July 22, 2022
Daily Briefing — July 22, 2022: The WNBA playoff race heats up
Aces get the ship righted, Liberty sink farther
Happy Friday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 65 of the season is here, following Los Angeles creating some separation in the WNBA playoff race out of the lottery. The Sparks took a solid win over Atlanta yesterday afternoon, moving themselves up into sixth place, a half-game above the Dream and a whole 2.5 games out of the lottery. Just three games separate Los Angeles from second-to-last in a hotly contested battle near the bottom:
The fight for the final playoff spots is something I’ve talked about quite a bit in this space; it would be worth watching in any year, but this year, three of these six teams have traded away their own first-round pick, the Lynx are having an all-time legend retire, and the Mercury might lose both of their best players.
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What’s missing from the above table are the tiebreakers. Seven of the 15 season series between these six teams have already been decided, and as a result:
- Los Angeles has the tiebreaker over Dallas and Phoenix
- Atlanta has the tiebreaker over Dallas and Phoenix
- Dallas has the tiebreaker over Phoenix and Minnesota, but has lost the tiebreaker to Los Angeles and Atlanta
- Phoenix has lost the tiebreaker to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, and Minnesota
- Minnesota has the tiebreaker over Phoenix and New York, but has lost the tiebreaker to Dallas
- New York has lost the tiebreaker to Minnesota
Additionally, the Los Angeles-Atlanta, Los Angeles-Minnesota, and Atlanta-New York series are tied.
With eight series still to be decided, things are very up in the air. And as you can tell from the length of each team’s bullet above, the Liberty have a lot of games remaining against these other teams. But they don’t nearly have the easiest schedule left; the Dream face the easiest slate of any team in the league going forward by far, with the Wings having the second-lightest schedule by a bit of a margin behind them. The Lynx, on the other hand, face the third-hardest remaining schedule in the W.
And basically none of these standings will work out next week. But the WNBA’s August weeks feature all six of these teams playing one another. Stock up on popcorn.
But first, read:
- Our Rowan Schaberg looked at Gabby Williams’ growth this year
- Newsday’s Barbara Barker followed Liberty legend Sue Wicks’ journey from basketball star to oyster farmer ($, but incognito mode works)
- WGN9’s Kaitlin Sharkey and Rick Tarsitano storied the origins, successes and struggles of the Chicago Hustle, and how they laid the groundwork for the Sky
Phoenix: Signed combo forward Kaela Davis to a seven-day hardship contract
Watch List, Friday, June 22
(All times in Eastern, there is no Game Of The Day)
Connecticut @ Minnesota, 8 p.m., NBA TV (Local: NESN+, Bally Sports North)
Dallas @ Chicago, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network (Local: Bally Sports Southwest Extra, CW26)
Seattle @ Phoenix, 10 p.m., NBA TV (Local: FOX13/Amazon Prime video, Bally Sports Arizona)
Thursday, July 21 recap
Washington (17-11) beat New York (9-17), 78-69. The Liberty scored the first 12 points of the game, and trailed by halftime. The teams combined to shoot just 27.7% from three; New York committed 19 turnovers.
Big Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics with 25 points on 8-for-14 from the field, 3-for-6 from three and 6-for-6 from the line, three rebounds and three assists without a turnover; off-ball guard Ariel Atkins had 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting (1-5 3pt.) and six rebounds; big Myisha Hines-Allen notched 13 points on 6-for-15 FG (1-4 3pt.), eight rebounds and two assists,
The Liberty were led by big Natasha Howard’s 17 points and 7-for-12 FG (1-2 3pt.) and 10 rebounds for a double-double; point guard Sabrina Ionescu had 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting (1-4 3pt.), eight rebounds and four assists against four turnovers; wing Marine Johannès notched 12 points on 4-for-9 from the field and 2-for-6 from three and two assists off the bench.
Los Angeles (12-14) beat Atlanta (12-15), 85-78. The teams were tied in the mid-first quarter, but the Sparks led by 10 at the period’s end; the Dream drew within four in the late third. Los Angeles shot 7.6 percentage points better from the field and 15.4 better from three, but took 12 fewer shots from deep; Atlanta won the rebounding battle by nine; the Sparks notched 12 steals, part of 21 Dream turnovers; the teams combined for 40 fouls.
Big Nneka Ogwumike led Los Angeles with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting (2-2 3pt.), five rebounds and three assists against two turnovers and four fouls in 31 minutes; center Chiney Ogwumike had 15 points on 7-for-12 FG (0-1 3pt.), seven rebounds (five offensive), two assists and two steals against two turnovers; off-ball guard Brittney Sykes notched 12 points on 5-for-10 from the field and four assists against three turnovers.
Atlanta was led by wing Tiffany Hayes’ 18 points on 7-for-12 from the field and 3-for-6 from three, three rebounds and three assists against two turnovers; backup point guard Aari McDonald had 18 points in 18 minutes on 7-for-9 shooting (2-4 3pt.) and two assists against two turnovers; big Cheyenne Parker notched 10 points on 5-for-7 FG, eight rebounds (three offensive), four assists and a season-high-tying four steals against five turnovers.
Las Vegas (19-8) beat Indiana (5-24), 90-77. The Fever were within one possession in the late first, and then the Aces went on a 45-17 run. Vegas shot 6.3 percentage points better overall while winning the rebounding battle by 10; Indiana assisted on 22 of its 28 buckets; the teams combined for 19 steals.
Center A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting (2-2 3pt.), eight rebounds, three assists and two steals without a turnover in just 25 minutes — the first 23/8/3/2 game without a turnover in fewer than 26 minutes in WNBA history, per Across The Timeline (ATT); point guard Chelsea Gray notched a double-double with 14 points on 6-for-12 FG (0-2 3pt.) and a season-high 12 assists, plus five rebounds and three steals against two turnovers — just the fourth-ever 14/5/12/3 game, per ATT; wing Jackie Young had 16 points on 6-for-9 from the field (1-3 3pt.) and five rebounds against four turnovers. Every player on Vegas’ roster saw the floor.
The Fever were led by big NaLyssa Smith’s 24 points on 9-for-15 from the field, a career-high 5-for-7 from three, and 1-for-7 from the line and five rebounds; combo forward Victoria Vivians had 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting (2-4 3pt.), three rebounds and three assists against two turnovers; combo guard Kelsey Mitchell notched 10 points on 3-for-10 FG (2-5 3pt.) and seven assists.