Five of the six Australian players in the WNBA will be involved in the playoffs in 2018 after Liz Cambage and Cayla George's Dallas Wings joined Sami Whitcomb's Seattle Storm and Phoenix's Aussie pairing of Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell in the postseason after picking up a vital win over Las Vegas. Cambage also picked up the WNBA scoring title this week, but Whitcomb and Seattle have secured a bigger prize - the top seed and home advantage throughout the playoffs.
Dallas fairly limped into the playoffs after losing 10 of their last 11 games, but Liz Cambage was doing anything but limping in ensuring that the Wings picked up the win they needed over Las Vegas to reach the postseason.
Having opened the week with a disappointing 96-76 loss in which Cambage tallied 15 points and 13 rebounds and fellow Australian Cayla George finished scoreless, the Wings faced Las Vegas with both teams sitting at 14-18 in a tie for eighth.
Cambage dominated for every one of her 34 minutes, and the Wings needed every last point of the mammoth 43 that she scored as the Wings just barely eked out the 107-102 win to secure the eighth and final playoff spot after a thrilling fourth quarter in which the teams traded the lead before Dallas finally crept home.
Although her 14-20 from the field and 13-16 free throws were spectacular, Cambage also collected 13 rebounds whilst George tallied 3 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in her 9 minutes off the bench.
The Wings’ final game of the season made no material difference to the standings, but the team would still have been disappointed, particularly with their shooting, in an 84-68 loss to Seattle to end the regular season.
Cambage played just 20 minutes, finishing with 11 points and 4 rebounds, whilst George added 6 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes, but the Wings could not overcome a dismal 35% shooting night including just 4 of 22 from beyond the arc as Sami Whitcomb added 9 points off the bench for a Seattle team that shot a comparatively lights-out 11 of 22 from deep in their win.
However, there was positive news for Cambage at the end of the week as the dominant Australian centre picked up the WNBA scoring title after averaging 23.0 points per game throughout the course of the season.
The win over Dallas was only one of two games in which Whitcomb would come up against an Aussie, with the Storm taking on Rebecca Allen and New York earlier in the week.
As expected, Seattle emerged with an 85-77 victory, but the Storm were made to work for it as the Liberty kept at their heels for all 40 minutes. Whitcomb played just four minutes, finishing scoreless, whilst Allen added six points and two rebounds in 16 minutes for the Liberty.
That loss to the Storm was just one of four defeats for the Liberty to round out the season as the New York side finished the season on a 13-game losing streak to finish just one win above bottom-placed Indiana in the final standings.
The Liberty started their week against Los Angeles, and despite drawing within one late in the final quarter, were unable to add a single point for the final three minutes as Los Angeles emerged as 74-66 victors. Allen played 11 minutes off the bench in the loss, registering two points and three rebounds as foul trouble hampered the Aussie wing.
Things failed to improve for a Liberty side riddled with injuries against Las Vegas, with the Aces jumping out to a 31-10 lead by the end of the first quarter to set up an 85-72 victory. Once again, Allen came off the bench, playing 25 minutes to tally five points and two rebounds.
Allen saved her best performance of the week for last though, dropping 15 points in 21 minutes as the Liberty faced Phoenix’s Aussie pairing of Steph Talbot and Leilani Mitchell, but more importantly, coach Sandy Brondello, who doubles as Opals coach. Although Phoenix picked up the 96-85 win, Allen shone in front of her national team coach, with Talbot also performing solidly to tally 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in 27 minutes of action. Mitchell played 18 minutes off the bench for the Mercury, tallying 8 points and burying a pair of three-pointers.
Earlier in the week, Phoenix had picked up an upset 105-94 win over second-placed Atlanta, which proved vital as it helped the Mercury to secure fifth spot in the standings and the easier of the two first-round playoff matchups. Talbot again started and played 27 minutes, but tallied just 2 points alongside 3 rebounds and 3 assists, whilst Mitchell was afforded just a minute of playing time in what turned out to be a vital win.
Attention now turns to the playoffs, with Talbot and Mitchell facing Cambage and George in a single-game first round matchup as Dallas take on Phoenix in a do-or-die game on Wednesday morning, with the winner to face either Connecticut or Washington in the second round depending on the result of the other first-round matchup between Los Angeles and Minnesota.
Seattle have a double-bye through to the semi-finals, but as the draw is reseeded after each round, it is impossible to know yet who the Storm are likely to face.