May 21, 2022
Daily Briefing — May 21, 2022: It’s always Sun-ny in Uncasville
But it’s Storming in L.A.
Happy Saturday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W and NCAA roundups, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. It’s Day 13 of the WNBA season, a number just spooky enough for a nationally televised matchup between the Phoenix Mercury and Las Vegas Aces. Last night, the weather went awry: The Sun beat down on the Fever and handed Indiana its third straight loss, while the Seattle Storm rained out the Los Angeles Sparks for the latter’s fourth straight loss, and the year of Ezi “Cheat Code” Magbegor continues full speed ahead. Finally, in Atlanta, the Dream folded to the Mystics in the final minute of a real, genuine nail-biter.
But first, read…
- Our Matthew Walter digs into the long and winding career of longtime Las Vegas Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer and his impact on the franchise.
- The New Haven Register’s Maggie Vanoni analyzes the NCAA transfer portal and its effects on today’s women’s college basketball scene.
- ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne profiles Candace Parker and her experience of having a second child and winning her second WNBA title.
- Jordin Canada reflects on returning home to L.A. for The Players’ Tribune, told in a series of photos taken by Clara Mokri.
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- Chicago: Activated small forward Kahleah Copper, who returned from overseas (Spain). Released Tina Krajišnik from a hardship contract.
- Indiana: Activated point guard Bria Hartley, who returned from overseas (Turkey).
Out of the portal:
- Sonya Morris: The off-ball guard out of DePaul committed to Texas.
- Emma and Sophia Nolan: The power and small forwards, respectively, out of St. John’s committed to Loyalo Chicago (yes, they’re twins).
(All times in Eastern, Game of the Day in bold)
Phoenix @ Las Vegas, 3 p.m., ABC (Local: TSN; Radio: ESPN LV, AM 1100 and FM 100.9)
Lynx @ Wings, 8 p.m., League Pass (Local: Bally Sports Southwest, Bally Sports North)
Friday, May 20 recap
Connecticut beat Indiana, 94–85. Eager to end their losing streak, the Fever took an early lead and managed to pull ahead by six points in the mid-second quarter. The Sun were never far behind, however, as the teams remained within two possessions of each other and traded leads eight times in the first half. By the mid-third, however, Indiana’s fast-paced full-court offense began to run out of steam and the limitations of their perimeter and transition defense became more obvious. Connecticut was quick to overwhelm the Fever on both ends of the court, spurred by a pair of three-point plays from shooting guard Natisha Hiedeman. While Connecticut cashed in 11 3-pointers and went to the line 29 times (72.4% FT), Indiana only managed six makes from beyond the arc and 13 free throw attempts (84.6% FT).
For the Sun, center Jonquel Jones led the way with 19 points (2–3 3pt) and eight rebounds (four offensive), on three turnovers and three fouls. Together with power forward Alyssa Thomas, who logged 17 points (7–11 FT), seven rebounds and three steals along with five fouls, the Sun frontcourt was formidable. Six players made their way into double figures for Connecticut, including small forward DeWanna Bonner, who was perfect from the 3-point line on her way to 18 points (4–4 3pt) and four assists in her first home game of the season. Hiedeman provided extra momentum off the bench, with 10 points, four steals and just one foul in 23 minutes.
Fever point guard Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field (2–5 3pt, 3–4 FT). Shooting guard Victoria Vivians played alongside Mitchell for nearly the full 40 minutes, putting up 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Power forward Emily Engstler and center Queen Egbo fouled out for the first time in their careers, while point guard Destanni Henderson and small forward Alanna Smith led the Fever bench with nine and seven points, respectively.
Washington beat Atlanta, 78–73. With 19 lead changes across the 40 minutes, the Mystics were quick to establish a lead, but the Dream were able to claw their way back within one possession by the end of the first quarter. The score remained close for the rest of the match, though Atlanta made a push in the third quarter to go up by eight by forcing Mystics turnovers and sinking key 3-pointers. Atlanta outshot Washington from three by 16.7 percentage points, but the Mystics got to the line 31 times (25–31 FT) while Atlanta had just 14 free throw attempts. With the score tied at 70, Atlanta turnovers and lockdown defense from Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud on Dream guard/forward Rhyne Howard in the final minute allowed Washington to go on a 6–0 run to secure the win.
For the Mystics, Cloud and guard Ariel Atkins made up the bulk of the scoring and the majority of free throw attempts. Atkins had 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field (5–7 FT), while Cloud had 16 points on 3-for-10 shooting (1–6 3pt, 9–10 FT) and five assists against two turnovers. Wing Alysha Clark was key defensively in the second half, guarding Howard and helping limit her to two second-half points. Center Shakira Austin notched a season-high three steals in 25 minutes, along with 10 points and seven rebounds (two offensive). Center Elizabeth Williams had five rebounds and two points alongside four fouls in her season debut, while power forward Tianna Hawkins came off the bench to record season highs in points (11) and rebounds (five).
Howard led the Dream and all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field (4–8 3pt, 3–3 FT). Howard paired her scoring with two steals and four assists, the majority of which came in the second half as she struggled to get shots to fall. Power forward Cheyenne Parker had 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field (1–3 3pt) and six rebounds (three offensive), while shooting guard Aari McDonald was a spark plug off the bench, contributing seven points and two steals, though she also logged four fouls.
Seattle beat Los Angeles, 83–80. The Storm came out sprinting in the first quarter to take a 13-point lead, which they expanded to 18 by the mid-second. Almost immediately, however, the Sparks went on an 11-0 run and started to gain momentum. It took another Sparks scoring run and the Storm offense running dry in the late third to cut the Seattle lead to single digits. Yet L.A. was never able to get out of the hole it had dug early on, despite outscoring Seattle in all but the first quarter and a, frankly, herculean effort from center Liz Cambage. Both teams struggled from behind the arc, but Seattle outshot L.A. from three, sinking eight of its 28 attempts to the Sparks’ 3-for-14. The Storm’s quick adjustment to take advantage of early defensive missteps from the Sparks, and a steady scoring output from power forward Breanna Stewart, likely secured them the win from the opening seconds.
For the Storm, Stewart led all scorers with a season-high 28 points (2–6 3pt, 4–5 FT) and seven rebounds on four turnovers and four fouls in just 29 minutes. Point guard Jewell Loyd was the only other Storm player in double figures, with 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field alongside four assists and two steals on three turnovers. While Seattle shot plenty from behind the arc, everyone not named Stewart couldn’t seem to find a scoring rhythm. Center Ezi Magbegor continued to establish a strong presence in the paint, grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds and three blocks, including back-to-back blocks on Cambage early on in the first quarter. Point guard Sue Bird had just eight points but also registered eight assists on zero turnovers, with Stewart frequently on the receiving end.
Cambage led the Sparks with a season-high 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field (2–3 3pt, 5–7 FT), eight rebounds (two offensive) and three assists on just two fouls. Alongside her was power forward Nneka Ogwumike, who had 20 points and five rebounds on three turnovers and four fouls, and forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who logged six points, three rebounds and two blocks on three fouls in her season debut. Point guards Lexie Brown and Jordin Canada each had quiet nights on the scoring end, putting up eight and six points, respectively. Brown matched her season-high five assists, this time on just one turnover, while Canada had four assists on three turnovers. They each also had two key steals that helped build and maintain momentum.
Written by Isabel Rodrigues
Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Next from upstate New York who regularly covers 3x3 and the state of women's basketball in the U.S. and internationally. She also covers women's sports for The Daily Princetonian, the independent student newspaper of Princeton University.