Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 17: Fowles out indefinitely

With Sylvia Fowles out, who steps up for Minnesota?

The Minnesota Lynx have been one of the best teams in the league this year, sitting comfortably in the No. 3 spot if the playoffs started today. Unfortunately for the squad, their leading scorer and defensive anchor, Sylvia Fowles, is out indefinitely with a right calf strain.

Five teams—Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Chicago, and Phoenix— are all competing for two spots, the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the playoffs. The reasoning is obvious: these spots likely prevent a team from seeing the juggernaut Seattle Storm until the Finals. So it’s safe to say that losing Fowles, even for a few games, is a disastrous result for the Lynx.

Right as the Lynx returned one All-Star in Odyssey Sims, another one goes down. In Fowles’ place, Napheesa Collier will have to be the focal point of Minnesota’s offense and take on a greater scoring role.

Forward Damiris Dantas will also have to step up in Fowles’ absence and has to continue to shoot the three-ball effectively if the team wants to hold onto a higher seed in the postseason.

If you want to talk about teams that are really struggling, look no further than the Washington Mystics, who have dropped seven straight games since their 3-0 start. Yes, seven games. After blowing out the Seattle Storm. Nothing about Washington makes any sense.

The Mystics hope that sharpshooter Stella Johnson can be a sparkplug off the bench. Washington’s bench production has been a major deficiency this season, and they’ll take all the help they can get, even from an untested rookie. Mystics fans just need one win at this point.

Washington head coach Mike Thibault isn’t ready to call this a lost season, but Washington is a team that plans long-term, so he isn’t afraid to look into the future.

“I don’t mean to sound like it’s not important to make the playoffs,” he said. “It is, but at the same time, there’s a reality that somebody [outside the team] better grasp besides me … about where we are. We are trying to develop players that are playing brand-new roles, and so hopefully over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will get better at that and it will put us in playoff position.”

Thibault also mentioned that this season will help determine how Myisha Hines-Allen, Kiara Leslie, and Tianna Hawkins fit into Washington’s big picture moving forward. (Please keep Hines-Allen in the rotation next season, Mike).

Over on the Phoenix Mercury, it looks like Brittney Griner is back in All-WNBA form. While Griner always shows up with blocks in the box score, her innate ability to control the Mercury’s interior defense and deter guards from driving inside adds a unique element to Phoenix’s game.

“That’s my favorite part of the game, is blocking shots,” Griner said. “It’s something that I hadn’t been doing very well.”

If we’re being honest, Griner could average two blocks per game in her sleep. The center is averaging a career-low 2.2 blocks per game, which is still, by the way, good enough to lead the league.

The Los Angeles Sparks have been one of the hottest teams in the WNBA over the past week, and their bench is largely to thank for it. Despite the absence of Kristi Tolliver and Chiney Ogwumike this year, Reshanda Gray, Te’ a Cooper, and Kristine Anigwe have all provided the depth that Los Angeles needs to make a deep postseason run.

“For good teams, it’s important to have some depth,” head coach Derek Fisher said. “We tend to focus on the star players and the big names, but I do believe those complementary role players make all the difference in the world.”

Los Angeles’ defense has also anchored the team over its recent win streak. No team in the league has forced more turnovers than the Sparks this season, and their ability to turn these mistakes into easy transition buckets has made a world of a difference.

During their winning streak, the Sparks have held opponents to 40.9 percent shooting from the floor, compared to 45.9 percent in their first six games. The Sparks are getting in a groove, trust each other on defense, and could be a threat to make the finals moving forward.

The Dallas Wings could turn their season around after yesterday’s win over the Phoenix Mercury, but still have some growing pains to work out with their young roster. No one expects the WIngs to make it far in the playoffs, but this season is about developing their core into something special.

This all starts with figuring out how to properly utilize Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale is a phenomenal (albeit erratic) scorer who can generate offense in flashes for the Wings. She is a spotty shooter and a high-volume, take-shots-ask-questions-later type of scorer, which is normal for a young player but not necessarily sustainable moving forward.

Thankfully, having a player who can make tough shots and generate her own offense is the most valuable commodity in the WNBA, and as a result, Dallas has secured one of its centerpieces for the future.

Dallas is also hoping its rookie tandem of Bella Alarie and Ty Harris can round out its future as complementary pieces to Ogunbowale and No. 2 pick Satou Sabally. The pair, who are both signed to Under Armour, are excited to showcase the brand which has generally held a smaller share of the WNBA market.

“UA has not been on the scene really for WNBA and to kind of be like one of the first women to rep and support UA in the WNBA is cool,” Harris said. “We call ourselves the female Steph Currys of the brand.”

Make sure you read the pair’s enlightening interview with The Next’s Dorothy Gentry.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the New York Liberty look different without Sabrina Ionescu off the court. Okay, now that we’re past this it’s time to talk about the Liberty’s exciting and healthy rookie scorer, Jazmine Jones.

New York doesn’t have a high-octane offense, but Jones is doing everything she can to lift this team out of the basement. Jones is the team’s energizer, never tiring and never shying away from a bucket. The internal motivation that Jones has picked up the team around her, and as a result, New York has stuck around in a lot of games that they have no business competing in.

“I don’t know if I’ve been around a player that gives so much of herself, that being her energy, to her teammates,” Kolb said. “No matter how the game is going, Jaz is either giving herself to her teammates when she is off the floor and on the bench or through on-court production and when both of those line up, it’s usually a special night for her.”

Sunday’s Games

The Dallas Wings shocked the Phoenix Mercury 95-89 thanks to a pair of college teammates, Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, who combined to score 50.

The Chicago Sky trounced the Atlanta Dream 92-67, giving Atlanta its eighth straight loss as the team looks hopeless without Chennedy Carter.

The Seattle Storm defeated the Connecticut Sun 95-72, forcing us to ask, yet again, whether this team will ever lose a game in the regular season or playoffs.

Play of the Weekend

Sami Whitcomb and the Seattle Storm are so disrespectful.

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