The Indiana Fever stun the Chicago Sky, and almost every game is decided by fewer than 10 points.
Injuries affected the Mystics and Sky who split their Week 6 games, and the young players on the Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream continued to shine. Let’s break down all the action from the WNBA Eastern Conference this week.
The Toll of a Packed June Schedule Costs the Mystics a Win
In an all Eastern Conference clash, the New York Liberty took down the Mystics 77–65. While the Liberty struggled with their perimeter shooting, missing 25 of their 31 three-point attempts, it was their defense that helped them defeat the higher-seeded Mystics. During the second quarter of the game, the Liberty held the Mystics to a mere 11 points.
For the Liberty, Natasha Howard led the way with 27 points and 9 rebounds. Sabrina Ionescu flirted with another triple-double, ultimately finishing the game with 10 points, 9 assists, and rebounds.
Natasha Cloud led the Mystics in points, and also led the team in minutes played—playing nearly 11 more minutes than the rest of the Mystics’ starters. After the game, Cloud voiced her frustration with the schedule and traveling difficulties that the Mystics have been subjected to this season. That’s the product of playing, essentially, every other day this month, she explained. “We play, we travel the way that we travel, which is trash,” Cloud said to the Washington Post. “… It’s brutal right now on our body. So there’s going to be nights where offensively there’s going to be shots that are short, there’s going to be shots that are off.”
Cloud has been playing heavy minutes in games where Elena Delle Donne does not play—Delle Donne did not play against the Liberty—and the Mystics will need to find ways to ensure that Cloud stays healthy throughout the season if they want to be a title contending team.
The Sun Spoil Sue Bird’s Return to Connecticut
Emotions were high before this East versus West battle, as this was the Storm’s first game since 21-year WNBA veteran Sue Bird had announced that she would retire at the end of the season. Several members of the University of Connecticut Huskies, Sue’s alma mater, were in attendance at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to witness some of UConn’s most legendary players in action.
The Connecticut Sun were not concerned with the additional media attention surrounding their game. They remained poised, even after being outscored 26–14 by Seattle in the third quarter, and closed out the fourth quarter by outscoring the Storm 26–13 and ultimately winning the game 82–71. The real star for the Connecticut Sun was DeWanna Bonner, who scored 15 of her 20 points in the final quarter. Bonner also had 10 rebounds in the game, and her teammate Jonquel Jones had a double-double of her own, finishing the night with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Notably, Alyssa Thomas played all but 33 seconds of the game, making herself a reliable force in the paint for the Sun and finding ways to disrupt the Storm offense.
Breanna Stewart led the Storm with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Sue Bird was the second-highest scorer for the Storm with 14 points. The only player with a plus/minus ranking above 0 was Reshanda Gray, who finished the game with +2PM. The Storm have only had a few games this year in which they have not been impacted by injury or illness, and the more consistent Connecticut Sun were able to exploit some of the offensive and defensive challenges that the Storm have yet to iron out.
With the win against the Storm, Connecticut has won six of its last seven games and eight of the last 10. The Storm had their four-game win streak—which dated to a 93–86 loss to Connecticut on June 5—snapped.
The Chicago Sky Outlast the Atlanta Dream in Overtime
In an overtime thriller, the Sky were able to hold off the Atlanta Dream’s second half surge and win the game 106–100. After it looked like Chicago had run away with the game at halftime—with a score of 56–42—Atlanta responded with a 31-point third quarter and eventually forced the game to overtime after outscoring the Sky 49–35 in the second half.
The Atlanta Dream forced the defending WNBA champions to play some of their best basketball of the season and walk away from Wintrust Arena with a win. Without Candace Parker, who was ruled out with a knee injury, Kahleah Copper had a season high with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and newcomer Emma Meesseman scored 17 points and grabbed a season-best 12 rebounds. Allie Quigley added 17 points of her own, and Azura Stevens and Rebekah Gardner chipped in with 15 points apiece.
For the Dream, AD Durr scored 21 points and McDonald finished the game with 20. Howard and Cheyenne Parker added 16 points apiece and Destiny Slocum scored a career-high 10. Despite the loss, the Atlanta Dream proved that they could hold their own against some of the WNBA’s best and that their young team won’t go down without a fight.
Sue Bird Reminds New York of her Greatness
A crowd of over 6,800 fans flocked to the Barclay’s Center for Sue Bird’s last game in her hometown on Sunday. While the Liberty were looking to spoil Sue’s return to Brooklyn, the team also showed their appreciation for the league’s longest-tenured player, sporting t-shirts that said “Thank You Sue. Love, New York.” The Liberty also honored Bird with a four-minute video tribute, and Bird’s former teammates Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard gave her a jacket and jersey that featured every New York team stitched into them.
The mix of New York Liberty and Sue Bird fans who were present in the arena were treated to an exciting matchup between one of the league’s most recognizable veterans and one of the league’s most exciting young players. In a back and forth battle, Sue Bird, who has often voiced her admiration for Sabrina Ionescu, was ultimately able to emerge victorious in the matchup of the guards, delighting half of the crowd and frustrating the other by nailing a definitive three-pointer at the end of the game.
The Storm beat the Liberty 81–72, outscoring their opponents in all but one quarter of the game. Gabby Williams had one of her best games of the season, finishing the afternoon with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Williams had only scored 4 points in the Storm’s Thursday night loss against the Connecticut Sun.
Sabrina Ionescu continued to show off her range by hitting a few deep threes, and once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. Even though the Liberty were not able to pick up the win at home, the upside to the game was the return of Didi Richards. After nursing a hamstring injury for several weeks, Richards was able to play 13 minutes of the game. Sandy Brondello spoke about her performance and said: “It was good. It’s only gonna get better. She hasn’t played all offseason, coming back from injury, it takes time to get a little rhythm playing different positions. But I liked what I saw out there. I think that’s something we can build on as we move forward.”
The Liberty are on the road Wednesday evening as they’ll be taking on the Connecticut Sun at 7:00 PM E.T. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2, and Canadian viewers can watch the game on TSN.
The Sun Snap their Winning Streak Against the Mystics
With Elena Delle Donne back in their starting lineup, the Washington Mystics looked much more like themselves, beating the Connecticut Sun 71–63. The Sun’s loss snapped a five-game regular-season win streak against the Mystics that dated back to the 2020 season.
Connecticut, who went into the game ranked second in the WNBA in scoring at 87.9 points per game, shot just 36.7% (22 of 60) from the field and was limited to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Sun’s 63 points were 24 under their average for the season. Jonquel Jones led the team with 15 points and a season high 16 rebounds. No other player scored more than 8 points in the game.
Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics with 15 points, all in the first half of the game, and the attention that she received from the Sun’s defense created scoring opportunities for other Mystics players. Ariel Atkins had 12 points, and Clark and Walter-Kimbrough finished the game with 10 points each. The Mystics, a team that has dealt with injuries and fatigue throughout the season, were greatly helped by their bench, which outscored the Sun’s bench 10–0 during the first quarter. As the Mystics continue to try to find ways to rest Elena Delle Donne throughout the season, the contributions of the bench players will be a key factor in determining the team’s success.
The Rookies of the Indiana Fever Continue to Make their Mark
In one of the most thrilling games of the weekend, the Indiana Fever overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to pick up a win against the Chicago Sky at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Fever rookie forward NaLyssa Smith led the team in scoring and rebounding with a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Smith now has four career double-doubles and has scored more than 10 points in 11 of the games that she has played in this year. Rookie guard Lexie Hull had a career-high 10 points in the game, 5 of which came in the third quarter. The Fever opened the second half of the game with an 18–6 run, and went on to score 35 in the quarter—the most in a third quarter this season—and take a 72–70 lead into the final quarter of the game.
Smith was the hero in the fourth quarter, hitting a tough jumper, drawing a foul, and converting the and-one opportunity to take an 88–87 lead with 39 seconds left in the game.
For the Sky, Kahleah Copper went a perfect 3-of-3 from the three-point line in the first half and went on to lead all scorers in the game with a season-high 28 points, besting her 23-point game against the Atlanta Dream on Friday. Without Candace Parker in the lineup due to knee soreness, the Sky seemed to run out of gas in the second half of the game, giving up a significant lead after halftime once again. Still, the Chicago Sky clinched the Commissioners Cup spot in the East and will face the Las Vegas Aces in the second year of the tournamentt.
With this win, Indiana improved to 5–13 this season, while Chicago fell to 10–5. The rookies of the Indiana Fever seem to be on track to accomplishing the goal that they expressed to Just Women’s Sports at the beginning of the season. “I’m not even gonna lie, [we] just want to do better than they did last year,” said NaLyssa Smith in the interview. In the previous two seasons, the Indiana Fever had only won 6 games each, and these rookies are determined to keep the wins coming.
Check out the highlights of the game here.
The Indiana Fever take on the Dallas Wings on Thursday, June 23. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and will be available on the Indiana Fever Facebook page.