All Scores

How Jackie Young has taken her game to the next level: WNBA Film Room

Jackie Young has found the confidence to shoot from deep for the 7-1 Aces. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Nearly two and a half weeks into the WNBA season, we are getting more clarity on the makeup of the league. Key players returned to their teams in the past week, like Kayla McBride to Minnesota and Kahleah Copper to Chicago, giving us a better understanding of how those sides will look closer to 100 percent.

We’re also seeing a clearer separation between the consistent rosters — Las Vegas Aces, Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky — and the organizations that are still figuring out their team dynamics — Minnesota Lynx, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

Here are my biggest takeaways from the past week of WNBA action.

Jackie Young is playing like an MVP and MIP

I have always considered Jackie Young to be the X-factor for the Aces with the way she can impact the game offensively and defensively. Young is playing the best and most efficient basketball of her career so far this season, leading the 7-1 Aces in scoring and sitting third in the league with 19.3 points per game.

The 6-foot guard, with her quiet demeanor, often flies under the radar on a flashy Las Vegas team, and what she does on the floor does not always show up on the stat sheet. But when you look at the numbers, Young has cemented herself as a focal point of an offense that’s thriving under first-year head coach Becky Hammon.

One of the biggest differences with Young’s play in her fourth WNBA season is her production from beyond the 3-point line. Prior to this year, her offensive game centered on getting into the paint and creating shots closer to the rim. She averaged under one 3-point attempt a game a year ago. Now, she’s showing off an expanded skill set and a scorer’s mentality, with the confidence to be a major threat from the perimeter.

2021 vs. 2022 Stats

Scoring: 12.2 — 19.3
3-point %: 25 — 50.0
3-point attempts: 0.6 — 3.0
FG %: 50.5 — 56.4
Assists: 3.2 — 3.9
Steals: 1.1 — 1.8
Minutes: 31.8 — 33.4
FG attempts: 9.6 — 11.8

Young’s offensive evolution is evident when looking at her shot chart in the Aces’ 93-87 win over the Lynx last week versus one from a game against the Lynx last season. On Thursday, she finished with a season-high 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 from the 3-point line.

img
img

The Connecticut Sun haven’t skipped a beat

The Sun dropped their first game against the New York Liberty without Courtney Williams and DeWanna Bonner but have been rolling ever since, winning their last four in a row to move into second place in the WNBA standings.

With their roster now fully intact, the Sun are showing how hungry they are for their first championship. For Connecticut, it always starts with discipline on the defensive end of the floor. The Sun lead the league with 11.6 steals per game and a 90.5 defensive rating, and they are holding their opponents to a league-low 72.2 points per game.

While their stingy defense has become their identity, the Sun’s offensive production through five games impresses me the most. Playing at a much faster pace this season, Connecticut leads the league with 27.4 points per game off turnovers and is second with 86.8 points per game. They also lead the league with 11.4 offensive boards per game and are second with 14 second-chance points a game, indicating how important it is for their half-court execution to score in transition.

The Sun have a wealth of weapons who can go off on any given night, but much of the offensive firepower we are seeing early on can be attributed to Alyssa Thomas. Returning at full strength this season after having surgery on a torn Achilles tendon last year, Thomas currently leads Connecticut with 19 points per game and is shooting a career-best 60.7 percent from the field. Thomas’ reemergence combined with Courtney Williams’ return to Connecticut have helped the Sun thwart their opponents with an up-tempo game.

Here is a look at the Sun’s production in a few key areas this season compared to last.

2021 vs. 2022 Stats

Points per game: 79.7 (8th) — 86.8 (2nd)
Offensive rebounds: 9.7 (3rd) — 11.4 (1st)
3-point %: 35.7 (4th) — 39.3 (2nd)
FG %: 44.4 (5th) — 45.1 (4th)
Steals: 7.8 (3rd) — 11.6 (1st)

Play of the week

Kayla McBride had been in the U.S. for less than 32 hours after flying from Istanbul to Los Angeles to join the Lynx for tipoff against the Sparks last Tuesday. McBride exploded for 24 points, going 4-for-7 from the 3-point line to lead the Lynx to their first win of the season. This was the final play drawn up for McBride in a timeout that ultimately put Minnesota ahead by three.

The Lynx executed this action to near perfection, and McBride did a great job of reading the handoff. Depending on how Brittney Sykes and Nneka Ogwumike defended it, Minnesota had several quick options out of the action.

Option 1: Dribble handoff to drive or open pass. Option 2: McBride reads how the defense is playing them and can flare back for an open look. Option 3: If the defense over-commits to McBride, Shepard might be able to face up and attack off the dribble herself, draw the defense and potentially kick it to open shooters.

Ultimately, Sykes and Ogwumike hesitated for a brief second when Shepard had the ball, leaving McBride with an open cut to the rim. She handled the pass and finished a reverse layup to avoid a trailing Sykes block.

img
img

Week 3 Power Rankings

  1. Las Vegas Aces (7-1) +1
  2. Connecticut Sun (4-1) +2
  3. Chicago Sky (3-2) —
  4. Washington Mystics (5-2) -3
  5. Seattle Storm (3-3) +4
  6. Dallas Wings (4-2) +1
  7. Atlanta Dream (4-2) -2
  8. Phoenix Mercury (2-4) -2
  9. Minnesota Lynx (1-6) +3
  10. Los Angeles Sparks (2-5) -2
  11. New York Liberty (1-4) —
  12. Indiana Fever (2-6) -2

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

Katie Ledecky punches ticket to Paris, fourth Olympics

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JUNE 15: Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the Women's 400 LC Meter Freestyle during the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky is officially on to her fourth straight Olympics, punching her ticket to Paris in the 400-meter freestyle on Saturday. 

But Ledecky’s wasn’t the only name in the headlines in Indianapolis. Virginia’s Gretchen Walsh set a World Record in the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday in the semifinal. And roughly 24 hours later, she was an Olympian, taking first in the event. 

"I was definitely nervous," Walsh said. "There were a lot of what-ifs. Coming off breaking the world record, I was thinking, 'Do I need to do that again just to make the team? What if I get third? What's that even even going to look like?'"

She later added that she “couldn’t ask for a better start” to the meet. 

Both Torri Huske and Regan Smith were under the previous American record placing second and third respectively. But Smith, whose time would’ve won her silver at the Tokyo Olympics, won’t swim the event in Paris after placing third. 

And in front of a record crowd, 46-year-old Gabrielle Rose proved that age is just a number. She set a best time in the 100-meter breaststroke en route to advancing to the semifinals of the event. There, she finished in 10th place – and with another best time. 

“I’m just hoping to show people you can do more, you’re capable of doing more,” Rose, a two-time Olympian, said. “You can have more energy, you can have more strength than you thought was possible. I want women in particular to not be afraid to be strong, to lift weights, to take care of themselves and just know that they can have a lot more in the older chapters of their lives.”

WNBA’s Rookie of the Year race heats up

WASHINGTON, DC -  JUNE 6: Angel Reese #5 of the Chicago Sky and Aaliyah Edwards #24 of the Washington Mystics after the game on June 6, 2024 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues to make waves this season, with the 2024 rookie class continuing to impress. 

Sky forward Angel Reese has registered six straight double-doubles, tying the longest streak for a rookie even as Chicago skids to a four-game losing streak. It’s also tied for the most by a rookie in WNBA history alongside Tina Charles and Cindy Brown.

Reese is the only rookie to average a double-double this season. But Mystics rookie Aaliyah Edwards has been averaging near a double-double this month, as Washington rattled off two back-to-back wins after a franchise-worst 0-12 start.

Kamilla Cardoso has been solid in her start to the season, registering her first professional double-double on Sunday with 10 points and 10 rebounds. 

Caitlin Clark has had a solid month for the Fever, leading the rookies with an average of 14.0 points per game. On Sunday, she neared a triple-double with 23 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds in the Fever’s win over Chicago. 

And after an abysmal start amidst a tough stretch of games, the Fever have now won four out of their last six games, with last year's Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston getting into the groove with scoring.

In Los Angeles, rookie duo Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson have been putting together a solid season, with both netting 16 points apiece in the team’s loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

Those looking for a clear frontrunner for rookie of the year won’t get one: Clark (assists), Reese (rebounds, steals), and Brink (blocks) each currently sit in the top five league-wide in a number of key stats.

13th NWSL Match Weekend Dominated by Draws

NWSL Washington Spirit's Croix Bethune celebrates her stoppage-time equalizer against San Diego Wave FC
Washington's Croix Bethune celebrates her stoppage-time equalizer against San Diego. (Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL's weekend action brought with it no separation on the table, as five of the weekend's seven games ended in draws.

Three of those matches finished without a single goal, as Houston, Angel City, Orlando, North Carolina, Seattle, and Portland all came down to 0-0 draws. Only Gotham and Utah earned wins, with the New York/New Jersey side passing the Thorns to claim fourth place in the standings. 

For the Royals, the 1-0 win over Bay FC ends a 10-game winless streak. Utah now sits one point behind Seattle at the bottom of the table.

Despite the split points, two games did provide some fireworks by way of epic stoppage-time comebacks. Center back Sam Staab had her first goal in a Red Stars uniform, helping Chicago save a point in Kansas City in the 90th minute.

Washington also saved a result in the nick of time, as a masterful 96th-minute Croix Bethune strike got the best of talented Wave FC center-back Naomi Girma to finish things off at 1-1.

As for the Golden Boot leaderboard, only Temwa Chawinga managed to make a move on the leaderboard, with a goal against Chicago tying her with Orlando’s Barbra Banda for second.

Tobin Heath Details Injury Recovery Journey, Hints at Possible Return

Tobin Heath on the field for the USWNT in October 2021
Tobin Heath last played for the USWNT in October 2021. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

On the latest episode of the RE-CAP Show, USWNT star Tobin Heath revealed that she underwent a second knee surgery in her quest to return to the pitch. 

Heath hasn’t played since the 2022 NWSL season, when her tenure with then-OL Reign was cut short due to a knee surgery. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Champion, she hasn't addressed her playing career much over the last two years. 

In the latest RE-CAP Show episode, Heath revealed that she had to receive a cartilage transplant in her knee.

"I think it was public when I got my first knee surgery, which was actually just kind of a clean-out of the knee," Heath said. "I ended up trying to rehab back for about a year and got pretty close. I thought about signing for a team. At that time I didn’t think I was there enough with the knee to be able to commit fully to a team, because the way I play football is I’m all in — like I play to be at the highest level, I play to be winning World Cups, Olympics, club championships.

"And then obviously with that first surgery not helping, I got a second pretty big surgery with my knee that then put me in the category of like, 'Will I ever play professionally again?'"

Initially, Heath says she wasn’t aware of the gravity of the second surgery. But an examination of her knee revealed that she needed a more intensive repair than previously thought.

"When I got there, I thought I was going to be getting kind of like a smaller version of a surgery, and right before I got into surgery, there was kind of a big revelation about the current state of my knee that put me in the category to get a serious knee surgery. It was a cartilage transplant," Heath said.

While Heath said she hasn’t exactly closed the door on a potential return, she's currently focusing intently on rehab — with the future remaining unclear.

"I kind of just pray to God and say like, 'Whatever your will is for my career, that’s what it’s going to be,'" she added. "And I’ll just work my ass off and see where that gets."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.