There were five games on the final day of the WNBA regular season and with most of the attention drawn to the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks, who both had to win on command to reach the playoffs, it was not short of drama.
Lynx end Mystics’ playoff hopes
Aerial Powers scored 27 points, Napheesa Collier recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Minnesota Lynx rode a third-quarter run to an 83-77 defeat of the host Washington Mystics on Sunday evening in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Minnesota (22-10) went on 18-2 run in the third quarter to build a 13-point lead, then held Washington (12-20) to a double-digit deficit for much of the fourth quarter en route to its fourth straight win and ninth in 10 games.
The late-season surge earned a Minnesota team that faced roster absences for much of the campaign the number three seed in the WNBA playoffs, which begin on Friday night.
The loss finally ended Washington’s playoff hopes after the Mystics came into the day in a three-team race with New York and Los Angeles, needing both a win over the Lynx and a Sparks loss to Dallas later in the day.
Powers continued to be critical to the end-of-season push, with her game-high in scoring marking her fourth 20-plus-point outing in the Lynx’s last six games.
Layshia Clarendon scored 10 points — two of which were free throws with 27.5 seconds remaining to effectively seal the win – and dished a game-high six assists in her first appearance for the Lynx since sustaining a leg injury on August 24.
Kayla McBride added another 10 points, Sylvia Fowles chipped in eight points and matched a game-high with 13 rebounds, and Crystal Dangerfield scored eight points off the Minnesota bench.
The Mystics rallied with an 11-1 run in the late fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to two points in the final minute, but it was not enough.
Natasha Cloud led Washington with 22 points, Ariel Atkins registered 17 points and Tina Charles closed out a Most Valuable Player-contending season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Wings deny Sparks too
The Los Angeles Sparks knew by tipoff that a win would grant them a spot in the postseason, but the Dallas Wings – with nothing to gain – held them off 87-84 thanks to 20 points from Arike Ogunbowale and 14 off the bench for Isabelle Harrison on 7-7 shooting.
The Wings’ victory kept Los Angeles from earning the eighth and final spot in the playoffs and allowed the New York Liberty to head to the postseason. Los Angeles, Washington and New York all finished the season at 12-20 but the Liberty advanced because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against both the Sparks and the Mystics.
Dallas had already clinched the seventh seed in the playoffs and will open the postseason in Chicago on Friday night, live on Sky Sports.
The Wings (14-18) led by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter and by a game-high 13 a minute into the final period. Los Angeles got as close as three points after a three-pointer by Erica Wheeler with 7.4 seconds left but could claw no closer.
Marina Mabrey went for 16 points off the bench for Dallas, with Allisha Gray scoring 12.
Te’a Cooper led all scorers with 24 points, while Wheeler scored 22 and Nneka Ogwumike had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Sparks. Only seven players saw action for short-handed Los Angeles, and as a result, by the end the Sparks simply ran out of gas.
Sun set new WNBA record
Natisha Hiedeman scored 16 points off the bench to lead four players in double figures as the Connecticut Sun set a WNBA record in their 84-64 win over the Atlanta Dream in Uncasville, Connecticut.
MVP candidate Jonquel Jones added 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Connecticut (26-6), who won their 14th straight game: now the longest streak to end a season in league history. Brionna Jones contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jasmine Thomas chipped in with 10.
Courtney Williams scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Atlanta (8-24), who also got 14 points from Monique Billings. But the Dream made just 38.4 percent of their shots, including a miserable 2 of 20 on three-pointers and were outrebounded 48-33.
The Sun now have a nine-day break before starting their semi-final series at home on September 28. By virtue of having the best regular-season record, they earned a double-bye into the semi-finals and have homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.
Plum the Ace in the pack
Kelsey Plum scored 23 points and Jackie Young made a tip-in with 4.3 seconds left to lift the visiting Las Vegas Aces to an 84-83 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.
Plum scored 13 straight points to rally the Aces before Young broke the streak with her tip. Ji-Su Park blocked Brianna Turner’s shot to preserve the victory for the Aces (24-8).
Riquna Williams scored 13 points and Chelsea Gray and Dearica Hamby had 12 each for the second-seeded Aces, who have a double-bye into the semi-finals of the playoffs. All-Star center Liz Cambage returned from a five-game absence due to COVID-19 protocols and had four points and four rebounds in nine and a half minutes.
Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 17 points, Kia Nurse had 14, Sophie Cunningham added 12 and Kia Vaughn, Shey Peddy and Bria Hartley had 10 each for the Mercury (19-13), who made just one field goal in the final 4:05 and watched Las Vegas score the final nine points.
Fifth-seeded Phoenix, who have lost three straight after a 10-game winning streak, will host the eighth-seeded New York Liberty in a one-game playoff on Friday night.
Diana Taurasi missed her fourth consecutive game due to an ankle injury, but the Mercury hope to have her back for the playoffs.
Sky end season on a high
Diamond DeShields matched a career-high with 30 points off the bench and the Chicago Sky concluded the regular season with a victory going into the playoffs, 98-87, over the visiting Indiana Fever.
Allie Quigley scored 15, Kahleah Copper 13 and reserve Astou Ndour-Fall 12 for the Sky (16-16), who will be the sixth seed in the postseason but have dropped four of their past five games. Chicago shot 49.3 percent from the field and used a 28-point third quarter to tire a depleted Indiana squad that played just six players.
Kelsey Mitchell scored a season-high 32 and Emma Cannon added 19 for the Fever (6-26), who – despite sitting last in the overall WNBA standings and ending their season with a seventh straight loss – shot 47.8 percent from the field and didn’t make things easy for the Sky.
Chicago was behind 56-53 with 6:23 left in the left quarter when it began a 21-9 spurt that lasted the rest of the period to take control. DeShields, who went 8-of-13 from the field, tied the game with a three and recorded a layup after Candace Parker gave the Sky a two-point edge.
A Mitchell basket made the score 60-60, but DeShields gave Chicago the lead for good with a bucket at the 3:48 mark of the third. The Sky scored seven of the final eight points of the period, and Ndour-Fall opened the fourth with a basket to put the hosts ahead 77-65.
Source : Sky Sports