The Dallas Wings made it to the playoffs this season, when many predicted they would not.
Tomorrow, they take on the Chicago Sky in the first round of the WNBA playoffs – a single-elimination game. Against Chicago in the regular season, the Wings won the season series, 2-1.
Vickie Johnson is in her first year as Dallas’ coach, and led them to a 14-18 record. However, over the last month, they went 3-3. Johnson has done a decent job, but often changed lineups too many times, and none of the rookies in their highly-acclaimed draft class saw much playing time. But apparently, Johnson did enough things right to make a difference, as the team is in the postseason for the first time since 2018.
The Sky come into the playoffs after an up and down season that saw them finish 16-16, which doesn’t reflect the caliber of team that they are. They have tons of playoff experience, with former Los Angeles Spark star forward Candace Parker on the roster. They also have the potent, and highly-productive backcourt of Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper, Allie Quigley, Diamond DeShields, as well as other key reserves.
It will be a tall order for the young Wings to win this game, but this is how they can do it:
Arike Ogunbowale Must Be Efficient
Arike Ogunbowale averaged 18.7 points per game this season, but the explosive guard shot just 38 percent from the field. She is a volume scorer, so she usually takes a lot of shots to get her points. Against Chicago, Ogunbowale must be more efficient and look to get her teammates involved early. If that happens, it will help open up the floor for her, and she could see a lot of single coverage. In the three games against the Sky, Ogunbowale averaged 18.3 points per game.
Dallas led the WNBA in bench scoring this season, and that depth is one of their strengths. Marina Mabrey, Isabelle Harrison, and Satou Sabally have each shown up big in games throughout the summer. But the lineup that Johnson chooses will make a difference.
Mabrey averaged 13.3 points per game this year, and they will need her to play well to beat the Sky. Harrison and Sabally both average double-digit numbers off the bench, as well. If the Wings bench can get 25-30 points, they could win this game.
Dallas is one of the best rebounding teams in the WNBA, and lead the league in the offensive board category, at 10.1 per game. Offensive rebound equals second-chance points, so controlling the boards will be key. The Wings have the size inside to control the paint, but it will be no easy task with Parker there. They do a great job rebounding as a team, with five players averaging at least 4.2 boards per game. Against Chicago, they will need to grab every rebound they can.
This matchup could be a close one if Ogunbowale and the bench get going, and Dallas assaults the boards. As much as I want Dallas to win this game, the Sky should pull this game out in a nail-biter. But if Ogunbowale can get as hot as she has at some points of the season, all bets are off.