“Nothing prepares you for this league,” said Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage when asked in a recent interview about training for a return to the WNBA. Going against men in practices may not have prepared Cambage to go against the toughest bigs in the league, but the 6-foot-8 London-born Aussie is an obvious master at on-the-job training.
And wouldn’t it be fair to say that nothing could have prepared WNBA fans for the fact that literally every single game has become a hotly-contested matchup filled with thrilling performances and hard-earned victories? Here’s how it went down in last night’s thriller of a tripleheader:
Wings (77) vs. Aces (67)
In the game of the night, A’ja Wilson and the Aces sashayed into Dallas looking for a third-straight road win but the Wings, including Wilson’s former South Carolina teammates Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis, were having none of it.
Why the Wings won: Liz Cambage lived up to her newly-minted moniker: Ms. Double Feature. In the latest incident of the double trouble she can create for opponents, Cambage dropped in 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. But Cambage didn’t do it alone. Her high-octane cohort — a floor general extraordinaire named Skylar Diggins-Smith — contributed 20 points. But this stat line seems modest given her intangible contributions: relentless hustle, willingness to put her body on the line, impressive play-calling, eagerness to get the ball to the open player or to the hot hand, unwillingness to give up on a play, ability to outwork everyone on the floor from the first second through the very last. Whether the Wings have a winning season or a losing one, Diggins-Smith should be recognized as the MVP for her team because she is the generator that gets everything moving — setting the tone, establishing the pace and exemplifying the expectation for effort and execution.
Davis and Glory Johnson were also in double figures for Dallas.
Why the Aces lost: Perhaps this contest being the third on the road for Las Vegas finally started to catch up with Wilson, who tallied 35 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks just three nights ago. But the star rookie was held to “just” 14 points in the matchup, with teammate Kayla McBride taking team-high scoring honors with 22 points and no other Aces player scoring in double figures. But lack of rebounding contributed most to the lost, with Las Vegas pulling down 27 boards to Dallas’ 43. Sure, it can be hard to compete for rebounds with Cambage on the court. But defense leads to offense, and grabbing more rebounds — and, therefore, more shot opportunities — could have kept the game close down the stretch, potentially resulting in a win.
What it means: The Wings have avenged their three-point loss to the Mercury on June 12 — a game they should have won — and are above .500 with a 5-4 record, moving into the sixth spot in the standings. The Aces, with a 3-8 record, remain 11th in the standings above the 0-10 Fever.
Sparks (97) vs. Mystics (86)
Why the Sparks won: A double-double from Candace Parker, who had 23 points and 11 assists, plus double-digit scoring from the four other starters, spelled W-I-N for LA. Alana Beard scored 10 points, Nneka Ogwumike put up 11, Chelsea Gray contributed 13 and Odyssey Sims scored 16.
Why the Mystics lost: Despite a recent 95-91 win over the then-#1 Sun, it was a victory that almost didn’t happen because Washington blew a 30-point lead to let Connecticut back into the game. So the Mystics got away with that one, but quickly fell back on bad habits against the Sparks, letting an opponent get out ahead of them early in the game. The Mystics lost the first quarter 25-14 and the second quarter 27-20. Elena Delle Donne was the team-high scorer with 18 points, and LaToya Sanders contributed a nice 12-point and 11-rebound double-double. But it just wasn’t enough in an uphill climb against a team that was in the Finals last year, despite three other players tallying double figures in scoring.
What it means: With this win (and recent losses by the Sun — see below), the LA Sparks move to #1 in the standings with a 7-2 record. The Mystics, meanwhile, now hover just above .500 with a 6-5 record, but are now seventh in the standings behind the Dream and Wings, who are on the climb.
Storm (103) vs. Sun (92)
Why the Storm won: Seattle dominated early, getting out to a 30-21 lead in the first quarter. Although the Sun clawed their way back in the second and third quarters, the long road trip to the Emerald City was apparently too much for the Sun, which dwindled from flames to flickers by the fourth — ending in defeat. Center Natasha Howard had a career-high 25 points, with four other players in double figures: Breanna Stewart (23 points), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (18 points), Sue Bird (14 points) and Alysha Clark (11 points). But Jewell Loyd was held to 7 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Why the Sun lost: Chiney Ogwumike and Jasmine Thomas can do a lot, but they cannot do it all. But that didn’t stop them from trying, with Ogwumike putting up 30 points on the night and Thomas contributing 29. Jonquel Jones scored 10 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. But the rest of the team was held to low single-digit scoring, with starters Shekinna Stricken and and Courtney Williams limited to 3 and 4 points, respectively. Rachel Banham and Alex Bentley came up zeroes in scoring and Alyssa Thomas did not play.
What it means: After a two-game win streak, the Storm move up to #2 in the standings with an 8-3 record (behind the #1 Sparks who are at 7-2). This second-straight loss for the Sun puts them at 7-3 for the season and drops them from #1 to #4 in the standings (behind the #1 Sparks, #2 Storm and #3 Mercury).
The Sun face the Mercury in Phoenix on Saturday night.
Player of the night
Hint: She hails from the land of ‘roos!
Trolling Dallas-based basketball fans
Fans didn’t show up for the Wings-Aces matchup because:
This poll is closed
Eating chicken wings > seeing the Dallas Wings
Boycotting the team’s Pride night
Trolling the WNBA on Twitter
Netflixing and chilling
Dying of heat-related illnesses