The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
The women's basketball community is strong. The people and teams in it stand with each other through the good, the bad, and everything in between. The bond was seen -- and felt -- in a big way last week following the passing of Anne Donovan. A former standout player-turned-standout coach, Donovan died from heart failure on June 13. She was just 56.
Many people currently in the WNBA had ties to Donovan in some way, making the impact of her loss that much stronger. After a successful career as a player, including a national title and two Olympic gold medals, Donovan went on to coach for five WNBA teams. She was the first coach for the Indiana Fever, as well as the first woman to lead a WNBA team to the championship when the Seattle Storm won it all back in 2004. Donovan most recently coached the Connecticut Sun from 2013-2015.
Sue Favor of Women's Hoops World put together a nice list of stories from around the Internet about the Hall of Famer. Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, whose first WNBA coaching job was with Donovan and the now-defunct Charlotte Sting, shared her thoughts on the loss, as did former teammate and current Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey. Connecticut and Seattle honored Donovan during their matchup on June 15 by wearing a black stripe on their jerseys.
Speaking of last week's play, let's get to the numbers.
35: The number of points scored by Las Vegas rookie A'ja Wilson in the Aces' OT win over Indiana (June 12).
Week five of action started off with a battle of the league's bottom-two teams that was anything but boring. The Fever rallied late to force overtime before the Aces took over. Wilson scored 10 of the team's 17 points in the extra frame to seal the win for Vegas. Center Natalie Achonwa had a career day of her own for Indiana; she finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.
21: The number of consecutive points scored by Los Angeles during the second quarter of its win over Chicago (June 17).
The young Sky squad kept both games of their west coast road trip relatively close last week... but the Sparks' response was just too much. Los Angeles scored 21 straight points in the middle of the first half en route to a 39-33 lead at the break. The Sparks then opened the second half of play with a 16-2 run, essentially putting the game away. Chelsea Gray led everyone with 21 points of her own for LA, while Nneka Ogwumike added 20. The Sparks hold a slight lead over Phoenix atop the league standings; with games like this, it's easy to see why.
36: The number of points scored by Elena Delle Donne in Washington's win over Connecticut (June 13).
Wednesday's matchup between the Mystics and the Sun proved to be more lopsided than the 95-91 final score might hint at. Washington had a 28-point lead at the half which did not last long. Connecticut finished the third quarter with 30 points to Washington's 8, but the Mystics still came out on top -- in big part thanks to Delle Donne, who finished with a season high 36 points, and 22 in the first half. She was named WNBA Player of the Week for her efforts, including a league-best 27.0 points per game last week.
Side note: fellow awardee Breanna Stewart also had a great week for Seattle, who went 2-0 during the stretch. She had a season-high 30 points in the Storm's win over Chicago (June 12) and was one rebound away from a double-double (23 pts, 9 reb) in the victory over Connecticut (June 15).
32: The margin of victory in Indiana's first win of the season (June 16 vs. Atlanta).
Many people in and around the WNBA knew the Fever would get that first W soon enough. Two days after a narrow loss at Atlanta, Pokey Chatman's squad turned around and dominated the Dream in front of the Fever faithful. Indiana scored 61 points in the second half, which is a new high for the franchise. The Fever also held Atlanta to 26 points during the last two quarters, which is the second-highest margin in league history. Indiana had balanced scoring in the game as well, led by rookies Kelsey Mitchell (19 points) and Victoria Vivians (21 points, career-high).
29: The combined margins of defeat in New York's two games last week.
The Liberty started their week with a 78-63 loss to Las Vegas (June 13); the Aces held New York to its lowest score so far this season. New York's first-year head coach Katie Smith, who used to play for the Lynx, then led her squad back to her former turf to face the defending champs. Minnesota dominated the game from the beginning en route to a 14-point win over Smith's Liberty team (June 16). Despite the lopsided games, there are signs of hope for New York. Wednesday's game was the Liberty's first with its full roster, as Kiah Stokes (left foot) and Epiphanny Prince (concussion) both made their season debuts.
72: The number of points scored by the shorthanded Sun in their loss to Phoenix (June 16).
Connecticut is now on a three-game losing streak after a week that only got worse as the weekend hit. The Sun went into Saturday's game against the surging Mercury without Chiney Ogwumike (knee) and Alyssa Thomas (shoulder), and it showed. Phoenix held Connecticut to a season-low 72 points in the game. Morgan Tuck had a nice game with a season-high 20 points for the Sun, who travel to Atlanta to face the also shorthanded Dream on Friday.
Speaking of the Dream, props to Atlanta first-year head coach Nicki Collen for trying to make the best out of what she understandably calls "a coach's worst nightmare."
Let's hope the #bootgang and others who are hurt recover soon.
Before I get to this week's schedule, here's a quick reminder that All-Star voting is now underway. Who would you pick for your dream squad? Let me know!
The Schedule: Week 6
Tuesday, June 19
- Atlanta Dream (6-5) at New York Liberty (3-6): 7:00 PM Eastern
- Chicago Sky (3-7) at Washington Mystics (6-5): 7:00 PM Eastern
- Dallas Wings (5-4) at Minnesota Lynx (4-6): 8:00 PM Eastern
- Las Vegas Aces (3-9) at Seattle Storm (8-3): 10:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
- Indiana Fever (1-10) at Los Angeles Sparks (8-2): 10:30 PM Eastern
Friday, June 22
- Connecticut Sun (7-4) at Atlanta Dream: 7:00 PM Eastern
- Los Angeles Sparks at Dallas Wings: 8:00 PM Eastern
- Washington Mystics at Chicago Sky: 9:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
- New York Liberty at Las Vegas Aces: 10:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 2]
- Minnesota Lynx at Phoenix Mercury (10-3): 10:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
- Indiana Fever at Seattle Storm: 10:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
Sunday, June 24
- Seattle Storm at Dallas Wings: 4:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
- New York Liberty at Los Angeles Sparks: 5:00 PM Eastern
- Connecticut Sun at Indiana Fever: 6:00 PM Eastern
- Minnesota Lynx at Las Vegas Aces: 6:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
- Phoenix Mercury at Chicago Sky: 6:00 PM Eastern
(Photo Credit: Indiana Fever/Twitter)
Filed under: wnba; basketball; anne donovan; a'ja wilson; las vegas aces; indiana fever; los angeles sparks; washington mystics; connecticut sun; atlanta dream; ny liberty; minnesota lynx; phoenix mercury; chicago sky; seattle storm; breanna stewart; elena delle donne
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