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Preview: 3 afternoon games start off WNBA Sunday

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The Dream host the Mystics, the Liberty host the Sky and the Fever host the Mercury in a slate of interesting matchups, two of which are on national television.

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WNBA All-Star Game 2014
Angel McCoughtry has been a big key to the Atlanta Dream’s success this season, contributing top-two efforts in scoring, rebounding and steals.

Ten teams play Sunday in the WNBA, with the first six tipping off in the late afternoon. Here’s what to look for and how to watch.

Atlanta Dream (11-9) vs. Washington Mystics (13-8)

When: Sunday, July 15 at 3 p.m. ET

Where: McCamish Pavilion | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide streaming), FOX Sports Southeast Atlanta (Atlanta-area TV), Monumental Network (D.C.-area TV)

Injuries: Nothing to report.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Dream 106, Mystics 89 (July 11)

The Dream are just a game and a half back of the third-place Mystics in the standings, meaning a win in this matchup would throw them right into the mix of the top playoff contenders. Working in their favor is their current three-game winning streak, with the second win in the set being a 17-point win over this Mystics team. In that game, four Dream players combined to score 89 points, led by Angel McCoughtry’s 24 points and Jessica Breland’s 23 points and 10 rebounds. And in case there was a worry that Atlanta’s scoring was too concentrated, seven players scored in double figures in their most recent game, a 24-point win over the Fever.

Meanwhile, the Mystics’ most recent game saw them wrapping up a three-game series sweep over the Sky in regular dominating fashion, with Ariel Atkins and Elena Delle Donne scoring 25 points apiece. But in spite of the score working in their favor, Washington was actually outshot by Chicago, 43.3 to 41.1 percent. In fact, the Mystics have been relying mainly on the sheer number of shots they take to pick up their points — though being the new league leaders in threes per game at 8.3 has been helping, too.

While Atlanta’s 60.1 percent shooting effort from these teams’ previous meeting will be difficult to replicate, if they can shut down the Mystics from beyond the arc, this could end up being a fairly straightforward repeat victory.

New York Liberty (6-14) vs. Chicago Sky (7-14)

When: Sunday, July 15 at 3 p.m. ET

Where: Westchester County Center | TICKETS

How to watch: NBA TV (national TV), MSG Network (New York-area TV)

Injuries: Marissa Coleman (ankle) is questionable for the Liberty. Jamierra Faulkner (knee) is out for the season for the Sky.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Liberty 97, Sky 94 (July 1)

By now, the Sky and the Liberty know each other very well, having met three times this season already. And while Chicago owns the 2-1 series lead, as well as the half-game advantage in the standings, it’s hard to call them the favorites.

The Sky come into this game on a two-game losing streak, and although five players have scored in double figures in both games, the shots just aren’t falling for players outside that five. In their last game, only Gabby Williams scored in double figures off the bench, and she was only one of two bench players to score at all. The team is also struggling from three, averaging under 25 percent in those two losses.

Although the Liberty have only won one of four since beating the Sky earlier this month, their lone win came on Wednesday over the Sun in a game where they shot 45.1 percent. Only three players scored in double figures, and they needed a Shavonte Zellous buzzer-beater to win, but the scoring was otherwise balanced between the starters and the bench — that is, the bench players scored at all. Bench points pushed the Liberty over the Sky in their last meeting, despite the Sky’s success from three in that game that has since faltered, and the benches could decide this game, too, should these teams’ recent efforts continue.

Indiana Fever (2-19) vs. Phoenix Mercury (14-8)

When: Sunday, July 15 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse | TICKETS

How to watch: NBA TV (national TV), WNDY (Indianapolis-area TV), Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Arizona-area TV)

Injuries: For the Fever, Shenise Johnson (knee) is out indefinitely. For the Mercury, Sancho Lyttle (knee) is out for the season.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Mercury 95, Fever 77 (June 29)

It’s easy to look at this game and dismiss it based on records alone. The Mercury are in second place, and the Fever are in last place — how much more of an advantage could Phoenix have?

As it happens, the Mercury and Fever have more in common than meets the eye. For one thing, one of these teams will see a three-game losing streak end by the time the final buzzer sounds. Both teams have big losses to the Wings in their respective streaks, although it’s arguable that the Mercury’s was largely influenced by Diana Taurasi’s absence for most of the game (as well as Sancho Lyttle being out for the season, something the team still hasn’t fully recovered from). Phoenix’s latest loss was rather close, highlighted by Taurasi’s 28 points in her return, but they put themselves in a major comeback situation in the fourth quarter that they just couldn’t see through.

The Fever, by their rights, aren’t a bad team, they’re just a young team, facing competition that they’re just not ready for. It’s endlessly fascinating that their two wins on the season have come against major playoff contenders — the Dream and the Lynx — but they haven’t been able to make winning a regular occurrence. They’re consistently being out-rebounded and out-assisted by huge quantities, and although the pickup of veteran Cappie Pondexter has been a massive help (she recently got her first starting nod in the team’s previous game), it’s not enough to turn the Fever into a team that can realistically compete every game.

Phoenix has the advantage, of course, but considering their recent struggles, it will be interesting to see how big that advantage truly is.