Sun rise above the Sky
The Chicago Sky came off a convincing win against the Phoenix Mercury, while the Connecticut Sun were aiming for their third straight win to overcome their bad start to the season. The game would go down to the wire with the Sun edging out their opponents in crunchtime, getting their revenge for an earlier loss to Chicago. They improved to 4–6 on the season, while the Sky dropped their fourth of the campaign and are now 6–4.
Chicago got off to a better start, making good of 5 of their first 9 shot attempts, while Connecticut went 2/9, resulting in an early 12–4 advantage for the Sky. Jasmine Thomas knocked down two triples late in the first quarter to give her team the lead, part of a 11–2 run by the Sun. Alyssa Thomas was both scorer and facilitator once more, anchoring the offense for Connecticut and handing out 4 assists in the opening period. Both teams went head to head in the second, trading baskets and really battling on each possession. The return of Stefanie Dolson provided the Sky with some much needed length and defensive stability. “Big Mama” finished the game with 6 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. The Sun’s ability to rebound the ball allowed them to stay in the lead despite their weak shooting performance. They only shot 38.2% from the field for the game, but managed to grab 12 offensive boards. On top of that, they took care of the basketball much better than Chicago did, turning it over only 8 times (compared to the Sky’s 15). Brionna Jones is still making her case for Most Improved Player this season: She scored 15 points on 6/12 shooting and cleaned the glass on both ends of the court (5 offensive, 4 defensive rebounds). The Sun’s defense held Chicago to just 10 points in the second quarter, resulting in a 37–28 lead at halftime. In their recent loss to the Sky, they had given up 100 points. Defensive stability is key against an offense as talented as Chicago’s.
Head coach James Wade had to rely heavily on his starters, as he didn’t get much out of his second unit. Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams each only took (and missed) one three-pointer each. Rookie forward Ruthy Hebard was a reliable option, though, scoring 7 points in 7 minutes of action (3/5 FG). Chicago’s struggles from the three-point line carried over from their last encounter with the Phoenix Mercury (1/11), against the Sun they shot 4/20 on the night. For Connecticut, DeWanna Bonner and Jasmine Thomas each shot 6/17 from the field, while Thomas knocked down 3 of her 6 attempts from behind the arc. Alyssa Thomas hit a right-handed floater with 2:40 minutes remaining in the third to extend the Sun’s lead to a game-high 16 at 54–38. The Sky were able to bounce back, though, led by the excellent Cheyenne Parker. The 6–4 forward is having a career year in every major category, making the most of her opportunities in the #Wubble thus far. She only needed roughly 20 minutes to score 17 points (6/9 FG), grab 6 boards and was able to record 3 blocks as well. Despite her efforts, the Sun held onto their double-digit lead, going into the fourth up 55–45.
Jasmine Thomas hit a big three-pointer to put the Sun up 64–51 halfway through the final period, immediately answered by Parker’s and-1 from the post. Her basket started an 19–6 Chicago run that cut Connecticut’s lead to a one-possession game. Allie Quigley answered a Jasmine Thomas floater with her sole successful three-pointer of the night, showing off her lightning-quick release. With under a minute left, Chicago had the chance to take the lead, but Alyssa Thomas poked the ball away from Courtney Vandersloot, coming up with a big-time play in a big-time moment. She then fed Brionna Jones with a lob pass in the post, who laid the ball in with the shot clock winding down. Parker answered with a layup of her own after a nice pass from Vandersloot. Alyssa Thomas would miss both free throws after being fouled intentionally (3/8 FT), giving the Sky another chance to take the lead. Vandersloot was stripped by Jones and Bonner, though, who’d knock down both shots from the charity stripe to make it 77–74 Connecticut with 6.4 seconds remaining. The Sky were out of time-outs and had to rush the ball up the court, resulting in another turnover, when Kahleah Copper lost it out of bounds.
The Sky will feel like they should have won the game despite trailing most of it. Vandersloot came up short again in crunchtime, losing the ball twice and being unable to create a shot to tie the game at the end. The Sun kind of got away with a shaky fourth quarter, but their fourth win of the season will give them a lot of confidence moving forward.
Storm wing their way against Dallas
The Seattle Storm got their 7th consecutive win over a slightly depleted Wings team. Dallas was missing two starters in Satou Sabally and Moriah Jefferson, while the Storm were back to full force apart from Crystal Langhorne and Epiphanny Prince, who’s about to return to the #Wubble.
The Storm’s star duo Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart got off to a great start, dominating in the pick and roll. The latter gave rookie Bella Alarie a late and not so warm welcome to the WNBA, when she rejected her at the rim with authority. The Storm’s defense held the Wings to 4 points in the opening 5 minutes of the game, outscoring the young Dallas squad 15–4. The latter stepped it up in the course of the first quarter, but were unable to cut the deficit. Allisha Gray continued her good run, splashing in 2 three-pointers and scoring 9 points. Seattle rookie Ezi Magbegor had an effective yet inefficient game, putting 8 points on the board in 20 minutes, but shooting just 3/11 from the floor. The Wings went on an impressive scoring run in the second quarter, fueled by Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale. Mabrey played 31 minutes (She’d played 32 minutes in the season so far!) and stuffed the statsheet with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. She shot the ball rather inefficient, though, going 5/14 (2/6 3pt). Ogunbowale caught fire and scored 11 points to make it a 2-point game at 31–29. “Stewie” had the right answer, though, putting on a one-woman-show, taking over from midrange and knocking down a three-pointer as well to blow the game wide open again. She scored 17 points before the break as the Storm went on a 13–2 run of their own to close the half, extending their lead to 44–31.
The Storm completely dominated the third quarter with their superior ball movement, putting on a defensive clinic as well. They held the Wings to 16, 15 and 12 points, confirming their status as the league’s number 1 defense. Alysha Clark had another efficient night, scoring 15 points on 7/12 shooting (1/4 3pt), while also grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. The Storm’s run carried over to the final period, when they went on a 9–0 run, benefitting from a couple of defensive breakdowns on the Wings’ part. After that, Seattle took the foot off the gas, which allowed Dallas to cut the deficit and do some cosmetic work. The Storm would still win by a more than comfortable margin, showing no signs of slowing down.