1. Phoenix Mercury (16-13) at Atlanta Dream (17-13), 3:00 PM ET
This is on Fox Sports Arizona Plus in the Phoenix area and SSO-ATL if you're in the Atlanta area.
Both teams are in the playoffs, but have something to compete for. The Mercury wants to stay secure in the 3rd seed, which I think they will, but getting to 17 wins at least for the year should seal the deal because I don't see the Storm winning out or getting to .500.
2. Chicago Sky (21-9) at Washington Mystics (14-16), 4:00 PM ET
This game is online through Monumental Network only if you're in the DC area.
With the Fever beating the Connecticut Sun yesterday, the team now has clinched the third out of four Eastern Conference bids, with the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty now treadmilling for that last spot. Most pundits believe that the Mystics will ultimately manage to win a game between now and the rest of the season (they have three home games left out of four overall) or that the Liberty will manage to lose one of their remaining three games (home vs. Phoenix on Tuesday, at Indy on Friday, and at DC next Sunday).
Either way, from a win and loss perspective, last Friday's loss was unacceptable, if the Mystics wanted to take care of business and get in the playoffs. But this is what I predict will happen if the Mystics lose today (and they're underdogs), even though I can't predict anything for my life:
The Mystics will lose again at Indiana Tuesday, and lose on Friday to Connecticut. The Liberty will win against Phoenix in its home finale on Tuesday, and win on the road against the Fever. That means that I predict that the September 15 game next week between the Liberty and the Mystics will be the ultimate decider of which team earns the fourth seed of the playoffs, which we here at Swish Appeal will call "The Treadmill Bowl." The winner either continues (NY) or begins a possible run on that machine (DC). The loser gets a chance at a major lottery pick. If one team's core was made of mostly top young prospects, we'd think differently, but neither team is, so The Treadmill Bowl it is.
I personally would not find it disappointing for the Mystics to miss the playoffs in the grand scheme of things, but it still wouldn't be a good finish if this were to happen and besides, this team needs a superstar, and the draft lottery could get them the #1 pick even if they have the 4th best odds. For the Liberty, winning out and seeing the Mystics lose out would be even worse long term.
Sure, the Libs could go to the playoffs, but this team isn't getting past the first round, and the Mystics don't have that much better of a chance. Oddly enough, even though the Mystics have been perennially bad minus a couple seasons here and there, they have NEVER missed the postseason more than two years in a row which is partly what has gotten this team on the "Treadmill of Mediocrity" time and time again, and/or has made mediocrity a goal, not a baseline.
All that said, the "Treadmill Number" or in more opti-Mystic terms "Magic Number" for the Mystics and the "Relief Number" for the Liberty is one. If the Mystics win today, they will get to the playoffs and will still have a chance to even be the #3 seed. Also, if the Mystics win out, which is still possible, that should be enough to make Mike Thibault the Coach of the Year.
All of that said, regardless of whether the Mystics make the playoffs this year, their most important player who could help the Mystics avoid the treadmill even with the Mystics making the playoffs now and swinging for the fences is finally starting to show up. Tayler Hill has scored at least 10 points in each of her last three games, and scored 15 points each in her last two. Hill has at least four free throw attempts in her last four games and has made them all too. She has at least two dimes each in her last three games. She's played at least 20 minutes in the last two games.
Is this just a good stretch in an otherwise bad season for Hill? Or is she finally living up to the billing (albeit Swish Appeal, Ohio State, and Minny-based fan-induced) that she can be a somebody in the league, let alone the Mystics? With Ajavon not playing at as high of a level lately, Hill has improved and made the most out of her increased playing time as of late. Maybe she is the right pick after all and I certainly hope that she is, and that she stays here because of the lack of a young nucleus in DC.
3. Tulsa Shock (10-21) at San Antonio Silver Stars (11-20), 4:30 PM ET
Neither team's remaining players should try to "tank" this game. Both are out of the playoffs anyway. Just play hard, and for the Silver Stars in particular, this is the season finale, finish it strong so the fans can leave this season feeling somewhat better before they get ready to see the Spurs TRY to defend their Western Conference championship in less than a couple months.
That's all I have. Enjoy today's matinees.