The WNBA regular season is into its final month as we settle into September. With tensions rising and playoff races heating up, the most entertaining basketball is still yet to come this season, which is saying a lot considering the amount of unforgettable moments that have already transpired over the course of the summer.
In this week’s WNBA Weekly Canadian Recap, we will catch up on the three Canadians in the WNBA and their respective teams, who are both playing their best basketball at the right time.
Kia Nurse – G – Phoenix Mercury
The Phoenix Mercury have caught fire over the past month, and their positive momentum carried into this past week with 2 impressive victories that extended their winning streak to 8 games. For Kia Nurse specifically, she has struggled since the Olympic break offensively, but she found her offensive touch once again with two monster performances that reminded anyone who for some reason still doubted her, that she can be an elite player in the WNBA.
In the Mercury’s first game of the week on Tuesday evening, they took down the Chicago Sky with a big 103-83 win, and Nurse had one of the best games of her season. Nurse finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists on 8/13 shooting, including 4/6 from three. Her game was incredibly dynamic on both ends of the floor, and the offensive dominance reminded fans of past versions of Nurse that were the focal point in her team’s offence.
The Mercury headed back to the hardwood a few nights later on Saturday the 4th, and Nurse was on a mission to prove that her previous offensive statement was not just a one-off. Nurse ended the game with 14 points on 4/7 shooting, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in another blowout win for Phoenix, helping her team gain complete control early on. Due to the blowout, Nurse didn’t get as many minutes or take as many shot attempts in this one, so the fact that her numbers were able to remain impressive is a testament to just how good she was this past week.
The Mercury are on fire right now, and it seems as if the Canadian phenom Nurse is starting to follow suit. Canadians should be locked into Nurse and company going forward as they have locked up a playoff spot for this year’s postseason.
Bridget Carleton – F – Minnesota Lynx
The Minnesota Lynx continued their hot run of form with a few big results this week, finishing 3-0 with all three victories coming at home. Canadian Bridget Carleton has maintained her spot in the rotation all season long, and saw a minutes increase this past week where she was playing an average of 25 minutes per game.
The Lynx started things off with a 74-66 win over the New York Liberty this past Tuesday in a close affair that came down to the wire. Carleton played 29 minutes (a season-high) and finished with 5 points on 2/5 shooting as well as a rebound and an assist. The numbers weren’t outstanding for Carleton, but she played her part and helped the Lynx to an important victory.
The winning ways continued for Minnesota on Thursday, where the Lynx got a big win over the Sparks, 66-57. Carleton was given the start due to injuries in the lineup, and she finished with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in a well-balanced performance that ended with a positive result. The shooting numbers (1/5 from the field) were a bit disappointing for Carleton, but considering the sudden move to the starting lineup, she did well to adapt and made the small plays that don’t always show up on the box score, but make a big difference in terms of winning or losing a close ball game.
The Lynx closed out the perfect week with a blowout win over the Mystics on Saturday in a game where Carleton got her second straight start. The Canadian finished with 6 points on 2/6 shooting to go alongside 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. Her minutes were slightly down from the previous two games due to the larger margin in the scoreline, but it may have been her best performance of the week, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The starting minutes won’t last forever, but the opportunity to start has proven the amount of trust that the Lynx staff have in Carleton, and now that Minnesota has clinched a playoff berth, it will be very interesting to see how her role shapes out moving forward. Carleton has shown that she can be a valuable piece to this team’s puzzle, and the performances should only trend upwards with the more opportunities that come her way.
Natalie Achonwa – F – Minnesota Lynx
Natalie Achonwa had a big opening fall her way in the Lynx first game of the week against New York, getting her first start of the season due to several injuries in the rotation. Unfortunately for Achonwa, she got herself into foul trouble early on in the game, and only finished with 1 rebound in 13 minutes. It was a frustrating night for Achonwa who has shown in the past that she is capable of putting together quality performances at this level, but it was something she would have to put behind her quickly with the schedule ramping up.
Achonwa played 4 minutes a couple nights later against the Sparks, but was given another chance to shine on Saturday against the Mystics. Achonwa got 21 minutes off of the bench in that contest, scoring 2 points but grabbing 4 rebounds alongside 4 assists in what was a balanced and poised outing from the Canadian. The performance was much better than the one earlier on in the week, and will hopefully re-instill trust with the coaching staff moving forward that she can be a difference maker for this team late in the rotation.
Achonwa has had an up-and-down season with injuries and inconsistencies, but she will undoubtedly factor into Minnesota’s plans moving forward, and Canadian fans will be watching closely to see if she can make a big impact at the right time for the playoff-bound Lynx.