The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 29, 2021
James Wade. (Screenshot via WNBA Media Central)
Anyone who thought we’d see a glide path to an Aces-Sun finals received a wake up call on Tuesday night. (Whereas my wakeup call came entirely too soon this morning, after staying up late — curse you, Pacific Standard Time!) It was… a Plum of a night.
Let’s look at a few items out of a pair of Game 1s that promise so much more in the days ahead.
That was as good as the Chicago Sky can play. This is no slight of them, but it’s worth noting that for everything that went right, from Triple-Double Courtney Vandersloot to a bench that shot 12-for-18 from the field and came up with key defensive plays all night, the collective sum of that meant… a double-OT thriller.
It’s not been flashy, but Diamond DeShields has been exactly what the Sky have needed her to be off the bench the past two games, shooting a combined 8-for-12, using her wingspan and defensive IQ to disrupt the opposition, and serving as a luxury item, a sports car off the bench.
Sylvia Fowles took two shots in the second half for Minnesota on Sunday. Jonquel Jones took just three shots in the fourth quarter for Connecticut on Tuesday. That’s not because Cheryl Reeve and Curt Miller don’t value or scheme for their stars. That’s just great interior defense from Chicago, a change one league insider described to me as a complete change in scheme in-season. It’s working.
My question isn’t whether Chicago’s peak can measure up to Connecticut. It’s whether the Sky can do it twice more in the next four games. Moreover, can they do it back-to-back to win this series at home, or failing that, in a Game 5 on the road? That’s a big ask. But I certainly have cleared my schedule to be at Mohegan for Game 5 on October 8. I suspect it will, in fact, be necessary.
Kelsey Plum scored 25 points on 17 shots, had one turnover all night, and simply kept on attacking. She was the best player on either team in a terrific nightcap between Phoenix and Las Vegas, and anything short of that probably means both road teams would have prevailed last night.
The Mercury-Aces series feels like it could come down to who recovers more quickly, Liz Cambage from COVID-19 — she’s back, but is still working up to cardiovascular health, playing just under 10 minutes last night — and Diana Taurasi, who is clearly willing herself past a significant ankle injury.
Last thing, unrelated, but it came in just as I was finishing this up: the NCAA announced it will be using March Madness branding for the women’s tournament as well (good) and then added this line in the press release: “Details of how the March Madness brand will be incorporated into the Division I women’s basketball tournament are still being developed.”
Sorry, what? If the answer is anything other than “exactly how the men use it”, I’d like to know what possible reason there is for that divergence.
Can you imagine being so dedicated to inequality that after taking the months-long loss, publicly, from the overdue attention on the gaps in treatment between the men’s and women’s tournaments, finally taking this long-overdue BARE MINIMUM step not with a splashy event, but a grudging, three-paragraph press release that made it clear A) there is no plan yet and B) They’re still looking for a way to give the women something else (and, based on all past practices, something less than) when they do it?
Well, you don’t have to imagine it. The NCAA is living it.
Give the women all the things that turned the men’s tournament into a cash cow and American institution. THIS ISN’T HARD. YOU’LL MAKE MORE MONEY, TOO. I’ll let you fill in all the obscenities implied here.