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Minnesota Lynx's Seimone Augustus, middle, celebrates with Renee Montgomery (21) and Natasha Howard (3) as the Lynx take an early lead against the Phoenix Mercury during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Wednesday, May 25, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
WNBA

WNBA Weekly Rundown: Lynx, Sparks continue making history

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

It seems like there’s been nothing else to talk about these days other than the dominance of the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks. There is, of course, but these two powerhouses are fully deserving of the spotlight.

Last week, the Lynx broke their own record for a best start in WNBA history, defeating the Indiana Fever and Seattle Storm to improve to an unprecedented 12-0. They continue to field a well-balanced attack that takes the usual pressure off Maya Moore (who has taken on more of a facilitator’s role; her five assists per game rank fourth in the WNBA) and put opponents away early, giving their bench the most time it’s seen in a long while. Including Moore, the Lynx have five players with a usage rate of 20 percent or higher, the most such players they’ve had since 2011, putting in perspective just how well-rounded they are.  

The Sparks, not to be outdone, also reached double-digit wins with victories over the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury. After setting a single-game record for most field goals attempted without a miss last week, Nneka Ogwumike set another one, this time for most field goals attempted without a miss over consecutive games. Her 23 straight made baskets shattered Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s previous league best of 15.

Meanwhile, Candace Parker stuffed the stat sheet, averaging 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game en route to the Western Conference Player of the Week award.

This sets the stage for what will be the biggest game of the season so far: the 12-0 Lynx will visit the 11-0 Sparks Tuesday afternoon, with history on the line. They are already off to the best and second-best ever starts, respectively, but only one of them will emerge with their record still spotless.

The game will feature the league’s two-best defenses and two-best offenses (and not surprisingly, its two best Net Ratings. Look at the distance between the Lynx and the third-place Liberty!), so it’s difficult to see on a team-based level who has the advantage over the other. One thing’s for sure: it’s the most highly anticipated game of the year so far, and it’s going to seem like there’s more on the line than just one win.

WNBA stars working overtime

Of course, there was plenty of other action around the league…more so than usual, in fact. This past week featured an abnormal number of overtime games (for such a small league, anyway), resulting in plenty of exciting, high-scoring affairs and in some cases, poor scheduling situations. The Atlanta Dream were victims of scheduling that was already unfavorable with a home/road back-to-back, and going into overtime against Chicago on Friday made Saturday’s game in Washington a tall order. The Dream lost to the Mystics by 30.

We also had a triple-overtime game on Saturday! The Dallas Wings were playing the Phoenix Mercury for the first time this season, and though most of the attention heading into the game was on how Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson would behave playing against each other, it turned into a nail-biting shootout, with the Wings erasing a late double-digit deficit and eventually taking the win after 55 grueling minutes of basketball.

There were four overtime games this week with a total of seven overtime periods. It’s by far the most extra basketball played in any one week this season.

Rookie Report

After struggling with her shot for the majority of the first month of the season, Stars point guard Moriah Jefferson has been scorching the nets like she did at UConn. This past week, Jefferson shot 54 percent in three games, averaging 15.7 points per contest. She’s adjusting to life in the pros extremely quickly (especially for a point guard), keeping her turnovers low (she’s turned the ball over three or more times in just two games so far) while drenching shot after shot from the perimeter: among players who have attempted at least 20 threes so far, Jefferson ranks third in third-point shooting percentage at 45.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Breanna Stewart had possibly her best week yet. She averaged 23 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the floor, and though the Storm lost all three of those games, it was no fault of Stewart’s. She blocked four shots against Dallas, pulled down 15 rebounds against San Antonio and went to the free throw line a total of 32 times. Stewart currently ranks ninth in the league in scoring (16.7 points per game) and third in rebounding (9.7 rebounds per game), and as we saw this week, the arrow on her potential is still pointed straight up.

Other Notes

Liberty veteran forward Swin Cash passed the 5,000=point milestone this week, becoming the 14th player in WNBA history to do so. Cash, who recently announced she’d be retiring after this season, did most of her scoring damage in her early years with the Detroit Shock, but was also a reliable enough scorer in Seattle. Since then, she’s become more of a complementary player, but her longevity speaks for itself with milestones like this one.

Several cuts were also made this week. The Liberty waived point guard Lindsey Harding, who was participating in the 2016 Olympic qualifier with Belarus. The Dream waived Avery Warley-Talbert, who was filling in for fellow post player Sancho Lyttle (who was also overseas, playing for Spain). The Fever and Mercury both cut third-string point guards, with Brene Moseley getting waived in Indy and Nirra Fields being released from Phoenix.

Top Performers

Tuesday

Emma Meesseman: 23 points (7-15 FG, 4-5 3FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists

Alex Bentley: 31 points (12-19 FG)

Kelsey Bone: 22 points (9-17 FG), 11 rebounds

Karima Christmas: 21 points (6-9 FG, 4-5 3FG

Courtney Paris: 13 points (6-10 FG), 10 rebounds (7 OREB)

Tina Charles: 28 points (10-19 FG, 3-4 3FG)

Dearica Hamby: 15 points (7-10 FG), 18 rebounds

Nneka Ogwumike: 27 points (12-14 FG), 12 rebounds, 4 assists

Thursday

Tina Charles: 32 points (13-25 FG), 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Breanna Stewart: 29 points (8-11 FG, 12-14 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 blocks

Friday

Elena Delle Donne: 26 points (11-22 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists

Elizabeth Williams: 20 points (7-16 FG), 9 rebounds, 3 blocks

Tamika Catchings: 23 points (8-11 FG), 4 assists, 5 steals

Candace Parker: 24 points (10-17 FG), 11 rebounds, 4 assists

Saturday

Tayler Hill: 15 points (6-7 FG, 2-3 3FG)

Skylar Diggins: 27 points (8-19 FG, 3-5 3FG, 8-8 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists

DeWanna Bonner: 38 points (12-23 FG, 4-8 3FG, 10-12 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 steals

Sunday

Kayla McBride: 25 points (9-13 FG, 5-7 3FG), 5 assists

Alex Bentley: 29 points (11-16 FG

Jasmine Thomas: 11 points (4-11 FG), 9 rebounds, 10 assists

Tina Charles: 26 points (9-21 FG), 15 rebounds, 6 assists

Breanna Stewart: 21 points (6-11 FG), 9 rebounds

WNBA Weekly Rundown: Lynx, Sparks continue making history

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