August 3, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Aug. 3, 2022: WINGIN’ IT — Mabrey, McCowan lead Dallas Wings to a critical win over the Chicago Sky

Alyssa Thomas has second career triple-double as Sun defeat Mercury

It’s Wednesday, half-way there already if you’ll believe it. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the NCAA Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 75 of the WNBA season has arrived, and the playoff race has really begun to heat up, On Tuesday night, Washington secured the season sweep over Las Vegas while New York had a commanding win over Los Angeles, with dominant performances from both Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard. In Connecticut, Alyssa Thomas secured her second career triple-double as the Sun dropped a Mercury team whose playoff hopes look increasingly dashed with every passing day. And then, in Chicago, the Dallas Wings grabbed an important win over the Sky, affecting the both the race for the last three playoff spots as well as the fight for the number one seed.

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But first, read…

  • Our Matthew Walter explores the value of defense and its importance for the Aces as they look ahead to the upcoming playoff tournament.
  • Our Rowan Schaberg combs through last weekend’s back-to-back Seattle–Washington match-ups and outlines what the Storm can learn from the series.
  • At FiveThirtyEight, our Howard Megdal analyzed just how incomparable Han Xu has been.

W Roundup

Los Angeles: Signed off-ball guard Kianna Smith to her third seven-day contract with the team after her previous contract expired.

Atlanta: Signed off-ball guard Maya Caldwell to her first 7-day contract with the team. Caldwell previously signed with the Dream on a separate hardship contract earlier in the season.

NCAA Roundup

Transfer portal

Out of the portal

  • Aliyah Matharu: The off-ball guard out of Texas committed to Florida.

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Watch List, Wednesday, Aug. 3

(All times in ET, Game of the Day in bold)

Indiana @ Atlanta, 7 p.m., NBA TV (Local: Bally Sports Southeast, Indiana Fever Livestream, NBA TV Canada)

Los Angeles @ New York, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network (Local: YES App)

Minnesota @ Seattle, 10 p.m., NBA TV (Local: FOX13/Amazon Prime video, Bally Sports North, NBA TV Canada)

Tuesday, Aug. 2 recap

Washington (20–12) beat Las Vegas (22–9), 83–73. The two teams traded baskets as the match began, logging five lead changes before the Aces took an 8–2 run to establish a multiple-possession advantage over the Mystics. But, by the mid-second quarter, Washington had gone on a 7–1 run to cut the Aces’ lead to just one point. Then, Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud found off-ball guard Ariel Atkins for back-to-back baskets, and suddenly Washington had taken the lead. The teams passed the lead back and forth through halftime but in the late-third, the Mystics managed an 8–0 run to snag a six-point lead. From that point forward, Washington maintained their advantage, even as the Aces came within striking distance in the mid-fourth. A set of three buckets from Cloud in the final minutes of play pushed the Mystics’ lead into double digits, all but sealing the win for Washington as Las Vegas struggled to respond. Overall, the Mystics out-rebounded the Aces by eight and assisted on 11 more shots, while keeping Las Vegas to zero fast-break points (they average 11.7 per game, third in the league.)

Cloud led with 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting (2–9 3pt, 2–2 FT), nine assists, four rebounds and two steals. Center Shakira Austin logged 15 points on 5-for-11 from the field (5–7 FT) and eight rebounds. Big Elena Delle Donne had just five points on 1-for-7 shooting (3–3 FT), but also secured 11 rebounds (three offensive) and a season-high five assists. Off-ball guard Alysha Clark notched nine points on 4-for-7 from the field (1–2 3pt), five rebounds and four assists. In her 17 minutes off the bench, big Myisha Hines-Allen contributed nine points on 3-for-6 shooting (2–3 3pt), five rebounds and two assists.

Center A’ja Wilson led the Aces and all scorers with a double-double of 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting (1–3 3pt, 5–6 FT) and 12 rebounds, along with three assists and three blocks. Point guard Chelsea Gray had 20 points on 8-for-13 from the field (2–4 3pt), three rebounds and three assists. Point guard Kelsey Plum and wing Jackie Young combined for 26 points on 8-for-26 shooting (5–12 3pt, 5–7 FT) and seven rebounds on eight fouls. Plum also contributed five assists, while Young had two steals.

New York (12–18) beat Los Angeles (12–18), 102–73. With four lead changes and seven ties in the first quarter, the match-up had the makings of an end-to-end nail-biter. But, as New York took an 8–2 run to open the second quarter, it was enough of a lead for the Liberty to start forging a double-digit lead. By the end of the third quarter, the Sparks found themselves down by 26 with little hope of a comeback. In the end, New York was able to close out the win over Los Angeles with little difficulty. Overall, the Liberty shot 16.5 percentage points better from the field and 29.8 percentage points better from three than the Sparks. New York also out-rebounded Los Angeles by 13, despite logging six more turnovers.

Combo guard Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty and all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-16 shooting (5–9 3pt, 4–4 FT), six rebounds, four assists and three steals against four turnovers in just 24 minutes on the court. With that performance, Ionescu logged her fourth 30-point game of the season, the most of any player this year, per Across the Timeline. Big Natasha Howard logged her fifth-consecutive double double with 24 points on 9-for-10 from the field (1–2 3pt, 5–6 FT) and 11 rebounds (four offensive). Howard became just the 11th player in WNBA history to log a double-double with 20+ points while shooting at 90 percent efficiency or better, per Her Hoop Stats. Off the bench for New York, center Han Xu had 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting (1–2 3pt), seven rebounds (four offensive) and a career-high eight assists, while wing Marine Johannes notched 12 points on 4-for-10 from the field (1–6 3pt, 3–3 FT), three rebounds and a career-high four steals.

For the Sparks, off-ball guard Brittney Sykes led with 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting, six rebounds (three rebounds), three assists and two steals on four fouls. Big Nneka Ogwumike notched 15 points on 5-for-14 from the field (1–3 3pt, 4–4 FT), two rebounds and two assists on four fouls. Center Olivia Nelson-Ododa came off the bench for Los Angeles to contribute a season-high 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, four rebounds and a season-high three steals.

Connecticut (21–10) beat Phoenix (13–18), 87–63. Phoenix took the early lead, but Connecticut managed to tie the game at 13 apiece. The Sun opened the second quarter on a 19–4 run to take a double-digit lead by halftime, the Mercury unable to mount a response in that time. From there, Connecticut maintained and expanded their lead, outscoring the Mercury by 12 in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Sun shot 10.0 percentage points better from the field and 12.8 percentage points better from three than the Mercury. Connecticut also out-rebounded Phoenix by 11 and logged 13 more fast break points.

Off-bally guard Natisha Hiedeman led Connecticut and all scorers with 16 points on 6-for-9 from the field, three rebounds and four assists. Big wing Alyssa Thomas notched her second career triple-double and the second in Sun history. She becomes just the third player in WNBA history to log multiple triple doubles, per Across the Timeline. Thomas had 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting, 12 rebounds (four offensive) and 10 assists. Big wing Jonquel Jones notched a double-double with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting (2–5 3pt), and 10 rebounds (three offensive), along with three assists. Off the bench for the Sun, off-ball guard DiJonai Carrington notched 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting (4–5 FT) and four rebounds.

For Phoenix, off-bally guard Skylar Diggins-Smith led with 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting (5–5 FT), two rebounds and four assists on four fouls. Off-ball guard Sophie Cunningham had 15 points on 5-for-14 shooting (3–9 3pt, 2–3 FT), three rebounds and two assists. In seven minutes off the bench for Phoenix, big Kaela Davis notched 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting (1–1 3pt, 1–2 FT) and two rebounds. Davis is just the third player in WNBA history to log that statline or better in less than seven minutes on the court, and the first to do so since 2007, per Across the Timeline.

Dallas (14–16) beat Chicago (23–8), 84–78. Chicago took the early lead, but Dallas was never far behind, quickly coming back within one possession. By the second quarter, the Wings had taken a slight lead, which they maintained through halftime as the Sky struggled to get a defensive stop. Opening the third quarter, Dallas took a 5–0 run to expand their lead to multiple possessions, eventually opening up a double-digit lead. Despite cutting the Dallas lead to just three in the final minutes of the fourth, Wings point guard Veronica Burton drew two key fouls, getting Dallas four much-needed points and allowing the Wings to run away with the win. Overall, Chicago had seven more steals than Dallas and missed just four of 25 fouls shots. The Wings struggled from the foul line, sinking just 14-for-22 as a team, but had five fewer turnovers than the Sky.

Wing Marina Mabrey led Dallas and all scorers with a season-high 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting (2–6 3pt, 6–7 FT), four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Center Teaira McCowan notched a double-double with 20 points on 8-for-12 from the field (4–6 FT), twelve rebounds (six offensive) and three assists on four fouls. In her first career start, Burton notched eight points on 2-for-6 shooting (4–4 FT), a season-high nine assists and a season-high-tying three steals on four fouls. Burton is just the 12th rookie in WNBA history and the first since 2019 to log that statline or better, per Across the Timeline. Off the bench for the Wings, point guard Tyasha Harris logged four points on 2-for-5 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

For the Sky, wing Kahleah Copper led with a double-double of 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting (5–7 FT) and 11 rebounds (four offensive), along with three assists on four fouls. Big Emma Meesseman notched 14 points on 5-for-8 from the field (2–2 3pt, 2–3 FT), six rebounds (two offensive) and five assists. Off the bench for Chicago, big Azura Stevens contributed 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting (2–8), four rebounds and three blocks on four fouls.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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