WNBA Tip-Off 2024: Wins for Aces, Liberty, Sun, Lynx, Wings, Dream

Photo Credit: Akiem Bailum

As opposed to previous seasons that saw our 12 teams play their first games over a weekend, the first games instead occurred over a couple of weekdays. In spite of the unbridled hype leading into the start of this season, the first couple of days appeared to be nothing more than a continuation of last season. 

After all – five of the six teams that would likely be considered favorites were the teams that pulled off wins to begin their seasons with 1-0 records. Of course, one game is not a synonym for a season and the WNBA is becoming more of a marathon and less of a sprint. 

The first contest on the 2024 schedule would see the New York Liberty make the short trip (by charter bus of all modes of transportation) south on Interstate 95 to take on the Washington Mystics. The Liberty also opened up 2023 against the Mystics at the DC Entertainment and Sports Arena – and it was a less-than-memorable affair if one’s favorite colors are seafoam, black and copper.

Tuesday evening’s contest was a bit more competitive than last season’s. On paper, one would not think that Washington would be able to match New York point for point but that is what the ‘Stics did with the Lib for much of the game. 

When all was said and done, the Liberty did open the season with a 1-0 record following an 85-80 victory over the Mystics. 

Jonquel Jones – who was the most consistent Liberty player in last season’s Finals against the Aces – got her 2024 regular season started in style with 25 points, eight rebounds and one block. Betnijah Laney-Hamilton chimed in with 20 points, four rebounds and two steals. 

Sabrina Ionescu contributed 15 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals to New York’s winning cause. 

The Mystics concluded the matchup with four players in double-digits in terms of points. Washington’s charge was led by Ariel Atkins who played over 34 minutes and scored 20 points, dished out three assists and collected three steals. It was a double-double for Brittany Sykes who tallied 14 points and hauled in 10 rebounds. 

Shakira Austin played just over 19 minutes and scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Stefanie Dolson also had herself an impressive game against her former team with 12 points and five rebounds. 

We mentioned the Aces a bit earlier…how did the back-to-back defending WNBA champions fare at home against the Phoenix Mercury at Michelob Ultra Arena? 

Between rings made for the two-time champions, a banner raised to the Michelob Ultra Arena rafters and the Belly intro, Las Vegas went big for its first contest of 2024 – one that drew a sellout crowd. 

The Aces were sans Chelsea Gray. The Mercury were sans Brittney Griner. Tuesday’s get-together had its moments where it appeared Las Vegas would pull away only to be met by Phoenix runs. 

Las Vegas still pulled off the 89-80 win over Phoenix to get into the win column for the first time in 2024. 

It may have only been the first game, but last year’s Finals MVP A’ja Wilson looked like someone who already has a 3-peat on her mind. The Mayor of South Carolina commenced her 2024 campaign with a 30-point, 13-rebound, five-assist, three-block, one-steal effort. 

Also integral in the Aces’ first win of the season was Jackie Young who played 36 of the game’s 40 minutes. She tallied 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out six assists and collected three steals. 

It was a 19-point, five assist contest for Kelsey Plum and Alysha Clark also brought down seven rebounds. 

The three-point shooting of Diana Taurasi painted the picture of a wily veteran who may have a few more years left in her. She made seven of her 11 attempts from behind the arc in addition to tallying 23 points. Kahleah Copper’s first game in Mercury purple and orange was productive with 19 points, four assists and four rebounds. 

As for Rebecca Allen, she added 14 points and seven rebounds to Phoenix’s cause and Natasha Cloud also contributed 14 to go alongside eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Of course, the most anticipated of the four Tuesday contests was the one at Mohegan Sun Arena. That was where the Connecticut Sun opened its 2024 season against the Indiana Fever. 

It was the WNBA regular season debut for Caitlin Clark while the Sun was looking to remind existing fans – and let the mass influx of new fans – know that it is one of the elite teams in the W. 

Connecticut did just that. The Sun defended its home court with the final tally being a 92-71 result. 

While a number of those new fans may have been watching to see how CC did in her first regular season game in a W uniform, those new fans may have been introduced to the name DeWanna Bonner. She played 28 minutes and tallied 20 points along with grabbing six rebounds. In addition, Bonner moved into fifth on the all-time WNBA scoring charts. 

One must not overlook DiJonai Carrington and her value to this Connecticut team. Sun coach Stephanie White played Carrington for nearly 31 minutes and she scored 16 points, hauled in five rebounds and collected two steals. Ty Harris also chimed in with 16 points. 

Alyssa Thomas, who was part of last year’s MVP conversation, lived up to her “Engine” nickname with another triple-double. She scored 13 points, dished out 13 assists and collected 10 rebounds. Rachel Banham also had herself a 10-point game. 

For the Fever, Clark opened her WNBA career with a 20-point game along with three assists and two steals. Many a basketball pundit is also making note of her 10 turnovers. NaLyssa Smith was one rebound shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine boards. 

With three favorites having won earlier in the day, all that was needed was for the Seattle Storm to defeat the Minnesota Lynx in that season opener at Climate Pledge Arena to complete what would be a quartet for favorites. 

The Storm were a favorite considering it was the first game of the team’s brand new, much-ballyhooed Big 3. But Cheryl Reeve’s Lynx teams over the years have made it a thing to spoil other teams’ parties and Tuesday was no different. 

Both Lynx and Storm were relatively close for three quarters until the final stanza where Minnesota outscored Seattle by a margin of 20-10. The Lynx would pull away to complete the 93-80 victory in the Emerald City. 

Three players for the Lynx finished with double digits on the scoreboard. Minnesota’s efforts were spearheaded by Alanna Smith. The five-year veteran forward for the Lynx concluded her evening with 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Napheesa Collier contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the season along with a pair of blocks.

Courtney Williams would see the court for nearly 29 minutes and finished with a 14-point, seven-assist, five-steal, five-rebound outing. 

Nneka Ogwumike had herself a stellar showing in her first time sporting Storm green. She was one rebound shy of a double-double with 20 points and nine boards. Ezi Magbegor reminded onlookers that the Storm’s Big 3 is actually a Core Four. She scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots as she was one board shy of a double-double. 

The additional help means Jewell Loyd will not have to do as much as she did last season. The Gold Mamba did conclude her evening with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds plus a pair of steals. As for Skylar Diggins-Smith, her first game sporting the Seattle green and would see her score 10 points and send out six assists in nearly 31 minutes in addition to two steals. 

With Tuesday’s four-game slate in the books, the four teams that were idle that day then had their first turn at the mic the following evening. 

Speaking of much-ballyhooed debuts, Wednesday would be the regular season debut of Angel Reese with her Chicago Sky. Given the proximity of the Metroplex to Louisiana, one had to expect that a large contingent of LSU fans would make the short drive to see their state’s favorite daughter take to the court. 

The contest was a sellout not only because of Reese but also because the Wings are once again expected to be contenders as they were last season. 

The Sky managed to give Dallas a game for much of its duration, but as often is the case in sports, battle-tested teams typically find ways to win over those looking for its identity. It was a 87-79 win for the Wings. 

As has often been the case throughout her basketball career, Arike Ogunbowale plays her best basketball in the second halves of games. She concluded Wednesday’s with 25 points, seven assists and three steals. It was also difficult for Chicago to contain Teaira McCowan as she posted a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds plus three blocks. 

Also with a double-double was Natasha Howard. Flash tallied 15, hauled in 13 and also added five dimes to her evening as well. Maddy Siegrist only played nearly 18 minutes but made the most of them. She scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds and also rejected three opponents’ shots. 

The Sky’s entire starting five would conclude Wednesday evening’s matchup in double figures for points. Marina Mabrey led Chicago’s efforts as she was one rebound from a double-double with 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. If Wednesday’s performance was indicative of what Chicago can expect from the returning Diamond DeShields, the Sky will be in the win column on more occasions than what is expected. DeShields, who spearheaded the Sky’s early offensive efforts, finished with 14 points and three steals. 

Reese overcome early struggles at the free throw line to put together a strong finish. Two rebounds shy of a double-double, she finished her evening with 12 points and eight rebounds. The same stat line also applied to Elizabeth Williams (12 points and eight rebounds). Dana Evans added 10 points, six assists and three rebounds to the Chicago cause.

Last but not least to open the 2024 schedule was the first matchup of the season featuring the Atlanta Dream and the Los Angeles Sparks. One distinct feature of this game was its location – the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State University. 

And while the facility still drew a full crowd by the standards of said building, plenty on Twitter felt weird watching the game as it appeared the lighting made it resemble a contest that was played outdoors. 

Nevertheless, the same applied to the Dream and Sparks as was the case with the Sky and Wings. Competitive throughout before the favorite pulled away late. Getting into the win column would be Atlanta with the scoreboard reading 92-81 at its conclusion. 

One can count on Rhyne Howard to consistently put up big numbers and that was the case once again on Wednesday night. She finished with 25 points, three rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Tina Charles’ comeback tour began in emphatic fashion that same night. Her first game back in the W since 2022 resulted in her contributing a double-double in a winning effort – 21 points plus 17 rebounds. 

Haley Jones gave the Dream over 24 productive minutes with 14 points and four assists and it was a 12-point, three-rebound night at the office for Allisha Gray. 

As for the Sparks, four of their players finished in double-digits pointswise. One of those was Kia Nurse as she led Los Angeles with 23 points in over 32 minutes of play. Also with a big game was Dearica Hamby. She contributed a double-double to the Sparks’ efforts with 20 points and 14 rebounds plus three assists. 

Cameron Brink had herself an impressive regular season debut in Sparks colors. She finished her evening with 11 points plus four assists. It may go a bit under the radar because of the result, but Los Angeles also benefitted from a triple-double of 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists (plus two steals) courtesy of Layshia Clarendon.