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Minnesota Lynx’s resurgence is no fluke: WNBA Film Room

The Lynx have won four of their last six games after a tumultuous start to the season. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Happy WNBA All-Star week! Eight weeks into the regular season, the reigning WNBA champion Chicago Sky are on a five-game win streak and have secured sole possession of first place at 15-5.

The Las Vegas Aces held the No. 1 slot for the majority of the first half of the season, but have since fallen to second in the standings with a 15-6 record. After storming out to a 13-2 start, the Aces have lost four of their last six games, including a 31-point defeat Sunday to the 11th-place Minnesota Lynx.

It feels like the Connecticut Sun are still putting all the pieces together, and yet the third-place team is finding ways to grind out wins. The Sun have come from behind multiple times this season, but no comeback was more notable than their 74-72 overtime win over the Washington Mystics on Sunday, in which they trailed by as many as 17 points.

Success in the WNBA is all about peaking at the right time, and the Sun have the tools and veteran experience to dominate in the second half of the season. After reviewing film and statistics, here is what else I noticed around the WNBA this week.

The Lynx find their stride

After a tumultuous start to the season riddled with roster cuts, injuries and losses, the Lynx had their biggest offensive night of the year in a 102-71 win over the Aces on Sunday. Minnesota, now 7-15 on the season, has won four of its last six games.

For the first time this year, the Lynx have been able to play a consistent rotation. Moriah Jefferson is healthy; Sylvia Fowles may not be 100 percent, but is still able to give them 20-22 minutes per game; and Damiris Dantas has returned and given Minnesota a major boost offensively and defensively.

The difference between the Lynx’s numbers at the start of the season and those from the last six games is shocking. Minnesota went from the worst offensive team in the WNBA to leading the league in scoring over the last two weeks at 91.3 points per game. This is a completely different Lynx team, whose current record doesn’t reflect what it’s capable of down the stretch.

Take a look at the glaring comparisons through the first half of the season:

First 16 games vs. Last six games

PPG: 78.4 — 91.3
FG%: 43.0 — 48.2
3-pt%: 31.0 — 40.1
RPG: 36.1 — 40.2
APG: 19.6 — 23.2
TO per game: 15.6 — 13.7
PPG allowed: 84.9 — 78.8

Sweet revenge

One of the best moments of the past week was Moriah Jefferson earning her first career triple-double. The 5-foot-6 guard put up 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in Minnesota’s 92-64 win over the Dallas Wings, the same team that waived her back in May. The kicker? Dallas is still paying Jefferson nearly three times the amount she is making with the Lynx.

The Wings’ move to waive Jefferson did not include a buyout or contract divorce, so they are still responsible for her $180,200 salary for the 2022 season. The Lynx, meanwhile, have her on the books for $67, 141.

While the Lynx continue to gain confidence and improve night in and night out, the Wings are a very different story.

What is going on in Dallas?

As a high-octane, young franchise that has the potential to beat any team on any given night, the Wings have hit a roadblock in recent weeks, losing three in a row and eight of their last 11 games. It is not necessarily the losses that are most concerning, but rather the way they’re competing. That was glaringly apparent in their 28-point loss to the Lynx last week.

Dallas currently ranks seventh in the league at 81.4 points per game and sixth in points allowed at 82.3. In their last 11 games, the Wings have conceded an average of 86.2 points to their opponents.

After starting the season 6-4, Dallas has gone 3-8 in the last month. Here is a look at the Wings’ production during each of those spans.

First 10 games vs. Last 11 games

PPG: 80.2 — 82.5
FG%: 41.2 — 42.5
TO per game: 14.5 — 14.5
APG: 17.6 — 18.4
Pace: 93.78 — 97.85
Opponent PPG: 78.9 — 85.4
Opponent RPG: 33.6 — 34.5
Opponent FG%: 44.9 — 45.4
Opponent 3-pt%: 31.6 — 34.3

The Wings have actually put up more points in their last 11 games, but they are allowing close to seven extra points per game and are not rebounding the ball as well. They are also playing at a faster pace, which is not a good thing for every team. Overall, Dallas is ninth in the league with 95.59 possessions per game, but that number has increased significantly from 93.78 to a fifth-highest 97.85 in the last month.

Without their second-leading scorer, Allisha Gray, for two of their most recent losses, including the blowout defeat to Minnesota, the Wings have had a hard time adjusting on offense and in defensive assignments. Gray returned for their most recent game against the Los Angeles Sparks, playing 30-plus minutes in the 97-89 loss and showing how this Wings team transforms when she is consistently on the floor.

On Friday, Dallas also welcomed back 2021 All-Star Satou Sabally, who missed three weeks with a knee injury. The Wings’ fourth-leading scorer scored just seven points in 16 minutes against the Sparks, but she was averaging close to 22 minutes per game before the injury.

The Wings will have an opportunity to right the ship before the All-Star break when they host the Sun on Tuesday.

Diana Taurasi was not voted to the All-Star team despite putting up strong numbers through the first half. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Thoughts heading into All-Star week

WNBA All-Star festivities begin later this week in Chicago, with the WNBA 3-Point Contest and Skills Challenge on Saturday and the All-Star Game on Sunday. The full rosters were revealed on June 22, and captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart drafted their teams this past weekend.

One of my biggest takeaways from the All-Star proceedings of the past few weeks is that if Sue Bird is an All-Star, then Diana Taurasi should be. While the Phoenix Mercury have dealt with plenty of adversity this year, the 10-time All-Star is doing her part at 40 years old, averaging 15.6 points per game and as many as 22.3 points in the month of June. She has scored 20-plus points in seven games this year for the shorthanded Mercury.

I predict Team Wilson to win and Kelsey Plum to be named MVP. The key to All-Star games is offensive firepower in the backcourt, and Team Wilson has plenty of that in Plum, Rhyne Howard, Courtney Vandersloot and Ariel Atkins. Not to mention, their backcourt also features hometown superstar Candace Parker.

Taking place directly across the street from the All-Star festivities at Wintrust Arena is one of the largest grassroot girls basketball travel tournaments in the country. The Nike Tournament of Champions and Blue Star Nationals will run simultaneously at McCormick Place. The WNBA has long had to do a better job of building its audience at the grassroots level, and All-Star weekend is a perfect opportunity to bridge the gap, with thousands of youth athletes playing just steps away from the biggest WNBA fan event of the year. Downtown Chicago this weekend will be the place to be for every women’s basketball fan, coach or player.

Week 9 Power Rankings

  1. Chicago Sky (15-5) —
  2. Las Vegas Aces (15-6) —
  3. Connecticut Sun (14-7) —
  4. Seattle Storm (13-8) —
  5. Washington Mystics (13-10) —
  6. Atlanta Dream (10-11) +1
  7. Los Angeles Sparks (10-11) +2
  8. Minnesota Lynx (7-15) +2
  9. New York Liberty (8-12) -3
  10. Phoenix Mercury (9-14) +1
  11. Dallas Wings (9-12) -3
  12. Indiana Fever (5-17) —

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.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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