The WNBA Rewind: Week ending July 8

A recap of select WNBA games for the week ending July 8, 2018.

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

Disclaimer: All statistics are taken from the WNBA site. Opinions and rankings are solely those of this author. Don’t @ me.

Wooooo...this has been a week of WNBA history, upsets, and historical upsets. Historical moments have been noted in bold type for this week’s edition, plus some more at the end of the recaps. Let's discuss.

The Bounce

The (perpetual) topic du jour in the WNBA league once again came to the forefront this week: pay inequality. The jumpoff was a random comment by Las Vegas Aces rookie A’Ja Wilson, commenting on LeBron James’ $154 million dollar contract that he recently signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Wilson made it clear that James deserved what he got, but also made it clear that it was a sad state of affairs that he got so much while she and her fellow players can’t even get $1 million (the salary cap is $113,000 per year; first-round picks like Wilson make anywhere from $40,000 to $78,000 per year) unless they play overseas (which is where other countries throw money at WNBA players, to the tune of $ 1 million and up for the 9-month basketball season). All-Star veterans Kayla McBride, also of the Aces, and Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings chimed in with an agreement and, in the case of McBride, defense of her comments as well (her Twitter feed is worth a read). NBA legend Alex English, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors also supported both a pay increase and an increase in respect for the women’s league as professional athletes who work just as hard as the men do.

Enter the usual trolls (“get back in the kitchen”), naysayers {“Nobody watches the WNBA”) and mansplaining (“The NBA players play in 82 games; WNBA plays in 32” and “If the league doesn’t get enough revenue, then players don’t get paid enough money; it’s simple math.” and also “Well, why don’t you negotiate for more money?”). Granted, one wonders why the WNBA players agreed to such a low negotiation percentage (I’ve seen figures from anywhere between 22% to 31% of league revenue); perhaps the players wondered that as well since they hired a new Director of Operations, Terri Carmichael Jackson, two years ago. Jackson is a top-notch attorney who made her bones (and the law) in the NCAA. Fun fact: the players can opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) next year (2019); the CBA actually expires in 2021. It’s about to get very interesting.

Walking On Sunshine

The Connecticut Sun visited the Los Angeles Sparks for yet another reunion/competition of the Ogwumike sisters (Nneka for the Sparks, Chiney for Connecticut). The Sun was still without Alyssa Thomas (shoulder injury) and Courtney Williams (personal). The Sparks were without Sydney Wiese (knee injury).  The Sparks never led during the first half and Candace Parker (17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) was held scoreless during that half. The Sun led in the 1st quarter behind strong play by Rachel Banham (11 points 2 rebounds, 6 assists,), Alexis Bentley (10 points, 4 assists, 1 steal) and Chiney Ogwumike (21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks). Connecticut was up 41-25 at halftime but the Sparks came out strong in the 3rd quarter thanks to Riquna Williams and Parker (53% shooting in the 3rd quarter) to close the gap to a 54-51 Sun lead.  The Sparks finally took the lead, 65-64, late in the 4th quarter but the Sun eked out a win, 73-72, despite 17 turnovers.

You Give Me Fever

Well...after a game delayed due to a shot clock malfunction, things escalated quickly. The Indiana Fever visited the Minnesota Lynx, who were looking for their eighth straight win. It did not go well for the defending national champions.  Natalie Achonwa (17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks) was back in the lineup for the Fever after missing six games with an ankle injury but picked up her third foul and sat most of the third quarter. Indiana recently added Cappie Pondexter (12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal), the savvy All-Star veteran guard and two-time champion (ironically, with the Los Angeles Sparks, who waived her last week). She immediately made a difference and makes one wonder if she was the piece that the Fever have been missing in order to make a real run in the league standings. This was Pondexter’s 200th career game. Minnesota cut an 11-point deficit to two points thanks to Rebekkah Brunson (13 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists) and Maya Moore (9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists); Brunson was the only Lynx in double digits. The Fever was up 34-32 at halftime.  Minnesota shot only 33% yet took a 2-point lead early in the 3rd quarter and held it for most of the quarter, but Indiana came back thanks to the hot hand of rookie Victoria Vivians (13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 3-pointers) and took a 49-46 lead to begin the 4th quarter. Sylvia Fowles (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) earned a Flagrant 1 foul on Achonwa in the 3rd quarter for an errant elbow that knocked Achonwa on her back.  Indiana stayed in front of the Lynx and won (!) 71-59.

Feel So High

The Wings came out swinging and never really let up when they hosted the Chicago Sky. Liz Cambage scored a season-high 37 points (a franchise record) to go with her 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Azurá Stevens (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block) was productive off the bench) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (20 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists, 1 steal, 3 3-pointers) kept her team together and focused. Allisha Gray added 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal). Every active Wings player scored, and this team effort gave Dallas the 108-85 win despite the efforts of Diamond DeShields (20 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals,one 3-pointer) The win was marred by a knee injury to the Sky’s Jamierra Faulkner (9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, one 3-pointer) late in 4th quarter. I can’t unhear her sobbing after an awkward landing after making a layup. It was later revealed that Faulkner tore ACL and was out for the season. Faulkner also tore her ACL (different knee)  in 2016 as well but bounced back to play at the superior level she has this season, so I have no doubt that she’ll be back to form next season. Allie Quigley (18 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, two 3-pointers), Courtney Vandersloot (11 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, three 3-pointers), and Alaina Coates (10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal) were also in double digits for Chicago.

Free Falling

The New York Liberty came looking for vengeance when they landed in the Capitol City,  plus a bounce back from a loss to Storm. New York started out slow and the Mystics led at the end of the first quarter behind the usual stellar play by Elene Delle Donne (21 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, three 3-pointers), but It was a close game in the second half; the largest lead was 2 points. As usual for the Liberty, it was the Tina Charles Show (26 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block); overreliance on her may be part of the Liberty's problem, but I digress. Washington rookie Ariel Atkins (9 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, one 3-pointer) got into early foul trouble and picked up her third personal foul by halftime. The Mystics were up 41-42 at the half. A 3-pointer from Kristi Toliver (11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers) to begin the 3rd quarter put the Mystics up 45-41 and it was downhill from there for New York. Natasha Cloud (10 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 2 3-pointers) and Tianna Hawkins (9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) added to the deluge of three-pointers rained upon the Liberty. Washington was up 64-59 to begin the 4th quarter. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Toliver less than 30 seconds into the 4th quarter pretty much ended the game then, as the Mystics went on a 7-0 run to open up a 12-point lead. Washington won 86-67. Epiphanny Prince (11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) was the only other Liberty player in double digits.

Ladies First

The Los Angeles Sparks were trying to bounce back from a 1-point loss to the Connecticut Sun (and their second loss to them of the season). The Minnesota Lynx were trying to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to the Indiana Fever, the worst team in the league. Minnesota was up 20-15 at the end of the 1st quarter. Sylvia Fowles (27 points, 9 rebounds, career-high 7 assists, 2 blocks) sat on the bench to start the 2nd quarter due to rest and picked up her second foul late in the same quarter. The Lynx had seven turnovers in the first half but the Sparks didn't convert any of them into points, which is uncharacteristic of such a top-ranked team.  The Lynx had a three-point lead, 38-35, at halftime and began the 4th quarter 66-53. Rebekkah Brunson (15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists) broke the WNBA record to become the all-time leading career rebounder at 7:18 in the 4th quarter; she surpassed retired All-Star Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever.  

This win gave head coach Cheryl Reeve her 200th win, which makes her the winningest female coach in WNBA history. Lindsay Whalen (10 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists) was also in double digits for Minnesota. Candace Parker (22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, three 3-pointers), Nneka Ogwumike (15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist), and Chelsea Gray (10 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) led the way for Los Angeles.

Viva Las Vegas

The Chicago Sky visited the Las Vegas Aces while trying to muddle through after the season loss of bench spark Jameirra Faulkner on top of a 23-point smackdown by the Dallas Wings. Both the Sky and the Aces entered the game with one loss separating them in league standings (Chicago 6-11, Las Vegas 6-12). The Aces came out shooting 87%, then turnovers allowed Chicago to come back and tie the game, 23-23, at the end of the 1st quarter. The Sky made six 3-pointers in the first half. Astou NDour (8 points, 2 rebounds, two 3-pointers) went down with an ankle injury 15 seconds into the 2nd quarter; Dearica Hamby (2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist) was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. Las Vegas went on a 9-2 run late in the 2nd quarter but again allowed the Sky to come back. There were six lead changes in the first half alone and they Sky was up 53-51 at halftime. The Aces locked in and led the game 71-69 to start the 4th quarter. Gritty play and heavy defense in the 4th quarter by Las Vegas kept them in the game. A’Ja Wilson (24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) had a season-high 7 blocks. Carolyn Swords (4 points, 1 assist, 1 block) had a career-high 12 rebounds. The Aces won 84-80 and improved to 7-12; Kayla McBride (28 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, one 3-pointer) was the only other Aces player in double digits. Kelsey Plum (8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, three 3-pointers)  Tamera Young (7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals), Moriah Jefferson (5 points, 2 assists) and Kelsey Bone (4 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) may have looked small on the stats sheet but their efforts were crucial to the win as well.

Stormy Weather

The Atlanta Dream hosted the Seattle Storm and started the game with a 3-pointer by Elizabeth Williams (5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal), which should have been an indicator as to how the game would go.  Alas, things turned out very differently. Atlanta suffered a lot of turnovers and allowed Seattle to go on a run; the Storm was up 23-16 at the end of the 1st quarter. Seattle shot 58% in the first half despite Breanna Stewart’s (29 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks)  early foul trouble. Jessica Breland ( 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block) picked up her third foul late in the 2nd quarter. The Storm led 53-34 at halftime. The Dream made a late 3rd quarter run and brought the lead to 9 points, but fouls and turnovers gave Seattle the win, 95-86.

All of the Seattle starters were in double digits: Stewart, Sue Bird (18 points, 1 rebound, 10 assists, 2 steals, three 3-pointers), Alysha Clark (14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, one 3-pointer) , Jewell Loyd (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, one 3-pointer) and Natasha Howard (10 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks). Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2 points, 2 assists) added two 3-pointers. Angel McCoughtry (26 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, three 3-pointers), Tiffany Hayes (23 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block), Brittney Sykes (12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists), and Renee Montgomery (10 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists) all led the way for Atlanta.

How High?

The Chicago Sky were without Astou NDour (ankle injury) and Jamierra Faulkner (knee) is out for the season; the team was trying to recover from their spirited loss to the Las Vegas Aces while the Minnesota Lynx were seeking their second straight win. Rookie Gabby Williams (10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal) did not start for Chicago; Cheyenne Parker (6 points, 8 rebounds) started in her place as head coach Amber Stocks opted for a larger lineup. Minnesota’s Maya Moore (16 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block) had two fouls in the 1st quarter. The Sky held their own, but the Lynx were up 21-20 at the end of the 1st quarter. The Sky went on a run and led 42-37 at halftime. Chicago shot lots of 3-pointers (72% from 3-point range) and shot 54% from field goal range. Minnesota was only 38% from field goal range in the 3rd quarter. Chicago put forth a concerted team effort with the absence of two key players; Parker, Kahlia Copper (9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, one 3-pointer), and rookie Linnae Harper (7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal)  really stepped up, Rookie Diamond DeShields (8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, two 3-pointers) was strong on both ends, and both Allie Quigley (15 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, three 3-pointers) and Courtney Vandersloot (12 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, two 3-pointers) outshot Minnesota. The Lynx's reputation as a 3rd-quarter team failed as they were discombobulated in face of the Sky's aggressiveness. Chicago was up 60-52 heading into the 4th quarter, The Sky opened up a 14-point lead with 3:13 left in the game. The Lynx waved the white flag and played all of their bench players with less than two minutes left in the game. The Sky won 77-63 and improved to 7-12. Seimone Augustus (11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) was the only other Lynx player in double digits.

Too Hot For TV

The Connecticut Sun visited the Las Vegas aces in their second game of a back-to-back and coming off a loss to the Phoenix Mercury. The Aces were riding a narrow, gritty win over the Chicago Sky.  The Sun was still without Courtney Williams (personal) and  Alyssa Thomas (shoulder); Rachel Banham (3 points, 2 assists) started again. The Aces came out aggressive, and playing excellent defense; they kept Connecticut from making their customary 3-point shots (the Sun average 7.4 3-pointers per game) and forced them into making lots of uncharacteristic turnovers. Las Vegas was up 22-15 at the end of the 1st quarter. The Sun closed the gap and took a 1-point lead in the 2nd quarter. The Aces had a narrow 41-40 lead at halftime. Connecticut had no free throws in the 1st half, but had 22 points from its bench (Las Vegas only had 6 bench points) and went on a 5-0 run to start the 3rd quarter. The Aces came back but Connecticut went on another run late in the 3rd quarter to take the lead, 76-65, to start the 4th quarter. Las Vegas went on a run of their own to cut the deficit to 2 points then tied the game with 3:10 left.  Clutch free throws by Kayla McBride (27 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, three 3-pointers) and an and-1 by A’Ja Wilson (34 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks) put the Aces up by 5 points with 1:07 left behind a 12-0 run. More clutch free throws by Moriah Jefferson (9 points, 5 assists) put Las Vegas up by 4 points with 16 seconds left in the game en route to a 94-90 win. The Aces have won 3 of their last four games and their second straight game. Kelsey Plum (9 points) had a season-high 10  assists. Morgan Tuck (20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, four 3-pointers), Jasmine Thomas (16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, two 3-pointers), Chiney Ogwumike (15 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks) , Alexis Bentley (10 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, two 3-pointers) and Betnijah Laney (10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) led the way for Connecticut.

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

The Phoenix Mercury visited the Atlanta Dream. It was a rematch of the June 3 game (Phoenix won) and the second of the three matchups between these teams this season.  Phoenix was without Sancho Lyttle for the season due to a torn ACL, but Camille Little (5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) returned after missing one game due to an ankle injury. Atlanta scored the first 8 points of the game and Phoenix called a timeout less than 3 minutes into the game after the Dream went on an 8-0 run.  The Mercury hit two 3-pointers out of the timeout. Renee Montgomery (13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) had three 3-pointers in the 1st quarter. Atlanta was up 27-17 at the end of the 1st quarter. Briann January (2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists) got her third foul early in the 2nd quarter. The Dream scored 17 points off Phoenix turnovers in the first half, which saw the Dream shooting 50%; they also had 16 paint points. Atlanta was up 44-33 at halftime,  went on a 4-0 run to open up the 3rd quarter and once again forced an early timeout by Phoenix. The Dream’s lead ballooned to 20 points midway through the 3rd quarter thanks to the efforts of a bloodied Brittney Sykes (13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal), and Atlanta led 65-48 to start the 4th quarter. Phoenix cut the lead to 10 points late in the 4th quarter. A 3-pointer by Leilani Mitchell (10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, two 3-pointers) cut Phoenix’s deficit to 5 points with 39 seconds left in the game. Diana Taurasi (19 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, five 3-pointers) did not play for most of the 3rd quarter (allegedly for rest) but checked in for the final 30 seconds. A clutch block by Jessica Breland (5 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks) on a Taurasi 3-pointer and subsequent free throws by Elizabeth Williams (10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocks) and a battered Tiffany Hayes (18 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists) gave Atlanta the win 76-70, to reach the .500 mark again.  Phoenix never led the entire game; Atlanta had 43 rebounds (Phoenix had 34), 30 points in the paint, shot 13/17 at the free throw line, and 10 team locks. Angel McCoughtrey chipped in 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. Brittney Griner had 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks for Phoenix.

Other Historical Milestones This Week

  • Diana Taurasi is now the leader in all-time field goals (2,631) during the Phoenix Mercury’s win over the Connecticut Sun.
  • Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault is the first WNBA coach to reach 300 wins in the Mystics win over the Los Angeles Sparks.
  • Sue Bird passes Lauren Jackson to become the Seattle Storm’s all-time leading scorer (6,008) in the Storm’s win over the Washington Mystics.

Rookie Watch

Rook of the Week

Victoria Vivians, Indiana Fever. Where teammate and fellow rookie Kelsey Mitchell has fallen off, Vivians has stepped up. She has been one of the team’s leading scorers for the past two games and rarely scores in single digits.

Rook of the Weak

Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever. Mitchell has cooled off over the past two games, as opponents have managed to keep her scoring below 10 points per game. Expect her to bounce back soon but right now, she seems to be having a bit of a confidence crisis. She’ll shoot her way out of it eventually.

Rookie of the Year

  1. A’Ja Wilson (LV)
  2. Diamond DeShields (CHI)
  3. Victoria Vivians (IND)
  4. Gabby Williams (CHI)
  5. Kelsey Mitchell (IND)

Defensive Player of the Year

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

6th Woman of the Year

  1. Brittney Sykes (ATL)
  2. Kayla Thornton (DAL)
  3. Courtney Paris (SEA)
  4. Danielle Robinson (MIN)
  5. Amanda Zahui B (NY)

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