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Superstars, unsung heroes impress in opening round of WNBA playoffs

It wasn’t necessarily as heated of a game as Washington versus Dallas earlier tonight (Sept 6, 2017), but Phoenix and Seattle’s first round elimination game didn’t disappoint either. Brittney Griner went beast mode, but Yvonne Turner and Leilani Mitchell combined for a crucial 32 points in Phoenix’s win.

Joshua Huston/Getty Images

Washington: in.

Dallas: out.

Phoenix: in.

Seattle: out.

What is it that separates the ‘in’ from the ‘out’ at this point in the WNBA season when the most is at stake? When you either survive and advance or anxiously wait for redemption until the next season?

The heightened emotions and physicality tell an important side of the story, but the players who shine the brightest when the game lights are on – the playoff lights, if you will – tell an even more impactful story.

It’s a combination of the veterans and the ‘faces’ of the WNBA - paired with the unheralded superstars that seem to separate teams in the postseason. The Elena Delle Donne’s, Brittney Griner’s and Diana Taurasi’s of the world, but also the Emma Meesseman’s, Yvonne Turner’s and Krystal Thomas’ of the league that stand out.

Delle Donne, Taurasi and Griner inevitably drop jaws when looking at the stat sheet or just watching them live. They are expected to ‘wow’ people and are competitors in the purest sense of the word.

What they all have in common is their poise and demeanor when a lot is on the line. It’s like they compel every person around them to believe they aren’t going to lose – whether it’s through production, hustle and heart, their ability to lead through their voices or a combination of everything.

Part of what separates the in from the out is what is expected: it’s expected that Delle Donne, Taurasi and Griner pave the way. But what makes or breaks a team in the postseason are one or two other players stepping up. Tonight for Phoenix, it was the 15 points and 17 points from Turner and Leilani Mitchell, respectively, against Seattle. Seventeen rebounds for Washington’s Thomas against Dallas.

“I thought Leilani Mitchell was fantastic, I thought Yvonne Turner’s defense on (Jewell) Loyd was really good,” stated Phoenix’s head coach Sandy Brondello.

These types of playmakers who don’t always get the glory? They deserve some glory, too. Playoff teams do what’s expected – by finding ways to get others involved.