WNBA Notebook: High Stakes
- 6 min read

WNBA Notebook: High Stakes

WNBA Notebook: High Stakes by Caissa Casarez

We are officially into August and the last full month of the WNBA regular season. Time flies when you're having fun! All 12 teams got back to business last week after the All-Star festivities, playing at least one game each. While the standings are getting a bit looser – 5.5 games separate the first-place team from the eighth – it’s still anyone's contest. Every single game is incredibly important as we get closer to the playoffs.

So what happened this week? Let's dive in.

What's Up With Liz?

The Dallas Wings took on the Las Vegas Aces twice over the past week. Despite the teams' lopsided records (Dallas is 11th while Vegas is 3rd), many were looking forward to both contests as they were the first time Liz Cambage would face her former team since her tumultuous offseason.

Cambage scored just six points on 1-of-12 shooting in 19 minutes of play during the teams' first game, an 86-54 win for the Aces (July 30). After a nine-point performance two days later in a loss at Los Angeles, she was ruled out for the rematch with the Wings on August 3 in order to rest. Cambage also did not play in the second half of the game suspended July 5 because of an earthquake in the Vegas area (more on that later).

I am not sure what is happening with Liz Cambage. She did not show any signs of injury ahead of her two rest days. Her moves on the court are definitely missed right now for the Aces; they got a close five-point win at Dallas but lost by 29 against the Mystics Monday night. Most importantly, I hope she's doing okay.

Slow and Steady Improvement

First, a note of something I missed from before the All-Star Break: the New York Liberty have surpassed their total number of wins from last season with their 83-78 win over the Los Angeles Sparks back on July 20. While the Liberty has lost three straight since that game, it is still a sign of progress for a young squad looking to find its place. After all, New York is just two and a half games behind the Minnesota Lynx for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Indiana Fever are on both teams' tails, though, having surpassed their total number of wins from last season as well. They did this more recently, breaking their six-game losing streak with a big victory over Atlanta on July 31. It was also their first win at home since June 7.

The Fever are currently riding a nice two-game winning streak, as they followed last Wednesday's win with a big victory over the Lynx on August 3. How big was it, you ask? Only the largest comeback win for Indiana in franchise history.

I'd watch out if I were teams facing either squad, but especially the Fever. They are hungry for a return to the playoffs, and if they keep playing like this, I can see it happening this year.

Time to Panic in Minnesota?

Short answer: no. The Lynx got back to a .500 record after a win over the Atlanta Dream on August 6, led by reigning Rookie of the Month Napheesa Collier. Veteran (and proudly queer) guard Seimone Augustus returned to the court for the first time this year after recovering from knee surgery. While she scored just eight points, it was enough for Augustus to reach 10th place on the all-time scoring list, surpassing former player and current NBA assistant Becky Hammon. Not bad for a season debut.

Not to be outdone, Augustus' longtime teammate Sylvia Fowles became the fourth player in WNBA history to register 600 blocks during the first quarter of the game.

So, things seem to be getting better for the Lynx – at least for now. But it won't get easier in the next few weeks as Minnesota heads into a tough part of their schedule; three of the Lynx's next four games are against either 1st-place Connecticut or 2nd-place Washington. As we've seen already many times this year, however, we can't rule any team out, especially as teams are pushing for a playoff spot in the last few weeks of the season.

Giddy up.

Candace Spark-er

The injury bug is also waning for the Los Angeles Sparks, who have gotten both Maria Vadeeva and Candace Parker back in recent days. Parker in particular made her presence known in her first appearance in five games, scoring 16 points in the Sparks' win over the Las Vegas Aces on August 1. She followed that with a game-high 21 points three days later in a win over the Seattle Storm. She was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for her efforts. That mark was also a season-best for Parker, who has played on and off this year. To me, it seems that Parker is on again. And as the Sparks' list of players sitting out dwindles even more, the pieces might be coming into place at the right time.

Mercury Rising in Phoenix

(Apologies for the pun.)

After a close loss at Connecticut to open the month, the Phoenix Mercury bounced back nicely to say the least. They came home and beat the Washington Mystics 103-82 over the weekend, a victory done with just eight players dressed. Phoenix has received two emergency hardship exceptions in recent weeks, signing Arica Carter and Asia Taylor with them, but it's unclear how much they'll see the floor.

That's in part because of Brittney Griner. She finished Sunday's victory over Washington with a team- and game-high 26 points to go with nine rebounds, eight assists, and four blocked shots. As Mercury communications manager Bryce Marsee pointed out, that's a slate not commonly seen in either pro basketball league.

Many internet trolls have made fun of Griner since before she set foot on a WNBA court, criticizing her build and her deep voice. Despite that, I like the comparison made in the above tweet. A lot of people accuse the WNBA of being lesser than just because the athletes are women. But Griner (and the rest of the league, to be honest) shows that they'e just as good.

Earthquake redo

After what some called "the longest halftime ever," the Washington Mystics and Las Vegas Aces played one half of basketball on Monday. The unique game came after a unique event – an earthquake, which caused the teams' game on July 5 to be postponed. The second half of the contest had to be moved to the T-Mobile Arena due to a scheduling conflict at the Aces' home, the Mandalay Bay Events Center. But the team still brought the court with them.

The Mystics took advantage of the host Aces being shorthanded and went on to win 99-70. We should hope that the WNBA has begun to work on a plan just in case something like this happens again – because it likely will.

Here is the rest of the schedule for this week, as long as earthquakes or other events don't interrupt:

Wednesday, August 7

  • New York Liberty (8-13) at Chicago Sky (12-9): 8:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]

Thursday, August 8

  • Indiana Fever (8-15) at Washington Mystics (15-7): 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
  • Phoenix Mercury (11-10) at Los Angeles Sparks (12-8): 10:00 PM Eastern [ESPN2, NBA TV Canada]
  • Dallas Wings (6-16) at Seattle Storm (12-11): 10:00 PM Eastern [ESPN3]

Friday, August 9

  • Minnesota Lynx (11-11) at Connecticut Sun (16-6): 8:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
  • Chicago Sky at Las Vegas Aces (15-8): 10:30 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]

Saturday, August 10

  • Atlanta Dream (5-18) at Indiana Fever: 3:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
  • Dallas Wings at Phoenix Mercury: 10:00 PM Eastern

Sunday, August 11

  • Seattle Storm at New York Liberty: 3:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV, NBA TV Canada]
  • Minnesota Lynx at Washington Mystics: 3:00 PM Eastern
  • Chicago Sky at Los Angeles Sparks: 5:00 PM Eastern
  • Connecticut Sun at Las Vegas Aces: 6:00 PM Eastern [ESPN2, TSN]

(Photo credit: @LVAces / Twitter)