WNBA East Week 7 Preview

The top spot in the East is up for grabs and the bottom three teams are looking to best their previous season’s records.

By Elisha Gunaratnam

Washington Mystics and Chicago Sky fans will need to have some extra coffee on standby, as both teams head west to play some late night games. In other Eastern Conference news; the Fever will be looking to surpass their 6-win record of the past two seasons, the Connecticut Sun will be looking to hold onto their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference, and the New York Liberty will be looking to avoid sliding down to the bottom spot in conference standings.

These Are Not The Same Teams You Saw in the Preseason: Fever vs. Wings

Indiana Fever vs. Dallas Wings — Thursday, June 23 at 8:00 p.m. ET (CBSSN and the Indiana Fever Facebook Page)

This will be the first time that these two teams face each other this season. While the teams met during the preseason, with Dallas beating the Fever 100–89, both teams have since seen some major changes to their rosters. For the Fever, the most notable change has come off the court. The team now has a different head coach. After Marianne Stanley was let go by the team, Carlos Knox has been the interim coach of the Indiana Fever since May 25. For the Wings, Arike Ogunbowale had not returned from their overseas commitments in their previous matchup, so the Fever will have to make some significant adjustments to their game plan if they want to slow down Dallas’ current lineup that features several players who are capable of scoring 20+ points.

NaLyssa Smith reacts to a call against the Chicago Sky (Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

With Satou Sabally already being listed as not available for Thursday’s game, Queen Egbo has an opportunity to use her size and physicality to be a disruptive force under the basket. However, NaLyssa Smith might just be the difference-maker in this matchup. Smith just helped the Fever pull off an upset against the Chicago Sky, finishing the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds. While it is incredibly difficult to stop Dallas from scoring with how good of a season Allisha Gray, Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale have been having, if Smith is able to keep Indiana’s offense flowing and create opportunities for her teammates, the Fever could find themselves in a position to steal another game. 

Elite Passers and Elite Scorers: Mystics vs. Storm

Washington Mystics vs. Seattle Storm — Thursday, June 23, at 10:00 p.m. ET (CBSSN and Amazon Prime)

The Mystics and the Seattle Storm have not yet played each other this season, and this will be a clash between some of the most recognizable faces of the WNBA. At the point guard position, we will see a battle between two of the best passers in the league—Sue Bird and Natasha Cloud—and at power forward position, we will see a battle between two of the best scorers in the league—Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne.

Elena Delle Donne tries to score over A’ja Wilson (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Seattle is coming off of a win against the Liberty and will be looking to continue their momentum, and Washington will be looking to pick up a win after a frustrating 2-point loss against the Los Angeles Sparks. Elena Delle Donne did not play in the loss but is expected to be in the lineup against Seattle. As the defense of Seattle will be focusing much of their attention on Cloud and Delle Donne, Washington will need players like Atkins, Hawkins, and Austin to be willing to attack the basket. 

The defense of Washington will also need to find a way to contain the offense of Breanna Stewart without leaving the likes of Gaby Williams open. New York made this mistake on Sunday, and Williams made them pay, finishing the game with a season-high 23 points

A win against the Storm would put the Mystics within an arm’s reach of the top spot in the Eastern Conference

Candace Parker Returns Home: Sky vs. Sparks 

Chicago Sky vs. Los Angeles Sparks — Thursday, June 23 at 10:30 p.m. ET (Facebook)

It is always exciting to watch Candace Parker return to Los Angeles. Los Angeles was Parker’s home for the first 13 seasons of her career, and Parker still has a large fanbase in the city. In an interview with Taylor Rooks, Parker said that her daughter Lailaa told her that she would be wearing a Sparks jersey whenever Parker returned to the city, so you might want to keep an eye out to see if Lailaa and her mom show up to the game in opposing jerseys.

The Chicago Sky played the LA Sparks earlier this season, and the Sparks won a hard-fought game in overtime. The hero of the game for the LA Sparks was newcomer Jordin Canada, who finished the game with 21 points and had some clutch baskets near the end of regulation time. Dana Evans led the Sky in scoring with 24 points.

Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker line up at the free throw line (David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Liz Cambage and Candace Parker seem to have developed somewhat of a rivalry as the two exchanged words throughout their first meeting, and Cambage will be looking to have a better game against Parker, who was able to contain Cambage on offense and blow past her on defense. 

Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper, the reigning finals MVP, were not present during the Sky’s first game against the Sparks this season. Copper just won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for the first time in her career, but had a relatively quiet game in the Sky’s record-breaking comeback against the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday. With the Sparks just coming off of a win against the Mystics and looking to carry forward their momentum, the Sky will need Copper to step up on offense.

Eastern Conference Clash: Liberty vs. Dream

New York Liberty vs. Atlanta Dream — Friday, June 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

Sabrina Ionescu is an all star, but the Liberty have not been an all star team this season. The New York Liberty need this win as the Indiana Fever are close behind them in Eastern Conference Standings. The Atlanta Dream just snapped their losing streak and are coming off of a thrilling win against the Dallas Wings. With the win, the Dream equaled their total number of wins from last season (8), and they will be looking to best last season’s record against the Liberty. The Liberty have just taken down the top team in the Eastern Conference and will be looking to start a winning streak of their own.

Maya Caldwell provided an unexpected spark for the injury-riddled Atlanta Dream, scoring 18 points in the win, and with several players still expected to be out against the Liberty, the Dream will need her to have another big game. Rhyne Howard, who has been brilliant for the Dream this year, added 16 points of her own and will need to use her quickness to exploit potential matchups against some of New York’s smaller guards.

For New York, the additions of Marine Johannès and Crystal Dangerfield seem to have taken some pressure off of Sabrina Ionescu, allowing her to impact the game more without having to be the primary ball handler for the team. The Liberty will need a big game from Ionescu, and for other Liberty players to step up and be willing to shoot from the opportunities created by the defensive attention that is given to Ionescu. If the Dream still has five players who are not available for Friday’s game, the Liberty also need to be prepared to run full court presses to tire out the players who are on the floor.

Cloud Wants in this Time: Mystics vs. Aces

Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces — Saturday, June 25 at 10:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV and NBA TV Canada)

The first matchup between the Mystics and the Aces this season was a memorable one. Hours before the game, it was announced that Natasha Cloud, one of the stars of the Mystics, would not be available for the game as she had entered the league’s health and safety protocols. Cloud live tweeted the game, and even when it seemed like the Aces were going to run away with the victory after a dominant first quarter, Cloud was confident in her team’s abilities. The Mystics launched a massive second half comeback and held the Aces to 7 points in the third quarter, ultimately going on to win the game 89–76.

Sue Bird guards Natasha Cloud in a matchup between the Storm and the Mystics (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

For the Mystics, the key to winning this game will be to find ways to lock in defensively right from the first quarter of the game. With Becky Hammon at the helm, the Las Vegas Aces have looked unstoppable, and have only lost three games this season. However, the Mystics were able to hand the Las Vegas Aces their first loss of the season by holding A’ja Wilson to 10 points, nearly 8 points below her season average

The Sun Look to Find their Shine Again: Sun vs. Dream

Connecticut Sun vs. Atlanta Dream — Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET (Amazon Prime)

The Connecticut Sun have been at the top of the Eastern Conference leaderboard for most of the WNBA season, but their recent losses have meant that other teams are inching closer to stealing the top spot from them. 

The two teams’ first meeting this year was in the preseason when the Sun beat the Dream 94–78. Atlanta won the first quarter of the matchup, but the gaps in scoring increased in each subsequent quarter. When the teams met again on June 15, the Sun beat the Dream 105–92. Interestingly however, the Dream outscored the Sun 36–22 during the last quarter of the game.

Courtney Williams of the Connecticut Sun looks to move pas Naz Hillmon of the Atlanta Dream (Sarah Gordon – member image share)

The Connecticut Sun lost their most recent game against the Liberty in the first quarter of the game and will need to get off to a better start against the Dream. Jonquel Jones has been a double-double machine for the Sun all season, but Jones will need more help from DeWanna Bonner and Courtney Williams to overpower the young core of the Atlanta Dream.

For the Dream, the team needs to get Rhyne Howard off to a good start and try to frustrate the defense of Sun right away in the first quarter. The Dream have launched a series of second-half comebacks recently, but with the number of injuries the team has been dealing with, they do not want to put themselves in a situation where they run out of stamina from having to chase down a big lead. 

Last Game of the Road Trip: Lynx vs. Sky

Minnesota Lynx vs. Chicago Sky — Sunday, June 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

The Sky continue their West Coast road trip, as they take on the Minnesota Lynx for the first time this season. On paper, this looks like it should be an easy win for the Chicago Sky, but with their comeback win against the Phoenix Mercury, the Minnesota Lynx have shown that they are not to be underestimated. 

Kayla McBride scored 18 points for the Lynx, and Moriah Jefferson contributed 12 points of her own, but the real game changer was Natalie Achonwa, who in her first game back from injury also scored 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half of the game and helped erase Phoenix’s lead. 

As Minnesota wins over 96% of their games when they hold their opponents to 40% or less shooting from the field, the key for Chicago will be to keep their offense humming. With players like Jessica Shepherd being a major disruptor in the paint, Chicago will likely look to its sharpshooters to help them close out their road trip on a positive note.

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