Let’s talk about basketball.
Over the weekend, the WNBL (Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League) played its Grand Final between the top-seed Southside Flyers and second-seed Townsville Fire. The Flyers won handily, 99-82, but not in the way most expected.
Liz Cambage, the WNBL’s leading scorer at 23.5 points per game, played just 15 minutes due to foul trouble, and scored 14 points. (For those super new here, Cambage is the 6’8 center who starred for the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, but sat the bubble season out.) Instead, it was her veteran teammate, Leilani Mitchell, who torched the Fire to win the championship and MVP honors.
In the final, Mitchell commanded her spot on the court and drained any shot she pleased. The 35-year-old scored 31 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, and 8-of-8 shooting from the free throw line. She had an answer to every Fire three, and got to the stripe with ease all game long. She also dished five assists to just one turnover, and despite standing 5-foot-5, snagged three rebounds. It was no surprise Mitchell was named Finals MVP, though her teammate, Rebecca Cole, put up a stellar 22-point performance on 10 shots.
Mitchell only averaged 11 points per game this WNBL season, but she’s one of those microwave guards where the second she hits a shot, you better swarm her or else there’s more coming quickly. WNBA fans know this well. She’s the only W player to ever win Most Improved Player of the Year twice (2010 and 2019), and at her peak, averaged 13 points per game for the Mercury on 43 percent shooting from deep.
Here’s how she beat the Fire.
Mitchell ran perfectly off screens
If you’re a short person who wants to be good at basketball, please watch how Mitchell plays. She’s only 5-foot-5, which is well below average for a pro. Her work as a technician is what allows her to overcome her height differential.
Look at how Mitchell runs her defender off of high screens. She’ll pace around the perimeter, make a single move, then rub shoulders with the screener. It’s the perfect way to create space for her jump shot, because the defender has no room to slip what’s coming.
Look at this spin and how it set up the perfect screen!
Mitchell got to the free throw line
Mitchell was stellar drawing fouls on drives through the lane. She weaved through defenders and threw her body into incoming traffic at the rim. She sunk all eight of the shots she took, which was key to the Flyers’ success.
Mitchell hit some absolute heat-checks
Yeah, once Mitchell caught fire, she knew it was her day. Watch her lull her defender off the dribble, then just step back and shoot right over her.
This was an all-timer from Mitchell. Congrats to the Flyers.
What does this mean for the WNBA?
Leilani Mitchell had nothing to prove. We knew she was a great point guard, distributor and shooter. It’s just another reminder of how stacked the Mystics are going to be in 2021 if they can retain their top talent this offseason, and if everyone decides to play. If Natasha Cloud is back … Mitchell will be her backup. Her backup!!!
The Storm and Aces could have another serious threat next year.
Have a nice holiday, everyone!