WNBA Game Day #16 / Tuesday, August 11

Shooting clinic turns into shutout as Aces beat Fever

The Las Vegas Aces are now the second-best team in the #Wubble. And they’re playing like legitimate contenders as well. They have an MVP-caliber player in A’ja Wilson, they play the toughest D in the association and they’re scoring efficiently themselves. The Indiana Fever have an efficient offense as well, ranked third in the WNBA, right behind Las Vegas, but their defense has been sub-par thus far (11th in DefRtg). In a tale of two halves, the Aces would prevail and move to 6–2, while the Fever dropped their fifth of the season and fell to 3–5.

Both teams were on an offensive tear from the get-go. Indiana let it fly from outside, while the Aces – as always – were trying to get the ball as close to the rim as possible. The Fever’s frontcourt of Candice Dupree and Teaira McCowan were almost as accurate as the Aces’ Angel McCoughtry. The veteran almost had a perfect first half, going 6/6 from the floor for 14 points, while Dupree connected on 7 of her 12 attempts for 15 points. The first quarter ended 33–31 in favour of Las Vegas, who’d scored 22 of their 31 in the paint – and 7 from the line! The high-scoring shootout carried over to the second period. Lauren Cox, who’s slowly and carefully being integrated into Indiana’s rotation, knocked down a three, which capped the Fever’s run of 9 straight made shots from outside. Cox only played 12 minutes, but scored efficiently (3/4 FG), rebounded and passed the ball well. Julie Allemand added two three-pointers as well, but those were the only ones finding the way through the net. Indiana shot an abysmal 3/18 from long range, while Las Vegas went 4/8. The “splash sisters” Tiffany and Kelsey Mitchell couldn’t buy a bucket from behind the arc, shooting a combined 0/8. A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby struggled as well, going 10/31 from the floor, while the rest of the team shot an impressive 29/44. Jackie Young had a great game off the bench for the Aces: The young guard scored 17 points (6/7 FG), racked up 4 rebounds and 4 assists, overpowering Allemand on her way to the hoop time and time again. At the half, the Aces led 60–59 – the most combined points in a half this season probably rendered head coach Bill Laimbeer happy and furious at the same time.

And the Aces would step their game up in the second half: Indiana only scored 20 points after the break, just 7 in the final quarter. Las Vegas played tough textbook defense without committing too many fouls (9 PF over the course of the game!) and slowly but surely put the game away. The Aces were able to control the flow of the game and to contain Indiana’s shooters. The Fever didn’t have enough firepower to answer and their defense was unable to stop the Aces. McCoughtry and Dupree each scored 20 points to lead all scorers; the former delivered an absolute clinic and made good on 9 of her 10 attempts. Indiana definitely needs to step up defensively, if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs this season. Cox’ minutes so far have been a bright spot for sure. The Fever are longing for Erica Wheeler’s return, though, while the Aces continue to excel in the absence of Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200811/LVAIND/

Record-lows for both teams in Lynx‘ win over Mystics

The Mystics‘ woes continue after a rather weird game of basketball against the Minnesota Lynx. After winning their first three, they’ve now dropped five in a row. The absence of Aerial Powers weighed heavy on the reigning champs, especially against a team with the defensive prowess of Minnesota. The Mystics seem to tumble and stumble – but it’s definitely too early to count them out. The Lynx on the other hand improve to 6–2 and will be quite happy with how their season has turned out thus far.

Washington was on the backfoot from the get-go; Minnesota’s offensive rebounding had a sensible demoralizing effect on the depleted Mystics. Sylvia Fowles dominated the paint, corralling in misses and scoring invaluable second chance points. Washington’s smallball lineup was clearly overmatched by the length of the Lynx’ frontcourt. Midway through the second quarter, the Mystics had been able to cut the deficit to 4 despite Minnesota’s rebounding advantage (second chance points: 0–11). The Lynx went on a big run, though, blowing the game wide open. “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan contributed 7 points off pull-up jumpshots to a 20–4 Minnesota run to finish the first half. The former Gamecock looks more and more comfortable on the court and doesn’t shy away from shooting the ball anymore. Fellow rookie Crystal Dangerfield and Fowles each added 10 points to the Lynx’ 48–27 lead.

Washington’s high-octane offense seemed to be a thing of the past. They shot 18/61 from the floor for the game (4/19 3pt) and seemed helpless in the first half. The third quarter was a totally different story, though. The Stics’ defense went into lockdown mode and held the Lynx to just 4 points – tied for the 5th fewest in WNBA history. Tianna Hawkins hit a big three with the clock winding down to cut Minnesota’s lead to 52–44 and manoeuvre her team within striking distance. Despite their catastrophic first 20 minutes, they now had the chance to turn it around in the final 10. But the Lynx returned the favour and had Washington join them in the record books by holding them to just 4 points as well. With Fowles back on the court, the Lynx were back to their dominant selves of the first half and went on a 10–0 run to finally put the game out of reach.

At the end of one of the weirder games in WNBA history, the Minnesota Lynx came out on top 68–48, cementing their status as one of the league’s best teams. They still have a lot of room to grow offensively, but their defense looks ready. Fowles’ presence on the court is still an absolute gamechanger. Her activity on the offensive glass and her ability to contest, alter and/or block shots make her a serious MVP candidate – and we haven’t talked about her leadership and her offensive skillset yet. The Mystics will have a tough time trying to turn their season around, but – even though depleted – they still have “EM-V-P” Meesseman, Myisha Hines-Allen and their head coach Mike Thibault. They’ll most certainly find a way to bounce back. They’ve been written off before.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200811/WASMIN/

Sparks take care of business against Liberty

The Sparks started the game on a 15–2 run, sparked by Sydney Wiese, who’s been on a hot shooting streak for the past couple of games that carried over to Tuesday’s matchup with the Liberty. The former Oregon State Beaver shot 5/7 from downtown (12/19 in the last four contests!) for a team-high 17 points – tied with Riquna Williams, who’s also been red hot from behind the arc. The 5–7 guard has been shooting well over 50% from long range this season and has established herself as the Sparks’ go-to scoring option off the bench. Los Angeles went 6/7 from three-point territory in the first quarter, while New York shot 3 of 12 from the field – the ensuing lead was 28–14. The Liberty had once again gotten off on the wrong foot, trailing by double digits after the first 10 minutes. Their shooting woes continued, as New York remains the league’s worst three-point and overall shooting team.

The Liberty were able to stabilize in the second period, though, mainly thanks to rookie Jazmine Jones, who put the team on her back. She was attacking the basket relentlessly, converting two and-1s and knocking down a three-pointer as well for a quick 11 points of the bench (3/3 FG, 4/4 FT). She’d finish the game with a new career-high 24 points, and was by far New York’s best player of the night. Jones was the only one, who’d constantly beat the Sparks’ aggressive defense. Los Angeles was outstanding at forcing turnovers once more, New York lost possession of the ball 26 times. Combine that with their relatively poor shooting (24/60 FG) and you get a recipe for disaster. The Sparks lead 51–34 at halftime and the game was already virtually over at that point in time.

New York fought back, though, and even to cut the deficit to single digits at 69–60, when Layshia Clarendon got fouled by Marie Gülich on a successful three-pointer and converted the free throw as well. The German instantaneously big made good on her mistake, when she got a friendly roll on a midrange jumpshot for her lone field goal of the night to put the Sparks up 71–60. The Sparks headed into the final period with a 12-point lead and never looked back. They managed their lead with routine and experience, never really taking the foot of the gas. In the end, it was a start to finish win for the Sparks, who improve to 5–3 on the season. New York on the other hand has to prioritize developing its young talent in a tough situation in the #Wubble.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200811/NYLLAS/

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