Semifinals Catch-Up: Where do all four teams stand?

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From Alyssa Thomas proving you only need one shoulder for basketball to mysterious inconclusive COVID-19 tests, there are a lot of storylines to follow right now in the WNBA. Here is a quick rundown of where each semifinals series stands, the major headlines for each team, and a finals match-up prediction.

No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. No. 7 Connecticut Sun

Connecticut leads the series 2-1. If they win on Sunday, the Sun will advance to the WNBA Finals for the second year in a row. 

Game One Recap

The Sun dominated Game One of this match-up from the jump. Connecticut secured a double-digit lead in the second quarter and Vegas was never able to catch-up. The Sun went on to win by a commanding 25 points, 87-62.

The Thomas’ were a key duo in the win for Connecticut. Jasmine Thomas led all scorers with a playoff career-high 31 points (13-18), while Alyssa Thomas tallied an impressive stat line of 18 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals. As a team, the Sun shot 50 percent from the field, which is the second-best field goal percentage in team history (.520 in 2000).

On the Aces side, MVP A’ja Wilson led her squad with 19 points and nine rebounds. Jackie Young was the only other double-digit scorer for Vegas with 17 points. The Aces shot just 33.8 percent from the field in the loss.

Game Two Recap

Tied at 75 with under a minute to play in Game Two, the Aces went on an 8-0 run to even the series with an 83-75 win. 

Despite AT exiting the game in the first quarter with a dislocated shoulder, Connecticut stayed with Vegas up until the final minutes of the match-up. The contest was tied 20 times and there were 14 lead changes.

Wilson tallied 29 points, seven rebounds, and a career-high seven blocks in the win. Angel McCoughtry, Kayla McBride, and Dearica Hamby added 11 points each to even the scoring attack.

DeWanna Bonner led the Sun with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Briann January tallied 20 points. Jasmine Thomas and Brionna Jones added 10 points each. 

Game Three Recap

Remember when I mentioned that AT dislocated her shoulder? Yeah… she played in Game Three. Two days later. 

Correction: she dominated Game Three.

AT started and played almost the entire contest, leading the Sun to a 77-68 victory with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. In the closing minutes of the game, Connecticut went on a 20-4 run, propelled by eight AT points, to capture the win.

“It’s just something I’ve dealt with throughout my career. I’ve found a way to adapt, to change my game, to still be able to impact the game,” AT said postgame on her injury. “I want a championship in the worst way, and the way we’re playing right now, our defense, this team’s special. It’s gonna take a lot to have me sit out.”

Jones (15 pts & 10 rebs) and Bonner (12 pts & 10 rebs) also tallied double-doubles for Connecticut in the win.

Wilson led the Aces with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while McCoughtry tallied 14 points and seven rebounds. 

Vegas committed 15 turnovers in Game Three, while Connecticut had just four.

Major Headlines for Las Vegas

Justin Carter wrote a great article earlier this season on whether the Aces can win championships without shooting threes. As Justin puts it, “as long as they keep making the ones they do shoot, you can’t count them out”. Connecticut has one of the best defenses in the league. They are going to force Vegas into situations where they need to shoot from deep. If Vegas can convert on those situations, they will take back this series.

The Aces are the top-seeded team in the league because of the league MVP. In order for Vegas to win Sunday and then Game Five, Wilson needs to be at the top of her game. She’s going to be the target of Curt Miller’s defense, but that hasn’t stopped her from excelling before.  

Major Headlines for Connecticut

AT played light outs last game despite her injury, but I am not sure how long she can keep that level of playing going. The longer Thomas goes without properly resting and treating her injury, the more likely it will start to slow her down. 

All season long, we talked about how players other than AT and Bonner need to step up for Connecticut to be successful. Though Jones, January, and JT have done a fantastic job in the playoffs, I am curious to see how much momentum they have in them. Can they play at an elite level once again to survive another match-up against the best team in the league? 

Series Prediction

Despite what the Connecticut Sun franchise is telling me, I still believe Vegas is the best team in the league. I’m going to go with Vegas in 5. Connecticut struggled to finish games this season and I am not sure they can finish this series.

 

No. 2 Seattle Storm vs. No. 4 Minnesota Lynx

Seattle leads the series 2-0. Like Vegas, Minnesota needs to win Sunday to stay in the playoffs.

Game One Recap

Game One of this series, which was originally scheduled for last Sunday, was postponed when three Storm players had inconclusive COVID-19 tests. Additional testing was conducted and all three players were found to be negative. Game One was rescheduled for Tuesday night, which would have been Game Two.

The behind-the-scenes craziness was topped by the on-court craziness. At the buzzer, Seattle’s Alysha Clark banged a shot to clinch Game One, 88-86.

”The last 48 hours have been pretty stressful and exhausting. not knowing what to expect, confused about everything,”’ Clark said postgame. “Honestly, there’s no other way this game would have ended after the last 48 hours have been.”

All five of Seattle’s starters scored in double-digits. Jewell Loyd led the team with 25 points, followed by Breanna Stewart who recorded 21 points and 10 rebounds. Clark (12 pts), Sue Bird (11), and Natasha Howard (10) rounded out the double-figure scorers. 

Napheesa Collier led the Minnesota squad with 25 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks. Odyssey Sims tallied 19 points, while Bridget Carleton and Damiris Dantas added 14 and 11 points, respectively. 

Game Two Recap

Loyd shined in Game Two of this semifinal series to put Seattle up 2-0 over Minnesota. 

In the 89-79 win Thursday night, Loyd recorded her second straight 20+ point game with 20 points off 60 percent shooting. She also added five rebounds and four assists.

Stewart contributed a near triple-double with 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Clark had 13 points and five rebounds, while Howard had 11 points and seven rebounds. 

Dantas led Minnesota with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Sims added 18 points and five rebounds. Despite the loss, Minnesota had just nine turnovers in the game. 

Major Headline for Seattle

Seattle has been the Finals’ favorite all season long. They are really, really good. Not only do they have greats like Bird and Stewart, but every player on their bench is excellent. In Game Two, Seattle’s bench contributed 21 points. They are a deep team and anyone Gary Kloppenburg puts on the court, the Storm have a good chance to dominate. 

Major Headlines for Minnesota

2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield has scored just 14 points in the semifinals after averaging 16.2 points per game during the regular season. If the Lynx want to avoid being swept, they need to find ways for Dangerfield to get the ball in her hands. She was a key factor to Minnesota’s success this season and will continue to be an important piece now as the Lynx look to avoid going home Sunday.

Two-time WNBA Champion Sylvia Fowles has had a rough 2020 season. She has played in just seven games in the Wubble due to a lingering calf injury. Is she healthy enough to play again this season? With Lexie Brown out for the season with injury, the Lynx need another contributor to match the Storm’s deep bench.

Series Prediction

I have Seattle in four. Cheryl Reeve isn’t going to let her team get swept, but I don’t think they have enough depth to make a comeback in this series.

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