Caissa Casarez

WNBA Recap Week 12: Never a Dull Moment

The end of the WNBA regular season is here. If it feels like the season just started, that's because...it did. Essentially.

The teams usually play a 34-game regular season that lasts about 14-15 weeks. However, the length of this year's season shrank because of the FIBA World Cup at the end of September. When the games go final on Sunday and all is said and done with the 2018 regular season, the teams in the WNBA will have played 33 or 34 games in just 12 weeks.

And based on the action from the penultimate week of play, the compressed schedule is taking a toll on both players and staff alike. A few teams lost key players to injury for the rest of the season, while another team fired its head coach. Meanwhile, six more teams clinched a spot in the playoffs, and Seattle got closer to clinching an all-important double-bye.

Let's dive into the numbers.

The Ups

16: the number of times Seattle lost in Minnesota in a row until Sunday.

For some reason, the Seattle Storm have not had much luck winning in Minnesota recently. Regardless of the records of either team, even this year, the Lynx usually came out on top...but not this time. The Storm beat the Lynx at Target Center on Sunday for the first time since 2010, having lost the past 16 games in the North Star State beforehand. While it was only fitting for Seattle that former Minnesota player Natasha Howard led the way with a team-high 21 points, there was balanced scoring up and down the Storm roster in the game. Seattle looked like the true top team in the WNBA, and they came one step closer to grabbing that top seed ahead of the playoffs. Case in point? The Storm's current magic number is just one.

109: The total points scored by the Atlanta Dream in their playoff-clinching win over Las Vegas Tuesday.

The Dream put an exclamation point on what's been a great season for the team during their game against the Aces last week. Atlanta set two franchise records in the game with 14 blocks and 109 points. Unfortunately, the Dream also lost All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry for the rest of the year to a knee injury during the fourth quarter of the win. However, as she said following the announcement of her diagnosis, she'll be there to support her team, who will be just fine. The Dream's four games this week, all wins, added to the team's current six-game winning streak. Atlanta currently sits atop the Eastern Conference at 1.5 games ahead of Washington.

14: The new career mark in assists for Diana Taurasi, set in the Phoenix Mercury's win over Los Angeles on Sunday.

She can score -- and she can help others score, too. Diana Taurasi set a career-high in assists on Sunday, dishing out 14 dimes in the Mercury's 86-78 win over Los Angeles. She scored 20 points of her own to go along with that; teammate DeWanna Bonner led everyone with a season-high 31. Only four other Phoenix players scored in the game, but that was all that was needed.

20 and 15: the number of points and assists that the Chicago Sky's Courtney Vandersloot finished Friday's game with en route to making history.

The Chicago Sky were officially eliminated from the postseason over the weekend. But before then, star guard Courtney Vandersloot had herself a GAME. She became the first player in WNBA history to score at least 15 points while chipping in at least 15 assists as she led the Sky to a 97-86 upset win over Connecticut on Friday. Vandersloot was one of six Sky players who had double figures in the game.

The Sky also tied a league record with 35 assists in the game. They tried to draw up a play to break the record late in the contest, a move that Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller referred to as "bush league." Sky head coach Amber Stocks addressed the controversy and the record attempt afterward in only the way that she can.

The Downs

8: The number of players who dressed for the New York Liberty ahead of Sunday's loss to the Dream, their ninth in a row.

There's never a good time for a team to catch the injury bug, but despite the fact that the Liberty won't make the playoffs, it couldn't come at a worse time for them. New York's current nine-game losing streak is the longest in the league right now, and it may only grow. The Liberty finish out the year with a four-game road trip at Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Phoenix. Three of those teams are in the postseason, and Las Vegas is inching closer to that final playoff spot. While it's unclear what the aforementioned opponents will do in the last week of the season, New York will hope to get at least a couple of the injured players (Shavonte Zellous, Epiphanny Prince, Marissa Coleman, and Amanda Zahui B) back to end a tumultuous season on a high note.

32: The combined margin of defeat in Dallas' three games this week.

I mentioned Dallas' play and how it needed to improve in last week's game recap.

This wasn't it.

Their closest game was a nine-point loss to the Connecticut Sun (August 7), in which Liz Cambage scored 29 points. She didn't play in the two games after that, and it showed. Not to mention, the Wings will be looking for a new head coach after the season ends -- which could be as early as this weekend if their current losing streak continues. Dallas is just one game ahead of the surging Las Vegas Aces for the final playoff spot. Both teams have three games left this week. Here we go...

15: The number of WNBA seasons Lindsay Whalen will have in her basketball career when she retires at the end of the Lynx's season.

Analysis from journalist Caissa: It was expected. Especially after she took the head coaching job at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota. And, as some pointed out, after she came off the bench in Sunday's loss to Seattle for the first time since her WNBA debut 14 years ago (!). But Lindsay Whalen announcing her retirement earlier Monday still came as a shock to many in and out of the WNBA fandom. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve called her "Minnesota's favorite daughter" for a reason, after all. And Whalen has gained a following on Instagram with her alter-ego Gentry (who she says will never retire).

What a career. What a time. The state of Minnesota and the WNBA are for the better because of Whalen.

Analysis from Lynx fan Caissa: NOOOOO!!!

I mean, I also knew this was coming, and she hasn't been at her best lately, but it's still sad. I'm relatively new to the state of Minnesota and the Lynx, having moved here in 2016. But I've been a women's basketball fan for a while now -- specifically of my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Whalen's Minnesota are bitter rivals in every sport. I never thought this proud Badger could cheer for a Golden Gopher, but things changed when I moved west. Whalen has been a treat to watch play, and I'm excited to see her coach as well. Even against the Badgers.

Also I personally love Gentry, so I'm glad she's not going away. #priorities

The Lynx will celebrate Whalen during their final home game of the regular season on Sunday night. I wouldn't be surprised to see some kind of tribute in Connecticut, too, when Minnesota plays Whalen's former team on Friday.

Here's the rest of the last week of regular season play. Giddy up.

The Schedule: Week The Final

Tuesday, August 14

  • Dallas Wings (14-17) at Connecticut Sun (18-13): 7:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
  • Chicago Sky (11-20) at Minnesota Lynx (17-14): 8:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
  • New York Liberty (7-23) at Los Angeles Sparks (18-13): 10:30 PM Eastern [NBA TV]

Wednesday, August 15

  • Washington Mystics (20-11) at Indiana Fever (5-26): 7:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
  • New York Liberty at Las Vegas Aces (13-18): 10:30 PM Eastern [NBA TV]

Friday, August 17

  • Minnesota Lynx at Connecticut Sun: 7:00 PM Eastern
  • Los Angeles Sparks at Washington Mystics: 7:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
  • Las Vegas Aces at Dallas Wings: 8:00 PM Eastern
  • Atlanta Dream (22-10) at Phoenix Mercury (18-14): 10:00 PM Eastern
  • New York Liberty at Seattle Storm (24-8): 10:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]

Saturday, August 18

  • Chicago Sky at Indiana Fever: 4:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]

Sunday, August 19

  • Los Angeles Sparks at Connecticut Sun: 3:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
  • Atlanta Dream at Las Vegas Aces: 6:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
  • New York Liberty at Phoenix Mercury: 6:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
  • Indiana Fever at Chicago Sky: 6:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
  • Dallas Wings at Seattle Storm: 7:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
  • Washington Mystics at Minnesota Lynx: 7:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 2]

Photo Credit: Minnesota Lynx/Twitter

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