By: Jeffrey Newholm
Sunday all 12 WNBA teams played in a 10 hour marathon of hoops to help tip-off the women’s hoops season. The showcase game pitted defending champion Minnesota with two time defending finalist LA. The Minnesota Lynx seemed to assume the Sparks would be easily dfeated seeing as L.A. was missing Candace Parker due to a back injury and also several other key players. Perhaps this is why the Lynx were careless with the ball, turning it over 24 times. But Chelsea Gray proved again what happens to people who assume:
Sparks coach Brian Agler stated that “I hate people who make excuses”, and Gray didn’t need one as she replicated her shot that bounced the Lynx in game one of last year’s finals. Agler clearly recognized the value of the opener, at one point calling a foul call “pitiful!” The Lynx again must face an awful feeling of deja vu as their last game in the Target Center before a yearlong remodeling was also a last-minute loss to the Sparks.
Also of low quality was the debut performance of the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces fell 65-101 to the Connecticut Sun, making for a difficult first game for #1 draft pick A’ja Wilson. The Sun, by contrast, made a statement that their 21-13 2017 campaign was no fluke. Later Sunday afternoon Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics made a first step towards the franchise’s first finals berth with a 82-75 win over Indiana. It was surprisingly difficult after a 35 point win over the same Fever in the preseason. Myisha Hines-Allen even admitted to High Post Hoops that leading into the game, “you probably think it’s going to be easy and it’s not, you have to fight until the end of it”. Turns out WNBA pros are no different than any other athletes in their humanity.
Perhaps the most impressive opening performance was the Dallas Wings’ 101-78 triumph over a supposedly greatly improved Atlanta squad. Skylar Diggins-Smith led the team in what she twice called “a total team performance”:
After the Sparks edged the Lynx, first round picks Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams helped Chicago edge underwomaned New York. Deshields had a very strong WNBA debut after playing in Turkey after graduation…
…and is already a plausible rookie of the year candidate. Behind the suddenly veteran Allie Quickly the Sky are pleasantly out to a 2-0 start and win the first game at downtown Wintrust Arena. In Sunday’s finale, the Phoenix Mercury held on to defeat Seattle 87-82. Phoenix sprints a second lap closer to a coveted top two seed, while Seattle must settle for another in a long line of moral victories.
The Sparks and Lynx clearly played at a methodical champion’s pace and will be very difficult to defeat this season. But the Sky and Wings gave the league notice that new blood will circulate the league’s body. The Mercury and Sun appear to be legitimate challengers for the two double-byes. But while 11 other teams dream of rings, the Lynx already have theirs. They may offer little solace at night, however, as images of Gray’s winning shots replay in the champions’ heads.