Who: Indiana Fever vs. Washington Mystics
When: 7 p.m. EDT on NBA TV | WNBA LiveAccess
Where: Conseco Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
What: This is the fifth and final meeting between these two teams this season, with the Fever leading the series 4-0. If Indiana beats Washington tonight, the Fever will clinch homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Preview: Fever.com preview | Mystics.com preview
Playoff implications: The Fever are in the 2011 WNBA playoffs and the Mystics are decidedly out of contention, but that doesn't mean that there aren't playoff implications - there is still the possibility of a four-way tie in the Eastern Conference with a Fever loss tonight.
Links, analysis, and key stats for how the Mystics could pull this off after the jump and, as usual, feel free to leave your additional links, insights, and rooting interests in the comments.
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Four-way tie potential
- If the Fever lose tonight, they'll fall to 20-12 with two games left against the New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream. So should they lose out - which isn't so far-fetched if they were to lose tonight - they'd finish 20-14.
- With the Dream's win in that scenario, they'd also be 20-14.
- If the Liberty also defeat the Connecticut Sun on September 11, that would leave both of them 20-14.
Add those outcomes to the current conference records - which would determine tiebreakers - and suddenly the Eastern Conference would be flipped, with the Dream as the top seed and the Fever as the fourth seed.
And their regular season meetings might suggest that the Fever want no part of the Dream as the lower seed.
So nothing against the Fever, but it's an interesting possibility to ponder, particularly if you're a Dream fan or want to add to the growing Angel McCoughtry for MVP sentiment, which would deny Fever forward Tamika Catchings the award once again in dramatic fashion.
But that's getting way ahead of ourselves - this all begins with the Mystics.
Key stat to watch:
Offensive rebounding: The blueprint for a Mystics win was pretty much laid out on July 29 at the Verizon Center when they blew an opportunity to get a win after a buzzer beater by Fever point guard Shannon Bobbitt. It should come as little surprise that they crushed the Fever on the offensive boards 18 (42.9%) to 5 (22.7%) - the Mystics are the best offensive rebounding team in the league at 33.8% and Indiana is the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the league (69.2%). Given that the Mystics are third in the league in second chance points (12.88 per game), that's a strength they'll have to rely on to win.
Of course, winning the rebounding battle has done little to guarantee wins for the Mystics, but I think it's fair to say their chances of doing so without rebounding are slim.
Key players to watch:
Monique Currie, F, Washington Mystics: She's a bit of an unknown because we've only seen her in two games this season but she does one thing well that the Mystics desperately need this season: create scoring opportunities. For a team that is getting outshot by opponents 44.35% to 50.12% (effective field goal percentage), that's rather significant. We'll see how much she can do today
- Point guards on both teams: The Fever also turned the ball over more often at the Verizon Center and that's a feat for a Mystics team that hasn't been too careful with the ball since the All-Star break. So in addition to making sure that they spread the ball around to all of their major scoring threats (e.g. Currie, Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne), the Mystics guards need to take care of the ball. And game-winning shots aside, Fever ball handlers (that includes Bobbitt, Katie Douglas, and Erin Phillips) should do better than 4 assists and 7 turnovers.
David Woods of the Indianapolis Star makes the case for Fever forward Tamika Catchings as MVP, using quotes from people around the league and Fever coach Lin Dunn. Dunn might be biased, but it's hard to disagree with argument. Although, somehow, people always manage to find reasons not to vote for her.
- Steve Yanda of the Washington Post makes the case for Matee Ajavon for Most Improved Player.