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Checking in on Arizona women’s basketball alumnae in week 2 of the WNBA

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The second week of the WNBA saw a lot of players come back to the U.S. from their teams overseas. That caused some shifting in minutes played by some reserve players. A few more are still trickling back into the U.S., so there will be more changes coming in the next week or two.

Aari McDonald and the Atlanta Dream

After a terrible season last year, Atlanta is one of the hottest teams in the first two weeks of the WNBA. The Dream finished the week with a 3-1 record and tied at the top of the WNBA leaderboard. Aari McDonald played the best games of her professional career while consistently seeing significant minutes, unlike her rookie season.

The week started with the Dream’s home opener on Wed., May 11 against the Los Angeles Sparks. Atlanta held off LA 77-75. McDonald saw just over 17 minutes of playing time, scoring seven points on 2-for-4 shooting. She hit two of her three 3-point shots and one of her two free throws. She also had three assists, but she balanced those against three turnovers. The point guard also assisted on one block.

Friday was the high point of McDonald’s week on a personal level, but her team took its only loss. The Dream lost to the Las Vegas Aces 96-73, but she had both the most minutes (30:51) and the most points (20) on the team. The 20 points were a career-high for the second-year pro.

McDonald went 7-of-11 from the field including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. She added two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block assist. She was one of only four Dream players who weren’t in double-digit negative plus-minus territory despite being on the floor for over three-quarters of a blowout loss. Once again, her only issue was turnovers (5).

McDonald followed that up with another double-digit scoring performance against the Indiana Fever on Sunday, May 15. The Dream beat the Fever 85-79 as five Atlanta players scored in double digits. Rookie Rhyne Howard led the group with 33 points.

McDonald had 11 points while playing most of the first half and down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Starting point guard Erica Wheeler got into early foul trouble, so McDonald took over for the vet and played just slightly over half the game (23:49).

The Arizona alumna went 4-for-6 from the floor and hit one of three 3-point shots. Much of her offense came from driving to the hoop, where she had the kind of success Arizona fans remember. She also hit both of her free throws for the first time this season after going 1-for-2 in each of her first three games.

McDonald and the Dream will next be in action on Tues., May 17. They will play at Indiana once again. Their other game next week is at home against the Washington Mystics on Friday, May 20.

Sam Thomas and the Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury were one of the teams to get their overseas players back. That included off-season acquisition Diamond DeShields and starter Brianna Turner. The team swept the Seattle Storm in a home-and-home week, improving to 2-1 on the season.

Sam Thomas didn’t see much time this week because of the return of the primary rotation players. She appeared for less than a minute in the team’s home win against the Storm and didn’t appear in the road game.

There was something to celebrate this week, though. Thomas hit her first half-court shot at practice.

The Mercury have three games during week three. They will travel to Las Vegas on Tues., May 17 to face the Aces, return to Phoenix to play the Dallas Wings on Thurs., May 19, then return to Vegas again on Sat., May 21.