WNBA Game Day #21 / Sunday, August 16

Arike Ogunbo-wow-le propelles Wings over Mercury

Arike Ogunbowale is making a case for herself as the WNBA’s MVP this season. After a very good week of basketball, she outdid herself against the returned Diana Taurasi and her Phoenix Mercury. The second-year guard scored a season-high 33 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Taurasi had a very good comeback game, too. The GOAT put up 14 points (3/10 FG, 6/6 FT), 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

The first half was an evenly matched affair, the teams headed to halftime tied at 44. Dallas didn’t have the length to challenge Phoenix‘ big woman Brittney Griner. The former Baylor standout scored 29 points on 12/17 shooting while also grabbing 7 boards and setting up her team mates 5 times as well. Skylar Diggins-Smith completed the great performance by Phoenix‘ big three. She stepped up in the fourth and put on another great display against her former team again: The veteran point guard finished with 20 points and 4 assists, but she’d also turned the ball over 5 times, 1 of which came at a crucial point in crunchtime. Dallas had gone into the final period up 69–68. Over the course of the game, the lead had changed 18 times, it remained a back and fourth affair until the very end. Ogunbowale got a lot of support from Marina Mabrey, who got her first start of the campaign. She paid head coach Brian Agler back big time, posting a new career-high with 17 points (6/11 FG, 3/7 3pt). Allisha Gray was the other key contributor: She seems to have overcome her short scoring bump and to have found her consistency. Gray came close to her career-high of 22 and got to 20 points for the first time this season.

With 2:59 minutes left on the clock, Griner finished a reverse layup to cut Dallas‘ lead to 80–79. Ogunbowale answered with a finger roll of her own while being fouled. The Wings‘ defense came up with a stop on the other end, before Mabrey pulled the trigger on a three-pointer against Bria Hartley, knocking down a big shot to put her team up by 6. Diggins-Smith splashed two shots from long range, separated by an Arike pull-up jumpshot. Two turnovers finally sealed the deal: First, a Taurasi pass was intercepted by Ogunbowale, setting up a Gray layup; after that, Diggins-Smith committed the aforementioned turnover. Dallas edged out a win against a favored team, which will definitely boost their confidence, especially considering that they had to do it without Moriah Jefferson and Satou Sabally, who are still out with injuries. Katie Lou Samuelson had good minutes off the bench once more, scoring in double figures for the second time in the #Wubble. The Mercury will feel that they should have done better. The teams tied their season series, though, and the Wings will head into the short „break“ with an overall better feeling, although having the worse record.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200816/DALPHO/

The Storm drive away the Sun

The Seattle Storm are good. Scary good. Breanna Stewart and company not only have the league’s best offense (OffRtg: 107.7), but also the best defense (DefRtg: 90.9). With yesterday’s 13/23 shooting clinic from behind the arc, the’ve also taken the top spot in three-point shooting – in makes and percentage-wise (42.0%). The Connecticut Sun were on the rise this past week, climbing up the table by stringing together a few wins for the first time this season. But as it occurs in nature from time to time, the Storm have driven the Sun away with a sweeping performance from start to finish. Last year’s finalists had to endure an absolute beating on the hands of the 2018 champs.

And the bad news for the opposition got even worse: Last year’s DPOY Natasha Howard seems to have joined the action in the #Wubble. She’d merely ressembled the player she’d been in 2019 so far, obviously battling physical or health issues. She was a difference maker against Connecticut, though, forming a formidable defensive and offensive big duo with Stewart. The 6–2 forward racked up season-highs in points (12), rebounds (11) and blocks (2), while also getting 3 steals and handing out 2 assists in 22 minutes of action (another season-high). Seattle’s bigs gave Connecticut’s a run for their money, holding Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones to 7/18 from the floor. The latter had another monster performance on the offensive glass, though, opening up 7 second or even third chance opportunities. The Sun’s center remains a viable MIP candidate, making great strides in the absence of Jonquel „The Bahamian Beast“  Jones. DeWanna Bonner, who had carried the team in the first games, struggled with her shot, but got going in the second half. She’d finish the game with 13 points on 4/13 shooting, alongside 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Jasmine Jones is another Sun player, who got off on the wrong foot, but is slowly finding her groove: She had a team-high 17 points (8/13 FG).

The Storm outscored the Sun in every single quarter; they constantly built up their lead, never running the risk of allowing Connecticut back into the game. They were in total control and seemed like anything they touched would turn to gold. Sami Whitcomb even hit a 35 foot three-pointer at the buzzer after being warned about the time expiring by her team mates. The Australian is having her best WNBA season thus far, averaging close to double figures in scoring. The Connecticut Sun didn’t find their rhythm at all, only knocking down 3 of their 20 triples. Alysha Clark locked down the perimeter with Jewell Loyd, both Seattle wings continue to impress this season. Seattle’s roster is stacked with great defenders and when the shots keep falling, they’ll continue to be at the top of the league and they’ll remain the frontrunners for a championship in the #Wubble.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200816/SEACON/

Sky put Dream to sleep

The Atlanta Dream have now lost 8 consecutive games, tumbling towards the bottom of the standings after a promising 2–1 start. The Sky on the other hand have been alternating between wins and losses in the last six games, now ranking fifth in the league at 7–4.

Head coach James Wade mixed his starting lineup a bit, giving former Oregon Duck Ruthy Hebard her first career start. Atlanta tried to attack her early in the pick and roll with Courtney and Elizabeth Williams, so Wade went back to Parker. The rookie would return, though, and play 10 minutes overall, posting 4 points and 3 rebounds. It’ll still take her some time to find her spot in the Sky rotation, but she had three talented bigs next to / in front of her from whom she can learn. The Dream got off to the better start, courtesy of Betnijah Laney who scored 6 points in their opening 10–2 run. Chicago worked their way back in it and turned the game around, though, led by Courtney Vandersloot and the aforementioned Parker with a 23–4 run of their own (carrying over to the second). The 6–4 veteran forward put on some nifty moves in the post, sending Atlanta’s defenders the wrong way time and time again. Allie Quigley closed the quarter with a deep three from the right wing at 21–14.

The Sky were able to extend their lead to 30–19 until Shekinna Stricklen finally knocked down a shot again. The sharpshooter had gone 0/12 from the floor in her last 2 outings, coming off a hot 6/8 performance from downtown against Connecticut. It’d remain her sole field goal of the night, though. Kahleah Copper would answer right back for Chicago. The 6–1 wing was perfect from behind the arc (3/3 3pt) and underlined her case for winning MIP honors this season, scoring 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Monique Billings kept Atlanta in the game in the second quarter. The third-year player was able to string double-digit scoring games together for the first time this season with 12 points (5/13 FG) and 8 boards. The Sky lead oscillated between 7 and 12 for the remainder of the first half in a back and fourth affair and ended up at 46–37.

Atlanta still managed to hang around right under a double-digit deficit, trading buckets with the Sky for most of the third quarter. At 59–50, Parker spun to the basket for 2, initiating the game-deciding scoring spurt by Chicago. They’d only allow 3 more points in the remaining 3:45 minutes of the period whilst scoring 10 to go up 69–53. Vandersloot led her team masterfully, setting up Azurá Stevens in the paint and scoring efficiently herself (6/9 FG for 14 points). The Sky managed their lead with routine in the closing period, even extending it to 20+ in the end for a well-deserved win. They overcame their initial struggles thanks to their efficient and balanced scoring. Parker scored a game-high 17 points, while Quigley chimed in with 14. Courtney Williams led Atlanta with 15 (7/18 FG).

The Dream will hope for a quick return of Chennedy to gain some momentum and squeeze out a few more wins to gain trust and confidence in eachother. Chicago looks poised for a playoff run this season; their veterans are playing at a high level and as Diamond DeShields and Stefanie Dolson get healthier, the Sky have to be taken seriously by each and every opponent.

Boxscore: https://www.wnba.com/game/20200816/CHIATL/

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