The Storm start clicking on the road, while the Lynx need a new direction without Sylvia Fowles.
By Laura Fay
It was a tale of two trajectories in the Western division this weekend. While both Phoenix and Minnesota came in with a lackluster three wins to their name, the Mercury picked up two important victories while the Lynx’s playoff hopes took yet another blow. Elsewhere, the Seattle Storm notched a regular series win over Dallas, while the Aces continue to cruise, even without Jackie Young.
Wings Rally, but Fall Short to Storm
The Dallas Wings came a point away from clinching a regular-season series win over the Seattle Storm Friday night, before ultimately coming up short 89-88. The stars on both ends were brilliant, with Arike Ogunbowale fighting to keep her team in it, while Breanna Stewart ultimately carried the Storm over the line.
Seattle started the game with a 7–0 run and, while threatened throughout the second quarter, held on to lead by 7 at the final break. It was at that point that Ogunbowale, who had just 8 points so far, came alive. She came out shooting, with quick threes pulling Dallas within striking distance, and the two teams traded leads for the rest of the quarter. With just 12 seconds left, Ogunbowale was fouled on a two and made the free throw to put the Wings up 1— just in need of a stop to seal the game. Not to be outshone, Breanna Stewart made free throws down the other end to clinch a win, as a would-be Ogunbowale game-winner fell short.
Stewart made all the difference for Seattle, with 32 points and 11 rebounds in her first double-double of the season. Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor also scored in double-digits, while Gabby Williams dished out a career-high 9 assists. Ogunbowale led the Wings with 23 points, but Isabelle Harrison was impressive off the bench with 19. The two teams will rematch Sunday afternoon with a regular-season series win on the line.
Undermanned Lynx Overrun by Mystics
The Lynx fell to 3–10 this Friday, with an extremely underwhelming performance to go down 76–59 to the Washington Mystics. Minnesota was clearly reeling from the loss of retiring star Sylvia Fowles, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Fowles is the last part of the legendary Lynx dynasty that ruled the WNBA throughout the early 2010s, and without her it’s clear how far the new rookie squad is from such dominance.
The match never seemed particularly close. The Lynx were outscored from the early stages, with Myisha Hines-Allen scoring a season-high 17 points to lead all scorers, while rookie Shakira Austin pulled down 13 rebounds. While the Mystics were clearly missing Elena Delle Donne, who exited Washington’s last game with back pain, the Lynx were never enough of a threat to seriously challenge the Mystics’ depth.
One encouraging sign for Minnesota will be the equal number of minutes by all players, as well as relatively even scoring. Everyone but hardship-signee Elissa Cunane played over a quarter, and there were promising signs in Rachel Banham’s 10 points and Jessica Shepard’s 15 rebounds. However, Minnesota’s inefficient offense was still plagued by poor shooting and sloppy turnovers that they will certainly need to correct if they want to have any hope of gaining traction this season.
Promising Mercury Score Important Win over Dream
The Phoenix Mercury have started to click, and the rest of the league needs to watch out. After a dismal 2–7 start to their 2022 campaign, the Mercury have won their last two games, with an impressive 90–88 win over the Dream lifting them from the bottom of the ladder.
Phoenix started well, with Tina Charles scoring first on her return from injury, and outscored Atlanta early to lead by 11 halfway through the second. With the Mercury threatening to run away with it, Atlanta fought back. A quick five points from Rhyne Howard tied the game at 35, but the Dream failed to close out the quarter and a Shey Peddy three put the home team up at the half. The same pattern repeated in the fourth, as the Mercury opened up a 14-point lead before back-to-back Howard threes threw the game back in limbo. In the end, however, Phoenix weathered the storm and held on for their second-straight win.
Diana Taurasi led Phoenix with 23 points, while Charles stepped up for 20 and Brianna Turner pulled down 13 rebounds. Howard had 25 points for the Dream, while Cheyenne Parker recorded a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. AD Durr was also solid in their first game with Atlanta, scoring 6 points and supplying a game-tying assist. The Mercury will look to continue their good form against the Mystics Sunday evening.
Aces Hit Cruise Control in Win Over Sparks
The Aces never looked threatened Saturday night, notching a 89–72 win over the Los Angeles Sparks off the back of an A’ja Wilson masterclass.
It seems wrong to call Wilson underrated—she is, of course, the 2020 WNBA MVP and an Olympic gold medalist. But, as teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young enjoy breakout seasons, Wilson’s greatness has been of less focus. That was not the case tonight, with a phenomenal 35-point performance to earn her 50th career double-double and prove why she’s at the top of all of our All-Star voting lists. Whenever the Sparks had a run of form Wilson was there to shut them down—she had an answer to everything thrown at her and once the Aces got the lead at the end of the first quarter, they never relinquished it.
The only slight concern for Las Vegas will be the number of turnovers—17 on the night—which let LA back into the game enough to outscore Vegas in the fourth quarter. Overall though, Saturday showcased a comprehensive performance from the league’s best team and, arguably, it’s best player.
Wilson led all players in points and rebounds (35pts/11reb), while Dearica Hamby had 20 points of her own. The Sparks were led by Nneka Ogwumike with 16, and Katie Lou Samuelson, who had 13. The Aces will hope to regain Jackie Young before they play the Wings on Wednesday, while the Sparks have time to reset before they also play Dallas next Sunday.
Storm Down Undermanned Wings to Take the Series
The Seattle Storm notched their second consecutive win over the Dallas Wings Sunday afternoon, with a 84–79 victory sealing a regular-season series win. The Wings were forced to rely heavily on their bench during the game, with both Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally forced to exit.
The game was tight throughout, with the Wings taking a 1-point lead into the first break that flipped to a 1-point Storm advantage at the half. The biggest momentum shift, however, wasn’t in the score. After the halftime buzzer, Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale was ejected from the game after kicking a ball into the stands, an incident she maintains was an accident. Without her presence the Wings fell down 10 early in the third, and, though they managed to cut it to 5 at the break, it wasn’t enough to get back on top. The loss was soured by the loss of Satou Sabally, who exited the game with a knee injury.
Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd led the scoring, with 25 and 22 points respectively, while Ezi Magbegor finished with 13, including 2–3 from deep. Magbegor, who leads the league in blocked shots, added five more to her tally today. Dallas was led by Allisha Gray’s 20 points, while Sabally and Teaira McCowan had knocked down 13 each. Seattle will square off against the Lynx Tuesday night while the Wings will hope to regain Ogunbowale, Sabally, and Marina Mabrey before meeting the Aces on Wednesday.
Mercury Triumph Over Mystics in Overtime
The Phoenix Mercury got their best win of the season Sunday night, downing the 2019 Champions 99–90 in overtime.
The game was chippy and contested the whole way through, with neither team going up double-digits for the entire match. Skylar Diggins-Smith was dominant throughout, completing a four-point play with 20 seconds left in regulation to give Phoenix a slim 2-point lead. Alysha Clark equalized with free throws, however, and Myisha Hines-Allen’s final shot fell short to send the game to OT. It was in overtime that Diggins-Smith really shone, converting a steal at one end to a three-point play down the other to extend a Mercury lead to 4. This time, the Mystics failed to answer and went down at home.
Diggins-Smith led all scorers with 27 points while Shey Peddy had 12, including 7 in overtime. The Mystics enjoyed relatively even scoring among all players, but Hines-Allen led the pack with 18 points. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough was also impressive, and came off the bench for 9. The two teams will rematch on Tuesday evening.
Lynx Continue to Flounder Against Fever
It was another disappointing showing for the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday, going down 84–80 to the 3–11 Indiana Fever. There was some optimism going into the match, as the rookie-led Fever are the only team near Minnesota’s position on the ladder, but the close contest will still be recorded as a loss.
a career-high performance last night 🔥 pic.twitter.com/TbPhphi46z— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 13, 2022
The Lynx, whose players have missed a combined 45 games due to injury this season, suffered without the stalwart leadership of Sylvia Fowles, exacerbated by an ever-changing starting lineup. While they had promising moments, including a burst of momentum that saw them outscore the Fever 29–19 in the third quarter, they failed to carry it over into crucial moments. With the game on the line, Minnesota was outscored 22–15 in the fourth to drop yet another game at home.
2022 #2 draft pick NaLyssa Smith led the Fever’s offense, recording a 21-point, 14-rebound double-double, while three other starters also scored in double figures. One bright spot for Minnesota was the performance of Nikolina Milić, who recorded a career-high 23 points and 6 rebounds off the bench, and a double-double from Aerial Powers. They will face another tough test in the Seattle Storm Tuesday evening.