On Thursday night, the Washington Mystics jumped out to an early lead and cruised past the Los Angeles Sparks, 89-71, for their second straight win. Tina Charles played a leading role, going for 20 points and 10 rebounds in another strong outing this season.
In the process, Charles recorded the 158th double-double of her career, and moved past Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie into second place on the all-time list. Charles is now just 11 double-doubles behind Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles for the most in WNBA history.
There were a lot of questions about Charles heading into this season. Her tenure with the Liberty ended on a rough note, as the team missed the playoffs in each of her final two seasons, and she turned in the worst season of her career in 2019. And because she sat out of the bubble in 2020, that was the last time we had seen her on a court.
So far, however, Charles has had every answer. Apparently all she needed was a little time off and a change of scenery. Now nearly a month into the season, Charles is putting up 25.2 points per game, which leads the league by a wide margin, and is nearly four points better than her previous career-high. Even more impressive, Charles is currently on pace to become just the second player in WNBA history to average over 25 points per game, the other being Diana Taurasi in 2006.
1. Seattle Storm (8-2) -- Last week No. 1
The Storm have to be glad they're done playing the Wings this season. They've only had four games decided by single digits so far, and three of them were against the young Dallas squad. This week, the two teams traded game winners, as Jewell Loyd hit one of the best shots of the season, before Arike Ogunbowale ended the Storm's six-game winning streak.
2. Connecticut Sun (8-2) -- Last week No. 2
It was an easy week for the Sun, as they crushed the Liberty in their only game thanks to another brilliant outing from Jonquel Jones, who put up 31 points and 13 rebounds. Unfortunately for Connecticut, it will be the last game Jones plays for a while. She's heading overseas to compete in EuroBasket 2021 with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and will be temporarily suspended. She'll be gone until at least June 22, but possibly until June 29.
3. Las Vegas Aces (7-3) -- Last week No. 3
The Aces refuse to bow to the league-wide trends of perimeter play and 3-point shooting. They score a league-low 15.4 percent of their points from 3-point land, and are one of only two teams that score more from the mid-range than from 3. And yet, they have the best offensive rating (107) in the league by nearly two points per 100 possessions.
4. Phoenix Mercury (5-4) -- Last week No. 5
Only one game for the Mercury this week, which they lost to the Wings despite a valiant comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. That outing summed up their current situation pretty well. Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner are awesome and will keep them in most games, but without Diana Taurasi they have a much smaller margin for error.
5. Minnesota Lynx (3-5) -- Last week No. 8
Things still aren't perfect for the Lynx, as their 21-turnover loss to the Mystics earlier this week showed, but they're starting to look more like the team everyone was expecting prior to the season. After an 0-4 start, they've won three of their last four, and have the best offensive rating in June even though Napheesa Collier hasn't played super well yet.
6. Chicago Sky (3-7) -- Last week No. 7
The good news for the Sky is that Candace Parker is back from her ankle injury -- though she didn't play very well at all in her return -- and they finally snapped a seven-game losing streak. The bad news is that because of their poor start, which was largely due to injuries and absences, they're stuck in 11th place and have a big hole to climb out of with a third of the season gone.
7. Washington Mystics (4-5) -- Last week No. 11
After a rough start to the season, which was pretty understandable given all the talent they're missing, the Mystics are starting to settle in. They're 3-2 in their last five games, and those losses were by five points to the Sun and three points to the Aces. Ariel Atkins has really picked it up after a slow start herself, and is averaging 21.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and three assists over those five games on 50.7/47.1/85.0 shooting splits.
8. Dallas Wings (4-5) -- Last week No. 10
Three more nail-biters for the Wings this week, who are just obsessed with playing close games. They've played nine games now, and seven of them have been decided by seven points or less, which is really bordering on remarkable at this point. The good news is the results are starting to turn in the Wings' favor, and they've won three of four, including a thriller over the Storm on Arikie Ogunbowale's game winner.
9. Atlanta Dream (4-5) -- Last week No. 4
The Dream's last few games are exactly why there was some hesitancy about reading too much into their 4-2 start. Chennedy Carter is still hurt, Courtney Williams has cooled off from 3-point land, the competition increased and suddenly they've lost three in a row, including the last two by 20-plus points.
10. New York Liberty (5-4) -- Last week No. 6
Through some sort of scheduling quirk, the Liberty have still only played two games in the month of June, and neither of them have gone very well. Overall they've lost three in a row, and have dropped into a tie for fourth place at 5-4. Turnovers have been a key issue throughout the season for the Liberty, who are averaging 17.3 per game. In the last decade, only three teams have averaged 17 turnovers a game, and one of them was the Liberty last season.
11. Los Angeles Sparks (4-4) -- Last week No. 9
The Sparks got crushed by the Mystics on Thursday night, which means the pattern still holds. They're 4-0 against the Sky and the Fever, and 0-4 against everyone else -- with all of those losses coming by double digits. Wins are wins, but it's just hard to trust them as an actual playoff-quality team when they have the worst offense in the league.
12. Indiana Fever (1-10) -- Last week No. 12
The Fever only played once this week, and it was another double-digit loss in which they trailed the entire game. They've now lost six games in a row, all by double digits, and are in last place at 1-10. At this point they're in danger of matching their disastrous 2018 season, when they started out 1-16.