The second game of the WNBA Playoffs Round 1 will feature the eight-seed New York Liberty’s taking on the Phoenix Mercury to claim a ticket to the next round.
At 12-20, the New York Liberty were able to sneak into the playoffs when the Washington Mystics lost a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Lynx last Friday. The Liberty’s destiny was in control of the Mystics and that loss gave New York passage into the postseason as the eighth seed. They will face the fifth-seed Phoneix Mercury (19-13) tonight.
Led by the trio of Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi, the Mercury are a bonafide powerhouse in the playoffs. Griner and Diggins-Smith are candidates for the All-WNBA teams while the league’s all-time leading scorer, Taurasi, has maintained her excellent shooting and playmaking despite only playing in half of the team’s games this season.
What to watch for in the WNBA playoffs matchup between the Liberty and Mercury
At the core of New York’s strengths are the combined playmaking ability of second-year guard Sabrina Ionescu (6.1 assists per game) and Betnijah Laney (5.2). Combine that with Natasha Howard’s finishing ability and the shooting of Sami Whitcomb and Rebecca Allen, and the Liberty should put up a lot of shot attempts.
They were the best 3-point shooting team this year and will look to establish themselves against Phoenix with a high-paced offense.
If Laney, who also averaged 16.8 points per game, can maintain her shotmaking against a tough Phoenix defense, New York can find itself on the heels of the second round.
For the Mercury, however, they will be expected to do what they’ve done all season. Attack inside and make outside shots — Phoenix is fifth in both points in the paint and three-pointers made. They’re also top five in points per game, rebounds, second in offensive rating and first in blocks. The team has quality play at every level and will look to ride the coattails of Griner’s dominant paint presence.
In two regular-season games against New York, Griner averaged 27.5 points and 12 boards. That trend should continue as New York will struggle to find a great match against the six-nine center.
In addition to Griner’s dominance, Diggins-Smith has also been excellent contributing nearly 18 points and five assists a game and should find early success against New York’s defense.
The 39-year-old Taurasi is questionable with an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision.
The two teams split the season series.
How to live stream Wings-Sky
The Chicago Sky host the Dallas Wings on Thursday, Sep. 23, in Chicago at 7 pm ET. You can catch the game on ESPN2, FuboTV or stream it on the ESPN app.