas couldn't find an answer for the Sun's Courtney Williams (10 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) and Layshia Clarendon (4 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists), and were plagued by turnovers.  Connecticut had a 48-32 lead at halftime. Chiney Ogwumike (13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) picked up her 3rd foul for the Sun at 5:52 in the 3rd quarter. Diggins-Smith was called for her 2nd foul at the 5:13 mark and her 3rd foul 10 seconds later. Theresa Plaisance (13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, three 3-pointers) got hot late in the 3rd for Dallas with back-to-back 3-pointers. Dallas made a bit of a push but the Sun was still up 80-60 heading into the 4th quarter. The 4th foul was called on Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones (17 points, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks, three 3-pointers) with 7:38 left in the 4th, and her 5th foul a minute later after hitting Cambage in the head; Cambage headed to the locker room with 2:19 left in the game and did not return. Dallas came back from a 22-point deficit to pull within 6 points with 42 seconds left in the game. The Wings outscored Connecticut by 20 points in the 4th quarter but it wasn't enough as the Sun won 101-92 and clinched a playoff spot. This was Dallas's sixth loss in a row and the Sun's fifth straight win. Connecticut had 25 assists as a team. Alyssa Thomas (22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and Jasmine Thomas (17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals)  were also in double digits for the Sun. Rookie Azurá Stevens chipped in 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal1 block, and one 3-pointer for Dallas.

Avada Kedavra

The Washington Mystics hosted the number-one ranked Seattle Storm and matched up with Seattle from the opening tip. Aerial Powers (6 points, 1 steal) gave an immediate boost for Washington off the bench. The Mystics went on a 19-7 run in the last six minutes of the 1st quarter to take a 31-18 lead at the end of the 1st. Powers almost broke Seattle’s Sami Whitcomb's (11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, three 3-pointers) ankles before getting fouled and draining both free throws early in the 2nd quarter. Two straight 3-pointers by Monique Currie (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, two 3-pointers) gave the Mystics an 18-point lead halfway through the 2nd quarter; Washington led 57-43 at halftime. Elena Delle Donne (30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, three 3-pointers) opened the 3rd quarter with a 3-pointer to give Mystics a 20-point lead. Washington continued to limit Seattle as they took an 83-60 lead heading into the 4th quarter. Seattle opened the 4th quarter with 11-0 run and cut their deficit to 14 points. Washington maintained the course and won 100-77. LaToya Sanders (17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block), Natasha Cloud (14 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, two 3-pointers), and rookie Ariel Atkins (12 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) were also in double digits for the Mystics. Jewell Loyd (15 points, 2 rebounds, three 3-pointers), Natasha Howard (15 points, 2 rebounds, one 3-pointer), and Breanna Stewart (10 points, 3 rebounds) each added double digits for the Storm.

Killer "B"s

When the Los Angeles Sparks visited the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta was without franchise pillar Angel McCoughtry, who was ruled out for the season with torn ligaments in her knee incurred during the game against the Las Vegas Aces 2 days prior. Los Angeles was on the second night of a back-to-back. Atlanta started out a bit discombobulated (missed shots, turnovers) which could be expected of a team that unexpectedly lost their franchise player. The Dream’s Renee Montgomery (9 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, one 3-pointer) continued to struggle with her 3-point shot. The Sparks were up 17-13 at the end of the 1st quarter. An Alex Bentley (13 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, one 3-pointer) layup at 7:34 in the 2nd quarter gave the Dream a 1-point lead, followed by a key steal and layup by rookie Monique Billings (4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals) to put Atlanta up 22-19. The Dream’s Imani McGee-Stafford (2 points, 2 rebounds) picked up her 2nd foul at the 6:32 mark and Los Angeles' Alana Beard (2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 steals) her second at 6:19. The game was tied for the second time, 24-24, at 4:03 a third time at 3:45, and a fourth time (31-31) with 58 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. A Montgomery buzzer-beater 3-pointer gave the Dream a 36-33 lead at halftime. Los Angeles overcame a 7-point deficit to tie the game 43-43 at 5:54 in the 3rd quarter. Another tie (45-45) occurred at 5:28. A 4th foul was called on Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams (10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist) at 4:54 in the 3rd and Beard picked up her 4th foul late in the 3rd. Atlanta took a 63-55 lead into the 4th quarter. The Sparks came back to close Atlanta's lead to one point, thanks to the hot hand of Riquna Williams (18 points, 1 assist, 2 steals, three 3-pointers) off the bench. Ogwumike picked up her 5th foul halfway through the 4th quarter. Despite a key 3-pointer by Los Angeles’ R. Williams with 15 seconds left in the game, Atlanta hung on to secure their 12th win in the past 13 games, 79-73, and win the series tiebreaker against Los Angeles. Jessica Breland (19 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks) led the way for Atlanta while Tiffany Hayes (13 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, ) was also in double digits for the Dream. Candace  Parker (20 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, one 3-pointer) and Chelsea Gray (13 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, one 3-pointer) were also in double digits for Los Angeles.

Nine Lives

The Minnesota Lynx played their fifth game in eight days when they visited the Las Vegas Aces. Any combination of three Aces wins/Dallas Wings losses would clinch a playoff spot for Las Vegas, so every game from here on out would be crucial for them. The Lynx were without Rebekkah Brunson (broken nose/concussion) or Lindsay Whalen (rest) for the second straight game. Las Vegas’ Tamera Young (16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, one 3-pointer) scored her first 11 points in the 1st quarter, which helped counteract four Aces turnovers. Minnesota took a 20-19 lead late in the 1st quarter but Nia Coffey (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) free throws put the Aces up 21-20 at the end of the 1st quarter. 3-pointers by Las Vegas’  Kelsey Plum (11 points, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, one 3-pointer) and Kayla McBride (7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, one 3-pointer) tied the game again at 6:42 in the 2nd quarter. Minnesota’s Danielle Robinson (7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal) went down with a left ankle injury after making a layup at the 5:38 mark, audibly crying in pain. She returned to the court after the time-out to take her free throws, then left the game; she was questionable to return, then downgraded as out halfway through the 3rd quarter. Back to back 3-pointers by Maya Moore (34 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) late in the 2nd quarter gave the Lynx a 39-31 lead. Minnesota up 43-37 at halftime. The Aces had no answer for Moore and bench spark Tanisha Wright (16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, two 3-pointers). Minnesota went on a 13-4 run and was up 70-55 heading into the 4th quarter. McBride injured her arm at 8:39 in the 4th quarter, but returned halfway through the quarter. Minnesota was too much for Las Vegas and took their second straight win, 89-73, and secured their 8th consecutive playoff spot (longest active postseason streak). Seimone Augustus (11 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, one 3-pointer) and Sylvia Fowles (10 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks) were also in double digits for the Lynx. Rookie A’ja Wilson chipped in 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks for Las Vegas.

Don't Dream It's Over

The Connecticut Sun visited the Chicago Sky in what promised to be an intense game: the Sun, though they already secured a playoff spot behind a 5-game winning streak, was hoping to move up in the standings while the Sky hoped to get one step closer to sneaking into the postseason. The Sky went on a 6-0 run in the first 90 seconds of the game and prompted a Connecticut time out. The Sky's Allie Quigley (17 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, three 3-pointers) had 11 points in the first 3 minutes of the 1st quarter. Chicago put a lot of pressure on a road-weary Sun team and led 29-16 at the end of the 1st quarter. Connecticut came out with more intensity in the 2nd quarter but had 10 turnovers in the first half. The Sky were up 54-38 at halftime. Connecticut ramped up the pressure in the 3rd quarter, especially when Shekinna Stricklen (12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, four 3-pointers) came off the bench and hit three straight 3-pointers. The Sun’s Alyssa Thomas (5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) got inadvertently elbowed in the lip by Quigley with 51 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. Chicago took a 72-66 lead into the 4th quarter. A Jonquel Jones (13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, two 3-pointers) 3-pointer 30 seconds into the quarter cut the Sky lead to 3 points. Chicago refused to give up and ballooned the lead back to 10 points thanks to key 3-pointers by Quigley and Stefanie Dolson (16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, two 3-pointers) with 31 seconds left in the game. The Sky ended Connecticut's 5-game winning streak and picked up a 97-86 win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot (20 points, 15 assists, 2 blocks, two 3-pointers) made WNBA history by becoming the first player ever to record 20 points and 15 assists in a single game. Diamond DeShields (12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block), Gabby Williams (11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assist, 3 steals, one 3-pointer), and Kaleah Copper (10 points, 1 rebound, 1 block, one 3-pointer) were also in double digits for Chicago. Chiney Ogwumike chipped in 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) for Connecticut.

Lock It

The Dallas Wings were without Liz Cambage (neck) or Kaela Davis (illness) when they visited the Atlanta Dream; Atlanta was without Angel McCoughtry (knee) or Damiris Dantas (ankle). The Dream came out swinging early and punched Dallas in the mouth, prompting a Wings time-out halfway through the 1st quarter.  Atlanta was up 29-17 at the end of the 1st quarter. Dallas came out more aggressive and cut the deficit to 6 points early in the 2nd quarter.  Wings rookie Azurá Stevens (10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) picked up her 3rd foul at the 6:21 mark in the 2nd quarter. Skylar Diggins-Smith (26 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, two 3-pointers) took over for Dallas in the second half of the 2nd quarter and steered the Wings on a 6-0 run. Atlanta stayed the course and had a 49-39 lead at halftime. Unfortunately, a thrilling buzzer-beater basket by Dream rookie Monique Billings (2 points, 1 rebound, 1 block) was disallowed for being shot too late. The Wings had short bursts of energy but the Dream was able to adapt and adjust. They led 65-54 heading into the 4th quarter. Atlanta’s Tiffany Hayes (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) tweaked her ankle with 42 seconds left in the game. Atlanta won 92-82 for their fifth straight and the franchise's record 21st game win. With this win, Atlanta officially clinched a top-four playoff seed and will have their first game of the playoffs at home. This was Dallas's seventh straight loss, which kept the playoff hopes alive for the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky. Renee Montgomery led the way for the Dream with 24 points, 5 assists, and 1 steal;  Elizabeth Williams (18 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks) and Jessica Breland (13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) were also in double digits. Dallas had three other players in double digits: Theresa Plaisance (13 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, three 3-pointers), Tayler Hill (10 points, 3 rebounds, two 3-pointers), and Kayla Thornton (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, one 3-pointer).

Staying Alive

The Las Vegas Aces hosted the Indiana Fever in a must-win scenario in order to try and make the postseason.  Las Vegas came out strong and went on a 9-4 run in the first two minutes of the game. The Aces never took a very large lead and Indiana cut the deficit to 4 points with 24 seconds left in the 1st quarter. The Aces led 28-22 at the end of the 1st. Despite short runs by Indiana, Las Vegas led 51-40 at halftime. The Aces continued to keep their foot on the gas in a strong 3rd quarter and took a commanding 73-58 lead heading into the 4th quarter. The Aces led the entire game and won 92-74 to stay in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot. This was Las Vegas' first win since July 22. Kelsey Plum (20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, two 3-pointers), A’Ja Wilson (19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks), Kayla McBride, 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, one 3-pointer), and Moriah Jefferson (11 points, 2 steals, one 3-pointer) led the way for Las Vegas. Erica Wheeler (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) Tiffany Mitchell (11 points,8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, three 3-pointers), and rookie Kelsey Mitchell (11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, two 3-pointers) were the scoring leaders for Indiana.

You Are My Sunshine

The Connecticut Sun hosted the Chicago Sky as the former team looked to improve its playoff position while the latter team was just hoping to get one step closer to making the playoffs, period. Both teams were evenly matched until Connecticut went on a 6-0 run to take a 5-point lead late in the 1st quarter. The Sun led 23-15 at the end of the 1st quarter. Chicago came out a lot more aggressive in the 2nd quarter and went on an 8-0 run, boosted by Stefanie Dolson’s back-to-back 3-pointers, to cut Connecticut’s lead to one point at the 6:19 mark. The Sky ramped up the pressure to take a 3-point lead late in the 2nd quarter and go up 38-35 at halftime. Courtney Williams picked up her 3rd foul within the first 30 seconds of the 3rd quarter. The Sun outscored Chicago 27-8 in the 3rd quarter and went on a 14-0 run late in the 3rd quarter to take a 61-46 lead into the 4th quarter; Chicago had not scored since the 4:10 mark in the 3rd quarter. Williams picked up her 5th foul with 7:39 left in the game and Chicago cut the Sun’s lead to 6 points behind costly fouls by Connecticut. An Alaina Coates layup cut the Sky’s deficit to four points. Jasmine Thomas took over for the rest of the quarter and Connecticut got their sixth win in seven games, 82-75. They outrebounded Chicago for a season-high 51-33 to mathematically eliminate the Sky from playoff contention.

Movin' On Up

Both the archrival Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks hoped to boost their playoff standings as the Mercury hosted the Sparks, but Phoenix needed the boost more than the Sparks did. The Mercury certainly played with more urgency, though both teams came ready to play and were tied within the first four minutes of the 1st quarter. Candace Parker (23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) made it clear that she was going to be the conductor of the Los Angeles train as she scored 15 points and 5 rebounds in the 1st quarter and 20 points in the first half The Sparks took a 1-point lead, 22-21, at the end of the 1st quarter. Diana Taurasi (20 points, 5 rebounds, career-high 14 assists, two 3-pointers) had 8 assists in the first quarter. The Sparks stayed ahead but Phoenix put on a 16-4 run; a 3-pointer by DeWanna Bonner (31 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, five 3-pointers) tied the game 2:46 in the 2nd quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bonner and Yvonne Turner (8 points, two 3-pointers) gave Phoenix a 6-point lead with 29 seconds left in the 2nd quarter and a steal by Turner from the Sparks’ Chelsea Gray (7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) gave Phoenix a 41-34 lead at halftime. The Mercury continued to apply pressure to begin the 3rd quarter and maintained a 6-point lead until halfway through the 3rd quarter when costly fouls by Los Angeles (include fouling Taurasi in the act of shooting a 3-pointer) ballooned the Mercury’s lead to 10 points. Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks) hit the Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike (13 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, one 3-pointer) in the mouth at 3:51 in the 3rd quarter but was only called for a common foul. The Sparks went on a run and cut their deficit to 4 points with 2:23 left in the 3rd. Phoenix went on a 6-3 run to bring the lead back to 10 points with 1:09 left in the 3rd. Rookie Maria Vadeeva (16 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) was called for her fourth foul in four minutes with an inadvertent hit to Taurasi’s mouth with 45 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. The Mercury led the Sparks 67-54 to start the 4th quarter, thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Bonner to cap an 11-2 run. Taurasi was fouled to start the 4th quarter and give the Mercury a 73-54 lead less than a minute into the quarter. Taurasi took a fall after a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles’ Odyssey Sims at 7:21 in the 4th quarter; she stayed in the game but an eye will be kept on her performance going forward into the last week of the regular season. Vadeeva hit a three-pointer at the 1:26 mark to cut the lead to 8 points, but Taurasi had the answer seconds later. Bonner ‘s two-point shot as the clock expired (plus a foul) sealed the deal on a much-needed win, 86-78, to move up to 6th in the league rankings. Riquna Williams chipped in 13 points, 1 rebound, and three 3-pointers for Los Angeles. 

Rook of the Week

Monique Billings (Atlanta Dream) 
Billings has been getting increased minutes and though the stat sheets may not reflect her efforts, she has made some crucial plays to help the Dream cement their playoff position (currently #2 in the league). She will be an X-factor as Atlanta shoots (no pun intended) for its first franchise championship in the absence of Angel McCoughtry.

Rookie of the Week

None.

Rookie of the Year

A’ja Wilson (LV)

Diamond DeShields (CHI)

Defensive Player of the Year

Natasha Howard (SEA)

Jessica Breland (ATL)

Sylvia Fowles (MIN)

Brittney Griner (PHX)

6th Woman of the Year

Brittney Sykes (ATL)

Danielle Robinson (MIN)

Jonquel Jones (CON)

Riquna Williams (LA)

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