The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game provided a unique format, as Team USA played the rest of the WNBA All-Stars in their first tune-up game before the Tokyo Olympics — in what would very likely be their stiffest test of the entire process. For the WNBA All-Stars, many of whom are Americans that weren’t on the USA roster, it was a chance to prove something and, for some of the younger players, show they should be serious contenders for the 2024 squad.
Happily, the game turned out to be exactly what everyone was hoping for, as both sides looked to be fired up from the start and played in a highly competitive game that looked more like a playoff game than an All-Star game in terms of the intensity and effort level on the court. In the end, the WNBA All-Stars came out on top, even without the services of Liz Cambage who sat out with her own Olympic run set to begin soon for Australia, in a 93-85 win over the winners of the last six Olympic gold medals.
The star for the WNBA All-Stars was Arike Ogunbowale, who was considered one of the biggest snubs from the USA roster behind Nneka Ogwumike. The Wings superstar earned game MVP honors with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including some of the biggest shots down the stretch of the fourth quarter as she helped the WNBA squad pull away from Team USA late.
Early on, Team USA having a couple days of camp under their belts to work on sets and plays seemed to pay off as they bolted out to an early lead, thanks to plays like this from Sue Bird to Britney Griner.
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 14, 2021
But after a slow start, the WNBA squad started to settle in and move the ball well themselves, creating openings and getting the USA defense into rotation — and just generally starting to knock down shots.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 14, 2021
At the half, Team WNBA led 44-43, and things stayed tight into the fourth quarter, with the two sides deadlocked at 66 headed to the final frame. As the fourth wore on, Team USA simply couldn’t get stops as Ogunbowale and the WNBA side lit up the scoreboard for 27 in the fourth.
Joining Ogunbowale in double figures for the WNBA was Jonquel Jones, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds as the MVP frontrunner continues to dominate even in All-Star action, and Courtney Williams, who brought 15 points off the bench and carried the WNBA offense for some key stretches. On the other side, Griner led the way for Team USA with 17 points, with Breanna Stewart scoring 15 with six rebounds and the veteran Sylvia Fowles chipping in 12 points and seven boards, but overall the USA offense wasn’t able to keep up after a crisp start and, even without Diana Taurasi, this game surely opened some eyes on things to work on as camp wears on.
In the end, this is probably a very good thing for Team USA, getting such a stern test early on and seeing where they have things to work on, and the gold medal favorites will look to build on this moving forward as they get ready for another Olympic run.