Inside The W With Michelle Smith: Second-Half Team Updates

Kayla McBride had a moment, heading into the Olympic break, where she got emotional talking about the contributions she was making to a Lynx team that really needed her in that moment.
The Lynx are quickly ascending the WNBA standings at 13-8 with 11 games to go in the regular season, sitting currently in the No. 4 position thanks to an eight-game win streak that ended Tuesday night with a loss at Connecticut.
McBride, the veteran shooting guard, signed with the Lynx as a free agent in the offseason after three seasons in Las Vegas and four in San Antonio before the franchise relocated.
She broke down talking about feeling that she was finally contributing in the way she had hoped.
Through the last seven games, McBride has averaged 17.4 points a game, and dropped 19 3-pointers, and is shooting 93.9 percent from the free-throw line for the season.
McBride’s backcourt partnership with mid-season signee Layshia Clarendon has changed the trajectory of the season in Minnesota after an 0-4 start and a series of injuries that left head coach Cheryl Reeve scrambling with lineups. Clarendon is averaging 10.0 points and 5.2 assists per game in taking over the point guard duties.
What has been consistent has been the play of Sylvia Fowles inside, Fowles having yet another dominant season in a career that’s been full of them. Fowles is averaging 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, the latter ranking her third in the league behind Mystics’ star Tina Charles.
In the home stretch, the Lynx has six home games, including a four-game homestand that will give them the opportunity to push the top 3 teams or hold their own spot for a first-round playoff bye after three straight seasons in the single-elimination rounds after last winning a title in 2017.
Injury impacts
A pair of ankle injuries on Tuesday night couldn’t have come at a worse time for Phoenix and Chicago, a pair of teams looking to build momentum and improve their playoff position in the stretch run.
Skylar Diggins-Smith is questionable for Thursday night’s game against Washington with a right ankle sprain sustained Tuesday against the Fever. That is tough news for a Mercury team that is over .500 for the first time since early June with a record of 11-10 after they pulled out the win against Indiana despite the Diggins-Smith injury thanks to a combined 47 points from Brittney Griner (25) and Diana Taurasi (22). Phoenix hosts Washington on Thursday night before a grueling stretch of six of seven on the road.
In the meantime, the Chicago Sky lost to the Dallas Wings with Candace Parker on the sidelines with her left ankle (and both knees) encased in ice. It is the same ankle that Parker sprained earlier this season, causing her to miss eight games.
The Sky don’t have that kind of time, just 2 games out of the No. 4 playoff spot with just 10 games to go. Chicago will play Minnesota at home on Saturday before embarking on a tough – and potentially defining – a five-game road trip that will take them to Atlanta, Seattle (for two games), Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
“It’s not as much swelling as before, so it makes us feel pretty optimistic about it.” said Sky coach James Wade on Wednesday.regarding Parker’s injury.
Time for a Spark?
The Los Angeles Sparks have come out of the Olympic break with two wins, a health(ier) roster, and hope that they can use the 11 games they have remaining to make a move in the standings and avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011. L.A. is just two games out of the No. 8 playoff spot.
Despite a brief injury scare Tuesday, Nneka Ogwumike’s return has been extremely welcoming, as has veteran guard Kristi Toliver. Toliver sent Tuesday’s game to overtime and scored a key basket in overtime against Atlanta. Ogwumike, meanwhile finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists – coming close to the triple-double.
A run of 17 straight wins at the Staples Center dating back to the 2019 season is a confidence boost for L.A., but after hosting Atlanta again on Thursday, the Sparks will not experience the comfort of home again for a while, with a six-game road trip to New York, Washington, Connecticut (2 games), Indiana and Minnesota before they return on September 9 with just four regular-season games to go.
Los Angeles is 2-6 on the road this season and hoping that the return of their two vets will change their fortunes on every level.

Who’s jet-lagged?
Neither Seattle’s Jewell Loyd nor Las Vegas’ Kelsey Plum looks remotely affected by the demands of their Olympic experience in Tokyo. Loyd’s return has included a 26-point effort against Chicago on Sunday, followed up by a 35-point performance on Wednesday against New York. The Storm lost both games, however, providing that while Loyd is undeniably a go-to offensive talent, she needs some help.
Plum, meanwhile, continues to surge for Las Vegas. Plum, who was the leading scorer for the U.S. 3×3 team that won gold in Tokyo, put up 24 points to go with five assists off the bench against Washington on Tuesday and is averaging 16.5 points a game in her last six games as Vegas took over the top position in the league standings and are on a three-game winning streak.
Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.