Still waiting on their best player to return, the winless Dallas Wings could also be without their top rookie Thursday night when they open a three-game homestand versus the Indiana Fever.
All-Star guard Skylar Diggins has yet to play for the Wings (0-4) after giving birth to a boy in April, and the team is letting her work her way back into playing shape at a pace comfortable to her. Dallas has struggled transitioning without both Diggins and the since-traded Liz Cambage, with close losses in its first two games followed by blowout defeats on the road.
The most recent one occurred Sunday in the nation’s capital, where the Wings were overwhelmed in the final three quarters of their 86-62 loss to the Washington Mystics. Dallas led 20-15 after a quarter but lost Arike Ogunbowale to a sprained ankle in the second quarter, and the Wings were outscored 71-42 in the final three periods.
Ogunbowale, who is listed as day-to-day, had started two of the first four games and is averaging 7.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game.
“Her response made it look like it was more serious than it really was, but again it’s like anybody going through a first-time experience, ‘Oh, I’ve never felt like this before. What is this?'” Wings coach Brian Agler told the Dallas Morning News. “When you’ve played basketball and you’ve turned your ankle several times, you know how bad it is, but it being the first time, I don’t think she realized it.”
The Wings are hoping Megan Gustafson will make the most of her second chance to make an impact after re-signing her Thursday. The 17th overall pick in the draft this year, Gustafson averaged 2.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in three preseason games before being one of the team’s final cuts. Gustafson had been working out in Iowa City with Iowa United, with whom she signed to play in The Basketball Tournament, a summer tournament in which the winning team is rewarded $2 million in prize money.
“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to further pursue my dream of playing in the WNBA,” Gustafson told the team’s official website. “I have learned that nothing in this life is guaranteed, but I will take full advantage of this second opportunity with the Dallas Wings whether it is for one day, one week, or 10 years.”
One of Dallas’ losses was a 79-64 loss at Indiana on Friday in which the Wings never recovered from a 10-point deficit after one quarter.
That win, though, was Indiana’s last victory as it settled for a split of its four-game homestand with back-to-back losses to Phoenix and reigning champion Seattle. The Fever (3-3) absorbed an 84-82 loss to the Storm on Tuesday night, wasting a rally from an 11-point second-half deficit.
“Those first 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 possessions of the third quarter… that’s something you have to correct,” Fever coach Pokey Chatman said after watching her team fail to gain traction in that period. “You can’t talk about a valiant effort when you come back with the ‘L.'”
Natalie Achonwa put Indiana ahead with a free throw with 29 seconds to play, but she was whistled for a blocking foul on Jewell Lloyd with 24.4 seconds left. Loyd sank both free throws, and both Kelsey Mitchell and Candice Dupree missed potential go-ahead and game-tying shots around a foul shot for the final margin.
Mitchell finished with 21 points while Achonwa added 17 for Indiana, which placed five players in double figures. This game kicks off a stretch of seven in nine on the road for the Fever, who have held only one opponent under 77 points.
Dallas, though, could be in line to become the second since it is averaging a league-worst 66.3 points and is second-to-last in shooting at 38.1 percent.
(Isabelle Harrison photo courtesy Dallas Wings official Twitter account)