Phoenix clinched a playoff berth this week to ensure that no less than three Aussie players will feature in the post-season, but the Aussie-laden Dallas Wings have fallen into a dangerous late-season spiral that has threatened to derail their season. However, the undoubted story of the week was the outstanding late season form of Rebecca Allen, who eclipsed her season scoring high twice in as many games for the Liberty.
Dallas’ late-season slide continued apace as the Wings found themselves unable to pick up a win this week to fall to eight consecutive defeats. Whilst they only fell by nine in a 101-92 loss to Connecticut to open the week, the Wings found themselves down by 20 heading into the final quarter and never seriously troubled the Sun save for a short time spent within six points with just under a minute to play. Despite the loss, Liz Cambage starred yet again for Dallas, tallying 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, whilst Cayla George picked up 6 rebounds alongside a solitary point in just 8 minutes on court.
Things only got tougher for the Wings as they travelled to Atlanta to take on the second-placed Dream, and with Cambage out of the game with a neck injury, George stepped into the starting lineup. Surprisingly, the Wings kept the game closer for the most part than they had against the Sun, but fell to a 92-82 defeat with George tallying 2 points and 5 rebounds in her 13 minutes of action.
Dallas’ season has now threatened to blow up in the aftermath of Monday’s 93-80 loss to Washington that dropped the Wings within a game of missing the playoffs with three to play. Cambage remained out with the same neck injury that kept her out against Atlanta, but George stepped up, coming off the bench to bury a pair of three pointers and shoot 4 of 5 from the field on her way to 11 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. However, it was the events following the game that were more interesting. An altercation between coach Fred Williams and team president and CEO Greg Bibb following the game culminated in Williams being relieved of his duties, with assistant coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin given the task of attempting to right the ship at a crucial point in the season.
Dallas Wings coach Fred Williams was relieved of his duties Sunday after a reported postgame altercation with team president and CEO Greg Bibb. It occurred after the Wings lost 93-80 at Washington, their eighth consecutive defeat. https://t.co/DX5VvaVo07— ESPN Women's Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) August 13, 2018
Despite dropping one of their three games this week, Sami Whitcomb and Seattle remain in first place and look set to claim home advantage throughout the playoffs. The Storm eased their way to a 94-79 victory over lowly Indiana in their opening game of the week, gradually increasing their advantage throughout the contest. Whitcomb saw a relatively high 17 minutes of action off the bench, rewarding coach Dan Hughes’ faith with 8 points in the process.
Whitcomb continued to provide an impact off the bench in the Storm’s next game against Washington, adding 11 points including a trio of three-pointers in 18 minutes, but the Storm stumbled heavily against the Mystics. With Elena Delle Donne shooting an impressive 11 of 16 from the field to tally 30 points, a hot-shooting Washington side dominated on their way to a 100-77 victory in their own hunt for a playoff first-round bye.
Unfortunately, Whitcomb was not afforded the same playing time in the Storm’s 81-72 victory over Minnesota in their final game of the week. In a tight game, the Seattle bench saw far less time than in previous games, with Whitcomb finishing scoreless in just six minutes of action.
New York find themselves out of the playoff race at this point, but that didn’t stop Rebecca Allen finding form to eclipse her season high for scoring in consecutive games this week. The Liberty fell to an agonising 82-81 loss to Los Angeles despite leading with 4 minutes to play, but Allen was in scintillating form. The athletic wing tallied 11 first-half points on her way to 13, shooting 5 of 7 from the field in just 19 minutes on court to hit double-figures for the first time in 2018.
The Liberty also had their chances against Atlanta in their final game of the week, but a 32-10 third quarter deficit put the New York side in a hole from which they couldn’t quite climb out of in an 86-77 defeat. However, Allen was electric once again to tally 16 points, a new season-high and just three points shy of her career high of 19 points, whilst also adding 4 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.
Phoenix clinched their playoff spot this week, winning two of their three games, and will now look to secure the highest seeding possible in the final couple of games. The Mercury dropped their opening game of the week against Washington 103-98, giving up a slender lead going into the fourth quarter even as Brittney Griner added 35 points and Diana Taurasi tallied 29. Steph Talbot started for the Mercury in something of a point-forward role as a secondary ball-handler alongside Taurasi, tallying six assists and four rebounds alongside her two points in 32 minutes, but fellow Australian Leilani Mitchell was not called upon off the bench in the loss.
The Mercury rebounded against Indiana with a far more balanced scoring effort that saw five players finish in double-figures as a 36-point third quarter explosion paved the way for a 94-74 victory. Talbot tallied an impressive 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in 30 minutes, whilst Mitchell returned to the court to add 9 points and 2 assists in 23 minutes in the victory. The win also saw the Mercury’s Australian coach Sandy Brondello, the winningest coach in Mercury history, pick up her 100th win as coach of the side.
100 MERCURY WINS!— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) August 11, 2018
Congrats Coach! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/GWhttGeO0z
Phoenix rounded out the week with a home game against their rival Los Angeles Sparks, and whilst the final result may have looked close at 86-78 in Phoenix’s favour, the Mercury were rarely troubled after the first quarter in the victory. Talbot finished scoreless in her 31 minutes on court, but came up with three blocks including a pair on the same play in the first quarter, as well as 2 rebounds and 2 assists, whilst Mitchell was afforded just six minutes of playing time, finishing scoreless.
STEPH WITH THE HUGE REJECTION! pic.twitter.com/MhZGLcbfbw— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) August 12, 2018