WNBA East Week 11 Recap

Connecticut and Washington book their tickets to the playoffs while Atlanta’s dreams of making it to the postseason start to slip away.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

With the WNBA season starting to wind down, there was a lot on the line during this week’s Eastern Conference games. While Chicago maintained a perfect record in their matchups, both the Dream and Fever were unable to pick up much-needed wins. Let’s take a look at how each Eastern Conference team fared this week.

Rui Machida guards Tyasha Harris at halfcourt. / WNBA Twitter

Minnesota Knocks Atlanta Out of the Eight Seed

Thursday night was Sylvia Fowles’ last Game in Atlanta, and the Minnesota Lynx made sure it was a game to remember. Despite the Dream’s incredible 40-point fourth quarter, Fowles and the Lynx left Atlanta with a 92–85 victory.

Atlanta did not start this game well. Minnesota went on a 29–8 run during the first half of the contest and carried a 49–29 lead into halftime.

Tiffany Hayes led the team with 24 points and Rhyne Howard scored 18, but the team shot under 40% from the field and under 30% from three-point range. In contrast, Minnesota shot over 55% from the field and just over 53% from beyond the arc.

Coach Wright said this about the loss: “They didn’t compete, and it’s a representation of me. I built my whole career on competing, so when they look like this, I take it very personal.”

The loss knocked Atlanta out of the top eight, and the Dream’s chances of making the playoffs are now incredibly slim.

AD Durr did not suit up for the game, and per release, they are out for the remainder of the season in preparation for surgery on their right hip.

The Sun Spoil Sue’s Last Game in Connecticut

Basketball fans know how special Connecticut is to Sue Bird. So when she arrived for her final game in the state, it was no surprise that the Mohegan Sun Arena was packed. It’s hard to say that the Connecticut Sun had a home court advantage against the Storm when 4 out of 5 of Seattle’s starters in the game were UConn products. Thus, it made perfect sense that the building was both thrilled and disappointed when Sue hit the first bucket of the game—a three-pointer. 

Despite Seattle’s 13–4 start to the game, Alyssa Thomas had a huge night for the Sun and helped the team secure an 88–83 win. 

Connecticut had five players finish the game with double-figure scoring. Alyssa Thomas led the team with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Brionna Jones had 13 points, DeWanna Bonner finished the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Courtney Williams added 12 points to the final score, and DiJonai Carrington chipped in with 11 points off the bench.

Seattle also had five players finish the game in double-figures (Breanna Stewart, Gabby Williams, Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird, Tina Charles), but only had two other members of their roster score during the game.

With the win, the Connecticut Sun clinched a spot in the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. Here’s an interesting stat: the last three teams that swept the Storm during their regular season series all reached that year’s Finals (2019 Sun, 2020 Aces, 2021 Sky). Could we see the Sun repeat that pattern this year?

Washington Inches Closer to Securing a Playoff Spot 

Washington didn’t have Elena Delle Donne for this game, but once again, the depth of the Mystics roster was on full display in their 87–77 win over the Wings.

Coach Thibault inserted Myisha Hines-Allen into the starting lineup for Delle Donne, and Hines-Allen was an instant difference-maker. She picked up a steal during the first possession of the game and scored the first basket of the contest for the Mystics.

Despite being outscored in the second half of the game, the Wings just did not have it in them to come back from Washington’s 56–36 lead. 

Washington shot 56.4% from the floor, including 9 of 15 from three-point range. However, their eight misses from the free-throw line made this game much closer than it should have been.

Myisha Hines-Allen, Natasha Cloud, and Ariel Atkins each scored 14 points for the Mystics, while Alysha Clark put up 13 points and rookie Shakira Austin finished the contest with 12 points. 

Teaira McCowan (Dallas) led all scorers with 27 points. Awak Kuier and Satou Sabally did not play. 

Unlucky 13th Consecutive Loss for the Fever

This past Friday wasn’t the 13th day of the month, but Indiana Fever players and fans probably felt like the day was haunted after they suffered their 13th consecutive loss of the season and lost their best player all in one game. It was an easy 93–72 win for the Aces.

One positive for the Fever was the performance of fan-favorite rookie Destanni Henderson. Henderson finished the game with 12 points off of the bench and made 4 of her 6 attempts from three-point range. Queen Egbo led Indiana with 13 points, and Kelsey Mitchell was the only other player for the team to score double-figures with 12 points.

All 12 of Becky Hammon’s players saw action in the contest, and A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum each scored 22 points.

Unfortunately for Indiana, the mood only became more glum for the organization after Friday night’s loss. On Saturday morning, the Fever announced that Kelsey Mitchell (the team’s leading scorer) would miss the remainder of the season with a partial plantar fascia tear in her left foot.

No Parker? No Problem. The Sky Still Got their Payback

It’s safe to say that none of the Chicago Sky players were happy after their last-minute loss against the New York Liberty last weekend. Despite Candace Parker’s absence, the rest of the Sky players stepped up and made sure that the Liberty didn’t come away with another win against them. While it was a close game,  it was Chicago that came out on top this time with an 89–81 victory in front of their home crowd.

New York won the first quarter on Friday night, but the Sky controlled the tempo for the duration of the game. This was largely due to the Liberty’s struggles from three-point range. The team shot 26.7% from deep, and couldn’t find a way around Chicago’s defense to pick up points in the paint. Sabrina Ionescu led New York with 16 points and Natasha Howard finished the matchup with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds), but both players shot under 47% from the field, and couldn’t get their shots to fall when they were outscored 18–11 in the final 10 minutes of the game.

Courtney Vandersloot was on fire for the Chicago Sky. Vandersloot had 23 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and zero turnovers in her 31 minutes of action. It was just the sixth time in WNBA history that a player had 20+ points, 9+ assists, and 6+ rebounds without a turnover. Four other Sky players finished with double-figure scoring (Kahleah Copper, Allie Quigley, Rebekah Gardner, Azurá Stevens), and every player on the roster saw action.

Controversy in the Final Seconds Leads to a Loss for the Mystics

It was an exciting battle between the fourth- and fifth-seeded teams on Saturday, and after a flurry of free throws and runs in the fourth quarter, it was the Storm that managed to come away with an 82–77 win over the Mystics.

The Mystics had a strong start to the game and played a competitive three quarters of basketball, but looked like they were starting to unravel toward the beginning of the fourth. Epiphanny Prince came up with back-to-back steals for Seattle and scored two layups in the span of 18 seconds. Her four points were just the tip of the Storm’s 16–0 run that opened up the final 10 minutes of the game. 

With 6:28 to play in the game, Washington put on a remarkable display of resilience and scored 14 of the next 18 points to trim its deficit to five points with 2 minutes left. Then, after Ariel Atkins and Alysha Clark made consecutive three-pointers, the Mystics found themselves within a point with 26.3 seconds remaining on the clock. That’s when things got messy. After an inadvertent whistle by an official, Seattle was able to call a timeout. The momentum of the game shifted back to Seattle and Breanna Stewart made four free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal the win. 

Needless to say, the players weren’t thrilled that a refereeing mistake was allowed to create such a huge momentum swing in the final minutes. After the game, Natasha Cloud went on Twitter and said, “We need the challenge added to the W. ASAP.”

Breanna Stewart (18 points) Jewell Loyd (17 points), and Tina Charles (16 points) were Seattle’s top scorers in the matchup.

 For Washington, the strategy of resting Elena Delle Donne in Thursday’s game did pay off. Delle Donne led all scorers with 22 points. 

Even though the Mystics couldn’t pick up the win against the Storm on Saturday, Atlanta’s loss meant that they became the fifth team to secure a spot in this year’s playoffs.

Atlanta’s Playoff Hopes Start to Fade Away

This is not the time of year when you want to start a losing streak. Prior to this week’s set of games Atlanta was sitting in the final playoff spot, but after their 81–68 loss to the Wings, they are now half a game behind the Sparks (who hold the eighth seed) and risk falling further in the standings with the Lynx and Liberty inching up the WNBA leaderboard.

What was remarkable about this game was that Atlanta somehow let Dallas outscore them in three quarters of the game despite the Wings only shooting 28% from deep. 

 Rhyne Howard scored a game-high 22 points but did not make a single basket in the final quarter. She shot 33% from the field, and poor shot selection from the entire Dream roster (the team shot 38%) led to their downfall. 

Still, on an individual level, Howard has plenty to be proud of this season. Her 22 points meant that she notched her eighth game with at least 20 points this season. All other rookies have combined for just six such games in 2022. 

Chicago Reminds Connecticut Who’s the Best in the East

With Candace Parker unavailable for the second game in a row, Chicago needed another player to step up against the Sun. Kahleah Copper did just that. Copper played 38 minutes in the matchup, and her game-high 27 points propelled the Sky to a 95–92 win in overtime.

Chicago got off to a 27–17 start, but it was Connecticut who dominated the next two quarters of action. The Sky managed to outscore the Sun 26–23 in the fourth to force the game to overtime, and with about two minutes left in the contest, the Sky shifted gears and pulled away from Connecticut.

Allie Quigley scored a three-pointer and Courtney Vandersloot hit two foul shots with 90 seconds left on the clock. Following a Sun turnover, Emma Meesseman made a go-ahead layup with 47.3 seconds to go and Quigley scored down low to seal the win for Chicago.

Vandersloot scored 16 and recorded 12 assists for the Sky. She now is third overall for all-time assists in the WNBA. Allie Quigley had 13 points and 5 assists in the game, while Azurá Stevens scored 12 and grabbed 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Meesseman added 10 points and 5 assists as all five Chicago starters scored in double figures.

DeWanna Bonner led the Sun with 23 points and 9 rebounds, while Alyssa Thomas scored 22, dished out 8 assists, and picked up 5 steals. Courtney Williams had 16 points and 8 boards. It was Williams’ basket with 15.2 seconds left in regulation time that sent the game to OT.

Jonquel Jones has not looked like herself since she returned from her bout with Covid-19, and Sun fans have got to be hoping that she is feeling better before the start of the playoffs.

Sandy Brondello Takes Care of Business Against Her Former Team

While Phoenix got the best of the Liberty the last time these teams met, it was New York that dominated the Mercury in all four quarters of the game during Sunday’s 89–69 win. 

Natasha Howard scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Sabrina Ionescu scored 10 points and dished out 16 assists (a franchise record) to help her team to a win. The real difference-maker for the Liberty was Rebecca Allen. Allen had her biggest game of the season in the contest, finishing the game with 17 points while shooting 75% from the field and 80% from three-point range. 

All five of the Mercury’s starters finished the game with double-figure scoring, but remarkably, none of their bench players scored a single point. By the fourth quarter, the Liberty players looked like they could run circles around their opponents. As a result, New York outscored Phoenix 30–19 in the final 10 minutes of action.

Indiana Falls Short Against the Aces … Again

The Aces outplayed the Fever in their first two meetings this season, and they did the same on Sunday when they left Indiana with a 94–69 win.

 The Fever were outscored in all four quarters of Sunday’s contest, and with Kelsey Mitchell being unavailable, at times it looked like the team did not know who to pass the ball to on offense.

Credit must be given to NaLyssa Smith and Destanni Henderson who both had huge performances. The two players were the only members of their team who scored more than 9 points. Smith recorded another double-double, finishing the game with 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and Henderson scored 16 and dished out 4 assists.

Kelsey Plum sank 9 of her 12 three-point attempts en route to a 26-point performance, and the Aces shot 50.7% from the floor as a team (36 of 71), while holding the Fever to 31% (22 of 71).

The Fever rookies are still looking for their sixth win of the season, and they now have only four more games to accomplish their pre-season goal.

Washington Refuses to Lose Twice

The Mystics were not happy with how Saturday’s game against the Storm ended, and they made sure they took care of business against Seattle on Sunday. In what was Sue Bird’s final game in Washington, the Mystics defeated the Storm 78–75.

While Washington got off to a 22–15 start, Seattle responded by outscoring the Mystics 22–14 in the second quarter. Whatever was said in the locker room at halftime worked for Washington, because their 26–18 third-quarter performance is what propelled them to victory.

Ariel Atkins scored 8 of her 23 points during the third and led Washington in scoring during Sunday’s matchup. Elena Delle Donne scored 17 points, including the final layup that sealed the win for the Mystics. Natasha Cloud recorded another double-double, finishing the game with 11 points and 10 assists.

Capital One Arena was sold out for both of Washington’s games on the weekend, and the fans were delighted to see their home team pick up the win.

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