With the end of the regular season around the corner, the playoff picture is starting to take shape with three teams securing a playoff berth so far. The Wings are playing their best basketball of the season. But tough tests are ahead on their schedule. While there are no guarantees in this league, Dallas has worked its way back into the playoff race and has a chance at the post season. Let’s look at how they have gotten back into this race.
Arike Ogunbowale has been locked in since the All-Star break and she has this team playing its best basketball all season. Ogunbowale leads the league in scoring at 22.6 points per game for the month of August. She is shooting 45 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point range. The Wings are 4-4 in their 8 games since the break and sit only four games shy of the 8 seed with 7 games left in the regular season.
She is one of the top two candidates for the Rookie of the Year award and has led this team to nearly as many wins through 8 games as they won in 19 games before the All-Star break. Their level of play as of late, led by Ogunbowale, has put them in position to possibly make the playoffs for the third year in a row.
With her impressive performances as of late, the league has taken notice and on Monday she was awarded the Western Conference Player of the Week.
Congrats to @De11eDonne and the rook @Arike_O on earning this week’s #PlayerOfTheWeek 👏
Elena now has six Player Of The Week honors 💯 pic.twitter.com/nkLwgimhpj
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 19, 2019
Her coach is even more impressed with Arike than the rest of the league is. Brian Agler had some strong words in support for his rookie.
“I have said it and I will keep saying it: she is as good as of a rookie as I have seen come into this league,” said the two-time champion head coach after last Friday’s game. ” My analytics are the eye test. I have been in this league longer than anybody else that’s in the league right now. I have been doing this since 96, so I have to draw on my experience and what I have seen, and I am telling you she is as good a player that has come into the league that I have seen in a long, long time. There are very few others that come in and have done the things that she has right off the bat, and with a lot of things not going in her favor.”
Other players stepping up
As Ogunbowale has impressed, her teammates have stepped up their game as well. On the night Ogunbowale got her career-high, teammate Glory Johnson scored a season-high 20 points in the victory over the LA Sparks. In Dallas’s game this past Friday night, Allisha Gray notched a career-high in points with twenty-two in the win against the New York Liberty.
Gray followed that career-night with that same point total on Sunday against the Connecticut Sun. Isabelle Harrison logged her first double-double of the season against the Sun with 11 points and 13 rebounds. It’s the sixth double-double of her career and her first of the season. After getting some much needed rest during the All-Star break, the team has come back rejuvenated and clicking better than before. For the Wings to have a serious chance to claim a playoff spot this season, they need to do what they struggle most often to do: be consistent.
The Playoff Race
There are four teams fighting for the last two playoff spots: the Phoenix Mercury, the Minnesota Lynx, the Indiana Fever and the Dallas Wings.
Less than a handful of games separates all these team and their season are on the line. The Mercury are currently the seven seed and have the easiest road of the four teams fighting for a playoff spot. Their opponents win percentage down the stretch is .481. Phoenix plays less than half of their final seven games against conference opponents, against whom they have a 5-8 record. More importantly, they play more than half of them at home where they are currently 9-4 this season. However, five of the seven games for Phoenix are against playoff teams.
The Lynx have the next easiest road to a playoff spot with their opponents win percentage at .518 and three of their next games are at home where they’re 7-6 this season. Four of the six games left for Minnesota are against playoff teams and three games against conference opponents where they’re just 4-8 vs the West.
The Fever have the second worst chance to make the playoff with their opponents win percentage at .548. They play two of their final seven games at home. The Fever are the only team fighting for a playoff spot with a losing home record at 5-9.
Last but not least, Dallas is the team with the most difficult path to the playoffs. Their opponents winning percentage sitting at .555 and they play only two of their last seven games at home. They’ll have to do something they haven’t done just once this season: win on the road. Five of their last seven are against non conference opponents where they’re just 4-9 on the year. Dallas has an 8-6 home record. But its two final home games are against the defending WNBA Champion Seattle Storm and the top title contenders this season, the Washington Mystics.
Whether the Wings shock the world and burst into the WNBA playoffs or they fall short, they have to be pleased with the amount of potential they saw in this team this year. Dallas can see the opportunity to contend for a title for years to come. The Wings have gotten better with every game this season and have a clear direction heading into next year with all the youth on the roster.
Getting to the playoffs would be a HUGE step in the right direction for the Wings for next season and their future. For now, we’ll see if things go in their favor for this season in their final push to make the playoffs.