8 things to watch in today's WNBA semifinals (potential) closeout games
Will we have our Finals matchup by EOD?
Good morning. We’ve got two potential closeout semifinals games today. Hell yeah!
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First, here’s how to watch today’s games
Game 1: Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun at 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN (Sun lead, 2-1)
Game 2: Seattle Storm vs. Minnesota Lynx at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC (Storm lead, 2-0)
Now let’s talk about my 8 things to watch:
Alyssa Thomas wrecking shit with no shoulders
This is the story of the semifinals.
The tl;dr: Thomas tore labra in both shoulders in 2015 and 2017, forcing her to change her shooting form from left- to right-handed. She needs to have surgery at some point, but because she plays year-round overseas ball, and any team she plays for becomes a championship contender (because duh, she’s on it), she’s held off, and uhh just adjusted to very hurt shoulders?! She finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting this year.
Fast-forward to Game 2 of these semis. In the opening quarter, Thomas dislocated her right shoulder. She left the game to go to the hospital, and didn’t return. Forty-eight hours later (48!!!), she jersey’d up for Game 3, scored 23 points with 12 rebounds and four assists, and beat the top-seeded Aces. This is goat-level business (though I’d like to note that there is 0 shame if Thomas decides to sit out a game in the future, or if any other player sits due to injury.)
Will the injury catch up to her in Game 4? Or is her shoulder-pain tolerance just so absurdly high at this point that nothing matters. I know the answer to this tbh. Idk why I typed it.
How the Aces aim to free Kayla McBride from Briann January
To me, the Aces only win this series if they can get McBride open looks away from January, who’s hounded her all series. McBride’s scored just 19 points on 25 shots in three games after averaging 13 points on 43 percent shooting during the regular season.
Thomas and DeWanna Bonner are going to continue to lockdown Dearica Hamby and Angel McCoughtry, meaning A’ja Wilson will have to be nearly perfect again if she’s going to carry the Aces alone (as she did in Game 2.) The simpler solution may be for Laimbeer’s group to set more actions for their best shooter, and for McBride to take better advantage of January overplaying her. Hello, backdoor cuts.
Will Dearica Hamby play?
The surprise coming out from the Aces on Saturday was Hamby’s listing as questionable to play today due to a right knee injury. The details of her injury haven’t been discussed. Can it keep her from playing in a potential elimination game?
Will Bill Laimbeer will let his best players… play more?
If the Aces can’t pull this series out, fans have to question why Laimbeer hasn’t let his best players, uhhh…. play more! During the year, it made sense to limit Angel McCoughtry and Dearica Hamby’s minutes. Teams were playing three or more games per week, and the Aces were deep enough to sustain talent-drop-offs when either sat. But now it’s the freaking semis! Why is McCoughtry playing less than 25 minutes a game (and as low as 16 minutes in Game 1?) Why has Hamby played 26 or less minutes throughout? Neither have played well this series, but their replacements haven’t been better.
What fit Curt Miller wears
How many times can Matt put this in his newsletter? A helluva lot apparently. Fits are important.
Do the Lynx have an answer for Jewell Loyd?
Jewell Loyd is one of the most under-appreciated players of the 2020 season, and I wish there was an All-WNBA Third Team I could’ve voted to put her on, because she deserves some recognition. This season, she shot a career-high 44 percent from the field, and 39 percent from range, averaging 15.5 points per game.
She’s been even better in the semis. In two games against the Lynx, she’s scored 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting, including 8-of-11 from three-point range. She’s also grabbed 11 boards and dished eight assists. Loyd’s been super successful taking advantage of the spacing the Storm’s five-out lineups give her, and shooting off high pick-and-rolls. Ben Dull has an excellent video I suggest you watch.
Napheesa Collier’s defended Breanna Stewart well, but the rest of Minny’s defense has been lackluster. Can someone force a player not named Loyd to shoot, or at least close out on her better?
Will Napheesa Collier play (close to) 40 minutes?
Sylvia Fowles is, once again, listed as questionable, as she’s been in the last two games she didn’t play in. She probably won’t see the floor today either. That leaves the weight back on Collier’s shoulders, where it’s been all year, to carry Minnesota.
In Game 2, the Lynx played Collier just under 29 minutes due to foul trouble, and it may have cost them. In a potential closeout game, Minnesota needs to take risks and play Phee for as many minutes as she can handle. Seattle’s damn good, and Collier’s long wingspan has been the team’s biggest disruptor.
Will Stewie shoot the ball better?
Stewart’s shooting trailed off as the summer went on, and she finished the season averaging 45 percent shooting from the field, and 37 percent from distance. Compared to her MVP 2018 season, that’s eight percent worse from the field, and five percent worse from three-point range. Of course, that’s an entire Achilles tear ago, and she still deservingly finished runner-up MVP.
In the semis, her shooting woes have continued (though, to be clear, everything else she’s done has been pretty stellar.) She’s made just 11-of-33 shots overall, and 2-of-10 from distance. Collier’s really bothered Stewie down low, and she’s been off from deep. Can Game 3 get her back on track?
Let’s talk DraftKings:
Guards to pick
Odyssey Sims, Minnesota Lynx ($8,200) - Sims has stepped up for Minny offensively, and this is a reasonable price if she’s able to replicate her 30+ fantasy point scores over the last two games.
Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces ($7,400) - This is a low price for Young, who’s produced 24.25 and 24.75 points in her last two games. She’s strong enough to compete with the Sun’s forwards to score in the paint.
Kayla McBride, Las Vegas Aces ($6,800) - If you’re feeling like gambling hard, roll the dice with McBride, who I think is the x-factor for Vegas making it to a Game 5.
Guards to avoid
DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun ($10,600) - The Aces have mostly taken her out of this series, and she only scored 29 fantasy points in Game 3. Spend your money on a more reliable star.
Forwards to pick
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces ($11,900) - It’s win-or-go-home time. The MVP is going to get her shots off. I like Wilson over Stewart given the stakes for both teams.
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun ($10,400) - Have you been paying attention lol.
Angel McCoughtry, Las Vegas Aces ($7,900) - This has to be the game Laimbeer lets her play 30+ minutes, right? RIGHT?
Forwards to avoid
Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm ($8,700) - I simply don’t think it’s worth playing the mid-range money game in the semis. The stars will overproduce, and the middle-tier players will get less touches. Howard’s not a top scoring option for Seattle.
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