The WNBA’s 25th anniversary season is off to an exciting start.
The league’s silver anniversary year began with a pair of game-winning buzzer-beaters and the defending champion Seattle Storm picking up where they left off.
The fireworks got underway Friday night with New York edging Indiana on Sabrina Ionescu’s last-second 3-pointer. The No. 1 pick in 2020 scored the team’s final eight points to rally the Liberty past the Fever. An hour or so later Diana Taurasi hit a last-second shot of her own to lift Phoenix over Minnesota.
New York also beat Indiana on Sunday to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2016. The Liberty host Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Seattle had a much easier time with Las Vegas, routing the Aces on Saturday. The Storm handed out their championship rings and moved up to the top of the power poll this week.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Seattle (1-0): Sue Bird continues to play at a high level. The 40-year-old had 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the opener against the Aces.
2. Chicago (1-0): Candace Parker had a solid debut with her hometown team and helped the Sky win easily against Washington. The Sky played stellar defense, holding the Mystics to just 56 points.
3. Las Vegas (0-1): Coach Bill Laimbeer knew it might be a rough start for the Aces this season with such a different team than last year’s WNBA Finals runner-up. It will take a bit for Liz Cambage, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray to get used to playing alongside each other and A’ja Wilson.
4. Connecticut (2-0): Coach Curt Miller is thrilled to have Jonquel Jones back after she opted out last year. The Sun looked impressive in wins over Atlanta and Phoenix. They’ll get Jasmine Thomas back this week as she’s cleared COVID-19 protocols.
5. Phoenix (1-0): The Mercury has a solid trio with Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The continued development of Brianna Turner and Kia Nurse may determine how far Phoenix goes this season.
6. Minnesota (0-1): The Lynx are still waiting to get Napheesa Collier in the lineup after she arrived late after playing overseas. Collier is going through COVID-19 protocols and needs six negative tests before she’d be allowed to play.
7. Washington (0-1): The Mystics are eagerly awaiting the return of Elena Delle Donne, who is still recovering from offseason back surgery. There’s no immediate timetable for her debut.
8. Dallas (1-0): A solid rookie debut for No. 1 pick Charli Collier with 11 points and 10 rebounds helped the Wings rout Los Angeles 94-71 in the opener. The Wings will also be able to add the No. 2 pick in the draft — Awak Kuier — to the lineup as soon as she’s done with her overseas season.
9. New York (2-0): Free agent pickup Betnijah Laney is a huge reason that the Liberty are 2-0 for the first time since 2016. New York only won two games all of last year. Laney averaged 25 points in the two victories this weekend.
10. Los Angeles (0-1): It’s going to take some time for the Sparks to get used to new lineups and rotations with only three players returning from last season. It was a rough opening night on both ends of the court against Dallas. The Sparks allowed the Wings to shoot 53% from the field and were only 36% from the floor themselves.
11. Atlanta (0-1): Foul trouble hampered the Dream in their opening loss. Something to keep an eye on: If Atlanta puts Chennedy Carter, Aari McDonald, Courtney Williams and Odyssey Sims on the court at the same time.
12. Indiana (0-2): The Fever were one play away from potentially splitting the opening weekend with New York, but instead are winless to start the season. Teaira McCowan showed she can dominant in the opener.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Breanna Stewart earned player of the week honors after helping Seattle win its opener over Las Vegas. She had 28 points and 13 rebounds. Other players receiving votes included Laney of New York, DeWanna Bonner of Connecticut and Kahleah Copper of Chicago.
GETTING THE CALL
Former WNBA stars Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September as part of the 2021 class. They will be joined by the first WNBA President Val Ackerman. Jackson was a three-time league MVP and Griffith won the award once. Ackerman, who is currently the Big East commissioner, was instrumental in getting the WNBA started.
REALIZING HER AGE
Sue Bird had to pause for a minute last week when second-year player Kiki Herbert Harrigan, who is 22, told the veteran Seattle point guard that she and her mom shared the same birthday.
“I found out today that my new teammate, Kiki, her mom is my age! We have the same birthday,” Bird said in a media session. “Like, she’s 40 the same way I’m 40. She was like, ‘Oh no worries, she’s a young mom.’ I’m like, ‘She’s a mom! To my teammate!’”
Herbert Harrigan “was like, ‘She’s excited to meet you.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, she probably wants to, like, hang out and get drinks.’ We’re the same age! That blew my mind.”
GAME OF THE WEEK
Sun-Mercury, Friday. DeWanna Bonner returns to Phoenix as a visitor for the first time after playing the first nine years of her WNBA career with the Mercury. Bonner, who arrived in Connecticut as a free agent last season, had 27 points in the Sun’s win over Phoenix on Sunday.
Source: AP News