May 30, 2022 

Daily Briefing — May 30, 2022: Diana Taurasi, Sabrina Ionescu, Sylvia Fowles suffer painful losses

Kristy Wallace is an Australian hero, unlike some people we could mention

Happy Memorial Day! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 21 of the WNBA season was here, featuring a mixture of elation and embarrassment across the country:

  • Phoenix suffered its second-worst loss of the past decade to a team that missed the prior year’s playoffs
  • New York entered halftime on pace for the second-biggest loss in league history
  • Minnesota lost to Los Angeles

(Mercury and Liberty stats per Across The Timeline)



Now, credit to Atlanta, which has been playing above all reasonable expectation; and credit to Seattle, which secured the 12th-largest win in team history despite missing Sue Bird, two borderline-All-Defense-level centers, and Stephanie Talbot; also Los Angeles won a game in spite of their near-max center making headlines for a violent and incredibly racist outburst. (Late Sunday night, Cambage issued this statement.)

More importantly: what do you do if you’re Phoenix or New York or Minnesota? You’ve got just one player between them under 25 with All-WNBA upside (Sabrina Ionescu), a host of veterans at or near retirement (Sylvia Fowles, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Sami Whitcomb), and some high-priced veterans who don’t fit together too well (Natasha Howard and Stefanie Dolson, Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers, Diamond DeShields and the other high-usage Mercury). All three of these teams came into the season with championship or deep-playoff aspirations. Right now, it’s hard to see how any of them get there within the near future (barring a major roster change).

With that in mind, let’s review the state of the league, three weeks in:

Playoff picture

Bracket showing the winner of 1 Las Vegas versus 8 Los Angels playing against 4 Atlanta versus 5 Seattle, and the winner of 3 Washington and 6 Dallas playing the winner of 2 Connecticut and 7 Chicago.

Lottery

(Sorted from best odds to worst)

  1. New York
  2. Minnesota
  3. Phoenix
  4. Indiana

W Roundup

Indiana: Added former Seattle defensive coordinator Gary Kloppenberg. “Klop” is well-known for bringing his father’s famed “SOS” defense to the Storm, a system the Fever might just have the personnel to pull off.

Watch List, Monday, May 30

None

Sunday, May 29 recap

Atlanta beat Phoenix, 81-54. The Dream won the second quarter 23-8. Atlanta shot 22.1 percentage points better from the field and 21.7% percentage points better from three; the Mercury had 15 more free throws; the Dream won the rebounding battle by 18; Phoenix had nine assists, tied for fewest in a game this year, per Across The Timeline; Atlanta committed 23 turnovers.

Off-ball guard Kristy Wallace led the Dream with 17 points on 7-for-15 from the field (1-4 3pt.), three rebounds, and two assists against three turnovers; combo guard Erica Wheeler had 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting (2-3 3pt.), three rebounds, and three assists against three turnovers; big Cheyenne Parker recorded a double-double with 12 points on 6-for-10 FG and 10 rebounds, plus two assists and two steals against three turnovers; backup point guard Aari McDonald notched 10 points on 4-for-9 from the field and 2-for-6 from three, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals against five turnovers.

Phoenix was led by wing Diamond DeShields’ 23 points on 8-for-27 from the field (1-2 3pt.) and 6-for-9 from the line, five rebounds, and five steals against three turnovers; the Mercury’s second-leading scorer was combo guard Skylar Diggins-Smith… who scored seven points. Yikes.

Seattle beat New York, 92-61. The Storm led 49-23 at the half, on pace for the second-largest win in WNBA history; Seattle had separate 17-3, 16-0, and 14-0 runs. The Storm shot 49.3% from the field, 54.2% from three, and 7-for-7 from the line — just the third 45/50/100 game in team history and the second against the Liberty in as many years, per Across The Timeline — while holding New York to 33.8% overall and 25.9% from deep; the Liberty assisted on 20 of their 22 buckets; Seattle notched 13 steals.

Combo guard Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 22 points on 8-for-15 from the field and 4-for-7 from three, three rebounds, and six assists in 28 minutes; big wing Breanna Stewart had 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting (2-3 3pt.), eight rebounds, five assists, six steals, and two blocks in 23 minutes — just the fourth 14/8/5/6/2 game in league history, and the first in fewer than 35 minutes, per Sports Reference; big Jantel Lavender recorded a double-double in 27 minutes, with 12 points on 6-for-8 FG and 10 rebounds, plus two assists against two turnovers; wing Kaela Davis, signed yesterday, scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting (2-3 3pt.), plus two rebounds and two steals against four fouls in 18 minutes; combo guard Briann January notched 12 points on 4-for-6 from the field (2-3 3pt.), three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Every active Seattle player scored — except for combo guard Epiphanny Prince, who entered Sunday as the third-most efficient scorer in the league.

New York was led by backup center Han Xu’s 13 points on 5-for-13 FG (0-1 3pt.), eight rebounds, and two turnovers; big Natasha Howard had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting (1-2 3pt.), four rebounds, three assists, and two steals against four turnovers.

Los Angeles beat Minnesota, 85-83. The Sparks won the first quarter 24-11. Los Angeles shot 9.5 percentage points better from the field and 12.2 percentage points better three; the Lynx took 16 more free-throws; the teams combined for 46 fouls.

The Sparks were led by point guard Chennedy Carter’s 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting (0-2 3pt.), six rebounds, and four assists; big Nneka Ogwumike had 16 points on 6-for-10 FG (0-1 3pt.), five rebounds, and two assists against three turnovers and four fouls in 31 minutes. Only eight Sparks were active — point guard Jordin Canada and off-ball guard Rae Burrell due to injury, while combo forward Jasmine Walker and Amy Atwell were healthy scratches.

Off-ball guard Kayla McBride led Minnesota with 19 points on 5-for-13 from the field, 1-for-5 from three, and 8-for-8 from the line and three steals against two turnovers; center Sylvia Fowles fouled-out in 31 minutes, finishing with 15 points on 4-for-8 FG (7-13 FT), seven rebounds, and two steals against three turnovers; off-ball guard Aerial Powers came off the bench for the first time this season, and scored 15 points on 3-for-8 shooting (9-10 FT), plus three assists against two turnovers.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the Seattle Storm and college basketball for The Next, while also writing for The Chronicle, Duke's independent student paper

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