Game of the week
If you like to judge games based on the final score, the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship game between the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky wasn't the most thrilling game. The game didn't count towards either team's standing this season, but so what? Out of all the games this season, this had the tense playoff atmosphere that can only be emulated with having half a million dollars on the line.
In truth, the Sky should have known this was their day when A’ja Wilson drilled a corner triple in the first quarter. There have been very few teams that could match the Aces when they're on their game offensively. Try stopping them when they get a bit of luck on their side.
It wasn’t long until the Aces built a 20-point lead at halftime with Wilson and Kelsey Plum towing the Aces. Candace Parker and Emma Meeseman made things interesting in the third period, cutting the Aces’ lead down to eight. But the deficit was too much and the Aces were too good to let another team get an upset comeback win over them.
This was a statement for Las Vegas. They are just one game behind the Sky for the top overall seed in the playoffs. The season series between the teams is currently knotted at 1-1 with a pivotal tiebreaker slated for August 12 (PHT).
The two teams have been far and away the best in the league this season. We’re getting treated to a few heated matchups, even before the playoffs begin.
Team in the spotlight
The Sky may not have won the Commissioner’s Cup but they did make a couple of big statements in their other two games last week.
First, they outclassed the New York Liberty—one of the five teams in the rumble for a playoff spot in the middle of standings—at home, 89-81. Then they went on the road, continuing their mastery of the third place Connecticut Sun with a rousing 95-92 win in overtime. And they did this all without Candace Parker, who was out due to a non-COVID illness.
The Sky are second in offensive rating (105.0) and third in net rating (7.0) while shooting at a blistering 53.0% effective field-goal percentage. They are churning at historic levels, only one other team in the league can truly say they can keep up with them.
Without Parker, Courtney Vandersloot has upped her already high-level game. The 3-time All-Star dropped 23 points, six rebounds, and nine assists on the Liberty. She then steered the Sky out of a sticky overtime encounter with the Sun, finishing with a 16-point, 12-assist double-double with eight rebounds.
Kelsey Plum also had quite a week, powering the Aces in their two wins over the Indiana Fever last week. The former top overall pick averaged 24.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting a combined 17-for-23 across both games.
Sylvia Fowles also deserves a bit of shine. One of the best centers ever collected her 2500th field goal in a win over the embattled Los Angeles Sparks, becoming only the fifth player in league history to reach that mark.
Watch out for…
With only a bit over a week left in the regular season, there’s still plenty of drama to be had. Five teams have qualified (Las Vegas, Chicago, Connecticut, Seattle, and Washington) leaving six teams contending for the last three playoff spots.
There’s a web of tiebreakers among all teams that should get less entangled as we play out more games. For now, Dallas—with 16 losses—seems primed to clinch one of the spots. Los Angeles has a busy four-game week ahead of them, each being incredibly crucial to their chances. Minnesota, meanwhile, has a ton of work ahead of them with 19 losses.
Among the five comfortably in the playoffs, Seattle and Washington are the two teams battling to keep homecourt advantage in the first round. The Storm scored a big win this week over the Mystics last week, which gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker for the season.
It’s going to be quite a week as the bell tolls for the teams hanging on for their postseason lives.