The 2023 WNBA season is underway. In the first game of the evening, the Washington Mystics cruised to a surprisingly easy win over the New York Liberty, who looked totally out of sync in their first game together, in part due to the Mystics' elite defense. Also in early action, the Connecticut Sun jumped out to a quick double-digit lead, and eventually held off a comeback attempt by the Indiana Fever.
Later on, the Chicago Sky took advantage of a sloppy Minnesota Lynx performance to cruise to a double-digit win of their own. In the finale, Brittney Griner played in her first game in 579 days. But while she played well, it wasn't enough for the Phoenix Mercury, who fell to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Here's a recap of an interesting opening night.
Sparks 94 -- Mercury 71: Final
Brittney Griner missed the entire 2022 season while she was detained in Russia on drug charges, and did not return home until December. She made it clear immediately that she wanted to play this summer, however, and re-signed with the Mercury in free agency. On Friday, she made her return to the court when she led her squad against the Sparks.
It didn't take long for her to make an impact. She assisted on the Mercury's first basket, then hit a mid-range jumper to get on the board herself. In 25 minutes, Griner finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Cooke impresses in debut
No. 10 overall pick Zia Cooke was not one of the most-hyped rookies coming into the season, but that will change quickly if she keeps playing like she did on Friday. The shifty point guard came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-of-6 from the field, and "saved the game" according to Chiney Ogwumike, who said most of the team was caught up in the emotions of Griner's return.
Sun 70 -- Fever 61: Final
Boston makes her debut
Aliyah Boston is one of the most highly regarded prospects to enter the league in recent years, and she made her Fever and WNBA debut on Friday at home against the Sun. In college at South Carolina, Boston was named 2022 Naismith Player of the Year and 2022, 2023 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and led the Gamecocks to the national title.
She scored her first basket mid-way through the first quarter and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-10 from the field, though she ended up fouling out.
Thomas does it all
To little surprise, Alyssa Thomas did everything for the Sun. With Jonquel Jones gone, Thomas is going to have even more responsibilities on her shoulders but is more than capable of carrying that load. She went for 18 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.
Mystics 80 -- Liberty 64: Final
Liberty's brand new superteam not yet in sync
The Liberty didn't look like a superteam in their first game. They shot a woeful 23-of-67 from the field and turned the ball over 20 times en route to just 64 points. Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, the two former MVPs they acquired in the offseason, finished with a combined 17 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while Courtney Vandersloot, another key addition, had nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists (six).
Delle Donne back to her best
Elena Delle Donne told reporters prior to the season that she was once again 100 percent after years of back issues. That certainly appears to be the case after this one. Delle Donne's final numbers weren't spectacular -- 13 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals -- but she outplayed both Stewart and Jones and looked like her old self.
Mystics' defense dominates
The Mystics had two All-Defensive First Team performers last season in Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins and added Brittney Sykes in the offseason, who made All-Defensive Second Team. Add in a healthy Delle Donne and Shakira Austin, and the Mystics have the makings of a dominant defense. They proved as much on Friday by shutting down the Liberty.
Sky 77 -- Lynx 66: Final
Copper leads the way
After five of the Sky's top-six scorers from 2022 departed in the offseason, the keys were officially given to Kahleah Copper. In her first effort as a No. 1 option, she put up 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals to lead the Sky to a season-opening win.
Lynx turn it over too much
The Lynx don't have a traditional point guard on the roster, which looks to be an issue based on the first game of the season. They turned it over a whopping 20 times, which led to 17 points for the Sky. It's simply not possible to win when you cough the ball up that often.