The game of the year is tonight — Morgan Shaw Parker talks Atlanta Dream — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 8, 2021
I know sometimes games get overhyped.
But I think there’s a good chance, when we look back at tonight’s game between Minnesota and Las Vegas, we’re talking about it as the game that decided the 2021 WNBA champion.
Allow me to elaborate.
Entering Wednesday, we’re looking at a pretty clear path for Connecticut to earn the number one seed. This is hugely important, as the Sun themselves well know from 2019 — Game 5 of the WNBA Finals would be played in Connecticut, should the Sun advance to it, as opposed to 2019, when it was held in DC, and the Mystics prevailed.
Still, that’s the one advantage having the 1 seed in the current WNBA format holds over the 2 seed. Both are guaranteed double byes into the semis.
But the difference between 2 and 3? Well. The 2 seed has that double bye. The 3 seed will play the lowest team to advance from a the 5/8 and 6/7 playoff games in a one-off.
Put another way, the reward for finishing third is facing a team that has a shooting guard come out and hit nine threes or has Diana Taurasi and you don’t and suddenly, a wonderful season disappears in a puff of smoke.
These are not hypotheticals.
Moreover, there are, legitimately, six teams that can beat anyone on a given day in the WNBA this year. There’s Connecticut, of course, Minnesota and Las Vegas, but also Seattle, the defending champs, a Phoenix team that has been elite when fully healthy, and a Chicago team that will be powered by Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot.
Do you really feel confident that seeding will prevail in any of those matchups?
Entering Wednesday night, the Aces have the advantage, one in the loss column, sitting at 20-8 to Minnesota’s 18-9. So a Lynx win evens the two teams with nine losses apiece, and Minnesota already holds the tiebreaker, having won games against the Aces twice earlier this year.
But after that, Las Vegas has a difficult schedule, home against a Dallas team fighting for playoff position, then away to Chicago and Phoenix. Minnesota faces the Fever three times and finishes with the Mystics, who could, if out of the playoff race by then, elect to rest players with injury concerns like Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles.
While Liz Cambage remains out as she recovers from COVID-19, Las Vegas should get Dearica Hamby back, and both rosters are stocked with talent. It’s easy to see either one make a significant playoff run, and while the Sun have beaten them both a collective five of six times, the playoffs are still a few weeks away, and present form is no guarantee of future success.
We could also be talking about, if form holds, a preview of the WNBA semis themselves. And if you’re not eagerly anticipating a playoff series between Bill Laimbeer and Cheryl Reeve full of strategy, adjusting and countering, psychological warfare and motivation techniques, well, I might suggest to you that you don’t know how to live life to the fullest.
This week in women’s basketball
Jackie Powell has a fresh look at what the stakes are over the rest of the WNBA regular season.
Damichael Cole gets you caught up on the Philly perspective in women’s basketball.
Interesting look at how Marc Lore views the Minnesota Lynx, his newest investment.
My latest at FiveThirtyEight, on the lockdown defense we’ve seen this year from Curt Miller and the Connecticut Sun.
Mystics get Tina Charles back, but it’s not enough in loss at Minnesota.
Jenn Hatfield is must-read on Natasha Cloud.
As is Michelle Smith on Skylar Diggins-Smith (no relation).
Really fun oral history at The Athletic of the W at 25.
I SEE YOU EMOJI, ALYSSA THOMAS.
Tweet (thread) of the week
Five at The IX: Atlanta Dream president, COO Morgan Shaw Parker
Shaw Parker met with us via Zoom this afternoon. Here’s what she had to say, along with Larry Gottesdiender, Owner and Chairman, and Renee Montgomery, Owner and Vice President (full disclosure — Renee is also an Advisory Board member at The IX.)
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