With lower than a month to go within the WNBA common season, there are nonetheless groups hoping for a last-minute turnaround to clinch a playoff spot, whereas others are cruising to the end line.
Whether or not it’s the Commissioner’s Cup developing on Tuesday or the turnaround from groups like Minnesota and Los Angeles, there’s nonetheless loads of motion to be seen across the league heading into the ultimate weeks of play.
Chicago takes on Las Vegas for second-ever Commissioner’s Cup title
Final 12 months, the Seattle Storm took down the Connecticut Solar within the first ever Commissioner’s Cup, securing further prize cash on the season. The initiative was launched by way of the WNBA’s new collective bargaining settlement, which was fought for in an effort to have extra financial incentives for the league’s athletes.
The prize pool of $500,000 is break up between each groups within the ultimate, with the profitable staff receiving $30,000 per participant and the dropping staff receiving $10,000 per participant. The MVP of the sport additionally receives a further $5,000.
This time round, two new groups will meet for the in-season competitors as Las Vegas and Chicago — the one two groups who’ve clinched playoff spots thus far — are set to face off at Wintrust Area. Each groups gained 9 of their designated Cup video games through the common season and because the prime staff of their respective conferences, they every earned a spot.
Chicago and Las Vegas have performed each other twice this season, splitting the sequence 1-1. Las Vegas took the primary win 83-76 at Wintrust Area, however the Sky beat the Aces proper again on their very own house courtroom as they took a 104-95 win at Michelob ULTRA Area. The 2 groups will face off as soon as extra in Las Vegas on Aug. 11 after the Commissioner’s Cup.
Rhyne Howard continues to show heads in her rookie marketing campaign
The 2022 WNBA rookies haven’t simply impressed this 12 months, they’ve additionally earned themselves beginning minutes and solidified their names within the league as gamers who’re right here to remain. Whether or not it’s Shakira Austin’s defensive prowess or NaLyssa Smith’s dual-threat sport of clutch rebounding, combined with a capability to seek out the rim effortlessly within the submit or from the three-point line.
But, No. 1 general choose Rhyne Howard continues to be very a lot within the operating for the Rookie of the Yr title because the Atlanta Dream presently sit fourth in a tricky Jap Convention and eighth general within the league – adequate for the ultimate playoff spot – because of the changes they remodeled the offseason together with buying and selling to draft Howard.
Howard averaged 20.5 factors per sport over her first six appearances on 43.7 p.c capturing, together with 46.5 p.c from three. Whereas her sport has barely dropped off, with the 22-year-old now averaging 15.2 factors per sport, her influence continues to be felt.
Her capability to stall on defence, whether or not it’s creating steals or stopping scoring possibilities, has made her one of many staff’s most respected asset. That is on prime of her scoring from all areas of the ground, in addition to the playmaking skills she possesses as a guard.
Minnesota could also be down, however they certainly aren’t out
Although their three-game dropping streak to top-five groups actually doesn’t assist their win-loss report or the look of being 11th out of 12 groups within the league, Minnesota has lastly discovered some rhythm after struggling the previous few months. The staff has gained 4 of their final eight video games, together with wins over each Chicago and Las Vegas.
One of many greatest keys to their sport not too long ago has been the resurgence of Aerial Powers, who scored 32 factors towards Las Vegas, 22 towards Chicago and 35 towards Phoenix in a win, on prime of nabbing 10-plus rebounds towards Chicago and Phoenix.
Powers has scored a minimum of 11 factors in 4 of the final 5 video games for the Lynx and is averaging 14.2 factors per sport this season, trailing solely Sylvia Fowles who has been a pillar for the Lynx averaging 15 factors and 9.7 rebounds per sport this season.
Whereas back-to-back video games towards Connecticut and one other towards Washington have put the Lynx again on a dropping streak, having Powers as a dual-threat to hitch Fowles and add to a high-power offence with Kayla McBride is simply what Minnesota wanted to make a late playoff push.
The best duo in girls’s basketball, one final time
“Whenever you play a staff with Sue on it, it’ll be probably the most well-prepared staff. Will probably be the staff that is aware of the opposite staff the perfect and goes to place her teammates in the perfect place to win each single night time. It’s laborious to go towards an individual like that. She is doing all the pieces to win the sport,” mentioned Diana Taurasi, taking the rostrum along with her fellow UConn and USA Basketball teammate as they performed towards one another through the WNBA common season for the final time.
The Mercury beat the Storm 94-78, and Taurasi – who has but to announce a retirement the way in which Fowl and Fowles have – scored 28 factors, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists within the win whereas Fowl was held to simply two factors and 5 assists.
Taurasi’s rating wasn’t even the largest story of the night time as All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith tallied 35 factors, with six assists and 6 rebounds within the win, and future Corridor of Famer Breanna Stewart recorded a double-double of twenty-two factors and 14 rebounds.
Regardless of all of the expertise on show within the sport, the main target as an alternative was on two opponents, who will all the time be nearer associates than they’re enemies on the courtroom, and have shared 5 Olympic gold medals and celebrated one another as WNBA champions, even when it got here at their very own bills.
Fowl will get to carry the common season win title within the friendship with a 25-21 edge in wins, as their 46 video games are tied for probably the most head-to-head regular-season conferences between WNBA gamers. Within the 14 occasions the 2 have met within the playoffs, Taurasi will get the title main 8-6.
“There are a variety of gamers who play the sport for factors and rebounds, however Sue performs to win. I believe that could be a lesson for lots of people to study,” mentioned Taurasi. “The sport doesn’t matter until you might be enjoying to win and that’s what Sue has all the time performed and she or he taught me that.”