The WNBA regular season officially wrapped up this past Sunday, which means it’s time for the final WNBA Weekly Canadian Recap before the playoffs begin.
The top 8 teams advanced to the playoffs regardless of conference this year, and were given byes depending on their seeding. The top 2 teams received a bye all the way to the semifinals, while the 3rd and 4th seeds received a bye into the second round. The fifth through eight seeds will play a single elimination game in the first round to determine who survives and advances.
The two teams in the WNBA with Canadian content (the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury) have both advanced to the postseason, providing an abundance of Canadian storylines throughout the next couple of weeks.
Kia Nurse – G – Phoenix Mercury
The Phoenix Mercury were red hot in the month of September heading into this past week, but faltered in their final two regular season games against tough opponents. Canadian Kia Nurse has had an up-and-down year, but she managed to put together two great performances this past week despite the losses, giving her some much-needed positive momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Mercury’s first game of the week was on Thursday night in Seattle against the Storm, where a big first half deficit was too much to overcome. Personally, Nurse played a great game despite shooting 3/11 from the field. She had 13 points, 5 rebounds and an assist, and played tough defence against one of the best offensive teams in the league. Despite the low shooting percentages, it was encouraging to see Nurse get those opportunities within the flow of the offence, as she’s occasionally looked lost in the fold this year with all of the different weapons on the roster.
Phoenix returned to the hardwood on Sunday for their season finale against the #2 seed Las Vegas Aces, where they suffered a heartbreaking 1-point loss in a complete team effort. Nurse was outstanding, finishing with 14 points on a much improved 50% from the floor, to go with 2 rebounds. There may have been a worry that Nurse would shy away from her shot with the poor percentages a few nights prior, but the Canadian remained aggressive and the shots started to fall, which is a great sign heading into the postseason.
The Mercury finished 5th in the standings, and will take on the 8th seed New York Liberty in a single-elimination game on Thursday September 23rd. Nurse has started to turn things on since the Olympic break, and she’ll be must-see TV for any Canadian hoops fan later this week.
Bridget Carleton – F – Minnesota Lynx
The Minnesota Lynx have been one of the best teams in the league in the second half of the year, and the momentum continued all the way to the end of the schedule with a 2-0 record this past week. Things haven’t been as rosy from a Canadian focus though, as Bridget Carleton has struggled to find consistency this season in terms of both play and opportunity, and it was more of the same over the past two outings.
The Lynx defeated the Indiana Fever this past Friday night in dominant fashion, and Carleton played a solid game that went beyond the box score. The numbers weren’t the flashiest, and her 1/6 shooting clip was one she’d like to have back, but Carleton had 5 rebounds, an assist and a block off of the bench, all while providing a defensive spark.
Two nights later though, Carleton was unable to have the same overall impact, mostly due to a cut in minutes. The Canadian only played 14 minutes and took 1 shot, ending with 2 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals. It wasn’t a horrible performance by any stretch, but the inconsistent playing time seemed to have a noticeable impact.
The Lynx played great as a collective in their season finale win on Sunday, and will get some time to rest with their #3 ranking. Minnesota has a bye to the second round where they will play the lowest winning seed from the first round at home in a single elimination contest. For Carleton, the flashes of brilliance have been there all year, and the hope is that she will be given the opportunity to make a consistent impact off the bench this postseason, as the Lynx have all the talent needed to make a deep run to the title.
Natalie Achonwa – F – Minnesota Lynx
Canadian Natalie Achonwa has finally started to settle in over the past few weeks following an injury-riddled season, and she pitched in with some impressive performances off of the bench in the last two games of the year.
On Friday against Indiana, Achonwa scored a season-high 11 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished 3 assists in just 15 minutes, in what was undoubtedly her best game of the campaign. Achonwa was one of the most impactful players on the floor while she was out there, and that bodes well for her spot in the rotation moving forward.
Achonwa played well again two nights later, finishing with 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal to go along with great defence. She shot an efficient 2/3 in 13 minutes, adding to her recent high shooting percentages. In the final 7 games of the year, the Canadian forward shot 57% from the floor, which is incredible even with the smaller sample size.
Achonwa started the season as an end of the bench player, but she has solidified herself as a legitimate option on this team in the playoffs, and could surprise a lot of people when the Lynx take the court in the second-round next week.