July 31, 2022 

Daily Briefing — July 31, 2022: Seattle Storm, Washington Mystics punch playoff tickets

Plus: Kelsey Mitchell to miss remainder of season with foot injury.

Happy Sunday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 73 of the WNBA season is upon us, and for the seventh season in a row, the Seattle Storm have secured a spot in the playoff tournament. The Washington Mystics also managed to grab a spot, despite losing to the Storm in a thrilling Saturday afternoon match. Nothing quite sums up the feeling of the regular season starting to come to an end quite like these photos (all from The Next‘s resident Mystics photographer, Domenic Allegra) from the aforementioned Storm–Mystics bout:

Trying to understand playoff-clinching math:

Mystics big Elena Delle Donne (11) speaks with a referee, her hands held out in front of her. Point guard Natasha Cloud stands in the background.
Washington Mystics big Elena Delle Donne (11) speaks with a referee during a game against the Seattle Storm at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

When your team gets their playoff spot despite losing that same day:

Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud (9) holds the ball with two hands, a surprised/excited expression on her face. Her mouth is open and her eyes are wide. Storm players walk to her left.
Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud (9) holds the ball during a game against the Seattle Storm at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

New York and Minnesota trying to brute force their way to the No. 8 seed:

Mystics big Elena Delle Donne drives against Storm center Ezi Magbegor (13). Storm off-ball guard Gabby Williams (5) reaches out towards the ball.
Washington Mystics big Elena Delle Donne drives against Storm center Ezi Magbegor (13) during a game against the Seattle Storm at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

When your team got into the playoffs a week and a half ago and you’re just waiting for everyone else to catch up:

Storm point guard Sue Bird enters Entertainment and Sports Arena. She's wearing shades, gold chains, and a dark blue velvet shirt.
Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird enters the arena in style at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

Your friend brings up end of season awards and you have to keep it together:

Mystics center Shakira Austin (0), point guard Natasha Cloud (9), off-ball guard Ariel Atkins (7), and off-ball guard Alysha Clark (22) huddle up. Clark makes a surprised face in Cloud's direction.
The Washington Mystics huddle up during a game against the Seattle Storm at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

The Aces, Sun and Sky duking it out for the 1 seed:

Mystics big Elena Delle Donne (11), center Shakira Austin (0), and Storm center Ezi Magbegor (13) dive for a rebound. Storm forward Stephanie Talbot (7) stands nearby.
Washington Mystics players Elena Delle Donne (11) and Shakira Austin (0), and Seattle Storm player Ezi Magbegor (13), dive for a rebound during a game at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

Mercury and Sparks fans realizing they have no more games against the Fever:

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault holds his head in his hands, with his back to the camera.
Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault holds his head in his hands during a game against the Seattle Storm at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

Watching the slow demise of your fantasy team:

Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird (10) sits pensively by the scorers table with her arms around her knees.
Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird (10) sits by the scorers table during a game against the Washington Mystics at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

When you want some people to sign your baby:

Fans hold a green and yellow sign asking Seattle Storm players Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird to "Sign our baby!" Lettering is in silver and black.
Fans hold a sign asking Seattle Storm players Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird to “Sign our baby!” at Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C., on July 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Domenic Allegra)

Embrace the end-of-season weird y’all, it only comes once a year! With all that said let’s take a look at today’s five game slate, and its implications for the ever-closer 2022 playoffs:

Series to watch, rankings as of publication:

  • The Indiana Fever and the chance to create some real mess: Now without Kelsey Mitchell, who will miss the rest of the season due to injury, the Fever are going to have to get creative if they’re to finish the season with more than five wins. The Aces will visit for these teams’ third matchup in four games this afternoon, and the outcome could determine whether Las Vegas is able to take the one seed from Chicago.
  • The New York Liberty and the slow descent into chaos: For the Liberty, a win over Phoenix is, frankly, critical. New York lost their first meeting and having the series advantage over the Mercury is essential if New York is to put up a real fight for the eight seed. If Phoenix wins, the Mercury would push ahead into the six seed, and New York would find themselves in a similar must-win situation with Dallas.
  • No. 1 (Chicago) vs No. 3 (Connecticut): This match is all about going the distance. A win for Connecticut would put some much needed wiggle room between them and the four seed (and the prospect of playing the Mystics in the first round). For Chicago, who have the Aces hot on their trail, a loss here would put a lot more on the line for their last game of the season against Las Vegas, as their series sits tied. (Editor’s note: Hey, speaking of that final Aces-Sky game … scroll down a bit!)
  • No. 4 (Seattle) vs No. 5 (Washington), 2 Fast 2 Furious: After a thrilling meeting Saturday afternoon, Seattle has secured the season series over Washington, making this last meeting slightly less important. But the season series will be irrelevant if the Mystics end up with a better record than the Storm, so every win left counts for Seattle — especially if they hope to try and steal the three seed from the Sun.
  • No. 8 (Los Angeles) vs No. 10 (Minnesota): If wins matter for the Storm, wins matter astronomically more for the Lynx. While a victory here wouldn’t move them up in the standings, it would keep them from falling completely out of contention, especially with two games against Seattle on the way. A win for Los Angeles here could give them the edge over Phoenix for the seven seed, especially if the Liberty can grab a win this afternoon. The Sparks–Mercury season series sits tied after four games.

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Aug. 11 – Chicago Sky vs. Las Vegas Aces, 10 p.m. ET

Aug. 17 – Playoff Watch Party, Time TBA

Aug. 18 – Playoff Watch Party, Time TBA

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But first read…

  • Our Antonio Losada checks in with the teams of the EuroLeague as they draw into groups and load up their rosters for the upcoming season.
  • For Front Office Sports, Doug Greenberg spoke with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert about the impact of the Commissioner’s Cup.
  • For The Star Tribune, Kent Youngblood details Lynx forward Nikolina Milić’s transition to the WNBA and how she’s fitting in with Minnesota.

W Roundup

Indiana: Announced that combo guard Kelsey Mitchell has suffered a partial plantar fascia tear in her left foot and will miss the rest of the 2022 season as a result.

Watch List, Sunday, July 31

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

Chicago @ Connecticut, 1 p.m., NBA TV (Local: Marquee, TSN5)

Phoenix @ New York, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network (Local: YES App, Bally Sports Arizona)

Las Vegas @ Indiana, 3 p.m., NBA TV (Local: Bally Sports Indiana, MYLVTV, NBA TV Canada)

Seattle @ Washington, 3 p.m., Amazon Prime Video (Local: Monumental Sports, Fox 13+)

Minnesota @ Los Angeles, 7 p.m., NBA TV (Local: Spectrum Sportsnet, Bally Sports North, NBA TV Canada)

Saturday, July 30 recap

Seattle (19–11) beat Washington (18–12), 82–77. The Mystics took the early lead and managed to maintain it through the first quarter, despite the Storm tying the game at ten-apiece mid-way through. Washington would hold their advantage through the late-second, when Seattle took a 9–2 run to take a slight lead. Coming out of halftime, the two teams traded baskets, neither able to pull away significantly. In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, however, the Storm took a 13–0 run, powered in part by center Ezi Magbegor and combo guard Epiphanny Prince who were able to convert on key steals and defensive stops. The match wasn’t over there, however: the Mystics chipped away at the Storm lead, and then took their own 6–0 run to come within one point in the final seconds of play. Yet, it wouldn’t be enough, as Storm big wing Breanna Stewart capitalized on back-to-back sets of free throws to help Seattle pull away by just enough to secure the win, and the season series over Washington.

The two teams were evenly matched on nearly all fronts, though Seattle grabbed four more steals while Washington secured six more blocks. Washington racked up two technical fouls in the second half.

Stewart led with 18 points on 4-for-11 shooting (1–2 3pt, 9–10 FT), five rebounds and four steals. Center Tina Charles had 16 points on 6-for-14 from the field (4–4 FT), nine rebounds (three offensive) and two steals. Combo guard Jewell Loyd logged 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting (2–6 3pt), three rebounds and two steals. Point guard Sue Bird had four points on 2-for-7 shooting, seven assists and three steals. Off the bench for the Storm, center Ezi Magbegor notched eight points on 4-for-6 from the field and six rebounds (two offensive).

Big Elena Delle Donne led the Mystics and all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-14 from the field (1–3 3pt, 7–7 FT), five rebounds and three blocks. Center Shakira Austin had a double double with 10 points on 4-for-10 from the field (2–4 FT) and 10 rebounds (two offensive), along with two assists. Point guard Natasha Cloud contributed a double double with 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting and 11 assists, along with four rebounds. Big Myisha Hines-Allen logged eight points on 2-for-6 shooting (4–4 FT), ten rebounds and a career-high three blocks off the bench for Washington. Hines-Allen is just the second player all-time, the first in 23 years, to record more than five points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in less than 20 minutes played, per Across the Timeline.

Dallas (13–16) beat Atlanta (12–18), 81–68. The two teams traded baskets for the opening quarter, passing the lead three times and tying three times before the Wings took an 8–2 run to open up the first significant lead of the game. As the second quarter began, Dallas would expand their lead to nine, but a 9–3 Dream run cut the lead to just three, despite losing combo guard Tiffany Hayes to an ankle injury before halftime. As the second half began, Dallas went cold from the field, and Atlanta would take advantage, eventually taking a three-point lead. But, two plays from Wings center Awak Kuier pushed Dallas ahead again. From there, the Wings would quickly grow their lead as the Dream struggled to respond, eventually coming away with the win.

Overall, Dallas shot 10.2 percentage points better from the field than Atlanta, while the Dream shot 10.9 percentage points better from three than the Wings. Dallas had control of the paint, logging 16 more points in the area, while Atlanta took advantage of Wings’ missteps, snagging 12 more points off turnovers.

Off-ball guard Arike Ogunbowale logged 21 points on 8-for-22 from the field (1–7 3pt, 4–6 FT), five rebounds, a career-high-tying eight assists and a career-high-tying five steals. Ogunbowale became just the sixth player in WNBA history to log that statline or better, and the first in ~14 years, per Across the Timeline. Combo forward Kayla Thornton had a career-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting (3–4 3pt), seven rebounds (two offensive) and two steals. Center Teaira McCowan contributed a double double with 14 points on 6-for-11 from the field (2–5 FT) and a season-high 14 rebounds (three offensive) on five turnovers and five fouls. Wing Allisha Gray had seven points on 3-for-10 from the field (1–7 3pt), a season-high eight assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Wing Rhyne Howard led Atlanta and all scorers with 22 points on 5-for-15 shooting (3–9 3pt, 9–10 FT), six rebounds and two blocks. Big Cheyenne Parker had 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting (4–6 FT) and six rebounds (two offensive). Combo guard Erica Wheeler had seven points on 3-for-10 from the field (1–2 3pt), six assists and three steals on four turnovers.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a breaking news writer for The Next from upstate New York. She also covers women's basketball for The Daily Princetonian.

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