August 18, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Aug. 18, 2022: Thin crust > deep dish  — Sabrina Ionescu powers New York to upset win in Pizza War

Chelsea Gray put it away for the Aces

It’s Thursday — the workweek’s almost passed! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, daily Watch List, and Yesterday’s Recap. Day two of the WNBA postseason is here, following a day in which the seventh-seeded Liberty upset the title-favorite Sky in thrilling fashion. Sabrina Ionescu making every tough pull-up in sight, Marine Johannès making Candace Parker chase her own tail, Betnijah Laney playing tough defense and getting buckets, Natasha Howard forcing Chicago into tough shots and making work on the short roll — New York did it all. And it did it all in service of proving once and for all that New York-style pizza is far superior to Chicago-style deep dish.

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You may disagree with me, and to that I say: SCOREBOARD!

How New York, Las Vegas prevailed

New York: Sandy Brondello played her five best players for at least 27 minutes each, and they had 24 assists to seven turnovers as they stayed moving, cutting, and relocating in a way that continually forced Chicago to change up its coverages in desperation. The players who need to play defense (Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney, Rebecca Allen) played enough defense, and everyone else made hard close-outs to force the Sky into worse shots. Shooting 44.0% from three helps too.

Chicago: Courtney Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman didn’t show up for the first three quarters, and by the time the former turned it on down the stretch, Ionescu was already taking over. Defensively, the Sky made runs when they started mixing up ball screen coverages to confuse Ionescu, but that broke down within minutes as the Liberty’s ball-movement just got behind it. Chicago needs much better weakside rotations in Game Two.

Las Vegas: The Mercury aren’t as good as the Aces. Phoenix has neither the depth nor the star talent to compete with Vegas in most any way; Brianna Turner held A’ja Wilson to her worst-scoring game of the season, and the Mercury still lost by 16. Even if you hand over all eight of Kiah Stokes’ points and turn her three blocks into Phoenix buckets, the Mercury still lose by two.

Phoenix: For three quarters, the Mercury did what they had to: make life tough for Wilson, and make life confusing and mucky for the guards. They succeeded, and, again, still lost by 16. And Shey Peddy left the court with her face covered getting carried by Reshanda Gray after a severe lower-body injury. Whatever adjustment Phoenix wants to make, it has to know that the Aces probably aren’t shooting this poorly again for the rest of the postseason.

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But first, read:

W Roundup

The documentary on former Portland Fire and (what is currently known as) Missouri State star Jackie Stiles will be released on Aug. 30 on Amazon Prime video, Apple TV, and some other sites.

Watch List, Thursday, Aug. 18

(All times in Eastern)

Dallas @ Connecticut, 8 p.m., ESPNU/NBA TV

Washington @ Seattle, 10 p.m., ESPN2

Wednesday, Aug. 17 recap

New York beat Chicago, 98-91, to take a 1-0 series lead. The Sky peaked at a 91.2% win expectancy with a six-point lead and 3.5 minutes to go, before the Liberty scored 13 unanswered to close the game; but for a couple minutes in the second and third quarters, the game was within a couple possessions through the mid-fourth. New York shot 16.0 percentage points better from three, but took eight fewer free-throws, thanks to committing 18 fouls.

Combo guard Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty with 22 points on 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-6 from three, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals against five fouls in 36 minutes; big Natasha Howard had 2 points on 9-for-17 shooting (1-4 3pt.), seven rebounds, and three assists against two turnovers; wing Betnijah Laney notched a season-high-tying 17 points on 6-for-13 FG (1-2 3pt.), five rebounds, and five assists.

Chicago was led by wing Kahleah Copper’s 21 points on 7-for-14 from the field (1-3 3pt.) and 6-for-9 from the line and eight rebounds (three offensive) against four turnovers; point guard Courtney Vandersloot recorded an 18-point, 10-assist double-double on 6-for-13 shooting (1-4 3pt.) with three rebounds; big Candace Parker had 17 points on 6-for-13 FG (1-3 3pt.) and 10 rebounds (three offensive) for a double-double, plus five assists against two turnovers.

Las Vegas beat Phoenix, 79-63, to take a 1-0 series lead. The Aces led by as much as 11 points in the mid-second quarter, but the Mercury got within one point in the mid-fourth; Vegas closed on a 23-8 run. The Aces held Phoenix to 31.1% from the field and 27.8% from three, while themselves going 18-for-18 from the line; the teams combined for 80 rebounds, 18th-most in a playoff game in league history, per Across The Timeline; the teams also combined for only 19 turnovers.

Point guard Kelsey Plum led Vegas with 22 points on 6-for-13 from the field, 2-for-7 from three, and 8-for-8 from the line, five rebounds, and four assists; point guard Chelsea Gray had 17 points — including nine in the fourth quarter — on 6-for-9 shooting (3-5 3pt.), four rebounds, and four assists against three turnovers; wing Jackie Young notched 16 points on 6-for-13 FG (2-4 3pt.), five rebounds, and two assists against four fouls in 35 minutes; center A’ja Wilson was held to just eight points  on 2-for-11 form the field (0-1 3pt.), but tallied 12 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks against two turnovers.

The Mercury were led by Diamond DeShields’ 18 points on 7-for-21 shooting (1-2 3pt.), eight rebounds, and two assists; combo forward Sophie Cunningham had 12 points on 2-for-4 from three (2-3 from two, 2-6 FT), four rebounds, and two assists against three turnovers and five fouls; backup center Megan Gustafson notched 12 points on 4-for-7 FG (0-2 3pt.) and four rebounds against four fouls in 21 minutes; center Brianna Turner tallied two points on 1-for-6 from the field, a season-high 16 rebounds (six offensive), and two assists.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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