WNBA East Week 7 Recap

The Chicago Sky take over the top spot in the East and the New York Liberty continue their June success.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

While some Eastern Conference teams had perfect performances over the past week, others found themselves falling further in the Eastern Conference standings. The Chicago Sky looked like they were ready to defend their WNBA title and the New York Liberty looked like a brand new team, but the Connecticut Sun, Atlanta Dream, Indiana Fever, and Washington Mystics all struggled with consistency this past week. Let’s break down their games.

Winning Against All Odds

I owe the Atlanta Dream an apology. When I saw on Twitter that the Atlanta Dream had 5 players unavailable for the game (Tiffany Hayes, Erica Wheeler, Nia Coffey, Kia Vaughn, and Kristy Wallace), I answered a Twitter poll on the WNBA Twitter account and picked the Dallas Wings to win the game, thinking that Atlanta did not stand a chance against them. I was wrong. The Gateway Center Arena erupted in the fourth quarter as the Atlanta Dream rewarded their home crowd with an 80–75 win.

The Atlanta Dream started the game off strong, scoring 29 points in the first quarter, and while their offense cooled down throughout the game, they made up for it on the defensive end, holding Dallas to 9 points in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Maya Caldwell shoots the ball for the Atlanta Dream (Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Maya Caldwell led the Dream in points, scoring 18 points in her WNBA debut, and giving the Dream the push they needed to defeat the Wings. The Dream had three other players in double figures: Rhyne Howard (16 points), Aari McDonald (15 points), and Parker (14 points). They shot more than 45% from the field and almost 46% from three-point range.

The Greatest Comeback Ever

When a team has 41 points scored on them during the first quarter of a basketball game and is only able to respond with 18 of their own, the outcome of the game looks obvious. The Chicago Sky defied this narrative and completed the biggest comeback in WNBA history, rallying from 28-down to beat the Las Vegas Aces 104–95.

Las Vegas shot 63% from the field during the first quarter, and their 41 points were a franchise record for points in a quarter. But Chicago outscored Las Vegas in every quarter after the first to chip away at their lead, even managing to go on an 18–0 run in the third quarter to put the team in front for the first time since the game was 4–2. The Sky also held the Aces to 11 points during the third quarter, an unheard of feat as the Aces score an average of 91 points per game.

Courtney Vandersloot looks for an open teammate (John Locher/The Associated Press)

Courtney Vandersloot led the team with 25 points, and Candace Parker, Azura Stevens, and Emma Meesseman finished the game with 17 points apiece.

The Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces have now split their head-to-head meetings this season, so the team with the greatest point differential in cup games will be awarded home-court advantage for the Commissioner’s Cup championship game. The Aces presently have a significant lead over the Sky, but the teams still have two games to play before a decision is made.

A Fourth Quarter Battle

After three quarters of action against the Mystics, the Los Angeles Sparks looked like they had secured a win, but Washington refused to go down without a fight. The Mystics put up 31 points in the fourth quarter, just falling short of completing an epic comeback in the last few minutes of the game. Los Angeles won the game 84–82.

The Mystics had a sluggish start in Los Angeles, only scoring 4 fast-break points in the first 30 minutes of Tuesday night’s clash. It wasn’t until part way through the fourth quarter—where the Sparks were leading 77–61—that the team found its rhythm. Natasha Cloud made back-to-back three-pointers and was credited with an assist on Ariel Atkins’ four-point play. 

The Mystics had to foul Ogwumike with 10.2 seconds left on the clock, and Ogwumike gave the Sparks a 3-point lead. Cloud had a chance to tie the game when she was fouled on a three-point attempt with 2.5 second left in the game, but she missed the second of three free throws and the Mystics were unable to rebound her third.

For Washington, Atkins scored 22 points while Myisha Hines-Allen tallied up 17 points and 8 rebounds. Natasha Cloud had 13 points and a career-high 13 assists. Elena Delle Donne did not play.

For Los Angeles, Nneka Ogwumike was the leading scorer with 21 points. It was interim coach Fred Williams’ first win.

New Life for New York in the Month of June

It is hard to believe that one month ago, the New York Liberty were struggling with slow starts to their games. In their 81–77 win over the Connecticut Sun, the Liberty finished the first quarter with 31 points and were lights out from three-point range

New York lost every other quarter of the game, but Connecticut was never quite able to recover from being outscored 27–17 in the first 10 minutes of the night. 

Jonquel Jones finished the game with a double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds), and Connecticut had four other players record double-digit scoring figures. The team made the same number of field goals as the Liberty (31), but the outcome of the game was decided from the three-point line. 

New York set a season high for first-half points with 51 after shooting 48.7% from the field, including 10 of 21 from behind the arc. Six different New York players made a 3-pointer in the first half. 

Five Liberty players finished the game with more than 10 points, and Stef Dolson led the team with 16, including a clutch three-pointer with under 2 minutes left on the clock. Ionescu picked up another double-double on the season, scoring 11 points and collecting 11 rebounds.  

While Ionescu’s streak of 36 consecutive made free throws ended in the last quarter of the game, she left it all out on the floor to help her team pick up another win.

Cold Night for the Fever

The Indiana Fever had won two of their last three games entering their contest against the Dallas Wings, including a 15-point comeback win over the Chicago Sky. However, on Thursday night the team looked tired, and their 19 turnovers led to a 94–68 blowout loss.

Ten different Wings players scored before the last buzzer sounded, and Arike Ogunbowale was the top scorer in the game, finishing with 24 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals. Her teammate Teira McCowan had a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. 

Queen Egbo flexes after scoring a basket for the Indiana Fever (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the Fever, Kelsey Mitchell scored 22 points, and Queen Egbo—a player we mentioned could have a good game in Sabally’s absence—backed up Mitchell with her first ever career double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds). 

Dallas was able to shut down star rookie NaLyssa Smith, holding her to 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 from behind the arc. 

Washington Hands Sue Bird Another Record

The Mystics were looking to pick up a win in Seattle after their narrow loss in Los Angeles, but the Seattle Storm had other ideas. The Mystics were outscored in every quarter of the game, losing the matchup 85–71.

The closest the Mystics got to having the lead was when consecutive three-pointers by Elena Delle Donne and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough made the game 69–67. Seattle reacted quickly to this burst of scoring and went on a decisive 14-2 run to restore a double-digit lead.

Jewell Loyd made six three-pointers and scored 22 points, and Breanna Stewart had 19 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists for Seattle. Bird added eight assists for Seattle, and the Storm made 12 three-pointers during the game.

Delle Donne led Washington with 20 points in just 29 minutes. Myisha Hines-Allen had 12 points, and Ariel Atkins and Alysha Clark each scored 11. Clark’s 11 points moved her past the 2,000 point mark in her career. Natasha Cloud had a quiet night, attempting 4 field goals, and only making one of them. 

With the win, Bird, playing at home for the first time since announcing last week that she would retire at the end of the season, tied Lindsay Whalen for the most career wins with 323.

Staples, Crypto? It doesn’t matter. Candace Parker owns it.

Candace Parker might have forgotten that her old arena is no longer called the Staples Center, but she remembered what it was like to win in her home of 12 years. Parker made history by recording her third career triple-double (and second of the season) in Chicago’s 82–59 win over the Sparks.

The Chicago Sky started the game with a statement, scoring 27 points in each of the first two quarters and holding the Sparks to a cumulative 25 points in the first half of the game. 

After completing her triple-double in three quarters, Parker was able to sit back and watch her team continue to work their magic against the Sparks. It was a team win with 5 players scoring in double digits. Notably, Courtney Vandersloot shot 75% from the field (6–8) and 50% from three (1–2) and Copper was an astounding +29PM when she was on the floor. Chicago also shot 100% from the free-throw line during the game, sinking all 11 of their free throws.

Nneka led the Sparks with 15 points, but Chicago managed to hold the Sparks to 32.9% from the field (26–79) and 16.7% from the three-point line (3–18). During the 2022 season, the Sparks have been averaging 81.2 points per game, shooting 45.4% from the field and 32.7 percent from the three-point line. 

Candace Parker now holds the record for the most triple-doubles in WNBA history, and the Chicago Sky have moved up to the top of the Eastern Conference.

New York Continues to Thrive

The New York Liberty got off to another hot start against the Atlanta Dream, putting up 33 points in the first quarter while keeping the Atlanta Dream to 16 points. While the Atlanta Dream won the next two quarters of the game, the Liberty regained control in the fourth and beat the Dream 89–77.

Sabrina Ionescu looks to dribble the Atlanta Dream defense (Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Once again, Sabrina Ionescu flirted with a triple-double, finishing the game with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. Natasha Howard had a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Marine Johannès also had another strong game, contributing 17 points to the team’s win. Both Sabrina and Marine sank 5 three-pointers each, and the team made a season-high 16 three-pointers

Atlanta couldn’t compete with New York’s shooting and only sank 7 baskets from beyond the arc. Atlanta had 7 three-pointers. For Atlanta, the bright spot for the game was Asia (AD) Durr’s performance. Durr finished the game with 23 points off the bench. They made 8 of their 13 shots from the field, and scored 4 out of Atlanta’s 7 three-pointers. The Dream’s other big performer was Rhyne Howard who finished the game with 19 points and 8 rebounds. 

While the Liberty only won 1 game in the month of May, they have now won 7 out of their 10 games in June.

The Mystics Might be the Aces Kryptonite

There are not very many teams in the WNBA who can say that they have beaten the Las Vegas Aces. The Washington Mystics can say that they have done it twice. It took an extra five minutes of overtime, but the Washington Mystics shocked many WNBA fans with their 87–86 win.

When the two teams faced each other earlier this season, Natasha Cloud was unavailable due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Cloud made her presence felt in this rematch, scoring decisive free throws at the end of overtime, and finishing the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Elena Delle Donne blocks a shot attempt by Dearica Hamby in the Mystics’ win over the Aces (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Cloud was not the only Mystics player who had a big game. Alysha Clark scored 20 points (including 4 three-pointers) and added eight rebounds and four steals to her stat line. Elena Delle Donne put up 19 points (15 of which came after halftime), blocked five shots, and grabbed 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. 

Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young both scored 20 points, and A’ja Wilson finished with a monster double-double, tallying up 17 points and 14 rebounds, but they could not compete with the Mystics’ offense.

With the win, the Mystics snapped their West Coast losing streak and handed the Las Vegas Aces their second consecutive loss for the first time this season.

A Much Needed Win

After an uncharacteristic couple of losses, and seeing the Chicago Sky on track to take the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Connecticut Sun really needed a win against Atlanta. A dominant second quarter propelled them to a 72–61 win. 

While the two teams looked evenly matched during the first quarter of the game, the Connecticut Sun outscored the Atlanta Dream 20–5 in the next quarter. 

Connecticut led by 11 points heading to the fourth quarter before a three-pointer from McDonald and a jumpshot by Howard drew the Dream within seven with 7:04 remaining. However, the Dream went the next four minutes without a point and only made one field goal over the course of the rest of the game

Atlanta’s woes from the three-point line continued, with the team only making 5 of its 19 attempts from behind the arc. Interestingly, the Connecticut Sun were far worse from three-point range, only making 2 out of their 20 attempts, but their 42% shooting from the field ultimately propelled them to the win.

Connecticut stuck with its trend of having multiple double-digit scorers with Courtney Williams scoring 17, Alyssa Thomas scoring 15, and DeWanna Bonner scoring 12. Williams and Thomas also both had double-doubles, with Williams grabbing 10 rebounds, and Thomas grabbing 11 of her own.

Aari McDonald had 17 points for the Atlanta Dream.

This was Atlanta’s second loss in a row and Connecticut’s first win in three games. The Sun will be looking to beat Chicago on Wednesday to regain the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago Holds On Against a Determined Lynx Team

In our preview for this week, we talked about how Minnesota should not be underestimated, despite their record this season. The Minnesota Lynx managed to hold their own against a Chicago Sky team that was coming off of two big wins, and it took a Courtney Vandersloot three-pointer in the dying seconds of the game for Chicago to walk away from Wintrust Arena with a victory.

The Chicago Sky were missing head coach James Wade (health and safety protocols) and Kahleah Copper (back) from their lineup, and at times during the game, it looked like the fatigue from their road trip was catching up to them. 

Minnesota went on a 10–0 run in the first quarter to take a 20–18 lead, but neither team led by more than three points for the remainder of the first half. The Sky went into the fourth quarter with a 72–62 lead, but with 4:10 to go in the fourth quarter, Jessica Shepherd led a 9–0 run for Minnesota. Although the Lynx never took the lead, they brought the game to a tie when Kayla McBride was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining in the game. Emma Meesseman was able to create some space and hand off the ball to Courtney Vandersloot, who scored the three-pointer that ultimately won the game. 

Vandersloot led the Chicago Sky in scoring with 18 points and five other Sky players finished the game with scoring in double-figures.

The game was Sylvia Fowles’ final regular-season appearance in Chicago, the team that drafted her, and the organization honored her with a ceremony.

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