Through one half of basketball on Friday night, Rhyne Howard could not be stopped.
The Atlanta Dream rookie, who has taken the WNBA by storm early in her young career, was up to 19 points on 6-6 shooting, including a 4-4 clip from beyond the arc and 3-3 mark from the free-throw line at halftime. The Dream, now 4-2 on the season, was tied with the Washington Mystics at the midway point, 44-44.
Howard was special once again, continuing her stellar play and reaffirming that she looks the part of a generational talent. The only thing preventing her from pouring it on more were three first-half fouls.
Unfortunately, Howard hit the first real rough patch of her rookie season in the second half. The Mystics, which now lead the WNBA with a 5-1 record, zeroed in on Howard out of the locker room. They upped the pressure and brought constant double-teams. It was a struggle for Howard, who would shoot just 1-10 from the floor in the second half, including a handful of misses that were halfway down the rim before jumping back out.
Howard still finished the night with a game-high 21 points (7-18 overall; 4-8 from distance) to go along with three rebounds, four assists, and two steals in over 34 minutes of action. Even in the midst of her poor shooting stretch, Atlanta still went to her down the stretch to hit the shots that would have given them a chance to win. Howard took them confidently, even if they didn’t fall.
Trust me, they will eventually.
Once the final buzzer sounded and the Dream walked away with a 78-73 loss, Howard was still all anyone could talk about. She’s now up to 123 career points through six WNBA games, a new Atlanta franchise record for the most points scored through a player’s first six outings. Howard’s 21 made triples on the season is second-most in league history by a rookie through six games.
But let’s explain Howard’s greatness even further.
The 22-year-old leads the entire WNBA in overall scoring at 20.5 points per outing. She has yet to finish a game with fewer than 13 points. Her 33-point-outing on Sunday is the most in a single game so far this season and eventually earned her Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors — not Rookie of the Week, but Player of the Week.
Howard ranks among the WNBA’s leaders in points per game (1st), steals per game (14th), blocks per game (14th), 3-point field goal percentage (13th), true shooting percentage (19th), field goals made (5th), 3-pointers made (1st), free-throws made (2nd), minutes played (9th), and usage rate (13th). She also leads the league in overall Win Shares (1.4).
Remember, this is a first-year pro we’re talking about here. The free-throw numbers might be what impresses me the most. Howard is abusing the two most effective shots in the game — getting to the rim and hitting from beyond the arc — against the world’s top basketball talents.
These are not the numbers of a rookie, and they DEFINITELY aren’t the numbers of a player with a poor motor.