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WNBA Playoff Preview Guide Dallas Wings vs Connecticut Sun: Wings set to take next step in franchise trajectory

The Wings just concluded their most successful regular season since moving to Dallas. They’ll look to carry that success into the WNBA playoffs, where they’ll face the Connecticut Sun in the first round.

Dallas Wings v Seattle Storm
The Dallas Wings will look to build on their late regular-season success with a first-round playoff upset.
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings (18-18) enter the 2022 WNBA playoffs seeded at No. 6 overall, drawing the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun (25-11) in the postseason’s first round. The best-of-three series will begin on Thursday, Aug 18, with each game being televised nationally on the ESPN family of networks.

Having finished the regular season with a .500 record for the first time since relocating to Dallas in 2015, the playoffs serve as the logical next step in the Wings’ franchise trajectory, especially since the WNBA did away with the recent single-game elimination playoff format that the Wings were bounced from in 2021; they’ll now get, at minimum, two games to prove their playoff moxie. The increased opportunity also carries with it a sense of reserved optimism, as Dallas actually won its 2022 regular-season series against Connecticut two games to one.

Season series

Wings 85, Sun 77 (May 24)

The Wings overcome a double-digit halftime deficit, outscoring the Sun 58-38 in the second half to complete an impressive comeback

Sun 99, Wings 68 (May 26)

Connecticut holds the Wings to 36.9 percent shooting from the field and forces 19 Dallas turnovers to even the season series at one game apiece

Wings 82, Sun 71 (July 5)

Led by 32 points from its starting backcourt, Dallas takes a first-quarter lead over Connecticut and holds onto it for the rest of the game to win the season series between the two teams

Can new-look Wings carry momentum into playoffs?

Minnesota Lynx v Dallas Wings
With Arike Ogunbowale (left) injured, Marina Mabrey will need to continue scoring the ball at a high level for Dallas.
Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

The playoffs are, of course, a completely different scenario than the regular season, and in the Wings’ case, it’s important to consider how their roster from their regular-season games against Connecticut compares to what they’ll be rolling into the postseason with — both for better and for worse.

The obvious storyline will be the absence of guard Arike Ogunbowale, who continues to nurse an abdominal injury that she suffered late in the regular season. She was ruled out for the first round of the playoffs last week, and Dallas has given no updates on her recovery since then.

Ogunbowale’s 19.7 points per game in 2022 ranked fourth in the WNBA, and she was the Wings highest-usage player (27.6 percent) during the regular season, so one would think Dallas would run into trouble without her. That hasn’t been the case, however; the Wings went 3-2 after Ogunbowale got injured (including the game she got injured in) and were 5-2 in all games she missed.

The emergence of Teaira McCowan has certainly helped matters. The 6’7 center, who Dallas acquired in a trade with Indiana last offseason, has become a focal point of the team’s offense, and finished the regular season strong as a result, averaging 17.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in August en route to a WNBA Player of the Month award.

Meanwhile, guard Marina Mabrey has ensured that the Wings still have reliable shot creation in their backcourt. In the month of August, Mabrey led Dallas in both scoring (20.9 points per game) and assists (5.1 assists per game) while shooting 41.5 percent on 5.9 3-pointers attempted per game. While Mabrey has played alongside more traditional point guards in Tyasha Harris and Veronica Burton during this stretch, she’s established herself as the team’s de facto leader no matter who she’s sharing the court with.

How the Wings match up with the Sun

So how do the Wings, in their current form, stack up against their first-round opponent?

One thing is for sure: It’s going to a physical series. The Sun and Wings ranked first and second, respectively, in offensive rebounding rate during the regular season. Dallas led the WNBA in free throw rate, with Connecticut not far behind (third). With both of these areas crucial to each team’s success, it’s safe to say that if either the Wings or Sun win both battles, they’ll be in a good position to take the series.

There are no shortage of compelling individual matchups, either, particularly in the frontcourt. McCowan will be going up against reigning Most Valuable Player Jonquel Jones and reigning Most Improved Player Brionna Jones; the former a rangy, skilled center who also dominates on the glass and the latter one of the league’s most efficient low-post scorers. McCowan will have her hands full with both.

WNBA: MAY 24 Dallas Wings at Connecticut Sun
Keeping Alyssa Thomas out of transition will be a big factor in the Wings winning the series.
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If there’s one Sun player the Wings don’t have a clear answer for, though, it’s Alyssa Thomas. Arguably Connecticut’s most important player, Thomas led the Sun in assists (6.1 per game) from the power forward position while fueling the team’s transition game. According to Synergy Sports, Thomas ranked ninth in the WNBA in total transition possessions (104) and shot 68.3 percent from the field in transition, while the Wings allowed the second-highest transition frequency (16 percent) of any WNBA team. It should go without saying that Dallas must corral Thomas if it’s going to win the series.

In the backcourt, Dallas may have the series’ best guard in Mabrey. She leads a Wings team that, even without Ogunbowale, will likely get up more 3-pointers than the Sun, who have ranked near the bottom of the WNBA in long-range shot attempts in each of the league’s past few seasons.

Series schedule

Game 1 — Thursday, Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU, NBA TV)

Game 2 — Sunday, Aug. 21 at 12 p.m. ET (ABC)

Game 3 (if necessary) — Wednesday, Aug. 24 (time and network TBD)