WNBA Notebook: Saying farewell to two legends as regular season wraps up

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, left, Minnesota Lynx centre Sylvia Fowles, center, and Storm guard Briann January are honored before a WNBA basketball game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Minneapolis. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

Sunday marks the final day of play for the 2022 WNBA regular season, but there are still teams in the hunt for a playoff spot going down to the wire.

Saying goodbye to legends, watching MVP-calibre performances and watching teams fight for a postseason berth have been just some of the highlights of the league recently.

Saying goodbye to Sylvia and Sue

It’s not just any two players retiring after this season, but Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird are two WNBA legends who have etched their names into history books and will forever have changed the game for the better.

The two faced off one last time in a regular season clash on Friday night as the Seattle Storm dominated the Minnesota Lynx 96-69, but more than just a night to say goodbye to the greatest, it showed exactly why they are known as such.

The season has been highlighted by the farewell of the Storm guard, but Bird had a quiet night among a talented Seattle roster, while Fowles tallied a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds, which is nothing new to the Lynx centre.

Fowles set a WNBA record with her 158th career double-double back in 2019, and has continued to rack them up ever since, now sitting at 192.

She also became the Lynx’s all-time leader for career rebounds with 2,162, surpassing Rebekkah Brunson’s previous record of 2,159.

In her 15-year WNBA career, leaving the game as the league’s career leader in field-goal percentage, rebounds and double-doubles, Fowles is pushing for one final goal of helping the Lynx clinch a playoff spot.

A’ja Wilson wants another MVP

The WNBA titles seems like it is the Las Vegas Aces’ to lose, and for good reason.

After Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum recorded 20-point plus performances in back-to-back games to launch the Aces to the number one seed in the standings, the argument for Wilson’s MVP candidacy got louder.

Her ability to stretch her range, control possessions and be a dual-threat has allowed her teammates to perform to the same high performance levels she has, including leading the league in double-doubles, blocks per game and efficiency per 40 minutes.

On top of that, she sits second in rebounds per game and fifth in points per game in the league as the Aces won the commissioner’s cup and now have 25 wins, the most single-season wins in franchise history.

The 2020 MVP took her team to the WNBA Finals but fell to a talented Seattle squad, but this time around, Wilson wants to run it back with a different ending to the story. 

Injury woes impacting playoff teams

There’s never a good time for an injury, but if there’s ever a bad time, it’s going into the playoffs and losing key players like Arike Ogunbowale and Dearica Hamby is detrimental for teams.

The 2019 and 2020 Sixth Woman of the Year will miss two to four weeks with a knee injury.

A crucial part of the Aces rotation, Hamby is averaging 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season as the red-hot Aces remain one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league.

As for the 2021 WNBA All-Star MVP, Ogunbowale is out through at least the first round of the playoffs with a hip injury.

Ogunbowale is tied for third in the league in scoring averaging 19.7 points per game, while adding in 3.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. 

The Wings, however, are another deep team who have clinched the sixth spot in the playoffs, and will be looking to beat the Connecticut Sun and meet back with Ogunbowale in the second round. 

Four teams remain in the playoff hunt

While six teams have already clinched their playoff spots in the standings, four teams remain in the hunt for the two final spots heading into the final day of action.

Phoenix and New York are both one game ahead of Minnesota and Atlanta, but if they somehow all finish the season 15-21, the tiebreak rule will be enforced to determine which teams will actually nab the spots.

The Mercury take on the second seed Chicago Sky for their final matchup of the regular season, who, as it now sits, they would have to face in the first round of the playoffs.

New York takes on the Atlanta Dream who are also in the playoff hunt, though New York currently owns a 2-1 edge in their season series. Otherwise, Minnesota and Phoenix both own their series against New York.

Minnesota has to play the Sun, but own the tiebreaker against every other playoff team in the hunt and could clinch the eighth seed if New York happens to lose.

The Dream only own the tiebreak over the Mercury, but if they lose their matchup to the Liberty, they are officially eliminated from the hunt.

Of course all four teams are trying their hardest to win, but if Minnesota can win they essentially control their own destiny despite starting the season 3-13, as long as Phoenix and New York also lose.

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