Storm beat shorthanded Sky
The Seattle Storm may still be without Sue Bird (knee injury), but they seem to be right back on track after losing two consecutive games. Having avenged their loss to the Indiana Fever, they went up against a shorthanded Chicago Sky squad – only 8 players were available. Head coach James Wade will have to find a solution to replace not only Azurá Stevens, but also Diamond DeShields, as both have left the #Wubble. Chicago was the only team to make a move at the trade deadline, adressing said issue: They acquired Stephanie Mavunga from the Indiana Fever for a 2nd and a 3rd round pick as well as Jantel Lavender, freeing up $ 70,000 of cap space. The forward will be cleared to play next week after re-entering the bubble following nasal surgery. Expect the Sky to try and sign an additional player soon, though.
Both teams struggled to get good looks in the beginning. Seattle then jumped out ahead with a 10–0 run, running the floor and capitalizing on the Sky’s mistakes. Kahleah Copper wouldn’t have it, though, leading an 8–0 run to bring her squad back within 2, before Epiphanny Prince capped the first quarter with a long two-pointer at 20–16. Ezi Magbegor set the tone early in the second, hitting a tough turnaround jumpshot (plus foul) and a layup. Chicago looked fatigued, their transition defense turned out to be their Achilles’ heel. Seattle got a lot of easy buckets and killed the Sky on the break. Add the Storm’s depth and you have a recipe for disaster. Seattle converted 9 Chicago turnovers into 12 points and blew the game wide open until halftime. They outscored the Sky 29–18 in the second, sporting a comfortable 49–34 lead after 20 minutes of action. Breanna Stewart had knocked down a crazy fallaway jumper with 1.3 seconds left. When it rains, it pours…
Natasha Howard was a beast on the boards, grabbing 6 on the offensive and 9 on the defensive glass. She scored an efficient 17 points as well, going 6/9 from the field. Getting her back – well she wasn’t out, but she wasn’t her real self for the first few weeks – will be crucial down the stretch for Seattle’s title hopes. Both teams shot relatively poorly in the third, starting 5/15 and 5/19 respectively. The Storm were able to extend their lead nevertheless, as they got to the free throw line as they pleased. They knocked down 24 of 28 attempts, compared to Chicago’s 12 of 14. Copper hit a wild shot to end the quarter and answer a Prince three, making it 75–55 before the final period.
Ruthy Hebard played great minutes off the bench for coach Wade. She tied her career-high with 11 points (third time this season) on 5/6 shooting from the floor, while also corralling in 6 misses and getting 3 steals. Wade had praised her in an interview before, pointing out her coachability and her confidence. She sparked a late Sky push and a mini-run, but the Storm came right back at them after a timeout, finally and decisively sealing the win.
Seattle improves to 13–3 and holds on to the top spot in the W, while the Sky fall to 10–6 after their second straight loss. They’ll likely make the playoffs, but it’s going to be tough, if they can’t replenish their roster with some fresh feet. Dolson especially looked a bit slow getting back on defense, maybe still restricted by her injury. Jordin Canada ran the point in the absence of Bird again, and excelled at distributing the ball – as did Courtney Vandersloot (both 9 assists). Alysha Clark and Jewell Loyd played great perimeter defense, holding Chicago’s shooters to just 4/21 from downtown.
Wings find medicine to fend off Fever
In a contest for the last playoff spot right now, the Wings and the Fever battled right down to the wire. In the end, Dallas came out on top, powered by another 30-point outing from Arike Ogunbowale. The explosive guard had rolled her ankle in the second quarter and headed to the locker room. She’d eventually return to action in the second half, tilting the game in her team’s favor.
Dallas jumped out to an early lead on the back of Ogunbowale’s flawless performance from long range. She started 3/3 from behind the arc (5/7 on the night). Satou Sabally chimed in 4 early points in her return to the starting lineup. The Wings pushed the pace and tried to get out on the run. They had 7 assists and only 1 turnover in the first quarter and were successful at getting the ball in close. Their 10 points in the paint made the difference in their 28–18 lead. Megan Gustafson came off the bench to answer Teaira McCowan’s height, but the former Mississippi State standout gave the Dallas center a tough time. She made an immediate impact off the bench, converting her first 3 attempts and getting 3 quick rebounds as well. The Fever cut the deficit to 32–26, before Ogunbowale laid the ball in, hurting her ankle on the following possession. Both teams struggled shooting the ball (DAL 12/30 – IND 9/23). Dallas started double-teaming McCowan in the paint, forcing a couple of turnovers. At the end of the half, Julie Allemand hit this tough stepback jumper over the Wings’ Bella Alarie to make it a single-digit game at 44–37.
Indiana edged closer by the minute, but Dallas initially was able to fight back. Sabally blew by Natalie Achonwa for an and-1 layup, after the latter had knocked down a midrange jumpshot on the previous possession. Kelsey Mitchell knocked down a difficult long two-pointer over Allisha Gray, who had another great game for Dallas. The Fever took the ball inside, trying to capitalize on their height advantage. Their post players pulled them back into the game. Achonwa had 11 points and 8 rebounds, Candice Dupree was active as well, although Sabally played some good defense against her. Mitchell had 11 points in the third quarter alone, eventuallylifting her team in the lead 58–56. Indiana had outscored Dallas 21–12 in the third.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle, as Arike went wild, knocking down shots from everywhere. Sabally impressed at the line again, going 10/10 there, but missing all 5 of her three-point attempts. With 33 seconds left in the game, Dallas was up 77–74, as both teams fought for a rebound that eventually ended up with the Wings. Dallas came out of the timeout with a great play, setting up Marina Mabrey for a corner three. Ogunbowale would foul Allemand on a three-pointer on the following possession, but the Belgian missed 2 of her 3 free throws.
Dallas in the end won this game because of their better execution towards the end of the game. The Wings improve to 6–10, passing the now 5–10 Indiana Fever for the 8th and final playoff spot.