Thursday night in the WNBA featured three competitive matchups, two history-making performances and two teams sent packing on one-way trips to Blowout City. Here’s how it happened.
Lynx (83) vs. Sparks (72)
The Lynx finally avenged two earlier losses of the season by grabbing the victory last night to making the season series 2-1. Minnesota, of course, has their sights set on tying the series two games-all, when the teams meet for the fourth and final time on August 2.
But Thursday night’s battle provides proof positive that the rivalry is real, with both teams bringing their very best to these matchups, and last night way no different — with Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson showing up, showing out and making history. With 15 points and 12 rebounds on the night, she notched another double-double to her credit.
But Brunson also made history by becoming the leading rebounder in WNBA history, and she only had to pass basketball legend Tamika Catchings to do it. She holds the crown with 3,317 boards to her credit.
Why Minnesota won: But a line in the record books without the win against most likely would have left a bad taste in Brunson’s mouth. So her feline friends pulled out their claws to get it done. On a night when Maya Moore was held to a kittenish 8 points, Sylvia Fowles went full Lynx Mommy Gonna Tear Your Head Off and scored 27 points. Lindsay Whalen was the only other Minnesota player in double-digit scoring, with 10 points.
Why LA lost: Shooting 42.4 percent from the field when your opponent is shooting 51.8 percent — and going 30 percent from three-point range when your opponent is going more than 60 percent from deep — makes winning difficult. Candace Parker scored a team-high 22 points in the losing effort. Nneka Ogwumike added 15 points and Chelsea Gray contributed 10.
Mercury (84) vs. Sun (77)
Never one to be outdone, Diana Taurasi put her name higher in the annals of WNBA history, too, by making the most field goals in the history of the league. She sits at the top with 2,632 buckets.
Why the Mercury won: It was a heated battle from tip to final buzzer, but the Mercury edged the Sun courtesy of monster production from Phoenix’s stars: Taurasi with 25 points, Brittney Griner with 23 point and DeWanna Bonner with a double-double (12 points and 13 rebounds). Yvonne Turner entered the starting lineup in place of Sancho Lyttle, who suffered a season-ending injury, and tallied a balanced 9 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal. No on expects Turner to fill Lyttle’s shoes — it’d be impossible anyway. But with Turner joining the starters, someone else from the bench will have to step up and, so far, it is unclear who that might be. Leilani Mitchell scored a healthy 8 points but it was scant contributions from everyone else.
Why the Sun lost: It wasn’t for lack of trying. In another Alyssa Thomas-less outing, and on a night when Courtney Williams (personal reasons) did not play, Chiney Ogwumike, Rachel Banham and Jasmine Thomas each scored 11 points while Alex Bentley contributed 10. Yet, despite keeping it close and competitive — tying the game once — it wasn’t enough to get past the Mercury, whose made field-goal percentage was 44.1 (to the Sun’s 34.6). The Sun have now lapsed into the realm of the hypothetical, with focus on their success hinging on what the squad might do with a healthy roster and all hands on deck.
Aces (84) vs. Sky (80)
In a matchup of teams powered by rookie phenoms, it was truly anyone’s game. But the Las Vegas Aces showed they are learning how to finish these contests, thanks in large part to the consistent offensive performances of Kayla McBride.
Why the Aces won: “Beast Mode” McBride did it again in another superstar performance for the Aces. She scored 28 points, completed 7 assists and picked pockets 3 times. Never content to watch the action from the sidelines, A’ja Wilson scored 24 points in the team’s winning effort at Mandalay Bay Events Center, where Aces’ games are turning out to be the hottest ticket in town.
Why the Sky lost: Despite well-rounded scoring from key players — plus nine lead changes and game pulling even six times — Chicago couldn’t close the deal despite edging the Aces in field-goal percentage and blowing them out at the free-throw line: 92.3 percent (to the Aces’ 75%). Veteran Allie Quigley was the team-high scorer with 13 points, rookie Diamond DeShields add 11 points and Cheyenne Parker tallied 10 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.
Wings (90) vs. Fever (63)
On a night during which the Wings’ broadcasters lamented Liz Cambage currently sitting at 19th place in All-Star fan voting, the big woman was called for a flagrant foul across an opponent’s face, and then for tripping a player on a subsequent play. We’re not calling her a dirty player, but fans on social media have expressed different sentiments about Cambage’s play. The core of the issue, of course, is that Cambage is usually the biggest player on the court in any game herself. It’s a Shaq situation night in and night out for her, and the frustration perhaps got the better of her emotions last night.
Why Dally won: Despite a lot of stop-and-start action all game, with multiple players getting whacked in the face, it was rookie Azura Stevens who made it a blowout behind her game-high 26 points. Cambage added 17 points and Ariel Powers contributed 11. Glory Johnson neared double-double territory with 9 points and 11 rebounds.
Why Indy lost: Whatever spark Cappie Pondexter had given Indy to clench a road win against the Lynx earlier this week had faded come Thursday. Pondexter scored 12 points in the blowout loss, and the only other Fever player to score double figures was Candice Dupree, who contributed 21 points to make it a solid veteran affair. Natalie Achonwa was limited to 9 points, before fouling out of the game, and rookie hopefuls Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians were virtually silenced.
Mystics (86) vs. Liberty (67)
Why the Liberty lost: New York found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout against the Mystics in Washington. It was a waste of a perfectly good double-double from Tina Charles, who scored 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. The insult added to the injury is that no one helped Charles out. The only other player in double-figure scoring was Epiphanny Prince, who contributed 11.
Why Washington won: The Mystics got the win because of a balanced scoring effort that saw four players sharing the load: Elena Delle Donne (team-high 21 points), LaToya Sanders (14 points), Kristi Toliver (11 points) and Natasha Cloud (10 points). But Cloud dished 10 assists to make it a double-double.