Dream lose Carter and game against Sun
The Connecticut Sun caught up to the Atlanta Dream with Monday night’s win; both teams are now 2–6. Even worse for Atlanta fans: Their rookie point guard Chennedy Carter had to leave the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and would not return. Her status is still being evaluated by the team’s medical staff; the first prognosis is that she’ll be out for two weeks. The Sun’s comfortable lead allowed them to give their starters some much needed rest, as they strive to finally get their season going with this win.
Shekinna Stricklen was blazing hot from downtown in the first half, knocking down 4 shots from long range in the opening quarter. She finished the game 6/8 from three, scoring a team-high 18 points. Alyssa Thomas had the perfect answer, though, getting to the rim with ease and finishing their effectively. She made 10 of her 12 shots for 21 points to lead all scorers. She also grabbed 7 boards and assisted on 2 of her teammates’ buckets. It was a close game after 10 minutes, when the Sun lead 26–25.
Courtney Williams tried to fill the void that Carter’s absence had created. Most of her 12 points (6/10 FG) came from midrange shots after some dribble penetration. Midway through the second quarter, the Sun had managed to pull ahead and build a double-digit lead on the back of Atlanta’s lack of care of the basketball: They amassed 19 turnovers over the course of the game while forcing only 8. Connecticut was able to hold on to a 10-point lead at the half, going into the intermission up 56–46.
Multiple defensive breakdowns on the Dream’s part lead to easy layups for the Sun, who feasted on these opportunities and extended their lead with a big run. Atlanta’s great three-point shooting wasn’t enough to keep them in the game: The Sun went on a 19–5 run to put the game away in the third quarter. Kalani Brown was very productive and efficient in her first game for the Dream, using her physical strength and length to overpower defenders. She’d finish the game with 13 points and 4 rebounds in less than 11 minutes. In the end, even that was only enough to cut the deficit to 11; the Dream had been able to hold the Sun scoreless for the last 2 minutes to put up 9 unanswered.
The Sun got their second win of the season in impressive fashion, while the Dream will probably be more concerned about Carter’s injury than their fifth straight loss in the #Wubble. DeWanna Bonner, who’s cooled off after her hot start to the season, embodied the Sun’s will to fight back. Alyssa Thomas was the team’s best performer again. She scored 21 points, collected 7 rebounds and set up her teammates twice. Jasmine Thomas ran the point well for Connecticut, slowly finding her old form. She contributed 15 points and dished out 7 assists.
Mercury rise above Wings
The Phoenix Mercury faced the Dallas Wings on Monday night, trying to get their fifth win in six games. But they had to do so without Diana Taurasi who is out with a back injury – fortunately not the same one that kept her from playing last season. Another tough injury occurred in the fourth quarter, when Dallas rookie Satou Sabally hurt her ankle on the way down from a rebound. She’s not part of the Wings’ injury report as of now, so she should be ok. With Sabrina Ionescu and Chennedy Carter being hurt and Lauren Cox slowly returning to action, the league would otherwise miss another great player from the 2020 WNBA draft.
Dallas jumped out to an early lead by double-teaming Brittney Griner and forcing her to give the ball up or to commit turnovers. The Wings are a dynamic young team and tough to beat on the break. Arike Ogunbowale’s speed and aggressiveness are top-notch, her supporting cast is built to run as well. Dallas was up 15–5 after 5 minutes of action and the Mercury had to make adjustments to get back into the game. Griner’s passing was excellent, her length allowed her to quickly pass out of double-teams and find the open shooters. Skylar Diggins-Smith put her team in the lead with 0.5 seconds left in the quarter, finishing a tough floater in close proximity to the rim.
The Phoenix point guard was stellar in the second period as well, scoring 10 points and getting her teammates involved. Her virtuous drives to the hoop opened up space for shooters like Nia Coffey who had a great game off the bench. She scored an efficient 10 points (4/7 FG, 2/3 3pt) and collected 6 rebounds, too. The two stars also got a lot of help from Brionna Jones; the forward contributed 13 points (6/9 FG), grabbed 11 boards (4 on offense) and set up 4 buckets. Phoenix’ length was a problem the Wings’ defense couldn’t solve. With Allisha Gray in the starting lineup, Dallas’ bench was a lot less impressive than they usually are. For the second time in a row, not a single player scored in double digits. Phoenix was able to build a lead despite Sabally’s outstanding first half; the rookie had racked up 9 rebounds and 12 points in the first half, finishing the game with 10 boards and 15 points.
In the end, Phoenix’ great ball movement was the key to their success. 27 of their 35 field goals were assisted (77%) – and all that without their best passer Taurasi. Dallas refused to bow down and fought back, but Griner’s length was too much. The Mercury blew the game wide open in the third, extending their lead to 16 (68–52). Dallas wasn’t able to cut the lead back to single digits, while the Mercury calmly protected their lead and the ball. They remained poised and focussed throughout the rest of the game and came away with a well-deserved win. Even without Taurasi their offense looked smooth, Diggins-Smith (26 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists) ran the point the way the Mercury want and need her to. They certainly underlined their playoff ambitions. The Wings on the other hand will continue to develop their young and talented roster; Ogunbowale still struggles to be efficient as the focal point of their offense (7/23 FG, 2/7 3pt), but makes up for that with her aggressiveness and relentless attacks of the rim. Gray contributed 17 points on 6/11 shooting and 7 rebounds for Dallas, but breaking up the dynamic duo with Tyasha Harris really hurt the Wings’ bench production that had been a difference maker quite often.
Storm darken the Sky’s night
Sometimes it’s really tough to make the decision about the player of the game. You consider their scoring output, their overall stats and performance as well as their impact on the game. And sometimes it’s really easy, especially if and when Breanna Stewart’s involved. The Seattle big is having an absolute monster of a season so far, after their win against the Sky, the Storm are now 7–1 and look fairly unbeatable in a 5-game series. “Stewie” put up 25 points on 10/17 shooting, corralled in 5 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and treated herself to 4 steals as well. Sami Whitcomb was outstanding off the bench once more. The guard scored 17 points (6/9 FG) on the back of her excellent three-point shooting (3/3). She had 4 steals as well, grabbed 3 boards and set up her teammates 6 times.
The Sky were on the backfoot from the tip-off, trailing by 15 after the first quarter. They couldn’t find their rhythm on offense, because they either turned the ball over too much or took bad shots. Stewart set the tone early and established her inside game; the Storm dominated the Sky in the paint. Chicago’s defense stepped up in the second quarter, though, holding Seattle to just 13 points. But: They stayed cold on offense, too, so they were unable to cut the deficit, scoring a mere 10 points. After 20 minutes the Storm led 46–28. Their disruptive defense gave head coach James Wade and his high-octane offense a lot to think and talk about in the intermission, while the still Bird-less Storm were looking to secure their fifth straight win after the break.
The Sky came out firing and fought back: Allie Quigley continued her hot shooting streak (3/5 3pt) and scored a team-high 13 points. Chicago rallied and managed to cut the deficit to single digits. Former Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard had the best game of her rookie campaign, crushing her previous career-high of 4 points with 11 (5/8 FG). She was active on the offensive glass and on defense as well, giving Chicago a much needed spark off the bench. The Storm were able to smother all hopes, though. Whitcomb and rookie Ezi Magbegor (6/8 FG) were too much to handle and had their way with Chicago’s defenders. The Sky were able to at least win the third quarter 28–25, but Seattle restored their lead to 18 in the fourth. Alysha Clark, a player who’s rarely talked about, was efficient once more; the Seattle forward scored 14 points on 5/8 shooting from the floor (2/2 3pt). At the end of the game, the aforementioned Whitcomb had a +/- rating of +32 – a stat that’s usually not that meaningful, but it illustrates her impact on the game quite well.