The majority of Thursday night’s fourth quarter was a disaster for the Dallas Wings, as they watched their 14-point lead over the Las Vegas Aces melt away over the course of eight-plus minutes. But with less than 30 seconds to play and the score tied at 80, they had a chance to make sure their hard work early in the game was not for nought.
Controlling up top, Ty Harris let most of the shot clock wind down before calling for a high screen from Teaira McCowan. Coming off the screen, Harris got just enough of an angle on Kelsey Plum that she forced A’ja Wilson to come over on the drive, which left McCowan wide open under the basket. Harris threw a perfect lob over the top of the defense, and McCowan put the ball up and in to put the Wings in front once more.
After Wilson missed a point-blank layup at the other end that could have sent the game into overtime, the Wings escaped with a season-defining 82-80 win over the second-place Aces. This was the third straight win for the Wings, and fourth in their last five games. The hot streak came at a perfect time, as the Wings improved to 15-16 on the season and solidified their claim to sixth place.
With just five games remaining they’re now two games ahead of the New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream in seventh and eighth, respectively, and have a 2.5-game lead on the ninth-place Phoenix Mercury. While they’ve lost the tiebreaker to the Dream, the tiebreakers against the Liberty and Mercury are still up for grabs. Regardless, the Wings are now in the driver’s seat to claim a playoff spot for the second straight season — something that was starting to look unlikely during their major mid-season slump.
Even more impressive is that they’ve gone on this run without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale and promising young forward Satou Sabally, both of whom have been sidelined with ankle injuries. So how have they managed to turn their season around despite those absences? One name: Teaira McCowan.
Thursday night’s hero, who finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, has been playing the best basketball of her career in recent weeks. McCowan is averaging 19.8 points and 12 rebounds on 61.3 percent shooting during the Wings’ 4-1 hot streak, and has recorded four straight double-doubles.
Acquired from the Indiana Fever in an offseason trade, McCowan got off to a slow start in her Wings career, as she played sporadically and struggled to make an impact. Over the last few games, however, she’s made the move look like a stroke of genius. If the Wings end up making the playoffs, which they really should at this point, they’ll have McCowan to thank.