July 25, 2022
Can Dallas Wings hang onto their playoff berth?
'Nine more games left to get it right'
The Dallas Wings have shown flashes of how good of a team they can be throughout the season. However, they are still trying to figure themselves out as they attempt to secure a spot in the playoffs. With nine games left in the regular season, the Wings hold the seven seed right now, but just by one game over the Phoenix Mercury and the Atlanta Dream in the loss column.
And in matchups against the best, the results have been encouraging, if incomplete. Dallas played a couple of competitive games against the defending champion Chicago Sky, losing by single digits on both July 16 and 22, before defeating Indiana on Sunday.
The Wings were not able to put an end to Chicago’s winning streak, but they were able to see how they measured up against the best team in the league. Dallas played one of their better games against the Sky. They dished out 24 assists, shot over 50 percent from the field and outscored Chicago in the paint. Dallas has had issues in each of those areas all season. Forward Isabelle Harrison said she thought the team matched up well against the defending champions.
“They’re the number one team right now, they already clinched the playoffs, so for us to play like that against them, I don’t want to say we’re happy about it, but I think that lets us know that we’re on the right track,” Harrison said following the July 22 game.
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Since entering the league in 2019, Wings’ leading scorer, Arike Ogunbowale, has averaged more points against the Sky than any other player, including the 28 points she put up against them July 22. Ogunbowale said there are takeaways from the game, but the team needs to win.
“At the end of the day, we need wins, especially in the position we’re in right now,” Ogunbowale said. “Coming close to the playoffs, you know, every win and every loss matters; we’ve got to move on. [We have] nine more games left to get it right.”
The Wings have not been able to get a run going this season as they have had to deal with key pieces being moved or missing significant time. Forward Satou Sabally has missed 11 games, seven due to a knee injury and three an ankle injury, creating a big hole for the team up front. Head coach Vickie Johnson pointed out that this is common to all WNBA teams — they cannot control injuries. The only things they can control are the efforts from players that are ready to suit up and play.
“We’ll do our best to put the right team on the court, the right five that can play together for a consistent amount of time, that can defend, that can rebound, that knows the plays that can execute in that area,” Johnson said.
The starting lineup continues to fluctuate. On the upside, 6’7 center Teaira McCowan made her fourth consecutive start, part of a month-long ramping up of her role. Entering July, McCowan was averaging 12 minutes and 6.4 points per game. Since the calendar turned to July? 22.8 minutes and 13 points per game, on nearly 64 percent shooting.
“I think that attention to detail is always important and a sense of urgency is always important when we go out,” McCowan said. “Yes, we’re a young team, we keep saying that, but at the same point in time, it’s like we have to win these basketball games and we will win these basketball games.”
Guard Tyasha Harris said the games played against Chicago were encouraging, but Dallas needs to do more to control its own mistakes.
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“I think just the games we played where we were always in it, I feel like most of the time that we controlled our own destiny at the end. “It’s not just like the team beat us, it’s like we beat ourselves, so we can control our destiny next time we play them basically.”
Dallas played competitively against the defending champions. Then they beat the Indiana Fever. But the road to the playoffs only gets more difficult from here. They return home to face the Washington Mystics July 28 who will have had a week-long rest. Then they will have to head to Atlanta July 30 to face the Dream, who are only a half game behind them for the seventh seed.
From there, the Wings will face the Chicago Sky on August 2 in their final regular season matchup. The game will be another chance at measuring their progress — but when Dallas needs every win to earn the playoff berth, a merely competitive showing won’t be enough to satisfy anyone on the Wings.
As Greg Bibb told the media on Zoom back in May: “It would, literally and figuratively, be a step backwards if we didn’t qualify for the playoffs this year.”
Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.