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Duke in the WNBA: Lexie Brown excels on new team, Chelsea Gray makes highlight assist during opening week

Lexie Brown has shined in her first season with the Minnesota Lynx, scoring 20 points in her first two games
Lexie Brown has shined in her first season with the Minnesota Lynx, scoring 20 points in her first two games

Each week, the Blue Zone takes a look at the seven former Blue Devils currently playing across four WNBA teams this season. This week we take you inside Lexie Brown's career-high performance, Chelsea Gray's highlight-reel pass and Jasmine Thomas' impeccable playmaking.

Lexie Brown and Karima Christmas-Kelly, Minnesota Lynx 

Following a first-round playoff exit to the Los Angeles Sparks last August, the Minnesota Lynx went out and picked up a pair of former Blue Devils to jumpstart their run for a fifth championship. The Lynx began that run on their home court with a 89-71 victory against the Chicago Sky May 25. Coming off the bench, Lexie Brown saw the floor for 23 minutes en route to a career-high 10 points. In front of more than 8,500 fans, Brown drained a pair of triples, sank two free throws and grabbed one rebound. The second-year pro also recorded an assist and stole the ball twice in her first outing with her new team. Fellow Blue Devil Karima Christmas-Kelly did not see action in the season opener. 

Just four days later, Brown recorded a double-digit scoring performance for the second time in as many games.  Against the Seattle Storm May 29, the Duke graduate contributed 10 points and four assists off the bench to help the Lynx win 72-61. Brown saw action for more than 20 minutes yet again and knocked down a 3-pointer to go along with a steal and three made free-throws. Christmas-Kelly was ruled out for right knee soreness. 

Upcoming: June 4 at Seattle Storm; June 6 vs. Phoenix Mercury 

Alana Beard and Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks 

Under the guidance of former New York Knicks head coach and first-year WNBA head coach Derek Fisher, the Los Angeles Sparks opened the season looking to return to the WNBA finals for the third time in four seasons. In their season-opener May 26, however, the Sparks fell to the Las Vegas Aces 70-83 on the road. In her 14th season and eighth with the Sparks, Alana Beard dished out four assists and dropped in a pair of baskets for a five-point outing. The former Blue Devil also brought down three rebounds, all on the defensive end. Alongside Beard was fellow Duke alum Chelsea Gray, playing in her fifth WNBA season and fourth with Los Angeles. Gray kicked off her season with eight points to accompany four assists. The Sparks’ point guard also registered two blocks and a pair of boards. 

In the battle of three former Duke players five days later, it was the Sparks that walked away victorious with a 77-70 win against the Connecticut Sun in Los Angeles' home opener at Staples Center. Starting at point guard, Gray made five baskets and shot 6-of-7 from the free throw line to finish with 16 points. The 5-foot-11 guard recorded four assists and four rebounds in a team-high 34 minutes. Beard did not see the floor against the Sun. 

Upcoming: June 4 at New York Liberty; June 6 at Connecticut Sun 

Jasmine Thomas, Connecticut Sun 

Kicking off her ninth season in the nation’s premiere women’s basketball league, Jasmine Thomas recorded 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the Connecticut Sun’s opening-night victory against the Washington Mystics May 25. The point guard also assisted on a team-high six baskets in the 84-69 home victory. The former Duke player brought down three rebounds, two of which came on the defensive side. 

Already with a six-assist outing in her pocket, Thomas bested that number by recording a team-high seven dimes in her team’s 88-77 win against the Indiana Fever three days later. On 2-of-3 shooting from long range and 50 percent shooting from the field, the 2011 first-round pick scored 15 points in the win. 

Although Thomas was not on the winning side Friday night against the Sparks, she did continue to put out consistent numbers from Connecticut’s point guard spot. Thomas drained five baskets on 13 shots and converted three free-throws for 14 points. The former Blue Devil also notched two assists, a steal, a block and five rebounds to go along with a made three in 30 minutes. 

Upcoming: June 2 at Las Vegas Aces; June 6 vs. Los Angeles Sparks 

Elizabeth Williams and Haley Peters, Atlanta Dream 

In the opening game of the WNBA season May 24, the Atlanta Dream defeated the Dallas Wings 76-72. Down by two with less than three minutes remaining in the contest, Elizabeth Williams converted a game-tying layup to even the game at 65 apiece. Along with that bucket, Williams scored an additional five points to finish with seven on 3-of-5 shooting. In 27 minutes, the 2016 WNBA Most Improved Player also brought down six boards and recorded a team-high four blocks. The 2015 first-round pick added an assist and a steal. Haley Peters made her return to the WNBA this season, but did not see the floor against the Dallas Wings. 

Against the Seattle Storm Friday night, Williams struggled with her shot as the Dream fell 66-82 . The former Blue Devil made a pair from the charity stripe and converted one basket to finish the game with four points on 1-of-6 shooting. The Dream center also added seven rebounds, six of which came on the defensive end, as well as two blocked shots. After sitting out the first game, Peters played an even 10 minutes with one assist and shot 2-for-2 on her free throws. 

Upcoming: June 6 vs. Las Vegas Aces


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