The first full month of the WNBA regular season began over last weekend with a bunch of broken records. While some records were positive for teams in wins, others weren't so much. But it all made for a great week of basketball.
Before we get to the numbers, you may have noticed a change in color scheme around most of the WNBA's online presence. That's because June is also Pride Month, and the league is expanding its support of the LGBTQ+ community this year. The national organization GLSEN, which works to make K-12 schools inclusive, is one of the groups in the WNBA's "Take a Seat, Take a Stand" initiative announced earlier this season. Fans can also donate to GLSEN through buying special apparel at the online WNBA store. There are several out queer players and staff in the WNBA, and likely more in the stands, so to see the league celebrate the LGBTQ+ community like this is great.
Those players joined their teammates in a dominating week of play around the league. Las Vegas and New York got their first wins of the year, while Indiana came close to joining them. Let's dive in to the numbers.
29: The number of times Tina Charles has received the WNBA Player of the Week award in her career, extending a record.
The latest honor for the Liberty center came this week after stellar performances in two games. Charles led New York to its first win of the season with 34 points against the Dallas Wings (May 29) before finishing with her third double-double in a row (23 pts, 10 reb) at Indiana (June 2). She leads the WNBA with an average of 23.5 points scored. Charles shares this week's honors with Dallas center Liz Cambage, who had a league-best 11.5 rebounds and Western Conference-best 26.5 points in the Wings' two contests this week.
153: The number of games it took Brittney Griner to reach 500 career blocks.
The Phoenix center became the fastest player to hit that milestone on Friday, when she helped her team beat the Lynx in Minnesota for the first time in four years. Griner finished with three blocks in the Mercury's 95-85 win. It was also Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello's 100th career win in just 173 games. The team celebrated both milestones in the locker room:
500 blocks for BG. 100 wins for Coach.— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) June 2, 2018
WHAT. A. NIGHT. pic.twitter.com/M5AflXvWO7
17: The number of three-point shots scored by the Seattle Storm in their win over Las Vegas on Thursday.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis broke the franchise record of 14 in the final seconds of the third quarter, while Sami Whitcomb broke the league record of 16 with her trey at the start of the fourth. Jewell Loyd scored 15 of her 20 points from the three-point line. Seattle won 101-74 over the Aces.
85: The number of points scored by the Las Vegas Aces in their first ever win... ever.
A day after being on the wrong side of a record, Las Vegas came home to set a record of its own. The Aces recorded their first win of the season -- and of their franchise -- with an 85-73 victory over Washington. Dearica Hamby scored 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Las Vegas, while a very happy A'ja Wilson led everyone with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
6: The number of games it took for Indiana rookie Kelsey Mitchell to score 100 points.
This mark by the former Ohio State star does not set a record, but it comes close. Only five players -- including current stars Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter -- reached the 100-point mark in fewer games. Mitchell scored a career-high 26 points in the Fever's overtime loss vs. New York (June 2). The team almost broke a record of its own in that loss; Indiana came back from 20 points down in the third quarter to force overtime. If they would have won, it would have been the highest come-from-behind victory in team history. Expect this team to get its first win soon, especially since they have a few days off until their next contest.
or should I say, The Down
A few teams had a less than stellar week of play, but it's fair to say no team had it worse than the defending champs.
2010: The last time the Minnesota Lynx lost four games in a row – until this season.
Minnesota went 0-3 last week, losing on a great last-second shot at Atlanta before a home loss to Phoenix and a defeat by the Sparks in LA. To say that the Lynx -- and many of their fans -- are not used to starting the season 2-5 would be an understatement. After all, the team is just two seasons removed from its record-setting 13-0 start to the season. And, oh yeah, they won their fourth WNBA title in the past seven years last fall.
The surprising slump has made the Lynx a hot topic across the state and around the web. Many are wondering one thing: is it time to panic in Minnesota?
My answer? No. And here's why.
While the starting five that led the Lynx to another trophy last year is still intact, most of that bench is not -- and it's more of a loss than some thought going into 2018. Renee Montgomery and Natasha Howard are already doing big things in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively, while Jia Perkins and Plenette Pierson both retired after last year's Finals victory. Head coach/GM Cheryl Reeve and company made some big off-season moves in an effort to strengthen that bench, including trading Minnesota's first-round draft pick for former Phoenix guard Danielle Robinson. But with a short training camp and a condensed schedule, there hasn't been as much time for the team's newbies to gel with the veterans as in previous years. And those veterans are some of the oldest players in the league; 28-year-old Maya Moore is the only starter under 30. She had a good week, leading the Lynx in scoring in all three games.
The bench has gotten some extra playing time this week, specifically in Sunday's loss to the Sparks. Robinson (24:04) led the reserves with 12 points, while second-year players Alexis Jones (28:24) finished with 10 and Cecilia Zandalasini (18:57) added two points and five rebounds. After the game, Reeve and Moore told Women's Hoops World that they liked what they saw from the bench despite the loss. We are likely to see more from the reserves as the season goes on.
So, I say this: give it time, Lynx fans. Don't rule this team out just yet. I understand wanting to call this season over, but it's really just begun. There's still 27 games and more than two months of play left in the regular season, so the team has plenty of time to turn things around with a semi-new squad. Also, the competition across the rest of the league is stronger than ever before this year, which is ultimately good for the game. It may take a rebuilding year or two, but I have faith in Reeve and her team to make the Lynx stronger. And they deserve your support win or lose.
Looking ahead to week four, Minnesota has a couple of days off before its next game at Washington on Thursday. The same can't be said for Phoenix and New York, however.
Tuesday, June 5
- Phoenix Mercury (4-3) at New York Liberty (2-2): 11:00 AM Eastern [Twitter]
- Connecticut Sun (5-0) at Atlanta Dream (2-3): 8:00 PM Eastern
Thursday, June 7
- Minnesota Lynx (2-5) at Washington Mystics (5-3): 4:00 PM Eastern
- Connecticut Sun at New York Liberty: 7:00 PM Eastern
- Seattle Storm (5-2) at Los Angeles Sparks (4-1): 10:30 PM Eastern [ESPN2]
Friday, June 8
- Atlanta Dream at Las Vegas Aces (1-5): 3:00 PM Eastern
- Dallas Wings (3-3) at Indiana Fever (0-6): 7:00 PM Eastern
- Chicago Sky (3-3) at Phoenix Mercury: 10:00 PM Eastern
Saturday, June 9
- Minnesota Lynx at Connecticut Sun: 2:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
Sunday, June 10
- Indiana Fever at New York Liberty: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Chicago Sky at Los Angeles Sparks: 5:00 PM Eastern
- Las Vegas Aces at Phoenix Mercury: 6:00 PM Eastern
- Atlanta Dream at Seattle Storm: 7:00 PM Eastern