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Recaps: Playoff race keeps getting tighter and Liz Cambage does it again

In last night’s trio of games with playoff implications, the red-hot Atlanta Dream took on the New York Liberty, the soaring Dallas Wings hosted the Washington Mystics and the veteran Phoenix Mercury looked to hold off the upstart Aces.

Las Vegas Aces Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The game of the night has to go to the Aces and the Mercury because the game was not decided until the final possession. Each team boasts two All-Stars, as Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner went head-to-head with the suddenly competitive Aces.

The stars did not disappoint. All had huge nights for their teams in what turned out to be a thrilling contest.

Stars of the show

Legendary Mercury guard Taurasi did what she does best: get buckets. Taurasi dropped 33 points and added 5 rebounds and 6 assists to her stat line. She was the spark plug for the Mercury and Vegas had no answer for how to stop her. She killed in the pick-and-roll and hit a number of tough shots coming off of screens. Simply amazing how Taurasi continues to play at such a high level. Her only fault of the night, however, was in the final seconds when the Mercury had a chance to tie the game at 85. The Mercury ran a fabulous out-of-timeout play, using Taurasi as the decoy and in-bounding the ball to Griner, who found Taurasi open running off of a screen. Taurasi got an open look at the three but, unfortunately, she missed the shot and that was essentially the game. A blemish on an otherwise spectacular performance.

Kayla McBride: The Aces’ second-leading scorer and two-time All-Star has been on fire lately, and yesterday was no different. McBride dropped in 27 points to lead the Aces, and her active defense led to a number of and-1 opportunities. We’ve grown accustomed to McBride lighting up the scoring sheets but her defense tonight is what led the way. She played the passing lanes very well and gathered up 4 steals, all of which led to easy buckets on the other end. McBride turned defense into offense and it helped the Aces get much needed breathing room. Game after game, McBride is showing why she’s an All-Star, and going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league only furthers her rapidly rising reputation.

Brittney Griner vs. A’ja Wilson

Two of the most dominant forces in the WNBA went head-to-head and the result was impressive. Neither posted their best stat lines, but the impact that these two players bring goes deeper than the stat line. Despite only shooting 4-of-14, Griner still managed to put up 19 points, thanks to her trips to the free-throw line. She also had 10 rebounds and posted the only positive plus-minus out of all Mercury starters. For her part, Wilson did her thing as well, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Wilson was more passive on offense than usual but she picked her spots very well and closed the game out like a true superstar.

It was super fun watching these two battle because they make their presence felt all the time, regardless of what they’re doing offensively. Both Griner and Wilson just find multiple ways to impact the game and yesterday was no different. Prediction: These two will be battling against one another for a long time.

Final thoughts

Both teams shot poorly and got very little help from supporting players. This game came down to the stars and the Aces’ stars made just enough plays to hold off the Mercury. It is a huge win for Vegas and they are showing that they’re legit threats to make the playoffs.

Liz Cambage keeps the Wings soaring

Washington Mystics (81) vs. Dallas Wings (90)

Two playoff teams faced off and in a game filled with enormous star power, but one player stood out among them all in large part because (shockingly) Skylar Diggins-Smith and Mystics star Elena Delle Donne both struggled mightily. But LaToya Sanders picked up the slack for the Mystics, scoring a career-best 25 points. She was, however, the only Mystics player who seemed to be in rhythm, so Dallas led all the way through and, despite a brief comeback attempt, the Mystics never looked to really threaten the Wings. For Dallas, Liz Cambage just kept dropping dagger after dagger until she had completed the best two-game stretch in WNBA history, following her 53-point game on Tuesday with a 35-point and 17-rebound performance last night. Right now, there’s no one in the league playing better and she’s got the Wings rolling into the All-Star break.

Atlanta Dream remain on fire for sixth straight win

New York Liberty (68) vs. Atlanta Dream (82)

These are two teams heading in completely opposite directions and the scoreline reflects that. The Dream, winners of six games in a row, have made the jump from fringe playoff team to legit threat. Meanwhile, the Liberty look ever more poised to prepare for next year as they continue to fall deeper and deeper in the standings. The Liberty could not manage to get anything going and were shutdown by a stifling Atlanta defense. The Liberty only scored over 20 points in one quarter of the game and were dominated on the glass in all four periods. The Dream had 21 offensive rebounds, which kept them in control despite woeful shooting numbers. The Dream were led by Renee Montgomery, who dropped in 7 threes to set a new franchise record, and star Tiffany Hayes added in 20.