Aces and Sky clinch spots in Commissioner’s Cup title game
Las Vegas and Chicago will meet in the second annual Commissioner’s Cup championship game next month.
The in-season title game will be played at the home of the team with the better record — which right now is Las Vegas. The Aces failed to clinch the home game, blowing a record 28-point lead against Chicago on Tuesday night. The teams have split their two meetings this season.
The second tie-breaker is point differential in cup games, and the Aces are up 32 points on Chicago in that stat with two games to play.
Seattle won the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup last season with the championship game played in Phoenix on a neutral court.
The WNBA added a charitable component to the competition this year with teams earning money for each win they get in the 10 conference games they play.
“It’s great that they’ve added that this year,” Chicago forward Candace Parker said. “It adds a new wrinkle and any time you can make money for a charity it’s great.”
Players will once again compete for a $500,000 prize pool in the title game, with each member of the winning team getting $30,000 and the runner-ups earning $10,000 per player.
“I do love that there’s extra incentive for the players,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said earlier this month. “Anytime the league can throw a little bit of extra cash the players’ way, I’m all for it.”
Hammon’s Aces also still lead the AP WNBA power poll.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Las Vegas (13-2): The Aces have won four straight and lately have been getting dominating efforts from A’ja Wilson. She averaged 25 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 blocks last week.
2. Connecticut (12-5): The Sun are getting strong play off the bench from Brionna Jones, who is averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds.
3. Chicago (10-5): Parker has missed the past two games with a knee injury and the Sky will play three games this week.
4. Washington (11-7): When Elena Delle Donne is on the court the Mystics have been one of the best teams in the league going 8-3. Without her in the lineup the team is just 3-4 and struggles offensively. Delle Donne has been taking games off to rest after missing last season following back surgery.
5. Seattle (10-6): The Storm finished their road trip 4-1 and got solid play from Gabby Williams, who will be key to their success this season if she continues to take some of the scoring pressure off Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.
6. Dallas (8-8): Arike Ogunbowale lately has lifted her game, averaging 25.5 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists to help the Wings win two of three.
7. Phoenix (6-10): A great week by Tina Charles, who averaged 25 points, wasn’t enough to get the Mercury more than one victory as they lost two of three games. Phoenix will need consistently strong efforts from Charles, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi to get on a winning streak with three games this week.
8. Atlanta (7-8): A tough road trip left the Dream winless in their last four games, but now they return home to try and get on a roll again.
9. New York (6-10): The Liberty have gotten a huge boost from French guard Marine Johannes. Her play has taken some of the scoring pressure off Sabrina Ionescu. Johannes had a career-high 23 points in a loss to Seattle on Sunday. New York plays two road games this week, one in Connecticut and another at Atlanta.
10. Los Angeles (5-9): After a light week with just one game, the Sparks will have three contests this week. With the practice time they’ve had the Sparks hope they have corrected their defensive woes. The Sparks are second to last in the league allowing 87.6 points a game.
11. Indiana (5-13): The Fever are set to embark on a four-game trip; Indiana is just 2-6 on the road this season.
12. Minnesota (3-13): The Lynx have lost five straight games but they have been competitive. They suffered a 1-point loss to Las Vegas and a 2-point setback against Seattle. Jessica Shepard has been a bright spot for Minnesota, which is still without Sylvia Fowles (knee injury).
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas was voted the AP Player of the Week. Wilson shot 61% from the field last week as well as making all 15 of her free throw attempts and four 3-pointers. Ogunbowale of Dallas, Kahleah Copper of Chicago, Jonquel Jones of Connecticut and Stewart of Seattle also received votes.
SO LONG SUE
Sue Bird announced last week that she’ll retire after the season ends. She played her last regular-season game in New York on Sunday and now returns home to Seattle for the first time after the Storm finished off a five-game road trip. Bird played her entire 21-year career in Seattle.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Mystics at Aces, Saturday. Washington handed Las Vegas one of two losses this season and the Aces will look to avenge that defeat.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer