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The W Is It: The Mystics and Aces are CURSED

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Airplanes, earthquakes, broken equipment, and bad bus drivers are trying to ruin Mystics-Aces games.

Welcome to The W Is It, a weekly column about all the stuff that freakin’ rules in the WNBA. Have any tips of topics to cover? Find me @mellentuck on Twitter.

Las Vegas Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer was either joking or serious when he told a referee he was going to have his team pack up and go home. It was tough to tell.

It was 7:11 p.m. ET on Aug. 5, approximately 11 minutes past the scheduled tip-off time between the Washington Mystics and Aces in D.C. The shot clock was broken, so the game couldn’t start.

To anyone who’s been paying attention to games between these teams, a delayed start was no surprise. These teams, currently matched up in the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs, are in fact cursed. The Basketball Gods clearly hate us, the fans, if they’re this desperate to hold us out from a matchup that includes five of this year’s all-stars.

Something weird has happened in four of the last five meetings between these two contenders. Last season, just weeks before the playoffs, the Aces forfeited a regular-season game after touching down in D.C. mere hours prior to tip-off, following 25 hours worth of plane delays and layovers. The team cited health concerns as its reason for the first forfeit in league history. On July 5 of this year, an earthquake rattled Mandalay Bay Events Center in Vegas forcing the teams to call it a night at halftime with the Mystics holding a 51-36 lead. (The second half was re-scheduled for August and the Mystics held on to win.)

Most recently, the Aces’ bus was pulled over by police blocks before the team arrived at their hotel in D.C. on Monday evening. According to a team spokesperson, the bus pulled up on the wrong side of the hotel and the driver made an illegal turn to try and correct that mistake while dodging a lineup of traffic. On came the police sirens. This all came, of course, hours after Aces forward Dearica Hamby hit one of the most bizarre game-winning halfcourt heaves in basketball history. Fortunately, the team was only held up for 10 minutes before arriving at the hotel.

That brings us back to Aug. 5 in D.C., where:

  • The game had to be tipped off twice, because the game clock wasn’t functioning after the first tip.
  • The shot clocks above the basket weren’t functioning properly and were turned off.
  • The players then had to read a shot clock in very small print on a distant scoreboard.
  • Once that didn’t work, the announcer had to count the shot clock down from 10 for both teams and broadcast it to the entire arena.
  • An air-horn was blown from center court for each substitution. In the third quarter, the man using it had to apologize to a startled Liz Cambage, who, with hands over her ears, was waiting to replace a teammate.
  • Once none of those methods worked, replacement shot clocks were set on either end of the court on the ground with 4:45 to play in the third quarter.

Just another Mystics-Aces game.

“It’s one hell of a curse at that,” Aces forward A’ja Wilson said after the game. “There’s always something with us. I don’t know what the Basketball Gods are trying to tell us but there’s always something when you’re watching a Mystics-Aces game. You never know, the Earth could be shaking or the shot clock could be messed up.”

“We just make the game more interesting,” Cambage joked. “I always expect the unexpected.”

After the Aug. 5 game, Cambage couldn’t even predict what might happen when these teams play again to finish the second half of the “Earthquake Game”, but Wilson had a thought. “There’s probably gonna be a flood, I don’t even know.”

The refs, fans, coaches, and, most especially, players made the most of the circumstances, though, and none more than an absolutely lit corner of Aces All-Stars. Beyonce’s “Love on Top” sent Cambage, Wilson, and Kayla McBride into a spur-of-the-moment dance routine, and they followed it up to a remix of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.”

Sin City knows how to entertain, if nothing else.

The upshot is we didn’t get a feel for how the two WNBA Finals favorites actually match up with each other. The Mystics and Aces played three times this season. One game finished in a bizarre two-part episode weeks apart, while another was delayed and plagued by shot clock bizarreness — and didn’t feature Mystics star MVP frontrunner Elena Delle Donne, out due to a broken nose.

The one normal game these two teams played saw the Mystics blow out the Aces by 23 points on the road. Don’t look too deeply into that night though: Cambage was just seven games into her Vegas career.

This playoff series will tell all.

Here are a few other things to talk about from the week

I’m mad about an all-star snub

This is usually the section of my column where I talk about all the stuff that made me smile and text Whitney Medworth or Natalie Weiner, and I’ll get to that.

But how dare all of you leave Mystics guard Ariel Atkins off the all-star team?

Atkins, in her second year on by far the best team in the league, is averaging 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists on 35 percent shootIng from deep (4.5 attempts per game.) And that isn’t even her best end of the floor. Atkins is tasked to guard the opposing team’s best wings and deep-shooting guards, yet averages two steals and a block per night.

I blame everyone here except myself. I voted her as a STARTER. I see you, Ariel.

Now for some fun stuff.

Did y’all see that Gabby Williams buzzer-beater?

Nobody in the league has better hops than the Chicago Sky star. This is how you use them, along with Courtney Vandersloot’s precision passing.

Look at that bench reaction!

Let’s appreciate the greatness of Jordin Canada’s week

In just her second year in this league, Canada’s had to step up and replace an injured SUE BIRD in the Seattle Storm’s starting lineup. (Not to mention, all-star Jewell Loyd’s been injured and league MVP Breanna freakin’ Stewart is out for the year.)

But Canada’s been a pro. In two games this week:

  • Win over Dallas: 14 points (4-of-8 shooting), 12 assists, five steals, zero turnovers
  • Win over New York: Nine points (4-of-11 shooting), eight assists, nine rebounds, three steals, three turnovers

How the heck is this Seattle team 10-8? Canada is a big reason why.

Sylvia Fowles has the WNBA’s double-double record now

The Minnesota Lynx center has 158 of them in her career, surpassing Lisa Leslie. With two championships, two Finals MVPs, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, one season MVP award and three Olympic golds ... folks, you’re looking at a legend just padding the stats at this point.

And finally, check out Marina Mabrey’s fire shirt

Hell. Yeah.