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Preview: Wings storm into Seattle for KeyArena battle

The sole matchup on this WNBA Saturday tips off at 9 p.m. ET. The key to this one will be the player who powers forward.

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Seattle Storm v Las Vegas Aces
Natasha Howard (R) storms in with a powerful block on Kayla McBride’s shot.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There’s only one WNBA game on the schedule for Saturday night. But it’s the Wings against the Storm, which promises to be fun. Here are the keys to the game and how to watch.

Seattle Storm (15-6) vs. Dallas Wings (12-8)

When: Saturday, July 14 at 9 p.m. ET

Where: KeyArena, Seattle, WA | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide) | JOEtv (Seattle market)

Injury report: For Seattle, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (concussion protocol) has been ruled out for tonight’s game. For Dallas, Theresa Plaisance (ACL) is questionable, while Karima Christmas-Kelly (knee) has been ruled out for the season.

Star quotes ahead of tonight’s game

Breanna Stewart (on loss to Los Angeles Sparks this week): “We will get some treatment in, watch some video, get a good practice in. This season is short, so we don’t have time to keep mulling over a game. Win or lose, you watch film, you move on.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith (on blowout of Los Angeles Sparks this week): “Anybody in this league can beat you any night, especially at home. It starts on defense. Being able to rebound, help, get really aggressive on the ball, getting tips. That’s when we’re playing our best and it definitely translates on offense.”

Keys to this KeyArena clash

  • No Mosqueda-Lewis means another Seattle star will have to come up big at the forward position for this team to get a win. Fans can expect Glory Johnson to swarm Breanna Stewart, requiring another Storm forward to step up. Enter Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark, who have demonstrated an ability to rise to the occasion all season.
  • Stewie (or Stewart if you’re nasty) is the leading scorer in the league and the leading scorer for her Storm team. For the Wings, that accolade goes to Liz Cambage, who also happens to be an expert offensive rebounder, which should give Stewie & Co. fits all night.
  • Cambage leads her team in rebounding and is second in the league, averaging 9.4 boards per game to Stewie’s 8. Not a big difference in numbers, but Cambage standing 6-foot-8 presents some obvious challenges in any battle for the ball.
  • In the battle of court generals, Sue Bird is averaging 7.4 assists per game and Skylar Diggins-Smith is averaging 6.5. Diggins-Smith wins the speed war, as well as the battle of the hustle, but Bird bests any player — male or female — when it comes to court vision and creative passing. Which of these players’ traits will have the biggest impact on the game is anyone’s guess but, either way, the point guard show should be fun to watch.

Advantage: Wings

In their most recent outing, Seattle was beaten by the Sparks at home in a defensive slugfest that left all the players gassed. The Storm should expect an even bigger battle tonight. The Wings, meanwhile, last played the Sparks Thursday and got to leave Tinsel Town with a blowout victory under their belts.

With the Storm taking that last loss at KeyArena, they will be looking for revenge tonight. But the Wings fly into this game on a five-game winning streak featuring a huge victory over the 2016 WNBA champs. The Sparks beat the Storm (but barely) and the Wings beat the Sparks (by blowout).

Dallas has the upper hand in this one.

Special note on coverage of tonight’s game

Here’s what the major sports networks are airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET instead of this thriller of a matchup that could be a preview of a late playoff series:

  • ESPN — 2018 World Series of Poker Final Table: Isn’t this better suited for ESPN2 or ESPN3?
  • ESPN2 — Summer League: New players and bench players scrimmaging outside of the NBA regular season, in games with zero implications (other than practice), playoff or otherwise. Why does Summer League need to be on TV at all, except to snatch coverage from the WNBA?
  • NBA TV — Summer League: Same as above.

Across the board, network programmers are showing that middling or low-level NBA bench players, or poker players, are more important than women competing in games with playoff implications. ESPN (not ESPN2) will show poker, but it will not air the Las Vegas Aces, the team running Sin City now?

Everyone is encouraged to vote with their viewership.