All Scores

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Diana Taurasi raise their games: WNBA Film Room

Skylar Diggins-Smith high-fives Diana Taurasi during the Mercury’s overtime win over the Mystics on Sunday. (Mary Kate Ridgway/NBAE via Getty Images)

A third of the way into the WNBA season, we have continued to see key signings, players activated to rosters, coaching changes and broken records.

The Las Vegas Aces have earned the top spot in this week’s JWS Power Rankings following a dominating win over the Los Angeles Sparks in their only game last week. The Aces are still without Jackie Young as she recovers from an ankle injury, but they have not skipped a beat on offense, leading the league in scoring at 91 points per game.

The Seattle Storm have now won three in a row, and yet it still doesn’t feel like they have reached their full potential. Meanwhile, not much seemed to change for the Sparks after they parted ways with Derek Fisher as head coach and general manager. In their first game under interim coach Fred Williams, the Sparks were routed by the Aces and fell to ninth in the league standings at 5-8. This team has the sheer talent to turn its season around, but finding stability and chemistry is the first step toward righting the ship.

The New York Liberty are getting reinforcements and looking more like a contender every day. Marine Johannès, added to the roster last week, gives the Liberty another playmaker and scoring option in the backcourt. Sabrina Ionescu became the first player in WNBA history to record a triple-double in just three quarters against the Chicago Sky on Sunday, giving her the second triple-double of her career and growing confidence as the franchise player many predicted her to be.

In Minnesota, the bad news keeps coming for the Lynx, who will be without Sylvia Fowles indefinitely due to a cartilage injury in her right knee. Minnesota heads into a new week on a three-game losing streak and last in the WNBA standings at 3-11. In better news for the team, Damiris Dantas has returned and Nikolina Milić continues to play well, finishing with 23 points in the Lynx’s heartbreaking loss to the Fever on Sunday.

Mercury: Taurasi and Diggins-Smith elevate their play

After raising the alarm bells with seven straight losses, the Phoenix Mercury have now won three in a row. The streak would be four if not for their heartbreaking 92-88 loss to the Connecticut Sun on June 3, when Phoenix was in control but the Sun stormed back down the stretch to take the game. As challenging as this season has been for the Mercury without superstar Brittney Griner, they seem to have found a bit of a rhythm that’s allowed them to grind out wins.

What’s changed? Offensively, the Mercury are averaging 90 points in their last three games compared to 79.8 points in their first 10. Much of that can be attributed to the increased production from Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi (who earlier in the season drew attention for other reasons, having to be separated after getting into a skirmish on the Mercury bench in May).

Diggins-Smith, leading the team with 19.2 points per game, has increased her output from 17.1 points to 24.6 points per game in Phoenix’s last three wins. After missing a pair of games with an illness, Diggins-Smith has raised her intensity, determined to do whatever it takes to keep Phoenix in the win column.

The same can be said for Diana Taurasi, who celebrated her 40th birthday last week. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer continues to show us why she is arguably the greatest player in league history.

Below, we compare Taurasi’s numbers in the Mercury’s last four games versus the early-season stretch that included their seven-game skid. Not only is Taurasi playing more minutes now, but the Mercury have also increased their pace of play and are finding ways to get Taurasi more shot attempts.

Last four games vs. first nine games

Points per game: 23.5 — 13.2
Minutes per game: 35.0 — 28.8
Shot attempts: 16.2 — 10.6
3-point shot attempts: 10.5 — 7.3

Here is a look at a quick action Phoenix will run in the half court out of the high post between Taurasi and Diggins-Smith. It forces defenses to pick their poison between the pair and gives Diggins-Smith the ability to isolate one-on-one against a switch. Diggins-Smith dumps the ball down to Taurasi and receives the quick pitch back. At the same time, Mercury center Tina Charles is looking to step in and screen for Taurasi cutting away from the ball, i.e. a flare screen.

In this scenario, the Mystics switch and Natasha Cloud is locked in on Taurasi as the flare screen is not actually set. Diggins-Smith briefly catches Alysha Clark on her heels, capitalizing on the defensive miscue with an open 3 and a crucial four-point play to help seal the game for the Mercury.

img
img

While the Mercury are 10th in the league in scoring defense, allowing 86.5 points per game this season, they have improved slightly from 87.2 points per game allowed in their first 10 games to 84 in their last three. Phoenix’s ability to sustain this momentum will be tested on the road this week against the Mystics, Fever and Wings.

A frustrating stretch for the Dallas Wings

The Wings have lost five of their last six, including three in a row, after starting the season 5-2. Four of those five losses have come within six points or fewer.

Frustrations have seemed to mount during the stretch, with Arike Ogunbowale being issued a technical for kicking the scorer’s table against the Sparks and getting ejected for kicking a basketball into the stands on Sunday against the Storm. The Wings’ third-leading scorer, Marina Mabrey, has missed the last two games with a nose injury and health and safety protocols, and Satou Sabally went down with a knee injury mid-way through Sunday’s game.

Teaira McCowan has become increasingly involved in the Wings’ system over the last two weeks, averaging close to 13 minutes per game. Prior to that, the recently acquired 6-foot-7 center was playing only 7.5 minutes per game for Dallas. In the Wings’ loss to Seattle on Sunday, McCowan played a season-high 17 minutes and posted season-highs in points (13), rebounds (six), free throws made (7-for-7) and blocked shots (two).

img
img

With McCowan on the floor, the Wings slow down a bit, forcing them to execute more intentionally in the half court and find ways to manufacture deep paint touches. McCowan grabbed five offensive rebounds for the Wings on Sunday, which led to the bulk of her scoring on putbacks.

With her size and strength, McCowan has the ability to duck in, establish two feet deep in the paint, turn and finish at the rim. Dallas should look to get the former No. 3 overall pick even more moving forward.

Week 6 Power Rankings

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

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.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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