WNBA East Week 10 Preview

Can the Atlanta Dream keep winning? The Chicago Sky have already locked down their playoff spot, will others do the same? 

By Elisha Gunaratnam

There are so many exciting games to tune into this week and there’s a lot at stake for almost every team in the Eastern Conference. We’ve got teams like Indiana and New York trying to end their losing streaks, and teams like Chicago and Atlanta that are trying to keep theirs going. Let’s take a look at this week’s upcoming matchups.

Will Atlanta Keep Living the Dream? Dream vs. Sparks

Atlanta Dream vs. LA Sparks – Thursday, July 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBA TV/NBA TV Canada)

The Dream are a must-watch team right now. They put the league on notice after they beat the Mercury on the weekend, and then proceeded to stun the Aces in Las Vegas on Tuesday. For the second time this season, I found myself needing to apologize to the Dream for thinking that they would not be able to defeat a Western Conference team.

The Dream beat the LA Sparks 77–75 during their first meeting this year. Atlanta went into the fourth quarter of that matchup with a 62–54 lead, but the Sparks almost stole the game from them after they outscored Atlanta  21–15 during the final ten minutes of the game. Atlanta also struggled during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Sky last week which ultimately cost them the game, so they will need to make sure that they don’t make the same mistake on Thursday.

Tiffany Hayes (15) reacts after scoring (Jason Getz / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The player to watch in this game was not even on the Atlanta Dream when the teams met for the first time this season. Tiffany Hayes was the star for Atlanta on Tuesday when she scored a season-high 31 points, and Dream fans will be looking for another big performance from her against the Sparks. Rhyne Howard also had a stellar game earlier this week, and since she was Atlanta’s leading scorer the last time that they played Los Angeles, Howard is definitely another player to watch during this matchup.

Can the Fever Stun Another Commissioner’s Cup Finalist? Fever vs. Aces

Indiana Fever vs. Las Vegas Aces – Thursday, July 21 at 10:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV/NBA TV Canada, Indiana Fever Facebook Page)

The Indiana Fever have not won a game since they defeated the Chicago Sky on June 19. Since Indiana did the impossible and launched a second-half comeback to win that game against one of the Commissioner’s Cup finalists, perhaps Thursday’s game will be the day that they snap their losing streak against the other Commissioner’s Cup finalist. After all, the Las Vegas Aces are not invincible. They were just blown out by the Atlanta Dream on Monday

This is the first meeting between these two teams this season. Since the Aces have players like A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, and Chelsea Gray who are all capable of scoring 20+ points in a game, the Fever are going to need players to step up and make sure that Kelsey Mitchell is not the only player leading the offensive charge.

NaLyssa Smith is the player to watch in this game. Again, Kelsey Mitchell has been the consistent player for the Fever this season, so it’s up to other players to rise to the occasion. Smith had a season-high 26 points when the Fever last won a game, and her team will need her to have a similar performance if they want to pull off another big upset.

First-time Meeting: Sun vs. Lynx

Connecticut Sun vs. Minnesota Lynx – Friday, July 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV/NBA TV Canada)

The Connecticut Sun received some tough news over the weekend when it was announced that Jonquel Jones had entered the league’s health and safety protocols, but the team displayed their resilience and came together to defeat the New York Liberty on Tuesday. 

The Sun and Lynx have not played each other yet this season, and if Jonquel Jones is not in the lineup (which she likely will not be), Connecticut is going to need to have players like DeWanna Bonner, Courtney Williams, and Natisha Hiedeman help out with scoring. Sylvia Fowles, Jessica Shepherd, Kayla McBride, and Aerial Powers have also shown how elite they can be on offense this season, so Connecticut needs to ensure that they are locked in on both ends of the floor.

The player to watch in this game is Brionna Jones. Jones has been averaging 18.5 points over the past two games in the absence of her teammate Jonquel, and has also been a force in the paint, averaging 7 rebounds per game during the same time period. 

With Chicago being the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season and Washington being fast on their heels in the East, Connecticut really needs a win against Minnesota to keep themselves on track for a good spot in the playoffs.

Potential Playoff Preview? Wings vs. Sky

Dallas Wings vs. Chicago Sky – Friday, July 22 at 8:00 p.m. ET (CBSSN)

Before last week, these two teams had never played each other this season. Friday’s game will be their second matchup in the span of a week. The WNBA schedule can certainly be interesting. Chicago came away with an 89–81 during their first meeting, and they’ll be looking to repeat their success against Dallas on Friday.  

Candace Parker is double-teamed by Wings players under the basket (WNBA Twitter)

A key to Chicago’s success was locking down Arike Ogunbowale on defense. The Sky managed to hold Arike Ogunbowale to 15 points and 4 of 16 shooting from the field last week, and if they want to keep their winning streak alive, they’ll need to do the same thing this week.

We named Kahleah Copper as our player to watch during our preview for their last matchup, and she’s our player to watch again. Copper recorded her second career double-double after she scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against Dallas, and Sky fans have got to be wondering if she’ll have another explosive game.

A Test for New York: Sky vs. Liberty

Chicago Sky vs. New York Liberty – Saturday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV, Sportsnet NOW – Canada)

These two teams have met twice this season already, and the two games were very different from one another. In their first meeting this season, the Liberty looked lost, and the Chicago Sky beat them 83–50. It was, and is still the fewest points that New York has scored all season. When they met again on June 12, New York forced the Chicago Sky to play their best until the final buzzer, but eventually fell to Chicago 88–86.

While the Sky have loved how their season has been going this month, July has not been kind to the Liberty. After finding themselves on a several-game losing streak, they need to find a way to save their season. New York is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and if the season were to end today, they would miss the playoffs.

Sabrina Ionescu drives to the basket (New York Liberty Twitter)

The player to watch in this game is Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu has not looked like herself in the Liberty’s recent losses, and her team will need her to turn things around against Chicago. When Ionescu has a good game she finds ways to get her teammates going. That’s the advantage of having a player who can score, rebound, and dish out the ball at an elite level.

It is important to note that this will be Chicago’s second game in less than 24 hours. If New York is strategic with their game plan, they might just be able to take advantage of Chicago’s fatigue and leave Wintrust Arena with a win.

Indiana Looks to Pick up a Win: Wings vs. Fever

Dallas Wings vs. Indiana Fever – Sunday, July 24 at 3:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV/NBA TV Canada)

The Indiana Fever don’t have much to lose at this point of their season, but the Dallas Wings are still trying to keep themselves in the playoff race in the Western Conference. If Indiana wants to cause some chaos, this is their chance to get a win against the Wings and cause Dallas fans to panic about their playoff chances.

The Fever and Wings have met twice this season already, once in the preseason and once in the regular season, and the Wings were the better team on both occasions.

Indiana Fever Players react to a shot by Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever Twitter)

Kelsey Mitchell has been the only consistent player for the Fever when they’ve played the Wings this season, scoring 22 points in their meeting on June 23 and doing the same during their preseason matchup. It seems only appropriate to make her our player to watch for this game. I’m sure that Mitchell would be thrilled if one of her teammates exploded to have a good game, but given her previous performances against the Wings, she is still the Fever’s best chance at upsetting Dallas.

A Chance for Atlanta to Prove Itself on the Big Stage Again: Dream vs. Storm

Atlanta Dream vs. Seattle Storm – Sunday, July 24 at 6:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV, TSN)

We’ve got ourselves another series tiebreaker on Sunday. The Atlanta Dream had a big win over the Seattle Storm when these two teams last met at the beginning of the month, but Seattle was the victor in their first meeting this season.

Atlanta was the better team on both ends of the floor when they defeated Seattle on July 3. The Dream had five players (Cheyenne Parker, Rhyne Howard, AD Durr, Tiffany Hayes, and Aari McDonald) in double-figures, and in contrast, Breanna Stewart was the only player who scored more than 10 points for the Storm. That is not something that you see very often.

The player to watch in this game is Rhyne Howard. Howard was lights-out from three-point range in Atlanta’s win over the Aces on Tuesday, and with how good the Storm are from behind the arc, the Dream will need another big game from her. 

The Last game before the Commissioner’s Cup: Sun vs. Lynx

Connecticut Sun vs. Minnesota Lynx – Sunday, July 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET (Amazon Prime)

Here’s another case of how fun the WNBA schedule can be. We’ve got ourselves a baseball-style set of back-to-back games between these two teams. The good news is that it will give both teams a chance to get some rest as they will not have to travel between Friday and Sunday.

DeWanna Bonner scores a layup for the Connecticut Sun (WNBA Twitter)

DeWanna Bonner has been another player on Connecticut who has risen to the occasion when her team has needed her to this season, so she is our player to watch during Sunday’s rematch. The Sun will need Bonner to use her size to create chances under the basket, but also to try to keep Sylvia Fowles and Jessica Shepherd from dominating on the glass.

The Sun just need to push through this last game in Minnesota before they can head back to Connecticut and enjoy several days of rest.

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