WNBA Power Rankings: Mystics surge back into top spot; Liz Cambage has important weekend for Aces
Cambage wrote a moving essay in the Players' Tribune about her battle with anxiety and depression
When the Las Vegas Aces traded for Liz Cambage in the offseason, it was for moments like the fourth quarter on Sunday. The Australian center put up 10 of her game-high 21 points in the final frame to help her squad take down the Connecticut Sun, one of the other top teams in the league. She added 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the Aces' 89-81 win that improved their record to 16-9 on the season, and kept them right in the race for a top-two seed.
The essay Cambage published in the Players' Tribune a few hours before the game may have been more important, however. Sunday's contest was her second game back after sitting out their game against the Wings and the conclusion of their earthquake-interrupted game against the Mystics. Las Vegas announced the absence as rest, and there was no reason to question that reasoning. It seemed like a perfect time in the schedule to get their star some much-needed rest, especially after All-Star Weekend, which was in Vegas.
However, Cambage revealed that the real reason she sat out was an anxiety attack she suffered at the Staples Center following the team's loss to the Sparks. The aftermath, which included re-starting medication, left her bedridden for up to 18 hours a day. While it would have been perfectly understandable to keep an event like that private, Cambage wanted to tell her story in an effort to help further the discussion about mental health in not only sports, but society in general.
And even beyond the W — even beyond sports: Isn't mental healthcare just elemental? Isn't it one of those things where we should just decide that every person needs access to it, and then….. find a way?Every school, every workplace, every sporting program, just — everyone. Everyone should have a mental health professional. It's a doctor! Do you know what I mean? It's literally a physio for your brain.
It's treating someone as a human being.
As Cambage herself noted, her story isn't likely to result in any immediate structural changes in the way the WNBA or the country addresses mental health. Still, it was brave of her to share what she went through, and will help others -- especially young people -- to realize they aren't alone in dealing with mental health problems.
1. Washington Mystics (17-7) -- last week No. 2
The Mystics just keep cruising along and are back in first place ahead of the Sun. They've won three in a row now and eight of their last nine contests. Most impressive is that all three of their wins this week, and five during said streak, have come by double digits. Their offense continues to just be outrageous, and if they even play halfway decent on the defensive end, it's really tough to beat them.
2. Los Angeles Sparks (15-8) -- last week No. 4
The Sparks continued their post-All-Star break surge by picking up two more wins this week to extend their unbeaten streak to five games. They did so with a huge comeback win over the Sky on Sunday, rallying from a 16-point deficit. After a slow start to the season, L.A. has now lost only once in the last month, and has vaulted into third place in the standings, just 1 1/2 games out of first place.
3. Las Vegas Aces (16-9) -- last week No. 3
The Aces have not been great lately, which perhaps shouldn't be much of a surprise considering they're still without A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage has been struggling with her mental health, as she detailed in an essay in the Players' Tribune. They took a surprising loss at home to the Sky early in the week, but bounced back with a much-needed victory over the Sun on Sunday evening. But even as they battle through a difficult stretch, they're still just 1 1/2 games out of first.
4. Connecticut Sun (16-8) -- last week No. 1
Tough week for the Sun, who saw their seven-game winning streak snapped in humiliating fashion during a 32-point loss to the Lynx. They then continued their road trip in Las Vegas, losing a close one to the Aces to fall to 16-8 on the season, and into second place in the standings. With the race for a top-two seed heating up, they'll need to get back to their winning ways soon and not allow themselves to spiral like they have in the past.
5. Chicago Sky (12-9) -- last week No. 5
The Sky submitted another solid week, and were extremely close to making it an absolutely perfect one. They took down the Liberty, went on the road to beat the Aces, and had a 16-point lead on the Sparks on Sunday, but couldn't quite hold on down the stretch. Still, they've won seven out of nine and are in great shape in fifth place at 14-10. One cause for concern moving forward is the status of veteran forward Jantel Lavender, who was in a walking boot on Sunday and is out indefinitely.
6. Seattle Storm (14-11) -- last week No. 7
This has been a roller coaster of a season for the Storm, and they're back on an upswing after two wins this week. Those victories were over the Wings and Liberty, but they beat the teams they're supposed to beat, which is all that you can ask considering the stars they're missing. Alysha Clark, who finished with a season-high 21 points in their win on Sunday, deserves a lot of credit for helping to hold this team together.
7. Minnesota Lynx (12-12) -- last week No. 9
Minnesota got blown out by the high-powered Mystics on Sunday afternoon, but it was still a strong week for the Lynx. That's because they snapped their four-game losing streak with a win over the Dream, then walloped the Sun by 32 points. Plus, Seimone Augustus returned from injury, has helped improve their inconsistent offense and moved into 10th place on the all-time scoring list in the process.
8. Indiana Fever (9-16) -- last week No. 8
The Fever started off the week by losing to the Mystics, which wasn't a surprise, but bounced back to take down the Dream and have now won three of their last four games. They're converting some of their strong performances into wins recently, which is a good sign even if they dug themselves too big of a hole to climb back into playoff position.
9. Phoenix Mercury (11-12) -- last week No. 6
This is just not the Mercury's season. They closed out last week with a blowout win over the Mystics, then closed out this week by losing to the Wings in a game that saw Brittney Griner and. Now on a two-game losing streak, the Mercury are back under .500 at 11-12, and things may get even worse if Griner ends up facing any sort of suspension for her role in Saturday's fracas.
10. New York Liberty (8-15) -- last week No. 10
If the current standings hold, and the Liberty end up falling a few games short of the playoffs, they'll look back at the past few weeks as the major reason why. As teams above them struggled, the Liberty collapsed. With two more losses this week, they've now dropped five in a row, and eight of their last nine games. More concerning is that six of their losses have been by at least nine points.
11. Dallas Wings (7-17) -- last week No. 11
The Wings picked up their first road win of the season on Saturday, and did so in bizarre fashion over the Mercury in a game that saw six players ejected after a near brawl between Brittney Griner and Kristine Anigwe. That it took until mid-August to get their first win away from home, however, tells you pretty much all you need to know about their season.
12. Atlanta Dream (5-19) -- last week No. 12
Two more defeats this week have the Dream's season-long losing streak at nine games now. Still stuck in last place, they've shown no signs of breaking out of that spot, and at this point look to be in danger of finishing with single-digit victories for just the second time in franchise history.
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