WNBA West Week 6 Recap

The Wings rack up wins at home while the Lynx find direction but come up short. 

By Laura Fay

The Storm split results in pursuit of a final championship for Sue Bird, as the legend announced her retirement earlier this week. Their record still puts them in better position to do so than Sylvia Fowles’ Minnesota Lynx, who fell short despite a hard-fought game against the Aces. Meanwhile, the Wings, a potential dark-horse playoff contender, ended their home stretch with two convincing wins.

Storm Fall Short in Bird’s UConn Homecoming

It’s not the fairytale ending Sue Bird was hoping for in her last game in Connecticut, where she won two national titles, as her Seattle Storm fell 82–71 to the Connecticut Sun. The loss raises questions about the team’s ability to win another championship in her final year.

After an even first quarter, the game was truly one of momentum shifts. When the Storm pulled within two points with a couple of minutes left in the half, the Sun went on an 8–0 run to cement a lead at the main break. Seattle answered back in the third, with Breanna Stewart’s 14 points giving them a slim 2-point edge with 10 minutes to play. From there though, Seattle was totally outclassed. Stewart and Bird were both held scoreless in the final term, letting Connecticut outscore them 23–16 and get the win at home. 

The UConn women’s basketball team poses for a photo with alums Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Gabby Williams after attending the Storm’s game on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the University of Connecticut

DeWanna Bonner led all scorers with 20pt/10reb double-double, while Brionna Jones, who could be a starter anywhere else, had 19 off the bench. Seattle was led by Stewart’s 19 points and Bird’s 14, including four from beyond the arc. The Storm will meet the Liberty on Sunday, but they will need to start beating some higher-ranked opponents to have a chance at contending this year. 

Wings Overpower Resurgent Mercury

Phoenix fought back but ultimately came up short Friday night, as the Wings gritted out a tight 93–88 win. It’s a disappointing loss for the Mercury, who had won four of their last five, and a much needed booster for a Dallas team that had just lost three in a row at home

The Wings started well, and Marina Mabrey shined early on in her second game back from injury—sinking three triples in the first quarter alone. They only ramped it up in the second quarter, outscoring Phoenix by 11 points and taking a 14-point advantage into the next half. While that lead stretched out to a game-high 17, the Mercury fought back with some vintage Tina Charles magic. Charles made a beautiful layup halfway through the fourth to put the visitors up for the first time, and the two teams went back and forth for a minute before Teaira McCowan gave Dallas a lead they wouldn’t relinquish again. 

The Wings were led by Arike Ogunbowale’s 24 points, but the real star of the night was McCowan, who recorded an 18pt/10reb double-double in just 25 minutes. McCowan has flourished when given more playing time, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see her starting soon. Charles’s 27 points led all scorers, and the Mercury were backed up by Skylar Diggins-Smith’s own double-double (21pts/10ast). Dallas will host the Sparks on Sunday, while Phoenix will return home for a date with Minnesota on Tuesday. 

French Players Star as Storm Down Feisty Liberty

Seattle grabbed an important win Sunday afternoon, taking down the New York Liberty in a back-and-forth 81–72 affair. 

The game was tight up ‘til the very end, with the Storm taking a slim three-point lead into the final break on the back of a Gabby Williams breakout game. Williams, a French national team star, joined the Storm in the offseason but was mostly known for defensive plays. Today she came out shooting, and was Seattle’s leading scorer all the way through. Williams was answered down the other end by Marine Johannes, her French teammate and recent Liberty signing, playing her third game for New York this season. It was an entertaining battle to watch play out, capped off brilliantly when Williams lost Johannes and hit a three (just her second of the year!) to put Seattle up 6 with under a minute to play. 

Williams and Johannes both finished with 23 points, with the rest of the Storm’s starters also reaching double figures. Sue Bird, in her last game in her hometown New York, hit a dagger three as the clock ran down to see herself off in style. Natasha Howard (11pts/11reb) and Sabrina Ionescu (12pts/10reb) also recorded double-doubles for New York. The Storm, who went 4–1 on their road trip, return home to face the Mystics next Thursday. 

Wings Level Their Record with Sparks Win

Dallas notched an important win to even their record on Sunday evening, comprehensively beating the Los Angeles Sparks 92–82 to end a five-game home stretch. 

While the game was relatively close throughout, it always felt like the Wings had the upper hand—they led by 3 at the end of the first quarter, 6 at the half, and a whopping 16 at three-quarter time. While LA pulled that to 10 in the last quarter, they never led by more than one possession and overall looked outclassed against a smoother-running offense. 

Three Dallas starters had over 20 points, with Arike Ogunbowale’s 27 (including five shots from deep) leading the pack. Nneka Ogwumike recorded a 17pt/10reb double-double to lead the Sparks, while her sister Chiney added on a 12pt/10reb one. Brittney Sykes came off the bench for 16 points. Both teams play again on Tuesday, where the Wings will be on the road to face Atlanta while the Sparks head home to host the Mystics.

Lynx Fail to Secure the Ultimate Upset in Heartbreaking Aces Loss

The Minnesota Lynx suffered a devastating loss Sunday night, falling 96–95 to the Las Vegas Aces. While the result isn’t shocking for anyone who has seen these team’s records, many people (admittedly, us included), were expecting a blowout. Instead, the Lynx regained the form that made them championship contenders last season, and took the #1 seed down to the wire. 

The Lynx kept up with the Aces’ pace early in the game, and the teams traded leads throughout the first and second quarters before Minnesota pulled away, taking an 11-point advantage into halftime. But Vegas was not about to go quietly. They came out shooting in the third quarter with Kelsey Plum leading the offensive onslaught before an A’ja Wilson floater gave the Aces a two-point edge. In the end, Vegas built enough of a cushion in the fourth to just barely hold on and improve to 13–2. Minnesota, meanwhile, falls to 3–13. 

A’ja Wilson drives to the basket past Minnesota’s Jessica Shepard in the Aces’ 96–95 win Sunday night. (Photo Courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

While clearly heartbroken by the defeat, the Lynx backed up their performance against Seattle earlier this week and looked much stronger than their record would suggest. Moriah Jefferson, who missed 12 games with injury, led Minnesota with 24 points while Jessica Shepard was stellar off the bench in a 22pt/19reb outing. The only thing marring Shepard’s performance was the baffling choice to shoot a fadeaway two-pointer instead of trying for a triple while down three as time expired. She made the shot, but a 1-point loss doesn’t feel any better than a 3-point one. 

While the Aces came away with a win, they’ll have some concerns going into next week. Jackie Young, who is still working her way back from injury, played the most minutes despite her diminished production. While this will hopefully allow her to reacclimate faster, it’s also a sign of the Aces’ lack of depth—just 5 points came from their bench on Sunday. With all five starters riding heavy minutes, the potential for injury or exhaustion is heightened. As Chicago proved last year, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We certainly hope Vegas will have enough left in the tank to finish just as strong as they have started. 

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