July 18, 2022 

Daily Briefing — July 18, 2022: Travel takes center stage as Washington Mystics handily defeat Minnesota Lynx

Plus: Connecticut falls to the 4-seed after loss to Las Vegas

Happy Monday! The week has only just begun, and what a grand opportunity that is. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the NCAA Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 61 of the WNBA season came and went, as the Minnesota Lynx strapped in for a 2022 WNBA classic: a major lapse in travel plans, causing athletes to be in transit for nearly 12 hours ahead of an afternoon game. As has become routine, players documented their experiences on social media, taking to Twitter and Instagram to share the misadventures of a professional sports team stuck in commercial transit for hours on end.

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Ahead of Sunday’s match against the Washington Mystics, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve spoke about how she and her team felt in the moment. “It was challenging and disappointing that we were in that situation,” Reeve said. “Probably greater disappointment was the lack of support that we felt in terms of unresponsive messages to the league … From our standpoint, there was no communication with the leadership and Minnesota Lynx. And so that, to me, is an epic fail.”

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault was initially less than sympathetic to the situation. (Washington was also expecting a near sellout crowd as they celebrated Japanese Heritage Day.) “I know it was a long travel day — we’ve all had them,” he said ahead of the game. “We really weren’t in a position to accommodate them unless there was a much more mitigating circumstance than there is right now.” Thibault later apologized on Twitter for making a crying gesture when he was asked about the Lynx’s travel challenges, and Reeve was quick to accept the apology.

In the end, the Lynx put up an underwhelming performance, scoring a team season-low 57 points in the loss to the Mystics. “Yesterday was really hard as far as the travel, but I never want to make an excuse,” said Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers after the game. “At the end of the day, basketball is basketball and we just have to perform better.”

In other news, the USA U17 National Team won gold at the FIBA U17 World Cup, defeating Spain 84–62. This is the fifth gold medal in program history. JuJu Watkins, a guard out of Sierra Canyon High School, was named World Cup MVP.

But first read…

  • Our Lucas Seehafer takes you through the recent revitalization of the Minnesota Lynx, and the importance of Rachel Banham’s improved bench scoring.
  • Our Tony East checks in with the Indiana Fever’s rookie contingency, from what each of the six teammates have excelled at, to where interim head coach Carlos Knox sees room for improvement.

W Roundup

Las Vegas: Signed point guard Kelsey Plum to a two-year contract extension, per Rachel Galligan.

NCAA Roundup

Transfer portal

Out of the portal

  • Piath Gabriel: The center out of UConn committed to UMass.
  • Floor Toonders: The forward out of Florida committed to Penn.

Watch List, Monday, July 18


Sunday, July 17 recap

Las Vegas (18–7) beat Connecticut (16–9), 91–83. The Sun grabbed an early lead, building a six-point advantage as the Aces went 1-for-9 from three. Connecticut was able to maintain the lead through halftime, but a 67 percent shooting performance from Las Vegas point guard Kelsey Plum in the third quarter helped propel the Aces ahead by double digits. Even as the Sun pulled within striking distance in the final minutes of play, near perfect free-throw shooting and key assists from Aces point guard Chelsea Gray kept Las Vegas out ahead for the win.

The Sun shot 5.8 percentage points better from the field and 13.9 percentage points better from three than the Aces. Connecticut also out-rebounded Las Vegas by 11, all of which came on the defensive end, while the Aces grabbed six more steals. The Sun logged 22 turnovers to the Aces’ 8, and allowed Las Vegas to have 33 points off of those turnovers.

Back-to-back threes from Plum push the Aces out ahead in the early third. Then, in the mid-fourth, clutch assists from Gray help maintain the Aces advantage as the Sun cut the lead to four.

Plum led the Aces and all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-14 from the field (2–8 3pt, 6–6 FT) and four assists. Gray logged 21 points on 6-for-13 from the field (2–4 3pt, 7–9 FT), nine assists and three steals. Center A’ja Wilson had 20 points on 8-for-17 from the field (1–4 3pt, 3–4 FT), seven rebounds and two blocks. Off-ball guard Riquna Williams had 11 points on 4-for-8 from the field (3–6 3pt), three rebounds and two assists off the bench for Las Vegas.

For the Sun, big wing DeWanna Bonner led with 19 points on 5-for-12 from the field (1–4 3pt, 8–8 FT) and seven rebounds. Guards Courtney Williams and Natisha Hiedeman combined for 32 points on 13-for-26 shooting, six rebounds and six assists. Hiedeman went 4-for-7 from three. Big wing Alyssa Thomas nearly had a turnover double-double, with a season-high 14 rebounds (four offensive) and six assists against a career-high nine turnovers.

Washington (16–11) beat Minnesota (10–17), 70–57. The Mystics jumped ahead early, but the Minnesota Lynx clawed their way into a four-point lead by the end of the first. However, an 8–0 Washington run to open the second quarter helped the Mystics into a multiple-possession lead, which they would only expand from that point forward. This would become Minnesota’s lowest scoring outing of the season and their lowest scoring game since 2019 (who could forget the time they beat Phoenix with just 58 points?) Overall, the Mystics shot 16.7 percentage points better from the foul line than the Lynx and had eight more steals. Minnesota out-rebounded Washington by seven but logged eight more turnovers.

Cloud finds Walker-Kimbrough for a layup in transition, and then sinks a clutch three to expand the Mystics lead to seven.

Big Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics and all scorers with a double-double of 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting (2–4 3pt, 3–3 FT) and 10 rebounds, along with three assists. Off-ball guard Ariel Atkins notched 15 points on 5-for-15 from the field (2–6 3pt, 3–4 FT), five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Point guard Natasha Cloud had seven points on 2-for-7 shooting from the field (1–3 3pt), six rebounds, eight assists and two steals. Off-ball guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field (2–3 3pt), three rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes off the bench.

For the Minnesota Lynx, off-ball guard Kayla McBride led with 16 points on 7-for-19 shooting from the field (1–5 3pt) and two rebounds. Center Sylvia Fowles had nine points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field (3–4 FT) and 12 rebounds. Combo forward Jessica Shepard had 12 rebounds (five offensive) and seven assists on four fouls off the bench for the Lynx.

Atlanta (11–14) beat Phoenix (11–16), 85–75. The two teams traded the lead three times before the Dream managed a five-point lead that would allow them to keep their advantage through the final minutes of the first half. Despite being all tied up at halftime, a set of back-to-back Atlanta 3-pointers and a coast-to-coast layup from guard Tiffany Hayes put the Dream back out ahead. In the opening minutes of the fourth, however, back-to-back plays from Mercury combo guard Diana Taurasi would roll the lead in favor of Phoenix for the first time since the early first. It wouldn’t last long, however, as a 15–2 Atlanta run closed out the win for the Dream.

Overall, the Dream shot 15.9 percentage points better from three, while the Mercury shot 25 percentage points better from the free throw line. Atlanta out-rebounded Phoenix by 15, while the Mercury had five more blocks.

For Atlanta, big Cheyenne Parker led with a double-double of 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting (1–2 FT) and 12 rebounds (two offensive). Hayes logged 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field (1–4 3pt, 3–6 FT), seven rebounds and six assists on three fouls. Point guard Erica Wheeler notched 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting from the field (2–4 3pt, 2–4 FT), seven rebounds (four offensive) and seven assists on four fouls. Center Kia Vaughn had five points on 2-for-6 shooting and nine rebounds against four turnovers in just under 17 minutes off the bench. Vaughn became just the second player in WNBA history to snag at least seven offensive rebounds in less than 17 minutes, per Across the Timeline.

Wheeler snags a would-be Peddy rebound and sinks the jump shot. Then Hayes launches a clutch pass to AD for three, and Wheeler drops Phoenix combo guard Skylar Diggins-Smith to sink a long two. Finally, Hayes steals the ball off a wacky pass from Taurasi and takes it to the cup for a layup.

Taurasi led Phoenix and all scorers with 23 points on 7-for-19 shooting (2–10 3pt, 7–7 FT), two rebounds and four assists against four turnovers and three fouls. Point guard Shey Peddy had 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field (3–8 3pt), six rebounds (two offensive) and five assists. The Phoenix bench combined for just nine points, four rebounds, and one assist across 27 total minutes.

Seattle (17–8) beat Indiana (5–22), 81–65. The lead would change hands five times before Seattle went on a 13–2 run to open up a double-digit lead. The Fever would struggle to mount a comeback until the late third, when they took a 10–2 run to cut the Storm lead to just three, but three jump-shots from Storm center Tina Charles brought Seattle back into to a 10-point lead. From there, Indiana wasn’t able to respond, and the Storm clinched the win. Overall, the Storm made just two more 3-pointers on one more attempt than the Fever, and the Seattle starters outscored the Indiana starters by 11. In their last 10 games, the Fever have only out-scored the opposing team in eight quarters.

Smith hustles a put-back to bring the Fever within three. But, Charles cashes in a clean hook-shot and a short jump-shot off a dime from Storm point guard Sue Bird to pull Seattle further ahead.

Big wing Breanna Stewart led Seattle and all scorers with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting from the field (4–9 3pt, 3–4 FT), eight rebounds and three assists on four fouls. Combo guard Jewell Loyd had 15 points on 5-for-14 shooting from the field (1–6 3pt, 4–4 FT), five rebounds and two assists against four turnovers. Charles notched 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field (3–4 FT), seven rebounds (two offensive) and two steals off the bench for the Storm.

For the Fever, big NaLyssa Smith led with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the field (1–4 3pt, 4–4 FT), nine rebounds (four offensive) and two assists on four fouls. Center Queen Egbo logged 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting, six rebounds and two steals on five fouls. Big Emma Cannon had 14 points on 4-for-6 from the field (1–2 3pt, 5–6 FT), five rebounds and two steals on three fouls off the bench for Indiana.

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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