WNBA West Week 4 Recap
The Phoenix Mercury find some form while Seattle can’t get it done at home.
By Laura Fay
It’s another week down in the WNBA’s Western Conference, and the playoff picture remains as muddled as ever. The Aces and Wings both split their results this weekend, though the Aces continue to have a 7–0 record within the conference. Elsewhere, the Mercury fought back to form against the Suns and Sparks, while the Storm failed to close out matches as their eight-game home stretch draws to a close.
Depleted Aces Fall to Surging Suns
The Connecticut Sun handed the Las Vegas Aces their second defeat of the season Thursday night, downing the #1 seed 97–90. The Aces came into the game as favorites, riding a seven-match win streak that included an 89–81 defeat of the Sun just a few days prior. However, with Sun coach Curt Miller back from health and safety protocols, the Connecticut offense was clearly running smoother than before. The Sun, led by reigning MVP Jonquel Jones and 4x All-Star DeWanna Bonner, shot 83% from the floor in the first quarter and took a 37–22 lead into the first break. While the Aces cut the lead to 3 at the half and just 1 at various stages throughout the third and fourth quarters, the Sun did enough in the important moments to stay ahead.
The loss was further soured by injuries to Aces stars Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. Young, who led all scorers with 26 points, appeared to injure her ankle at the beginning of the fourth quarter and didn’t return. Gray took an elbow to the jaw and also left the game midway through the fourth. With both players questionable for the Aces’ clash against the Wings on Sunday, the Aces’ relatively shallow bench will likely be tested for the first time this season.
Second loss of the season. pic.twitter.com/LM6QgL7vT2— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) June 3, 2022
Stagnant Storm Overpowered by Wings
It was a largely defensive affair on Friday night, with the Dallas Wings winning a low-scoring game 68–51 over the Seattle Storm. The Storm came into the game with momentum after a comprehensive win over the Liberty and were bolstered by the return of important bench players Mercedes Russell and Stephanie Talbot. However, Seattle struggled to find a rhythm offensively, tallying a season-low 51 points against Dallas. Without Sue Bird, more of the scoring fell to Breanna Stewart, who led all scorers with 27 points, and Jewell Loyd, who had 13. Stewart and Loyd were the only Storm players to score in the second half. Additionally, just 2 points came from the Storm’s bench, a stat they will be desperate to turn around before Sunday when they face off against the Connecticut Sun.
While the Wings struggled at times with Seattle’s defense, an even more comprehensive defensive effort of their own, along with even scoring, led them to a win. Allisha Gray led the team with 18 points, while Arike Ogunbowale knocked down 16 and Satou Sabally recorded her first double-double of the season. The 6–4 Wings have had an up-and-down start to the year, but will aim to take this momentum into their clash with the division-leading Aces Sunday night.
A Loss, but Encouraging Signs for the Mercury
In a game many considered a runaway for the Sun, a gritty Phoenix Mercury fought tooth and nail but failed to secure an upset, going down 92–88. While Phoenix came up short in clutch moments of the fourth quarter, the hard-fought match was an encouraging sign for a team that is missing key players and came into the match a dismal 2–7.
The Mercury certainly had their chances. A 10-point lead halfway through the second quarter evaporated, with the Sun’s Brionna Jones cutting it to three with a driving layup to end the half. After a dispiriting third quarter that saw the Sun go on a 10–0 run of their own, the Mercury rallied to start the fourth, opening up a game-high 13-point lead over the visitors. However, the team’s lack of cohesion and poor shot selection reared its head. Particularly, a missed three by Diamond DeShields answered down the other end of the court by Jonquel Jones created a 6-point swing that powered the Sun to a hard-earned victory.
Diana Taurasi returned strong after being ejected last game, leading all scorers with a season-high 32 points, including record-extending six 3-point shots. The Sun were led by Jonquel Jones’s 24 points but had four other players in double digits, including a fourth straight double-double from veteran Alyssa Thomas. The Mercury will look to bounce back when they take on the Sparks Sunday afternoon.
Lynx Hold off Liberty to Get a Win on the Road
In a battle of the bottom teams, the Minnesota Lynx held off a persistent Liberty 84–77, improving to 3–8 on the season.
After a tight first quarter, the Lynx looked likely to run away with the match, handily outscoring New York over the next two quarters to hold a 16-point advantage at the final break. The Liberty weren’t done, however—a blowout turned into a 1-point ball game, as Sabrina Ionescu’s pull up jumper narrowed the margin to 74–73 with four minutes left. With the Lynx on the ropes, Aerial Powers, as she had done all day, stepped up. An offensive rebound turned into a foul and free throws, while another rebounded layup gave Minnesota a 5-point advantage.
Powers was easily the Lynx’s best player with 27 points and 7 rebounds, while Sylvia Fowles and Kayla McBride both added 18 points. Ionescu, who has found better scoring form recently,
led New York with 31 points, while Natasha Howard had 20. The two teams will match up again Tuesday night.
Aces Too Good for Wings
The Las Vegas Aces edged out the Dallas Wings, 84–78, in a tightly contested game Sunday night. With breakout guard Jackie Young out with injury, the Aces relied on star power and increased bench production to pull off a win.
After a tightly contested first quarter, the Aces looked likely to run away with the game several times throughout the second and third. The Wings’ offense kept firing, however, and Aces’ leads of 10, 8, and 11 points all evaporated. Allisha Gray and Arike Ogunbowale were key to these comebacks, with Ogunbowale in particular coming alive after a quiet first half. A beautiful steal-turned-three-point shot from Ogunbowale turned the momentum back in the Wings’ favor before she hit two more threes in quick succession to pull Dallas within 3 points at three-quarter-time. The Aces, however, were a little too good when it mattered, outscoring Dallas 24–21 in the fourth quarter to clinch a win.
Kelsey Plum had another strong showing to make her case as an MVP candidate, totaling 32 points to lead all scorers. The Wings were led by Allisha Gray and Arike Ogunbowale, who had 24 and 21 points respectively, and a second straight double-double from Satou Sabally. The Wings will look to rebound against Seattle Friday night, while Las Vegas has almost a week off before their next clash against the Sparks.
Struggling Storm Fall to Sun
The Seattle Storm squandered yet another late lead to fall 93–86 to the Connecticut Sun, raising questions about the direction of their season. After a dismal 51-point performance against the Wings earlier this week, the Storm desperately needed a win they didn’t get.
Seattle looked promising to start, with Ezi Magbegor and Sue Bird returning from health and safety protocols to collectively score the Storm’s first 11 points of the game. Seattle went into the first break up 26–20 and continued at a steady clip to be up 6 points at three-quarter time. From then though, it was all Connecticut. The Sun outscored Seattle 32–19 in the fourth to win by 6, despite not having led since the score was 2–0 at the very start of the match.
The loss leaves Seattle with more questions than answers. Despite having squandered late leads against the Sky and Liberty earlier in the season, they had still pulled out wins and had the excuse of missing key players to COVID. Now, with a fully healthy roster, a championship-caliber team has continued to struggle.
The Storm will be encouraged by the returns of Magbegor and Bird, who led the team with 19 and 17 points respectively, and hope for a quick turnaround against the Dream Tuesday evening. The Sun were led by Jonquel Jones, who had 25 points, followed by DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones with 21 each. They will face defending champions Chicago on Friday night.
Mercury Find Hope in Win Over Sparks
The Phoenix Mercury snapped a seven-game losing streak Sunday night with an electric 81–74 win, bringing new life to a team struggling both on and off the court. Phoenix, who came into the match-up having just lost a nailbiter to the Sun and without star acquisition Tina Charles, relied heavily on their starting five to perform, and they did so admirably.
Skylar Diggins-Smith led the offense and, after getting hot in the second quarter, ended the night with a season-high 29 points on 62.5 percent shooting. She was backed up with 19 points from Diana Taurasi, who also led all players with 7 assists. Brianna Turner, taking over as center in Charles’ absence, also made her presence known with nine rebounds and held the Sparks’ Liz Cambage to just 8 points.
The Sparks, meanwhile, struggled early and had 7 turnovers in the first quarter, which the Mercury used to their advantage. Nneka Ogwumike led LA with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Brittney Sykes and Chennedy Carter both scored double figures off the bench. Phoenix will try to maintain this momentum when they match up against the Dream on Friday, while the Sparks have a week off before facing the Aces Saturday night.