On a five-game night in the WNBA, the most interesting game is an 8 p.m. ET Commissioner’s Cup contest between the Chicago Sky (5-7) and Connecticut Sun (8-3).
The two squads might be switching fates.
The Sun have had a fabulous start to the season, exceeding expectations behind the MVP-caliber play of Jonquel Jones. However, Jones now is away from the team, competing in EuroBasket with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Can the Sun sustain their success or will they begin to stumble? Sunday’s game against the Seattle Storm did not inspire much confidence. Connecticut scored a season-low 66 points and relinquished 89 points, the second-highest output they have allowed this season.
In contrast, the return of Candace Parker has helped the Sky begin to resemble the team they were expected to be. After a seven-game losing streak, Chicago has reeled off three-straight wins with Parker back on the court. For the season, they are 4-0 when she plays. Tuesday night, the Sky turned in their best performance of 2021, lighting up the Minnesota Lynx for a season-high 105 points. While Parker put up a solid stat line of 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, she was a game-best plus-28, proof of how she makes everything work better on both ends of the floor for Chicago.
If the Sky again find their optimal offensive rhythm, the Sun could struggle to stay in the game. Yet, even absent Jones, Connecticut has a corps of competent defenders who can slow the Chicago attack. The ability of DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones to trouble Parker and the effectiveness of Jasmine Thomas and Briann January against Courtney Vandersloot could determine the course of this matchup.
Jasmine Thomas is ELECTRIC ⚡ pic.twitter.com/ZiOXqUd3UP— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) June 13, 2021
In addition to Sky-Sun, Thursday night features two more Commissioner’s Cup games. At 7 p.m. ET in DC, the Atlanta Dream (5-6) and Washington Mystics (4-6) will play the second contest of their home-and-home set. On Saturday, the Dream used a second-half offensive explosion to blow out the Mystics. Washington may struggle to flip the script, as Tina Charles is expected to miss the game. At 8 p.m. ET, the Minnesota Lynx (4-6) and Dallas Wings (5-6) both will be looking to get back in the win column when they meet for the first time this season.
The Thursday night action begins with a second-straight game between the league’s best team and the league’s worst team. The Seattle Storm (11-2) will aim to finish their five-game road trip undefeated by again dispatching the Indiana Fever (1-12). The third and final game between the New York Liberty (6-5) and Las Vegas Aces (9-3) closes out the night. After A’ja Wilson bullied the Liberty on her way to a season-high 30 points in Brooklyn in early June, Kelsey Plum was sensational in Sin City on Tuesday night, pouring in a career-high 32 points to pace Vegas past New York. Will the Aces again overwhelm the Liberty to sweep the season series?
Indiana Fever (1-12) vs. Seattle Storm (11-2)
When: Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, IN
How to watch: Facebook, Ball Sports Indiana or JOETV
Key to the matchup: After their offseason roster reorganization, there were no real worries about the Storm’s offense. In addition to the “Big 3” of Stewart, Loyd and Bird, Seattle added offense-first players in Katie Lou Samuelson and Candice Dupree. It seemed that defense might be a problem for the defending champs, as two of their best defenders — Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard — departed without clear replacements. The Storm, however, have begun to defy doubts about their D. A 100.0 defensive rating for the month of May has become a 91.8 defensive rating in June, the best mark in the WNBA. It is worth noting that Seattle’s defense is benefitting from poor opponent 3-point shooting. Storm opponents are shooting a league-worst 28.2 percent from deep for the season. The Fever are unlikely to reverse this trend, as they own the WNBA’s worst 3-point percentage at 27 percent.
Fever injury report: Bernadett Határ (out; ankle), Aaliyah Wilson (probable; foot)
Storm injury report: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (out for season; personal)
Washington Mystics (4-6) vs. Atlanta Dream (5-6)
When: Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
How to watch: NBC Sports Washington or TSN
Key to the matchup: For the season, the Dream lead the WNBA in total steals with 105. Per game, they average 9.5 steals, which likewise leads the league. Atlanta’s thievery comes from across its lineup. Seven members of the Dream average at least one steal per game. Odyssey Sims leads the team with 1.5 per game, followed by Elizabeth Williams with 1.4 per game. On Saturday, Atlanta swiped the ball 10 times from Washington, contributing to the Mystics’ season-high 17 turnovers. The Dream scored 27 points off those turnovers, their most this season. Without Tina Charles, the Mystics must do a better job of taking care of the ball if they wish to get the home win.
Mystics injury report: Natasha Cloud (probable; hip), Sydney Wiese (probable; ankle), Kiara Leslie (questionable; neck), Tina Charles (out; personal), Elena Delle Donne (out indefinitely; back)
Dream injury report: Chennedy Carter (doubtful; elbow)
Chicago Sky (5-7) vs. Connecticut Sun (8-3)
When: Thursday, June 17 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to watch: Twitter or The U
Key to the matchup: Jonquel Jones’ absence is an opportunity for the Sun sophomores to step up. Kaila Charles did so in Sunday’s loss to the Storm, scoring an efficient, career-high 14 points in 16 minutes. Can Beatrice Mompremier similarly raise her play? Mompremier’s combination of length and athleticism certainly intrigues, suggesting that, with more playing time, she could begin to consistently impact the action on both ends of the floor. On defense, she has the natural tools to be a high-level rim protector. On offense, her runs to the rim, whether in transition or in the half court, should be difficult to stop.
Sky injury report: Astou Ndour-Fall (out; EuroBasket)
Sun injury report: Jonquel Jones (out; EuroBasket), Alyssa Thomas (out for season; Achilles)
Dallas Wings (5-6) vs. Minnesota Lynx (4-6)
When: Thursday, June 17 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: College Park Center in Dallas, TX
How to watch: CBS Sports Network, Bally Sports SW or Bally Sports North
Key to the matchup: Kayla McBride’s 3-point shooting is a pretty good barometer for the Lynx. In wins, she fires an average of 7.3 attempts per game and converts them at 37.9 percent. In losses, McBride makes only 30.8 percent of her 4.3 attempts from distance. The more treys for McBride, the better. As 18 of McBride’s 19 threes have been assisted, her shotmaking from behind the arc is a a sign that the overall Lynx offense is running smoothly.
Wings injury report: none
Lynx injury report: Aerial Powers (out; thumb), Natalie Achonwa (out; knee), Jessica Shepard (out; groin), Rennia Davis (out for season; foot)
Las Vegas Aces (9-3) vs. New York Liberty (6-5)
When: Thursday, June 17 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, NV
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or MYLVTV
Key to the matchup: After two not-that-close losses to the Aces, what can the Liberty do to shift the terms of engagement? In the contest in Brooklyn, New York managed to hang with Vegas on the boards, with each team grabbing 38 total rebounds. Yet, the Liberty lost by 12 points. On Tuesday, the Aces turned the ball over 16 times, tying their season high. The Liberty, however, were not able to take advantage, as they had 18 turnovers on their way to the 22-point loss. It seems the Liberty must maximize their strength — their 3-point shooting — to steal a victory. So far this season, New York has shot below their season average from deep against Vegas, shooting 31 percent in two games against the Aces compared to 39.5 percent for the season.
Aces injury report: Angel McCoughtry (out for season; knee)
Liberty injury report: Sabrina Ionescu (questionable; ankle), Kiah Stokes (questionable; personal); Natasha Howard (out; knee), Jocelyn Willoughby (out for season; Achilles)