June 4, 2022 

Daily Briefing — June 4, 2022: TAKING FLIGHT — Wings wallop Storm for Seattle’s lowest final score in seven years

Plus, major triumphs and tragedies across the league

Happy Saturday, and happy Aliyah Boston day! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the NCAA Roundup and Yesterday’s Recap. Yesterday, day 25 of the WNBA season came and went with four drama-filled match-ups, and today we’ve entered the eye of the storm. Since tomorrow will have you picking between match-ups of every team in the league on the first of two 6-game spectaculars this season, take today’s lack of basketball as a chance to reflect, process, and maybe go for an afternoon walk.

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Last night, in Phoenix, the Sun handed the Mercury yet another loss to close up their worst ten-game stretch since 2003. In Atlanta, the Sky fended off a determined Dream squad to maintain their perfect Commissioner’s Cup record. In Washington, the Mystics took a tough loss from the recently awakened New York Liberty. Finally, in Seattle, the Dallas Wings had a comfortable win over the Seattle Storm, keeping the Storm to their lowest final score since a 23-point loss to, by some cruel irony, the Tulsa Shock in 2015.

In other news, the fan voting period for this year’s All-Star game has begun! You have until Monday, June 20 at 11:59 p.m. ET to get your votes in, and the 10-person list of starters, as well as your 2022 All-Star captains, will be revealed on Wednesday, June 22.

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But first, read…

  • Our Spencer Nusbaum explores the meteoric rise of the Atlanta Dream defense, from Tanisha Wright’s coaching principles to the growing impact of starting forwards Nia Coffey and Rhyne Howard.
  • For The Athletic, Chantel Jennings and Mike Vorkunov report on the league’s intention to identify two locations for expansion franchises by the end of the year, how this goal intersects with upcoming media rights negotiations, and the cities currently in contention.
  • Our David Yapkowitz details how the Los Angeles Sparks have employed point guards Chennedy Carter and Brittney Sykes as they fight to turn around a so far disappointing start to the season.
  • Remember that All-Star game? I’ve got you covered with the when, where, and how to vote for this year’s starters, as well as the full roadmap to the league’s flashiest match of the year.

Watch List, Saturday, June 4

None, but prepare yourselves for a truly absurd amount of WNBA content on Sunday. I, for one, will be on the hunt for my favorite cold brew concentrate.

Friday, June 3 recap

Dallas beat Seattle, 68–51. The Wings took a healthy lead through the opening quarter, as the Storm fought to stay within striking distance. Yet, Dallas was able to maintain their distance from Seattle, continuing to expand their lead well into the third quarter. Sitting in a 20-point deficit and shooting just 17.2% from three as a team with two minutes to go, the Storm were never able to recover. The Wings out-shot the Storm from the field by 24% (39.4% vs. 31.7%) and out-rebounded the Storm by 11, though the Storm logged five more blocks. This was Dallas’ second-lowest final score of the season, and Seattle’s lowest score of the season by 13 points and their lowest since a 2015 loss to the Tulsa Shock.

For the Wings, shooting guard Allisha Gray led with 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field (1–3 3pt, 3–6 FT), alongside seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Power forward Satou Sabally had her first double-double of the season, with 11 points on 4-for-8 from the field (2–5 3pt) and a season-high 11 rebounds (four offensive), alongside a season-high six assists. Point guard Arike Ogunbowale logged 16 points on 6-for-13 from the field (3–9 3pt), six rebounds, and four assists, while point guard Tyasha Harris had a season-high three steals, four assists, and three points (1–4 3pt) off the bench.

Dallas passing sequence to open a lane for Allisha Gray, who cashes in a layup to put the Wings up 7 over Seattle.

Storm power forward Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 27 points on 10-for-22 from the field (2–8 3pt, 5–6 FT) alongside eight rebounds (two offensive), three steals, and four blocks. Guard Jewell Loyd notched 13 points on 5-for-16 from the field (2–8 3pt) and four assists on three turnovers and three fouls, while point guard Briann January had seven assists and three points (1–4 3pt). The Storm bench combined for just two points, seven rebounds, and two assists.

New York beat Washington, 74–70. The Mystics took an early lead, but the Liberty were quick to catch up, going on a 14–2 run for the majority of the first quarter. By the end of the half, however, the two teams went basket-for-basket, with just one possession between them. Whenever the Liberty put together a run, the Mystics were able to respond, leading to a tied score at 70 apiece with just 56 seconds remaining to play. The Mystics were unable to execute out of three key timeouts, allowing the Liberty to take a four-point lead on foul shots alone in the final seconds of the game. New York out-shot Washington from three by 36%, and from the free-throw line by 47%. Washington had the upper hand in the paint, with 40 of their 70 points coming from within the key, compared to New York’s 29.

Point guard Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty and all scorers with 24 points on 6-for-15 from the field (5–10 3pt, 7–7 FT). Power forward Natasha Howard had 17 points on 7-for-20 from the field (2–3 FT), alongside seven rebounds and three steals on four fouls, while center Stefanie Dolson matched her season-high in rebounding with eight, alongside three assists and four points (all from the free throw line). Off the bench, shooting guard Sami Whitcomb secured nine points on 3-for-7 from behind the arc on three turnovers, while center Han Xu notched four rebounds, four points (2-for-5 FG), and one block in her 16 minutes.

Dolson finds Ionescu off a screen from Allen for a left-side corner three to push the Liberty ahead of the Mystics.

For the Mystics, point guard Natasha Cloud led with 17 points on 6-for-16 from the field (1–8 3pt, 4–5 FT), alongside eight assists and five rebounds on six turnovers, along with one technical foul. Forward Elena Delle Donne had 15 points on 7-for-13 from the field, which she had without taking a single free throw. Delle Donne also logged eight rebounds (four offensive) on one foul. Shooting guard Ariel Atkins also had 15 points on 5-for-10 from the field (2–4 3pt, 3–4 FT), three rebounds and two steals, but accumulated five fouls in the fourth quarter and fouled out in the final seconds of play.

Connecticut beat Phoenix, 92–88. The Sun established a lead early and kept their distance from the Mercury throughout the first until a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mercury guard Diana Taurasi pushed Phoenix ahead by two. From that point, the Mercury were able to mount a significant lead, but a 9–2 run from Connecticut in the final minute of the first half brought the Sun back within three. In the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Sun took back the lead, but the Mercury were quick to match baskets, tying the game four times before finally taking back a two-point lead in the early fourth quarter. The two-point lead quickly turned into an 11–0 Phoenix run and the win looked just around the corner, when Connecticut, willed by clutch assists from forward Alyssa Thomas and opportunistic plays off of Phoenix turnovers, found themselves on a 15–3 run. A swift run in transition allowed Sun forward Jonquel Jones to put Connecticut ahead, and Phoenix had no answer in the final minute of play. Overall, the Sun out-shot the Mercury from three by 33% and out-rebounded the Mercury by 12. The two teams had a combined 53 free throw attempts on a combined 48 fouls.

A Jones to Jones assist in the paint pushes the Sun ahead by one. A missed long-three on the Mercury side allows the Sun a chance to grab the lead, which they do with a neat hook shot from Thomas.

For the Sun, the win was a matter of power forwards: Jonquel Jones led with a season-high 24 points on 6-for-8 from the field (3–4 3pt, 9–10 FT), a season-high three assists, and seven rebounds on four fouls and three turnovers. Meanwhile, Alyssa Thomas had 13 points on 5-for-10 from the field (3–3 FT), 10 rebounds (two offensive), and seven assists for her fifth double-double of the season. Point guard Courtney Williams logged eleven points on 4-for-12 shooting along with six rebounds, one steal, and one block. Center Brionna Jones had 18 points on 6-for-9 from the field (6–7 FT), four rebounds (two offensive), a season-high four assists, and three steals on three turnovers and four fouls off the bench.

For the Mercury, the loss wasn’t for lack of guards, with 95% of Phoenix’s 88 points coming from its guards. Shooting guard Diana Taurasi led all scorers with a season-high 32 points on 10-for-19 shooting (6–12 3pt, 6–6 FT) along with four assists and two steals on five turnovers and four fouls. Point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith notched 22 points on 8-for-18 from the field (6–7 FT), alongside six rebounds (two offensive), six assists, and a season-high four steals on four turnovers and three fouls. Shooting guard Diamond DeShields had 15 points on 4-for-11 from the field (6–6 FT) and three rebounds.

Chicago beat Atlanta, 73–65. The Sky lept out ahead on a 16–2 run to open the game, capitalizing on early Atlanta turnovers and fouls that sent Chicago to the free throw line. Atlanta struggled from the field early, landing just three shots in the first seven minutes of play. The tides would eventually turn in the late third, as the Sky went cold from the field and the Dream finally found their footing. Despite limited production from guard Rhyne Howard, Atlanta would go on to tie the game at 58 apiece with a sunk mid-range pull-up from point guard Erica Wheeler in the opening seconds of the fourth. The score would remain close for the rest of the fourth quarter, but missed opportunities out of timeouts for Atlanta would allow Chicago to pull away with the win on a series of free throws. Overall, the Sky out-shot the Dream from the field by 23% and attempted twelve more free throws.

Sky small forward Kahleah Copper would lead all scorers with a season-high 21 points on 7-for-12 from the field (3–5 3pt, 4–4 FT) and a season-high eight rebounds (two offensive) on two fouls. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot was everywhere, grabbing seven rebounds, six assists, and nine points on 4-for-10 from the field, though she logged four turnovers and three fouls. Power foward Emma Meesseman had 16 points on 6-for-10 from the field (4–4 FT) and six rebounds, alongside two steals and two blocks. Off the bench, small forward Rebekah Gardner had eight points on 3-for-7 from the field (2–4 FT) alongside two blocks on four turnovers.

Copper sinks two three-pointers in back-to-back possessions to keep the Sky out ahead of the Dream in the late third.

For Atlanta, forward Cheyenne Parker led with 19 points on 8-for-12 from the field, which she paired with six rebounds (four offensive) and two steals on two fouls. Point guard Erica Wheeler had 15 points on 6-for-20 from the field (3–7 3pt), three rebounds, and five assists on three turnovers and three fouls. Off the bench, guard Aari McDonald had three rebounds, one assist, and two steals on two fouls in her 16 minutes.

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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