Good morning. There’s a lot to unpack today. I say we get right to it.
Will the Storm and Lynx play tonight???
The first game of the Storm-Lynx semifinals series is tentatively scheduled for tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. That’s two hours later than what was previously scheduled to be their Game 2.
For those just catching up, those teams were supposed to play Game 1 of their series on Sunday, but the game was postponed due to inconclusive Covid-19 tests (yes, plural). Very little information has been made public since.
On ABC, during when the game was supposed to be played, commissioner Cathy Engelbert only spoke to ESPN’s Holly Rowe. Remember, Rowe is the only member of the media inside the bubble. Engelbert didn’t reveal much in the interview aside from an anecdote about how she informed the Storm about the inconclusive tests while they were on the bus that was headed to the arena.
According to the league on Sunday, the players who tested inconclusive were isolated, and were tested again that day. Publicly, we don’t know the results of any of the tests. Around eight hours later, an email was sent to media about the rescheduling of Game 1 of the series from Sunday night to Tuesday night following the second game of the Aces-Sun series. That rescheduling, as Mechelle Voepel of ESPN notes, was not confirmation that a game was happening, but was instead a view on what would happen IF a game was happening.
On Monday, both the Lynx and Storm provided the injury report due to the league and media by 5 p.m. the night before a game (though Seattle’s report came out late.) The Storm’s report listed no injuries, but stated “Note: additional team COVID-19 testing results pending.” Later, the Storm announced the usual times and zoom conference links where head coach Gary Kloppenburg and his team would be made available pre- and post-game, as they would before any game.
What questions do we still have?
Are the Storm players ok?
Did all of the tests come back negative?
How many times did their tests come back negative?
Can the league say with absolute certainty that in this brief 48-hour period since tests were inconclusive that no player has the virus?
What happens if a player does test positive? Is there a protocol? (Fwiw, Bill Laimbeer did mention that postponements for inconclusive tests had been brought up by Engelbert four days prior. But what about the safety precautions?)
Are any other teams potentially exposed?
This list could go on. I’ll update you on Twitter (@mellentuck) when an update is made, or if I’m able to report anything. Reminder to anyone in the league who may be reading this that my DMs are open.
Next, here’s a quick reminder that Here’s Basketball is sponsored by Homefield Apparel, my fave college t-shirt and hoodie store. You can peep their merch using this link, and use the code below for a discount!
Now for the other series.
Can the Aces prevent embarrassment for a second game in a row?
The No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces got absolutely rocked by the No. 7 Connecticut Sun in Game 1, 87-62. The game wasn’t close after the first quarter. I’m at least mildly worried about the Aces for the following reasons:
The 6’2 point-forward for the Sun
The Sun player who tore her labrums
By far the biggest impact player for Connecticut was Alyssa Thomas, and that’s despite Jasmine Thomas going off for a game-high 31 points. In the postseason, Thomas is one of the WNBA’s biggest weapons because of her ability to guard any position, and completely take a player out of any game. Sunday’s victim was Dearica Hamby, the Sixth Woman of the Year for a second straight year, who scored just four points on six shots despite averaging 13 per game. She also averages seven rebounds and two assists. She logged none of either.
The Sun are such a tough matchup for Vegas because they have the personnel to stop the Aces from what they do best — running down the court and pounding the paint to score on the interior. Thomas took away Hamby’s strengths, and DeWanna Bonner had Angel McCoughtry’s number all afternoon, allowing her to score just six points on eight shots. The Sun opted to let A’ja Wilson try and beat them by herself, and though she scored 19 points, Vegas never came close.
Curt Miller was also smart in using the Aces’ glaring weakness against them. His team dared bad three-point shooting guards to knock down wide open shots after sagging their defenders off to help in the paint. Vegas shot just 1-of-14 from range despite open looks. That was the game.
So what does Bill Laimbeer, the brains behind an old-school style of hoops that still dominated teams in the regular season, do now? Will he find ways to spread the court better? Will he reduce minutes for his poorest shooters? Game-planning against Alyssa Thomas is never easy. I’m ready to see what the No. 1 seed has in mind.
Let’s talk DraftKings (assuming both games are played, and also yes, some of these notes are copied and pasted from the last newsletter since nothing has changed)
Guards to pick
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm ($8,000) - Bird’s going to play normal minutes because it’s the playoffs and she’s Sue Bird. Also, assuming Odyssey Sims sticks to Jewell Loyd, Bird will be going against a much smaller Crystal Dangerfield on offense.
Kayla McBride, Las Vegas Aces ($7,100) - McBride was a non-factor in Game 1, which is why her price dropped, but the Aces will need her to take advantage of the Sun’s focus on defending the paint. She could be in for a big game.
Guards to avoid
DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun ($10,700) - Bonner struggled for the third straight time against Vegas’s defense in Game 1. She’s averaged just 25 fantasy points per game against the Aces.
Crystal Dangerfield, Seattle Storm ($8,500) - Dangerfield played the Storm the first time in just her second game ever and she only logged 11 minutes. But in her second matchup, she scored 13 points without any assists. The Storm’s defense is bigger, stronger and just as quick.
Forwards to pick
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm ($12,000) - I think she’s the best player in the world, and I don’t think Minnesota has the personnel to stop her.
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun ($11,200) - Thomas is the machine that makes Connecticut go, and though Vegas will make adjustments, her defense will always make her a fantasy sports threat.
Alysha Clark, Seattle Storm ($8,400) - This is a great price for a player who’s had breakout games sporadically all year, yet remained solid throughout. She averaged 24 fantasy points against the Lynx this year.
Forwards to avoid
Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx ($10,900) - The Storm’s focus is going to be on containing Collier, and they have the talent to do it. She’s averaged just 26 fantasy points against Seattle this year, which is well below what you’d need from her at this price.
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If you have any leads, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter: @mellentuck. I miss doing this as a full-time job. All of my previous work can be found at SB Nation, where I worked for the past four years before being laid off due to the pandemic. I’ve also written for The New York Times twice this year, which you can read here and also here.