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Preview: Fever host Mercury, Liberty host Sky in Friday’s early games

One lopsided matchup and one matchup with overtime potential kick off weekend action.

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WNBA: Chicago Sky at Phoenix Mercury Brian Munoz-USA TODAY NETWORK

The WNBA’s last-place team hosts the second-place team, while the upswinging Sky try to hand the Liberty their second loss in as many days. Here’s how to follow the action.

Indiana Fever (1-14) vs. Phoenix Mercury (11-5)

When: Friday, June 29 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide streaming)

Injuries: For the Mercury, Briann January (foot) is questionable and Marie Gulich (personal) is out.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: This is these teams’ first meeting of the season.

The Phoenix Mercury are loaded with veteran talent, with the Brittney Griner-Diana Taurasi pairing one of the most formidable in the game. Meanwhile, the Indiana Fever are rookie-heavy, relying on Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians for points. Looking at these teams’ records and their places in the standings, it seems like a tall task for the Fever to be able to compete.

But that’s why you have to play the game. After all, the Atlanta Dream were running the table on all the league’s powers before suffering a 32-point loss to the Fever. Indiana has showed that it can score when the competition is stiff enough – take their most recent loss to the Sun, for example. In that game, the Fever put up 89 points and saw every player who took the court score. Even though it ended in a 12-point loss, the Fever hung in there, and if not for a 30-14 first quarter deficit, it would have been close the whole way.

The Mercury are coming out of something of a slump, having lost consecutive games for the first time since May before beating the Liberty on Tuesday. But even though this is their third stop in a four-game road trip, they’re still the team that won eight straight games, five of which were on the road. Phoenix might look vulnerable lately, but if they can put up another solid team effort like in their Tuesday win, they can take this game, too.

New York Liberty (4-10) vs. Chicago Sky (5-9)

When: Friday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Westchester County Center | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide streaming), MSG+ (New York-area TV), The U Too (Chicago-area TV)

Injuries: No official word yet, but Marissa Coleman (ankle) is likely to miss this game for the Liberty after also sitting out Thursday’s contest.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Sky 80, Liberty 76 (May 20)

Not so long ago, the Sky were suffering a six-game losing streak, finally getting a big win against an unlikely opponent: the Phoenix Mercury. Right now, the Liberty are in the thick of a four-game losing streak, and while a win against the Sky wouldn’t be an enormous upset, it would sure boost morale, especially after they very nearly tasted victory Thursday night.

In these teams’ last meeting, a lot was the same as it is now. Allie Quigley led all scorers with 22, but Tina Charles was right behind with 19. Cheyenne Parker and Gabby Williams contributed meaningful points for Chicago, while Kia Nurse and Amanda Zahui B did the same for New York. But the Sky have since since added Astou Ndour to their ranks, as well as welcoming back Courtney Vandersloot, while Diamond DeShields has been unstoppable lately. Every recent Sky outing has been a full-on team effort.

Which isn’t to say that the Liberty’s outings haven’t been team efforts – it’s just not the same “team” pulling out victories every game. One day it’s Zahui B and Charles leading the team, the next it’s Kia Vaughn and Epiphanny Prince, while some players with previous game-high efforts are barely a factor in the next contest. Like the Sky, the Liberty need to muster some team spirit and not have to guess which players (besides Charles) will emerge as leaders. And they almost put all those pieces together in their Thursday loss, but for some foul trouble and Elena Delle Donne’s last-second, game-winning three. If they can adjust that ending just a little bit, New York should have a chance to take the game.