Liz Cambage celebrates her 27th birthday today with the best present a fierce baller could hope for: a trip to the WNBA Playoffs. The road to clinching the eighth seed was long and bumpy and uncertain for the Dallas Wings, which likely makes the victorious gift that much sweeter.
all I wanted for my birthday was to make the WNBA playoffs for the first time in my life, thank you to my @DallasWings family. dreams do come true— Elizabeth Cambage (@ecambage) August 18, 2018
After a strong start to the season, leading to two Player of the Week awards for Cambage and All-Star honors for her and teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith, the Wings went into a death spiral of eight straight losses, culminating in the firing of their beloved coach, Fred Williams.
In their first game following the firing, with Taj McWilliams-Franklin at the helm in the role of interim head coach, the Wings picked up another loss, making it nine in a row. But when they needed the win the most — to clinch the playoff spot or allow the Las Vegas Aces to keep their own hopes alive — the Dallas Wings sealed the deal in an emotional, passion-filled battle.
As has been the case all season, Cambage’s production on both ends of the floor made all the difference. In what has become her customary double-double style, Cambage scored 43 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the victory.
Cambage currently leads the league in scoring with 23.4 points per game. But she is also second in rebounding (behind Sylvia Fowles) with 9.8 rebounds per game, for a near double-double on the season. For those in the Stewie for MVP camp, Breanna Stewart is averaging 22 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
But awards go beyond the box score, and awards should be considered through the context of the impact the player has for her team. To be sure, Stewart is a centerpiece for her Seattle Storm; she is one of the most consistent ballers in the game, and that production has put the Storm at the top of the standings. But without Cambage’s astronomical scoring numbers night in and night out, the Wings would have been out of playoff contention long ago.
In other words, Cambage kept the Wings flying.
It was those big numbers — 37 points (July 3), 53 points (July 17), 35 points (July 19) — that kept the playoffs within reach for the Wings, and last night’s 43 points clinched the final postseason spot. But what gives Cambage the edge in the MVP race is the number of double-doubles she has put up this season — a staggering 15. For those keeping score, Stewart has notched 9 double-doubles this season.
In terms of both team impact and stats, Cambage just edges out some of the other best players in the league as the top pick for MVP.