The WNBA playoffs begin on Tuesday, August 21st, as the number five seed, Phoenix Mercury (20-14) take on the number eight seed, Dallas Wings (15-19) at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona.
The Mercury have been through ups and downs throughout the season. Phoenix started the season off on fire as they had an eight game win streak during the month of June. The Mercury lost their starting power forward Sancho Lyttle to a torn ACL on June 30th. Lyttle was averaging 8 points, and 5.3 rebounds per game on 54% shooting. Lyttle was also a huge part of the defense which played very well to start the season. Without Lyttle the Mercury struggled to find the right chemistry and went 3-7 during the month of July. In August, the Mercury found their groove and ended the regular season on a four game win streak.
The Dallas Wings had a similar season of ups and downs as it led to a head coaching change late in the year. Their season has included record breaking performances and an eight game losing streak.
Both the Wings and Mercury have incredible talent on their rosters. Phoenix is led by their “Big 3”, the legendary Diana Taurasi, the dominant Brittney Griner, and the versatile Dewanna Bonner. These three all-stars now hold the record for points scored in a season by a trio. Dallas is led by two all-stars in Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Cambage has been simply unstoppable this year as she broke the record for points in a game earlier in the season. Diggins-Smith is the prototypical floor general who can score and create for teammates as she averaged 18 points and 6.2 assists per game.
The key match-up in this game is an obvious one as both teams feature dominant centers in Brittney Griner and Liz Cambage. Cambage averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game on 59% shooting from the field and has showed the capability to take over games. She also has the ability to step out and hit jump shots which can be the difference in the game as she may be able to force the great shot blocker Griner away from the rim. Griner averaged 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Griner’s ability to defend Cambage one on one with no help will be major. This will limit open shots for Dallas. The same is true on the other end as well, if Cambage can defend Griner with no help, it limits open shots for Phoenix.
The X-Factor in this game will be Phoenix Mercury point guard Briann January. She is the best perimeter defender for Phoenix and it will be her job to make Diggins-Smith as uncomfortable as possible. If January can limit the production of Diggins-Smith this will hinder Dallas tremendously. The Mercury may put Stephanie Talbot on Diggins-Smith as well.
The Phoenix Mercury will win this match-up in a classic game that comes down to the end. The “Big 3” for the Mercury will score too much and Dallas will not be able to keep up. Griner will be able to contain Cambage in the game. Cambage will still get her numbers but will not “go off” for more than 35 points. Mercury 90-82.