Seattle looks to prove themselves against the Sun while Minnesota tries to snap a losing streak against the titan Aces.
By Laura Fay
It’s a relatively light schedule in the WNBA West this weekend, but the quality of the games certainly outweighs the quantity of them. Seattle kicks things off with a date with the Sun on Friday night, before traveling south to meet New York on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Wings will face two similarly ranked opponents in the Mercury and Sparks as the group fights it out for playoff spots.
Playoff Preview: Storm vs. Sun
Seattle Storm vs. Connecticut Sun — Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
It’s shaping up to be an interesting contest at Mohegan Sun this Friday, with two finals contenders going head to head for the second time this season. Connecticut triumphed in the teams’ last meeting, though Seattle had just gotten players back from health and safety protocols and were still struggling to click as a group. Both teams look to be in good form now— the Storm have won their last four games, while the Sun’s last two losses have been to the #1 seed and defending champions. It all looks set to be a riveting contest this weekend.
The player to watch in this game is Alyssa Thomas. Thomas nearly recorded a triple-double when these teams last played (8pts/11reb/12ast), and has been quietly brilliant all season. With defenses occupied by the strength of Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner’s sharpshooting, Thomas has been stuffing the stats sheet all year. Limiting her influence will be key for Seattle’s chances of winning.
An Important Challenge: Mercury vs. Wings
It’s a tale of two trajectories Friday night, with the rising Phoenix Mercury facing off against a slumping Dallas side. The Wings started the season strong, but have lost their last four contests to the Aces and Storm respectively. Phoenix, meanwhile, has turned their season around after a 2–7 start, with wins over the Sparks, Dream, Mystics, and Fever. With both teams looking to stay in the playoff hunt, this game could be vital for their future prospects.
The player to watch in this game is Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale has been a consistent offensive threat all season, with over 15 points in all but three games, and put on a 37-point clinic the last time these two teams met. She has proven adept at maneuvering around double-teams and, even if caught in them, can open up opportunities for Satou Sabally or Allisha Gray. She’s incredibly difficult to limit, but Phoenix will certainly be pulling out all the stops.
Battle of the Stars: Storm vs. Liberty
Seattle Storm vs New York Liberty — Sunday, June 19 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
For the Seattle Storm, facing New York probably always elicits a feeling of déjà vu. The Liberty is, of course, currently home to Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, both of whom won 2 championships with the Storm. With rumors of Seattle star and New York native Breanna Stewart potentially joining them next offseason, the atmosphere in Barclays Center could be tense. While on record the Storm look set for a runaway, it would be a critical mistake to underestimate a team spearheaded by this game’s player to watch—Sabrina Ionescu.
While starting the season shaky, Ionescu’s play has been much improved with the addition of Crystal Dangerfield, who allows her to play more off the ball. On Sunday, Ionescu became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double and the first to do so in only three quarters. But it’s also worth mentioning that the Liberty lost that game, with a barrage of turnovers and missed rebounds giving Chicago enough chances to seal the win. If the Liberty can clean that up and keep Ionescu shooting, it’d be foolish to count them out.
Evenly Matched: Sparks vs. Wings
Los Angeles Sparks vs Dallas Wings — Sunday, June 19 at 4 p.m ET (Amazon)
With just one spot on the ladder separating the Sparks and Wings, this is a clash with important implications for the playoff picture going forward. The Sparks prevailed 93–91 the last time these teams met, in a tightly contested battle that hinged on missed free throws and ended with Arike Ogunbowale kicking a scorer’s table in frustration. The Sparks will be looking to prove themselves in this match as they search for their first win after firing coach Derek Fisher and will be bolstered by the return of veteran guard Kristi Toliver.
The player to watch this game is Brittney Sykes. While Sykes is certainly more known as a defensive player, she can be dangerous when she gets hot, as she proved against Dallas earlier this season. She had 25 points in that contest, including two free throws that ended up being the game-winners. It is unclear whether her minutes will be reduced with Toliver’s return, though Los Angeles would be foolish not to at least give her a shot.
First and Last: Aces vs. Lynx
Las Vegas Aces vs Minnesota Lynx — Sunday, June 19 at 6 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
We’re not going to lie: nobody thinks this one will be particularly close. But, as the Lynx proved against the Storm on Tuesday, they still have some fight left in them and it might be enough to give Vegas a run for their money. The Lynx will be frustrated with the loss, having led at the end of every quarter except the last, and hopefully, take that fire into Sunday. The Aces, meanwhile, have just clinched their place in the Commissioners Cup final and will look to extend their dominant run this weekend.
The player to watch this game is Jackie Young. Young, who missed two games after a slight ankle injury, was quiet in her return against Dallas on Wednesday, recording 8 points and 3 assists. As her pre-injury numbers had her in contention for Most Improved and even MVP, Young will certainly be driven to get back to her brilliant best. Despite being rusty against the Wings she still played 35 minutes and it seems like only a matter of time until she finds her form. Once the Aces’ big three are back to full strength, it certainly looks difficult to stop them.