By Lauren Rosenberg and Kyle Jones
The WNBA Playoffs are in full swing, with first-round games concluding Wednesday night.
Missouri alum and Queen-of-Columbia Sophie Cunningham proved not enough, as her Phoenix Mercury fell to the Chicago Sky 105-76. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Lynx lost by 10 points to the Seattle Storm (84-74) despite the absence of star players Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart.
Mizzou fans may feel as though there’s not much to watch now that everyone’s favorite basketball player won’t be featuring, but fear not! There is still plenty of great basketball on tap for fans to savor.
The two second-round matches tip off Sunday, when the Sky travel to Las Vegas to take on the Liz Cambage-led Aces, and the Storm head south to Los Angeles to face Candace Parker and the Sparks.
Chicago Sky vs. Las Vegas Aces:
The Sky made quick work of the Mercury on Wednesday, though they were helped by the bevy of injuries sustained by the team from Phoenix. Key losses include Diana Taurasi, who had been dealing with injuries all season, Alanna Smith, who had ankle surgery earlier this year, and Brittney Griner, who knocked knees with Sky player Allie Quigley early in the second quarter Wednesday and never fully returned.
That being said, Chicago still executed their game plan to perfection, tearing up the Mercury defenses and scoring at will. They will not have such an easy time in Sin City.
Las Vegas has been one of the dominant forces in the WNBA this season, with dual threats A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage leading the charge. Wilson is seventh in the league in points-per-game with 16.5, while Cambage is seventh in rebounds-per-game with 8.2. They seem to be a team destined for a deep run, stacked with talent that performs when they’re supposed to.
Chicago was vaulted to victory by Courtney Vandersloot and Diamond DeShields. Vandersloot notched 11 assists to accompany her 9 points, while DeShields racked up a whopping 25 points, leading all players.
The Sky had a free ride against the Mercury, lets see how they fair against one of the best in the league.
Kyle: Las Vegas
Lauren: Las Vegas
Seattle Storm vs. Los Angeles Sparks:
Despite the absence of star players Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart to offseason injuries, the reigning champion Storm has proven that no loss of players can stop them in the postseason.
The Storm was projected to place 10th in the pre-season before exceeding all expectations and ending up securing the sixth spot.
Natasha Howard was key to the Storm’s success, improving her points per game average from 13.2 in 2018 to 18.1 in 2019. She also places fourth in points per game and 6th in rebounds per game this season.
The surprise star of this team was second-year player Jordin Canada. With Bird out, Canada took over as floor general and was an unlikely burst to this low-expectation squad. Canada went from appearing in 33 games and starting 2, averaging 5.7 points and 3.3 assists per game in 2018, to appearing in 30 and starting 29, averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 assists per game, marking her as fifth in the league.
The Sparks are another team that exceeded expectations, but not to a lot of people’s surprise. They were slated to be 6th in the league and finished third.
Long time veteran and one of LA’s star players Candace Parker was limited to only 22 games, starting all, averaging 11.2 points per game which was a notable decline from 17.9 points per game averaged in 2018.
Like the Storm, the Sparks need other players to step up. Nneka Ogwumike continued her stardom averaging 16.1 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, good for 9th and 4th in the league respectively.
Chelsea Gray also continued shining for the Sparks averaging 14.5 points and 5.9 assists per game, 14th and 2nd in the league respectively.
The balance of their team, despite the absence of Parker, has proven to their advantage throughout the season.
Kyle: Los Angeles
Winners are re-seeded after every round, but the winners of these two games will go on to face either the Washington Mystics or the Connecticut Sun. Both promise to be exciting matchups on the road to the WNBA Championship.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org