September 7, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 7, 2022: HOLD THE ACES — Las Vegas advances to WNBA finals

Plus: Sun force Game 5 in Chicago and A’ja Wilson wins MVP

It’s Wednesday. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 10 of the WNBA post-season came and went with a bang, as the Aces ousted the Storm from the WNBA playoffs in a critical Game 4. Both Breanna Stewart and Chelsea Gray posted huge numbers, 42 and 31 points respectively, while Sue Bird made the most of what would become her final game of professional basketball. Then, in Connecticut, the Sun put together a dominant performance to force a do-or-die Game 5 back in Chicago on Thursday.

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Most Valuable Player: A’ja Wilson

Earlier this afternoon, the league announced that Aces center A’ja Wilson had been named the 2022 Most Valuable Player. Wilson remains the only Aces player to win the award in franchise history, and becomes the fifth WNBA player to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

Players received 10 points for each first place vote, seven for second place, five for third, three for fourth, and one for fifth. Wilson led the field with 478 total points, with the Storm’s Breanna Stewart (446 points), the Aces’ Kelsey Plum (181 points) and the Sun’s Alyssa Thomas (94 points) rounding out the top four vote-getters.

Receiving 10+ points, from most to least, were: the Candace Parker (78 points), Skylar Diggins-Smith (39 points), Jonquel Jones (38 points), Sabrina Ionescu (24 points), Chelsea Gray (20 points) and Nneka Ogwumike (16 points). Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper, Sylvia Fowles, Emma Meesseman, Natasha Cloud and Arike Ogunbowale also received at least one vote at third place or below.

Here’s what The Next’s Matthew Walter had to say about Wilson’s nod:

Winning MVP is no easy task. Winning two is even more difficult. However, A’ja Wilson has done just that as she has been named the 2022 WNBA MVP. She has been unstoppable on the offensive end and has dominated defensively, as shown by her Defensive Player of the Year award. Few words can describe how important she has been to the Aces and it shows as she has led them to a second Finals appearance in three years.

But first, read:

  • Our Em Adler takes you through how our staff voted for MVP, and the reasoning behind some of our votes.
  • Our James Kay digs through the Sky’s Game 4 loss to Connecticut, and how they can bounce back in Game 5.
  • CTInsider’s Maggie Vanoni checks in with UConn’s newest add, Inês Bettencourt, and her quick adjustment to life, and basketball, in the U.S.
  • For, Mark Schindler cracks open the film on the Sky’s Rebekah Gardner and how her overseas career had all-but-guaranteed success in the WNBA.

NCAA Roundup

  • Crocs: Announced yesterday it had signed South Carolina’s own Aliyah Boston to an NIL deal. Boston joins her head coach and OOFOS enthusiast Dawn Staley in the sandal marketing space.

Tuesday, Sept. 6 recap

Connecticut beat Chicago, 104–80, to tie the series 2–2. The Sun opened the match on a 12–2 run and never looked back. Connecticut out-scored Chicago in every quarter, at one point leading by as much as 27 points, and the Sky never led. Overall, the Sun shot 9.3 percentage points better from the field, while their 66 points in the paint smashed the previous WNBA all-time post-season record of 58, per WNBA Advanced Stats. Connecticut also had their way on the boards, grabbing 16 more rebounds and converting for 15 second chance points to Chicago’s one.

For the Sun, big wing DeWanna Bonner notched 19 points on 7-for-13 from the field (3–7 3pt.), six rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks on four fouls. Off-ball guard Courtney Williams logged 19 points (1–1 3pt.) on 9-for-14 shooting, four rebounds (two offensive) and three steals on four fouls. Big wing Alyssa Thomas had 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting (5–7 FT), eight rebound and four assists on five fouls. Off the bench, combo guard DiJonai Carrington contributed 12 points on 5-for-8 from the field (1–2 3pt.), three rebounds, three steals, and a block.

Wing Kahleah Copper led the Sky with 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting (6–7 FT) and two rebounds. Big Emma Meesseman logged 14 points on 7-for-11 from the field, two rebounds, six assists and two steals. Big Candace Parker had 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting, nine rebounds and four assists against five turnovers. Point guard Dana Evans logged 10 points on 4-for-5 from the field (2–2 3pt.), two rebounds and a steal in 10 minutes off the bench.

Las Vegas beat Seattle, 97–92, to win the series 3–1. Las Vegas took the early lead, but Seattle was quick to take over, building a nine-point advantage by the late-first. The Aces cut the lead to three points as the second quarter opened, but the Storm kept their distance, staying two possessions ahead of Las Vegas. Coming out of halftime, however, the Aces would take a 7–0 run to take back the lead. From there, the two teams went basket-for-basket, but even as the Storm kept up with the Aces, late-game Chelsea Gray was here to play. In the final ~4 minutes, Gray had 12 of the Aces’ 19 points. There’s no better way to describe Gray’s performance (besides watching it for yourself, which I can’t recommend enough) than her own words after the game: “Shit, I don’t know how it went in. I’m just glad it did.”

Overall, the Aces shot 12 percentage points better from the field than the Storm. Seattle grabbed six more offensive rebounds, converting for 20 second chance points, and logged two more blocks.

Point guard Chelsea Gray led the Aces with a double-double of 31 points on 13-for-22 shooting (4–8 3pt.), six rebounds and 10 assists. Gray is the first player in WNBA post-season history to log 30+ points and 10+ assists in a single game, per Across the Timeline. Center A’ja Wilson notched a double double of 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting (7–8 FT) and 13 rebounds, along with two assists and three blocks on four fouls. Wing Jackie Young logged 18 points on 5-for-6 shooting (3–3 3pt, 5–5 FT) and five rebounds on four fouls. Young is just the fourth player in post-season history to log 18+ points while shooting 100 percent from three and at least 83 percent from the field, per Across the Timeline. Combo guard Riquna Williams logged six points on 2-for-6 shooting (2–4 3pt.), three assists and two steals off the bench.

Big wing Breanna Stewart led the Storm and all scorers with 42 points on 14-for-22 shooting (6–8 3pt., 8–10 FT), seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Stewart ties Angel McCoughtry’s 2010 post-season single-game scoring record, and is the first to score that much in a playoff game while shooting at least 75 percent from three, per Across the Timeline. Combo guard Jewell Loyd notched 29 points on 9-for-21 shooting (3–6 3pt., 8–9 FT), and four rebounds on five fouls. In the final game of her illustrious career, point guard Sue Bird contributed eight points on 3-for-8 shooting (2–6 3pt.) and eight assists against four turnovers.

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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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