August 15, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Aug. 15, 2022: I will never forgive Curt Miller

Everything you need to know about the 2022 WNBA playoff schedule

It’s Monday, I’m sorry. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 85 of the WNBA season was here, the final day of both the 2022 regular season and Sylvia Fowles’ career. The former is bittersweet, as we move onto what should be an excellent month of playoff basketball; the latter is simply heartbreaking, as the Lynx were just seven points away from making the playoffs when Sun head coach Curt Miller decided he’d seen enough and re-inserted his starters.

Let’s get something out of the way: this heartbreak would not have been a possibility if Minnesota had been a better team this year, or if it hadn’t given up a walk-off three to Courtney Vandersloot or given up a dagger three to Dearica Hamby before Jessica Shepard forgot the score. Good teams do not find themselves in the kind of situation the Lynx found themselves in yesterday afternoon.

But we cannot control where fate takes us. Sometimes it conspires to a noble cause, like prolonging Fowles’ career. That was the case for Minnesota backup point guard Lindsay Allen, who’s played for the past three weeks after being unemployed for the first 3.5 months of the season, and yesterday smashing her previous career-high while being nearly unable to miss. It was the case for Aerial Powers, who saw a sudden spike in efficiency and playmaking. And it was the case for Curt Miller, who had a chance to both keep his key players rested before the playoffs and watch the Lynx take over late.

But Curt Miller decided he wanted Fowles’ storybook ending finish to meet a premature end. Despite four of his starters having already played 20 minutes, in a game that had no possiblity of affecting Connecticut’s seeding or its possible opponent, the Sun’s starting lineup checked back into the game with a little under four minutes remaining. Where the bench had just given up a 12-3 run, the starters were a +1 to close the game, good enough to snuff out the hope of every basketball fan that Fowles’ ride would continue.

After the game, Miller mentioned or alluded to a few factors that went into this decision: Regular-season stats; having the best home-court win-loss record in the W over the past few seasons, a Sun fact he adores; and that his starters wanted to be put back in, an odd deflection considering that the head coach’s job is to direct substitutions. Perhaps his players just really wanted the chance to end the career of Sylvia Fowles — the world may never know. But those justifications were a bit inconsistent with Miller’s previous zeal against pettiness.

Anyway, despite the Lynx’s heartbreaking loss, yesterday’s playoff fights came down to the wire. Las Vegas erasing a 10-point deficit to Seattle and New York closing a nail-biter against Atlanta secured our postseason bracket:

Bracket showing the winner of 1 Las Vegas versus 8 Phoenix playing against 4 Seattle versus 5 Washington, and the winner of 3 Connecticut and 6 Dallas playing the winner of 2 Chicago and 7 New York.

And the final lottery standings, sorted from best odds to worst:

  1. Indiana (44.2% chance of No. 1 pick)
  2. Atlanta (27.6% chance of No. 1 pick)
  3. Washington (via Los Angeles, 17.8% chance of No. 1 pick)
  4. Minnesota (10.4% chance of No. 1 pick)

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But first, read:

  • The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings looked at some of the top college programs for 2022 and the biggest questions they’re facing (though I take some issue with Virginia Tech not being on the list)
  • The Roanoke Times’ Mark Berman talked to Aces rookie Aisha Sheppard about her adjustment to the pros and playing alongside Vegas’ star talent
  • The Dallas Morning News’ Peter Warren previews the Sun-Wings series, from the battle of the bigs to the balanced attacks
  • The Lead’s Brenden Potts recapped Briann January’s basketball career, from Arizona State to the four stops in the league that eventually led her back home to Washington state

W Roundup

Atlanta: Big Kia Vaughn announced her retirement. Per Her Hoop Stats, the 13-year veteran ranks 38th all-time in games played, 36th in offensive rebounds, and 40th in total boards, in addition to ranking within the top-65 in field-goal percentage, made two-pointers, defensive boards, and blocks. Our Gabriella Lewis chronicled her impact through characters from across the league.

Watch List, Monday, Aug. 15

None — playoffs begin Wednesday


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Sunday, Aug. 14 recap

Connecticut (25-11) beat Minnesota (14-22), 90-83. The Sun won the first quarter 28-14, though the Lynx got within single-digits a couple times across the second and third quarters; Connecticut led by 17 after the third and subbed out its starters, but once Minnesota cut the lead to six, Curt Miller put the starters back in. The Sun shot 7.2 percentage points better from three and took 10 more free-throws, but had 17 fewer attempts from three.

Big Alyssa Thomas led Connecticut with 16 points on 6-for-8 FG, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals against two turnovers in 25 minutes; combo guard Natisha Hiedeman had 15 points on 5-for-11 from the field and 4-for-8 from three, five rebounds, and five assists without a turnover; backup center Brionna Jones notched 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting, six rebounds (three offensive), two assists, and no turnovers in 23 minutes.

The Lynx were led by backup point guard Lindsay Allen’s career-high 26 points on 9-for-13 from the field and 6-for-7 from three, two rebounds, six assists, and two steals without a turnover; off-ball guard Aerial Powers notched 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting (career-high-tying 4-10 3pt.), eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals against four turnovers; center Sylvia Fowles had 10 points on 4-for-10 FG and 12 rebounds for a double-double — the first player in W history with 4,000 career rebounds and two steals.

New York (16-20) beat Atlanta (14-22), 87-83. The Dream jumped out to an early eight-point lead, though the Liberty tied them up within a few minutes and went ahead by 10 in the early second; the game was within two possessions for its last 21.5 minutes. New York shot 8.5 percentage points better from the field and 14.6 better from three, while assisting on 23 of its 27 buckets; Atlanta allowed only four offensive boards and notched nine steals; the teams combined for 38 fouls.

Center Stefanie Dolson led the Liberty with a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double on 6-for-11 from the field and 3-for-5 from three, plus five assists; big Natasha Howard had 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting (1-2 3pt., 7-10 FT), nine rebounds, and three assists against four turnovers; backup wing Marine Johannès notched 18 points on a career-high 6-for-8 from three and four assists against two turnovers; combo guard Sabrina Ionescu struggled to just five points on 1-for-12 FG (1-7 3pt.), five rebounds, seven assists, six turnovers, and four fouls in 33 minutes.

The Dream were led by wing Rhyne Howard’s 24 points on 6-for-18 from the field, 5-for-12 from three, and 7-for-8 from the line, four rebounds, career-high-tying seven assists, and two steals against four unintentional fouls in 37 minutes — she ends the season ranking 10th in points, first in threes, and fifth in double-digit-scoring games in rookie history, per ATT; backup big Monique Billings had 15 points on 5-for-6 FG, six rebounds (four offensive), and two assists against three turnovers and four fouls in 20 minutes; off-ball guard Maya Caldwell notched 14 points on a career-high-tying 4-5 from three (1-2 from two), four rebounds, and two steals.

Las Vegas (26-10) beat Seattle (22-14), 109-100. The Aces led by 11 in the mid-first quarter, but the Storm took the lead in the early second and were ahead 12 a few minutes later; Vegas got within one point a couple times in the third quarter before Seattle extended the lead to 10 late in the period, but the Aces then went on a 14-0 run. Vegas shot 9.4 percentage points better from the field and took 17 more free-throws than the Storm, but were 4.3 percentage points worse from three on 13 fewer attempts; Seattle won the rebounding battle by seven; the Aces notched 11 steals, part of 18 Storm turnovers; Seattle committed 20 fouls.

Point guard Chelsea Gray led Vegas with a near-triple-double of a career-high 33 points on 10-for-15 from the field (2-4 3pt.) and 11-for-11 from the line, seven rebounds, and nine assists against four turnovers — just the second 33/9/7 game in league history, per Across The Timeline; center A’ja Wilson notched a double-double with 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting (1-2 3pt., 6-8 FT) and 10 rebounds — her 54th-career double-double, tops in franchise history — plus five assists and two steals against two turnovers; point guard Kelsey Plum had 23 points on 9-for-18 from the field and 4-for-9 from three, four assists, and two steals against four fouls in 37 minutes.

The Storm were led by combo guard Jewell Loyd’s career-high 38 points on 13-for-23 from the field and a career-high 8-for-14 from three against five turnovers; big wing Breanna Stewart had a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double on 9-for-21 shooting (1-5 3pt.) with a career-high six offensive boards and four assists against three turnovers; wing Gabby Williams notched 11 points on 5-for-9 FG (1-4 3pt.), five rebounds, and two assists against three turnovers. Point guard Sue Bird hit her 1,000th-career three — only Diana Taurasi has also hit that mark.

Washington (22-14) beat Indiana (5-31, tying the WNBA record for single-season losses), 95-83. The teams traded baskets until Washington went on a 10-3 run in the mid-second quarter. By the end of the third, the Mystics led by 15. The Fever shot 28.2 percentage points better from three than Washington. The Mystics had 14 steals and notched nine more second-chance points.

Big Elena Delle Donne led Washington with 22 points on 8-for-13 from the field and 1-for-4 from three (5-5 FT) and three assists; off-ball guard Ariel Atkins notched 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting (2-6 3pt.), four assists, and three steals; backup point guard Rui Machida had three points on 1-for-3 from the field, six assists, and a season-high four steals.

Off-ball guard Tiffany Mitchell led Indiana with 18 points on 7-for-9 from the field and a career-high-tying seven assists; big Emma Cannon notched 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting (2-2 3pt.), three rebounds, and two steals on four fouls in 24 minutes.

Chicago (franchise-record 26-10) beat Phoenix (15-21), 82-67. The Sky jumped out ahead and never looked back, at one point leading the Mercury by 27. Chicago shot 11-for-27 from three to Phoenix’s 3-for-13; the Mercury won the rebounding battle by nine, while the Sky grabbed four more steals.

Backup big Azurá Stevens led the Sky with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting (3-6 3pt.), four rebounds, and three assists; backup point guard Julie Allemand logged three points on 1-for-4 from the field and six assists; big Emma Meesseman had 11 points on 5-for-7 from the field, five rebounds (two offensive), four assists, and two steals — Meesseman becomes the first player in WNBA history to notch that statline in 15 minutes played or less, per Across the Timeline.

Backup center Megan Gustafson notched her first career double-double with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting (1-2 3pt., 3-4 FT) and a career-high 10 rebounds, along with two assists; off-ball guard Jennie Simms had 12 points on 5-for-8 from the field, a career-high-tying eight rebounds, and two assists.

Dallas (18-18) beat Los Angeles (13-23), 116-88. The teams traded baskets until the Sparks allowed the Wings to take a 41-9 run in the second quarter. Despite out-scoring Dallas in the second half, Los Angeles was unable to recover. The Wings shot 21.3 percentage points better from the field and 16.7 percentage points better from three than the Sparks. Dallas out-rebounded Los Angeles by nine; the Sparks had five more steals, contributing to the Wings’ 14 turnovers.

Wing Marina Mabrey led Dallas with 27 points on 10-for-13 from the field and a season-high 5-for-8 from three, four rebounds, and five assists; center Teaira McCowan notched 24 points on 9-for-13 FG (6-8 FT), eight rebounds, and two steals; backup point guard Tyasha Harris had her first-career double-double with a career-high-tying 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting (2-3 3pt., 4-5 FT) and a career-high 11 assists — the first 18-point, 11-assist, zero-turnover regulation game in W history, per ATT. Point guard Veronica Burton became the second player in WNBA history to go perfect from the line across an entire season, minimum 30 attempts, per ATT.

Los Angeles was led by off-ball guard Brittney Sykes’ career-high 35 points on 13-for-17 shooting (3-4 3pt., 6-7 FT), four rebounds, five assists, and three steals on four fouls in 36 minutes; backup point guard Chennedy Carter notched 13 points on 4-for-11 from the field (5-6 FT), three rebounds, and three assists while fouling-out in 28 minutes.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the Seattle Storm and college basketball for The Next, while also writing for The Chronicle, Duke's independent student paper

2 Comments

  1. CRAIG MONTGOMERY on August 16, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    I don’t understand this line of reasoning. Curt Miller should have thrown the game? Or stopped trying to win? How is that fair to the other teams trying to make the playoffs?

    • Kaitlyn Bragdon-Roe on August 17, 2022 at 11:22 am

      He wasn’t throwing a game, he could have been resting his starters. What if one if then had gotten hurt? TOTALLY UNNECESSARILY. It was just sad.

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