On Friday night at 10 PM EST, the Phoenix Mercury and Dallas Wings meet for the third and final time this season.
If the third contest is close again, what factors might help Phoenix or Dallas gain the advantage?
For Mercury, productions outside of Britney Greiner and Skylar Diggins Smith are a must. Since Diana Torassi was dropped from the squad with a chest injury, the other members of the “Big 3” Phoenix team have raised their level of play. In his last five games without Turassi, Diggins-Smith has scored 22.2 points and six assists per game. When you’re not running a jumper, you’ve scored goals efficiently by hitting the line and making 8.2 free throws per game. Griner averages 22 points for a 68.1 percent shot in Taurasi’s absence. She also takes 38.8 percent of available boards when she’s on the floor, which translates to 12.4 rebounds per game. These shooting and recoil percentages would be professional highs. BG was particularly impressive against the wings, with matching attempts of 27 points and 16 rebounds.
However, in Tuesday’s Phoenix loss to Dallas, only one Mercury player managed to score in double digits, with Megan Walker chipping away at 10 points. Kia Gull, who scored 21 active points in the Phoenix win in late May, struggled on Tuesday, only two out of 11 goal-scoring attempts.
Mercury could also use some production off the bench, especially since the Wings bench gave them the edge on Tuesday night. And Marina Mabry, sixth, of Dallas, contributed to the win, scoring 14 points, collecting six rebounds and providing five assists. Ty Harris also provided positive playmaking from the bench, scoring seven high passes in the game as it was a game-best plus 14. Fitz Isabel Harrison and Kayla Thornton also provided additional performances.
It is worth asking if head coach Vicki Johnson should include one or more of these players in the starting lineup. While it is understood that Dallas would like to invest in Charlie Collier, who is number one, the record of its development has been detrimental to the team wanting to play in a playoff. For the season, the Wings are a plus 1.7 as a team; Collier is minus 6.9. This gap is even more pronounced because of how good backup center Izzy Harrison is. It is the best team as well as 5.8.
Moriah Jefferson’s starting point is also worth checking out. Depending on their play this season, either Mabrey or Harris promise to offer more as a starting point guard. Johnson seems to realize this, as Jefferson played just over five minutes into the last game. Although Johnson may not change the starting lineup before Friday night’s advice, an adjustment may be needed if the wings are to fulfill their potential in qualifying.
In Friday’s early game, an 8 p.m. CBS Sports contest, the Atlanta Dream (4-5) will look to bounce back from Wednesday’s grueling shooting night when they face the Seattle Storm (8-2) in a rematch. However, The Storm hopes to repeat the performance, with six players scoring double goals dominant victory.
Atlanta Dream (4-5) vs. Seattle Storm (8-2)
when: Friday, June 11th at 8pm ET
Where: Gateway Center in College Park, Georgia
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or JOE TV
Match key: When Courtney Williams’ attack rolls in, she’s one of the most fun-to-watch WNBA players, pausing, popping, and rocking with spice and bragging. When Williams’ cat doesn’t fall off, it can become a brick-and-mortar fest. Unfortunately for Dream, the latter describes his last three games, when Williams hit 33 per cent from the field in 15 attempts per game. Chenedy Carter’s absence appears to have taken a toll on Williams’ attack. In the 310 minutes the duo have shared the field this season, the dream plus 32, the best mark for any players. With Carter still out of the house, Williams needs to find a way to rediscover her rhythm.
Dream injury report: Shenedy Carter (Doubtful, Attached)
Storm hit report: Micah Herbert Harrigan (Out of Season; Personal)
Highlight: Kourtney Williams’ classic pullover jacket
Phoenix Mercury (5-4) vs Dallas Wings (4-5)
when: Friday, June 11 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona
How to watch: WNBA League Pass
Match key: Appreciate Arike! As she’s proven time and time again during her two WNBA seasons, Arike Ogunbowale can rock her own in a game with her incredible shot and cold-blooded clutch. She is a player whose effectiveness defies principles of competence. While her shooting and scoring ratios may not always impress, she constantly shifts at the important moments. For the season, Dallas played a total of 19 minutes when the score is within five points or less with less than five minutes remaining. In those 19 minutes, Ogunbowale scored 13 points on a 50 percent shot, including going 3 of 7 of three. She also has five rebounds, five assists and two steals. In general, it is a plus 11 in clutch time.
Mercury injury report: Diana Taurasi (outside, chest); Priya Hartley (indefinitely; knee)
Wing injury report: no one