June 18, 2022 

Daily Briefing — June 18, 2022: Commissioner’s Cup-dates

Plus: season highs for the Sky and a big night for Brionna Jones

Happy Saturday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the NCAA Roundup, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 35 of the WNBA season has come and gone, and so has Alyssa Thomasillustrious career as a 3-point shooter (albeit underhanded). With no games today, you can expect a fairly quiet day, but there will be yet another slate of five games on Sunday that will help determine who competes in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game.

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Last night, an eventful showdown between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm had us on the edge of our seats until DeWanna Bonner and company pulled out all the stops for a Sun victory. In Dallas, the Wings trounced a Phoenix Mercury squad hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel, and it was mayhem in Chicago as the Sky eked out an overtime win over the Atlanta Dream.

And what about that Commissioner’s Cup? Let’s check in with the remaining contenders and see how the prize pool is stacking up.

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Unlike the regular-season WNBA standings, which are crafted without regard for conference, the Commissioner’s Cup championship will be between the teams in each conference with the best records in Cup play. Cup matches will conclude on July 7.

The East

Chicago leads the Eastern Conference with a perfect Cup record of 8–0. Connecticut sits in second with a Cup record of 4–2. All other teams in the East (New York, Washington, Atlanta and Indiana) have been eliminated. There are two scenarios that determine the Eastern Conference representative in the Cup championship:

  • Chicago has two remaining Cup games, against Indiana on June 19 and against Connecticut on June 29. In order to clinch a Cup championship spot, the Sky must win at least one. If they succeed, they will represent the Eastern Conference and their selected non-for-profit organization, My Block. My Hood. My City., in the Cup finals.
  • Connecticut has four remaining Cup games. In order to clinch the Cup championship spot, it must win all four and Chicago must lose both of its remaining Cup games.
    • At this point, both teams would have 8–2 records in Cup play and tie-breakers would kick in. In this scenario, because Chicago would have lost to Connecticut, the first tie-breaker (head-to-head record in Cup play) would remain tied. (Connecticut previously lost to Chicago in Cup play.)
    • The next tie-breaker is cumulative point differential (points scored minus points allowed, summed across all Cup games). Chicago currently leads this category by 30 points (76 to 46). If Connecticut wins its four remaining Cup games by enough to exceed Chicago’s final point differential, Connecticut will advance to the Cup championship.
    • If Connecticut and Chicago have the same point differential, the next tie-breaker will be regular-season conference winning percentage. Chicago currently leads this category with a regular-season winning percentage of 88% against Eastern Conference opponents to Connecticut’s 75%. But if Connecticut improves by four games and Chicago worsens by two to force the tie in the standings, Connecticut will lead, 83% to 73%. Both teams have one other game in the Eastern Conference outside of Cup play before the July 7 cut-off date. Even if Chicago wins its game and Connecticut loses, by win percentage, Connecticut will win this category with a winning percentage of 77% to Chicago’s 75%.
  • If Connecticut succeeds, it will represent the Eastern Conference and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut in the Cup championship.

The West

Las Vegas leads the Western Conference with a perfect Cup record of 8–0. All other teams in the West (Seattle, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Minnesota) have been eliminated. Las Vegas will represent the Western Conference and the ACLU of Nevada in the Cup championship.

Donations and the prize pool

All teams have secured at least $4,500 for their chosen non-profits. Teams earn $2,000 for their non-profits for every Cup win and $500 for every Cup loss. The Cup champion will get an extra $10,000 for its organization and at least $30,000 per player. The runner-up will get an extra $5,000 for its organization and at least $10,000 per player. The Commissioner’s Cup Championship MVP will receive an extra $5,000.

The Commissioner’s Cup championship will be broadcast on Amazon Prime on Tuesday, July 26. It will be hosted by the team with the best Cup winning percentage, with head-to-head regular-season record being the first tie-breaker.

But first, read…

  • Our Jackie Powell explores how WNBA players and coaches have been processing the most recent wave of mass shootings in the U.S., from reflecting on personal experiences to engaging in activism.
  • Our Hayden Cilley checks in with the Phoenix Mercury, frequent targets here on TDB, and delivers a more positive outlook on the team he described as “going through it” a week ago.
  • In case you missed it: Our Jacqueline LeBlanc was at Mohegan Sun for Seattle legend Sue Bird’s retirement press conference and delivers a heartfelt portrait of Bird as she reckoned with leaving professional basketball.

NCAA Roundup

Transfer portal

Out of the portal

  • Khadija Faye: The forward out of Texas Tech committed to Texas.
  • Alisha Lewis: The guard out of UCF committed to Georgia.

Coaching changes

  • USC: Added Beth Burns as associate head coach.

Watch List, Saturday, June 18

None, but prepare for another five-game frenzy on Sunday.

Friday, June 17 recap

Connecticut beat Seattle, 82–71. The Storm took an early lead, but the Sun were never far behind and took a one-possession advantage by the end of the first quarter. With an 8–2 Connecticut run to open the second, Seattle was suddenly on the defensive. Even heroics from Storm center Ezi Magbegor and point guard Sue Bird weren’t enough to match the scoring output of Sun center Brionna Jones, who helped give Connecticut a multiple-possession lead at halftime. However, as turnovers and fouls plagued the Sun offense early in the second half, Seattle went on a 14–3 run to regain the lead. The lead then changed six times before the Sun took hold. As Seattle ran out of gas in the final minutes, Sun big wing DeWanna Bonner took matters into her own hands, assisting or scoring on every Connecticut possession to secure a Sun victory.

Overall, the Sun shot 9.8 percentage points better than the Storm and had 14 more rebounds, while Seattle made six more 3-pointers than Connecticut on two more attempts.

Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner put on a clinic in the post for Connecticut.

For the Sun, the towers soared once again: Bonner led all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting from the field (2–8 3pt, 2–3 FT) and added a season-high 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals for her first double-double of the season. Big wing Jonquel Jones had 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field (1–4 3pt) alongside 13 rebounds and four assists for her third double-double of the season. Brionna Jones notched 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the field (3–5 FT) alongside three assists in 25 minutes off the bench. Big wing Alyssa Thomas had 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field, along with eight assists and five rebounds against three turnovers.

For Seattle, big wing Breanna Stewart led with 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt), seven rebounds and five assists. Bird had 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field (4–6 3pt) and four assists against four turnovers. Magbegor logged 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field (2–4 FT) and three rebounds on four fouls.

Dallas beat Phoenix, 93–88. Dallas leaped out in front and held as much as a 15-point advantage. But a 6–0 Phoenix run at the start of the fourth quarter on a pair of clutch 3-pointers from guards Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith tied the game at 77. From there, with 5:36 left to play, the lead would change hands five times before the Wings pulled away on a series of free throws. Overall, Dallas made four more 3-pointers than Phoenix on three more attempts and grabbed seven more rebounds.

For Dallas, off-ball guard Arike Ogunbowale led with 24 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field (6–10 3pt), along with three rebounds and six assists on five turnovers. Center Teaira McCowan had a season-high 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field (4–5 FT) and a season-high 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season, along with four fouls. Big Isabelle Harrison had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field (4–4 FT) and three assists, while wings Allisha Gray and Marina Mabrey combined for 26 points on 9-for-22 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds.

It was 3-pointers galore when Phoenix visited Dallas. Here, a missed three from Arike Ogunbowale gives the Mercury a fast-break look to Skylar Diggins-Smith for three. Soon after, Ogunbowale nails a long three to put Dallas ahead for good.

Mercury center Tina Charles led all scorers with 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting from the field (5–6 FT) alongside nine rebounds and three assists on five turnovers and five fouls. Diggins-Smith had 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field (2–5 3pt, 5–6 FT) alongside a season-high 10 assists for her first double-double of the season on four fouls. Wing Diamond DeShields had 14 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field (6–8 FT), along with three rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Chicago beat Atlanta, 106–100 in overtime. The lead bounced back and forth until Chicago made a 9–2 run in the mid-second quarter. The Sky maintained their multiple-possession lead until the mid-third quarter, when a 10–2 Atlanta run cut the Chicago lead to two points. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the game returned to its earlier volatility, and a key and-one layup from point guard Aari McDonald brought the Dream within one with just 1:38 left. Free throws from both sides tied the game at 91 and forced overtime. In the extra period, the Sky led from the start and refused to let go, the Chicago starters outlasting Atlanta’s to seal the Sky win.

Overall, the Sky shot 19.6 percentage points better from three than the Dream and grabbed eight more rebounds.

Allie Quigley takes advantage of a porous Dream defense to get to the basket for the Sky. Then, AD Durr capitalizes on a messy offensive possession from Chicago to get a much needed fast-break bucket for Atlanta. We wrap with an opportunistic and-one drive from McDonald that gets Atlanta to overtime.

Sky wing Kahleah Copper led all scorers with a season-high 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt, 6–8 FT) along with a season-high 10 rebounds and three assists on three fouls for her first double-double of the season. Big Emma Meesseman had 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field (1–2 3pt, 2–3 FT) and a season-high 12 rebounds (four offensive) on four fouls for her second consecutive double-double. Combo guard Allie Quigley had a season-high 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt, 4–4 FT), while combo forward Rebekah Gardner had a season-high 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field, a season-high five assists and two blocks off the bench. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot had 11 points on 2-for-5 shooting from the field (1–2 3pt, 6–6 FT), six rebounds and four assists. Vandersloot fouled out for the first time since 2015 in overtime.

For Atlanta, off-ball guard AD Durr led with 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field (1–3 3pt, 4–6 FT) along with three rebounds and three assists off the bench. McDonald logged 20 points on 6-for-17 shooting from the field (2–5 3pt, 6–8 FT), a season-high six assists and five rebounds. Wing Rhyne Howard had 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field, a season-high seven assists and two blocks on four turnovers and five 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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