August 8, 2022
Daily Briefing — Aug. 8, 2022: Napheesa Collier returns to Lynx in winning fashion
Bye Bye Birdie
It’s Monday. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the daily Watch List, and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 80 of the WNBA season is finally here, and so is yet another ever-elusive Monday night game. On Sunday, a doubleheader of games on ABC made some noise as Connecticut fell to Chicago for the fourth time this season, officially losing the series in a season-sweep, and Sue Bird played her final regular-season game in Seattle. Then, in Minnesota, Napheesa Collier made her return to the Lynx, once again taking to the court with fellow teammate Sylvia Fowles as the Lynx attempt one final playoff push.
Just 10.5 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Collier re-joined Minnesota’s starters on her own accord. “What was kind of holding me back was nerves,” Collier said postgame. “That’s not a good reason to not play, so I decided to do it.”
Finally, the Mystics and Sparks played a hotly contested match as Washington has a final go at securing home-court advantage while Los Angeles tries to sneak into the playoffs after a less-than-ideal second half of the season. Washington may have missed out on the win, but Los Angeles appears to be the next team to fall to the all-to-familiar WNBA commercial travel struggles bug, so it’s hard so say who came out of that match with the worse end of the deal.
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With that, let’s take a look at the standings as we head into the final week of regular-season action. The Next’s Jacob Mox has returned with another run of his homemade “Paths to the Playoffs” predictor, and we’ll talk about some of the results here.
- The Chicago Sky. What else is there to say? The Sky maintain the best record in the league, the only team to stay under 10 losses so far this year. With that, the Sky have themselves the magic number two, meaning any two Chicago wins or Las Vegas losses will clinch them the No. 1 seed. Their remaining schedule, however, might make that more treacherous than they might like, as the face the Storm at home on Tuesday before ending the season on a road trip to Las Vegas and then Phoenix.
- Should Chicago miss out on their magic number, the Las Vegas Aces will take the No. 1 seed instead, and should secure either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed with a loss from Seattle along with two of their own wins or two Connecticut Sun losses. There is a way for the Aces to fall to the No. 4 seed, however, if Seattle wins the rest of the way and Connecticut wins at least two.
- The Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics, sitting at the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds respectively, are locked in a battle for home-court advantage. Whoever lands the No. 4 spot will play at home for the first two games of the No. 4–No. 5 series.
- The Dallas Wings have fairly well shored up the No. 6 spot after a run of wins against teams they needed to beat (Indiana and Atlanta, though also beating Chicago and Las Vegas certainly helped.) With one more win, they should clinch a playoff spot.
- The Atlanta Dream, Phoenix Mercury, and New York Liberty (along with maybe, and I cannot stress how big of a maybe this is, Minnesota or Los Angeles) continue to fight for the bottom three spots. The Dream and Mercury are tied at 14–19 each, though Atlanta has the season series over Phoenix.
- New York has a slight edge over the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, sitting at 13–19 instead of 13–20, where the Sparks and Lynx are sitting tied. At this point, the Liberty can do no better than the No. 7 seed. Minnesota has the season series over Los Angeles.
- It continues to be R.I.P. Indiana Fever season. Even winning one of their final two remaining games (both against Washington) could throw a wrench in the Mystics’ hopes for home-court, so for those of you hoping for some chaos, might I suggest watching the rest of the Fever–Mystics series.
But first read…
- Our Gabriella Lewis takes you through Atlanta Dream head coach Tanisha Wright’s case for Coach of the Year and her journey from prolific player to well-respected coach.
- In the second installment of The Next’s coverage of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL), our Tee Baker pulls back the curtain on the life of one of the league’s early stars, Molly (Bolin) Kazmer.
Watch List, Monday, Aug. 8
(Times in ET)
New York @ Dallas, 8 p.m., NBA TV (Local: Bally Sports Southwest, YES App, NBA TV Canada)
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Sunday, Aug. 7 recap
Minnesota (13–20) beat Atlanta (14–19), 81–71. The Lynx took the early lead and never looked back, even as the Dream came within one possession towards the end of the third quarter. Minnesota shot 14.4 percentage points better from three than Atlanta and have four more blocks, despite logging three more fouls. The Lynx also out-scored Atlanta in the paint 32–20.
Off-ball guard Kayla McBride led the Lynx and all scorers with 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting (3–7 3pt, 3–3 FT), four rebounds (two offensive) and a season-high six assists. Point guard Moriah Jefferson notched 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field (4–5 3pt), along with four rebounds and six assists. Center Sylvia Fowles had eight points on 3-for-5 shooting (2–2 FT), eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Off-ball guard Rachel Banham logged 12 points on 5-for-9 from the field (2–5 3pt) off the bench for Minnesota.
Combo forward Napheesa Collier made her season debut for the Lynx, returning from maternity leave after just over 10 weeks. Collier contributed six points on 2-for-7 shooting (1–4 3pt), two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. Per The Next’s Lucas Seehafer, a cheerful Collier told media post-game her 21 minutes on the court were “twice as many” as she expected to play, but that the decision to come back to basketball was entirely her own.
For Atlanta, wing Rhyne Howard led with 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting (2–8 3pt, 2–4 FT), two rebounds, three assists and two steals. Point guard Aari McDonald notched 16 points on 4-for-10 from the field (2–7 3pt, 6–7 FT), two rebounds and two assists off the bench for the Dream. Big Cheyenne Parker logged 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting (2–5 FT), six rebounds (two offensive) and five assists.
Chicago (25–8) beat Connecticut (22–11), 94–91. The Sky jumped out ahead, building a double-digit lead with more than five minutes left to play in the first quarter. Chicago would maintain their advantage until the late second, when the Sun managed to cut the lead to just four after out-scoring the Sky 32–19 in the quarter. The teams traded buckets through the final minutes of play, when back-to-back three pointers from Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot shifted the momentum in favor of Chicago.
Even as the Sun were able to come within one point of the lead in the final seconds of play, the Sky’s near-perfect free throw shooting and a just-missed final three-point attempt from Connecticut allowed Chicago to run away with the win. Overall, the Sky shot 10.7 percentage points better from the field than the Sun and secured five more blocks. The Sun grabbed eight more rebounds, all of which came on the offensive end, and logged 11 more second-chance points.
Vandersloot led Chicago and all scorers with 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting (3–6 3pt, 3–3 FT), five rebounds and a season-high four steals. Big Candace Parker notched a double-double with 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting (1–4 3pt, 3–4 FT) and 12 rebounds, along with five assists and two blocks on four turnovers. Big Emma Meesseman had 15 points on 6-for-8 from the field (3–4 3pt), four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Off-ball guard Allie Quigley notched 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting (1–3 3pt), four assists and two blocks. Point guard Julie Allemand contributed four points on 2-for-3 shooting and three assists in her 10 minutes off the bench for Chicago.
Big wing DeWanna Bonner led the Sun with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting (1–4 3pt, 3–3 FT), four rebounds (two offensive) and six assists on four fouls. Big Jonquel Jones logged her tenth double-double of the season with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting (1–1 3pt, 4–4 FT) and 10 rebounds (three offensive), along with three assists. Big wing Alyssa Thomas had 16 points on 8-for-18 shooting, eight rebounds (two offensive) and three assists on four fouls. In her 18 minutes off the bench for Connecticut, point guard Odyssey Sims notched a season-high 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting (1–2 3pt, 2–2 FT) and four assists.
Los Angeles (13–20) beat Washington (20–14), 79–76. The two teams traded baskets through the first half, racking up eight lead changes before the Sparks took an 11–2 run to take a double-digit lead. Los Angeles managed to keep a significant lead through the late third, when Washington took a 10–3 run to cut the lead to three. Yet, as the Mystics tried to claw back the lead in the final minutes of play, the Sparks managed to hold on, aided by their near-perfect fourth quarter free throw shooting. Overall, the Sparks shot 18.5 percentage pints better from three than the Mystics. Washington grabbed 11 more rebounds, most of which came on the offensive end, and swatted three more blocks.
Off-ball guard Brittney Sykes led the Sparks and all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting (0–2 3pt, 5–5 FT), six rebounds and three assists on five fouls. Big Nneka Ogwumike had 15 points on 4-for-15 shooting (7–8 FT) and six rebounds. Point guard Jordin Canada contributed a double-double, with 11 points on 2-for-6 shooting (7–10 FT) and a career-high tying 12 assists, along with three rebounds and two steals. Big wing Katie Lou Samuelson logged 15 points on 6-for-10 from the field (2–2 3pt) and three rebounds.
Off-ball guard Ariel Atkins had 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting (1–5 3pt, 5–5 FT) and six rebounds on four fouls. In her 20 minutes off the bench, big Myisha Hines-Allen had 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting (2–3 3pt, 6–8 FT) and six rebounds. Center Shakira Austin logged a double-double with16 points on 6-for-9 from the field (4–6 FT) and 10 rebounds (four offensive). Point guard Natasha Cloud logged eight points on 2-for-7 shooting (4–4 FT), nine assists, three rebounds and a season-high two blocks.
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Las Vegas (23–10) beat Seattle (20–13), 89–81. To a sold-out crowd of over 18,000, the highly anticipated final regular-season home game for Seattle legend Sue Bird was sure to get fans on their feet. The lead passed back and forth throughout the first half as each team fought to forge an advantage over the other. In the opening minutes of the third quarter, however, back-to-back successful offensive possessions for the Aces gave them a slight edge over the Storm. This allowed Las Vegas to keep ahead by just a hair, as Seattle struggled to get an extra defensive stop. By the late fourth, the Aces had expanded their lead to nine points, and it was enough for them to edge out the Storm for the win. Overall, the Storm shot 8.9 percentage points better than the Aces from three, while laying down three more blocks. The Aces grabbed four more steals and had eight fever turnovers.
For the Aces, center A’ja Wilson led with 29 points on 13-for-24 shooting (1–2 3pt, 2–3 FT) and six rebounds. Point guard Chelsea Gray notched 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting, six rebounds, nine assists and two steals. Wing Jackie Young logged 15 points on 5-for-10 from the field (2–5 3pt, 3–4 FT), three rebounds, six assists and two steals on four fouls. Point guard Kelsey Plum had 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting (2–8 3pt, 2–2 FT), four assists and two steals on four fouls. In 17 minutes off the bench for Las Vegas, big wing Dearica Hamby logged six points on 2-for-5 shooting (2–2 FT) and five rebounds on four fouls.
Big wing Breanna Stewart led the Storm and all scorers with a double-double of a season-high 35 points on 10-for-18 shooting (4–5 3pt, 11–15 FT) and 10 rebounds, along with two assists. Center Tina Charles notched 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting (2–6 3pt), nine rebounds (six offensive), three assists and two blocks. Off-ball guard Gabby Williams had six points on 3-for-7 shooting, six rebounds and six assists.
Written by Isabel Rodrigues
Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Next from upstate New York who regularly covers 3x3 and the state of women's basketball in the U.S. and internationally. She also covers women's sports for The Daily Princetonian, the independent student newspaper of Princeton University.