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WNBA Report Card: Connecticut Sun road worries threaten WNBA title aspirations

Huw Hopkins - @coach_huw

Friday 16 August 2019 09:16, UK

Jonquel Jones shows her concern during the Connecticut Sun's road loss to the Phoenix Mercury
Image: Jonquel Jones shows her concern during the Connecticut Sun's road loss to the Phoenix Mercury

What a week it has been in the 'W'! Between fights, buzzer beaters, and rookies breaking out (this Rookie of the Year race is becoming too close to call), there is a lot you might have missed in the WNBA this week.

This week's Report Card breaks down some of the most important moments, and some key grades, from around the league.

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Connecticut Sun - Grade B-

This Connecticut team is confusing. Seeing as we're grading teams, the Sun are like the pupil that does brilliantly in English but cannot be bothered when it comes to Maths!

This season, the team has won 11 games at home and only lost one, however, their form on the road is another story.

With just six wins and seven losses away from the Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut clearly need to secure the top seed for homecourt advantage throughout a possible postseason run to the finals.

Jasmine Thomas in action for Connecticut against Phoenix 1:42
Highlights of the Connecticut Sun's road loss to the Phoenix Mercury

This week, the team went on another multiple game losing streak as Jonquel Jones relinquished her grip on potential MVP candidacy, scoring just eight points in two straight losses. While she is still averaging a double-double for the season, the Sun clearly need Jones to shine in every game in order to stay at the top of the pack.

With the Washington Mystics now holding the top seed, Connecticut will need to be focused as they head into the home stretch of the regular season.

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Four of their last nine games are on the road, and one of their home games (against the Dallas Wings, live on Sky Sports Arena on Sunday at 8pm) is on the second night of a back-to-back, so it won't be easy for the team to claw their way back to the top of the standings.

But if they do, don't be surprised if a postseason run to the Finals then follows.

Dallas Wings - Grade C

The main reason for Dallas' low grade this week? The fact their new acquisition, rookie Kristine Anigwe, got into an on-court fight with Phoenix Mercury star Britney Griner. Anigwe and several of her team-mates were handed fines or suspensions by the league.

Phoenix Mercury players challenge Arike Ogunbowale's shot 1:49
Highlights of the Dallas Wings' fiery visit to the Phoenix Mercury

The story some people might have missed is that they beat the Mercury in that game by just three points.

Wings draft pick Arike Ogunbowale has been growing as a professional player and has put the team on her back in recent weeks - she scored 23 points with four assists and three rebounds in the 80-77 victory, Dallas' first road win of the season.

Arike Ogunbowale drives to the basket to score against the Los Angeles Sparks 2:00
Highlights of the Los Angeles Sparks' visit to the Dallas Wings

Just a few days later, the Wings took on the mighty Los Angeles Sparks, a team that has put together a good run in recent weeks. Again, Ogunbowale took the reins and poured in a career-high 35 points to beat one of the best teams in the league.

Let's be real. The Wings are not going to make the playoffs. The team is 8-17 and still has a tough stretch ahead of them - including Sunday's Sky Live clash with the Connecticut Sun. But Dallas could play the role of pest for the rest of the season.

Live WNBA: Dallas @ Connecticut

This team is rounding into a type of form, with the rotation of Imani McGee-Stafford and Isabelle Harrison working well. When Anigwe comes back that adds another talented rookie into the mix to run alongside Ogunbowale.

They could lose to the New York Liberty and beat the Minnesota Lynx to cause panic in the lower rung of the playoff ladder. They also face several teams at the top of the food chain that are battling for the top seed.

The Wings have already beaten the Sparks this week, they have Connecticut later, with the Washington Mystics coming up a few times over the next few weeks. The way Dallas are playing, this team could beat anyone. They have the potential to upset the playoff hopes of a number of teams.

Seattle Storm - Grade C+

Forget about how they were absolutely crushed by the Washington Mystics in their last game. The Seattle Storm are managing to stay comfortably above .500 - something nobody imagined could happen this season.

The credit goes to center Natasha Howard, point guard Jordin Canada and head coach Dan Hughes. He has had the Storm's role players working to the absolute best of their ability.

Alysha Clark handles the ball against the New York Liberty 1:21
Highlights of the Seattle Storm's road win over the New York Liberty

Seattle now sit at 14-12 after beating the New York Liberty and Dallas Wings with ease.

One player that has struggled, however, is Jewell Loyd. It might be continued struggles since returning from injury, or perhaps her role in the offense this season has changed, with Hughes having to build around Howard and Canada after losing two of the best players in the world to injury (Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart).

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If Loyd can get back on track in time for the playoffs, this is a team that could upset one or two contenders. They won't be heading to the Finals any time soon, but getting past their miserly defense, which allows a league-low 74.5 points per game, will be a tough task for any opponent.

Next week, the team has two tough opponents in Connecticut and Minnesota, but if Seattle can clamp them both down, you could see a Storm brewing as we reach the playoffs.

Washington Mystics - Grade A+

This is what the best team in the WNBA looks like: 18 wins, seven losses, a league-best (by more than six points per game) offense, the WNBA's second-leading scorer and MVP candidate, an excellent coaching staff and talent evaluation process, a number of on-floor coaches and championship-level talent. This is the Washington Mystics.

After another perfect week, the team from DC have now won four straight games and have lost just once in their last 10 outings.

Aerial Powers rises to score against the Seattle Storm 1:22
Highlights of the Seattle Storm's humbling visit to the Washington Mystics

In the past four games, Elena Delle Donne has averaged 20 points and seven rebounds, dominating opponents despite the Mystics being without second-leading scorer and point guard Kristi Toliver in two of those encounters.

This was not something the team was able to do last season. Certainly, when Delle Donne struggled in 2018, so did the team, and that is no different this year (the team has lost every game she hasn't played). But last year the supporting cast wasn't as strong.

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With Emma Meesseman returning since EuroBasket, there is a legitimate back-up to Delle Donne and someone who can keep the scoreboard ticking whether they are playing separately or alongside each other. The Belgian big is probably the best European player at present and offers the Mystics something they didn't have last year - someone to help Delle Donne take the next step.

Given where Washington finished last season (as runners-up in the Finals), that next step could be cemented their place as 2019 WNBA champions.

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