September 14, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 14, 2022: ALL-TIME A’JA — Wilson’s Aces charge ahead in Game 2

What now for Robert Sarver's Mercury?

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing featuring Yesterday’s Recap. Day 13 of the WNBA post-season has come and gone, but A’ja Wilson‘s playoff dominance is here to stay. The newly crowned 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player has proved just how valuable she truly is multiple times over since the playoffs began. But, even as she continues to put up bigger and bigger stat-lines with each game, in my mind, the stat that has defined her one-of-a-kind excellence only came through last night.

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Buried within Tuesday night’s resounding 14-point win over the Connecticut Sun was the turnover of a record I’d been watching since Game 4 of Aces–Storm. Since 2011, Sylvia Fowles had been the only player to log four games in a row, playoffs or otherwise, with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, and one block. A handful of others have come close to Fowles’ record, including Wilson herself in 2018, with Brittney Griner’s performance in closing three games of the 2021 regular season being the most recent. But after her performance on Sunday afternoon, and with Wilson’s leadership and motivation at an all-time high, I had a hard time believing we weren’t going to see that record shattered come Tuesday.

Lo and behold, the torch has officially been passed. With a dominating 26 points, 10 rebounds and one block, Wilson surpassed Fowles and became the first player to log 5 consecutive 20pt/10reb/1blk games in WNBA history, across any stretch of games. If you consider solely playoff games, Wilson is in another stratosphere, with the previous longest streak being just two games. Not to mention she’s faced DPOY candidates and some of the league’s top defenses at every turn, all while continuing to be the defensive heart of her own team. Coupled with Chelsea Gray’s unbelievably precise shooting, Jackie Young’s quiet efficiency and detail-oriented defense, and the triumphant return of Kelsey Plum, coming up victorious against these Aces has already proven near-impossible. With the tear they’ve been on lately, however, winning will take everything and then some — a code the Sun have yet to crack.

But first, read:

  • Our Hayden Cilley breaks down the impact of Mercury and Suns owner Robert Sarver’s one-year suspension on a franchise headed into a critical off-season. Sarver’s suspension comes after allegations of racism and misogyny finally bubbled over in 2021.
  • Our Missy Heidrick previews the Mississippi Valley Conference season, from a neutral site championship in 2023 to schedule and format changes galore.
  • The New York Times’ Kris Rhim pulls back the curtain on A’ja Wilson’s ever-thriving relationship with Dawn Staley.

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Recap, Tuesday, Sept. 13 — Finals, A’ja Wilson edition

Las Vegas beat Connecticut, 85–71, to take a 2–0 series lead. The two teams traded baskets through the mid-first, when the Aces went on a 7–0 run to open up an advantage. Even as the Sun would come within three points in the opening minutes of the second half, Las Vegas never looked back, instead expanding their lead to double-digits by the end of the third. The lead would balloon to as much as 20 by the late fourth quarter, as Connecticut struggled to put together a coherent response. Overall, the Aces shot 9.4 percentage points better from the field than the Sun, despite going 6-for-26 from deep. Las Vegas made up for it in the post, logging 46 points in the paint to Connecticut’s 28 (their second lowest scoring output in the paint this season.)

Center A’ja Wilson led the Aces and all scorers with a double-double of 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting (6–8 FT) and 10 rebounds. Point guard Chelsea Gray had 21 points on 9-for-16 from the field (2–6 3pt.), three rebounds, eight assists and three steals against four turnovers. Point guard Kelsey Plum notched 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting (1–6 3pt., 5–5 FT), three rebounds and seven assists. No other Aces player scored more than five points.

For the Sun, off-ball guard Courtney Williams led with 18 points on 9-for-17 shooting, two rebounds and five steals. Big Jonquel Jones logged a double-double of 16 points on 6-for-11 from the field (1–3 3pt, 3–4 FT) and 11 rebounds, along with three assists against four turnovers. Big Wing Alyssa Thomas had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting, three rebounds, four assists and two steals on four fouls. Off the bench, center Brionna Jones contributed 12 points on 3-for-4 shooting (6–10 FT), seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Jones becomes the first player in WNBA history to record that stat-line or better on less than five shot attempts, per Across the Timeline. No other Sun player scored more than four points.

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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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