Entering the month of August, the Dallas Wings were one of a handful of WNBA teams competing for the final three playoff seeds. While Chicago, Las Vegas, Connecticut, Seattle and Washington all had records well above .500 and had either already clinched a playoff appearance or were on the cusp of doing so, the Wings still had plenty of work to do, sitting at 13-16 with little separation between themselves, Atlanta, Phoenix and New York.
One week and several huge wins later, the Wings have emerged from that pack as the clear favorite to clinch a spot in the playoffs, improving to 15-16 with five games remaining in their regular-season schedule. Dallas defeated the reigning WNBA champion and current No. 1 seed Chicago Sky on the road, 84-78, on Tuesday, then came home and took down the No. 2 seed Las Vegas Aces 82-80 two days later.
As if the level of competition wasn’t tough enough, the Wings also happened to be without their leading scorer and ball handler. Guard Arike Ogunbowale (19.9 points and 3.7 assists per game) has been dealing with an ankle injury and was ruled out in the hours leading up to Dallas’ game in Chicago, forcing the Wings to make big last-minute adjustments in her absence.
Chief among those adjustments: Get the ball to Teaira McCowan. The 6’7 center had already been heating up in prior games and was magnificent against Chicago and Las Vegas, totaling 41 points and 28 rebounds in the wins.
Dallas’ guard play deserves praise, too. Rookie Veronica Burton made her first-ever WNBA start against Chicago and played admirably, racking up eight points, nine assists and three steals in front of a supportive audience of her former coaches and fans at Northwestern.
Against the Aces, it was Tyasha Harris’ turn to impress. The third-year guard, who has spent most of the season competing with Burton for playing time, recorded an extremely efficient stat line, scoring 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting and recording six assists against just one turnover.
Granted, neither of the Wings’ wins over the WNBA’s top two seeds were flawless, but given that Dallas was down its two franchise cornerstones in Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally (ankle), they were nonetheless impressive. They also came at a crucial juncture in the Wings’ schedule; they have five games to go, and each will be against a team that’s currently beneath Dallas in the standings, giving the Wings a golden opportunity to officially clinch a spot in the playoffs, put some more distance between themselves and their competition and end their regular season on a high note all in one fell swoop. With Ogunbowale probable for Dallas’ upcoming game against the Indiana Fever, we’ll see if the Wings can keep it rolling and finish strong against teams that they — in theory — should beat.