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Preview: Aces host Sky, Mercury host Sun in Thursday’s late matchups

Two games in the desert round out Thursday’s WNBA action.

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Seattle Storm v Las Vegas Aces
Kayla McBride, the Las Vegas Aces’ second-leading scorer, had 18 points in the team’s previous matchup with the Chicago Sky.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Can the new-look Aces prevail over the new-look Sky and even the season series? And will the Mercury roll over the Sun once more? Here’s how to watch tonight’s games and find out.

Las Vegas Aces (6-12) vs. Chicago Sky (6-11)

When: Thursday, July 5 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide streaming), AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Las Vegas-area TV), The U Too (Chicago-area TV)

Injuries: For the Sky, Jamierra Faulkner (knee) is out for the season.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Sky 95, Aces 90 (June 3)

This matchup has all the makings of a close game, from featuring two of the top three rookies taken in this year’s draft, to the teams’ almost-identical records, to the recent history of a back-and-forth affair.

But a few key things are different.

First off, Stefanie Dolson is back in her place as the Sky’s starting center, having been injured in the previous meeting with Las Vegas. Allie Quigley is back, too, and her on-court connection with Courtney Vandersloot has been thriving in spite of Chicago’s two-game losing streak. And finally, Jamierra Faulkner – who had 13 points for the Sky against the Aces last month – is now out for the season with a torn ACL. It’s not all good change for Chicago, but in spite of Faulkner’s injury, it does seem to trend positive.

The Aces are a much different team, too. One month ago, Kelsey Plum wasn’t the team’s starting point guard, but a player trying to recover from a forgettable rookie season. Now, Plum is assisting, rebounding and, importantly, scoring like the NCAA superstar she was. And while building a team around A’ja Wilson isn’t a bad idea, considering Wilson is still living up to the much-deserved hype, it has to be refreshing to see other players coming up big. In the Aces’ June 29 win against the Sparks, for example, five players scored in double figures.

This game still might be a close one. But if the Aces can break down Chicago’s shaky defense and replicate their high-scoring efforts of late, they stand a good chance of taking this game.

Phoenix Mercury (13-5) vs. Connecticut Sun (10-7)

When: Thursday, July 5 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena | TICKETS

How to watch: WNBA League Pass (worldwide streaming), Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Arizona-area TV)

Injuries: For the Mercury, Sancho Lyttle (knee) is out for the season, while Camille Little (ankle) is questionable. For the Sun, Alyssa Thomas (shoulder) is doubtful and Courtney Williams (personal) is questionable.

Storylines to follow

Last meeting: Mercury 89, Sun 72 (June 16)

Remember when the Sun began the season 5-0? The Mercury sure don’t.

The first meeting between these two teams came during what would eventually be a season-defining string of games for each of them: it was the seventh win of Phoenix’s eight-game winning streak that catapulted them toward the top of the standings, and the third loss of Connecticut’s four-game losing streak that dropped them to 7-5 following their promising start.

Now, both teams are solidly in playoff contention, with the first-place Mercury (now tied at the top with the Storm) coming into this game on yet another winning streak, this time at three games. But the Mercury have yet to play since losing starter Sancho Lyttle for the season to an ACL injury. And while the Sun are coming off a thrilling victory against the Sparks, their consistency of late has left something to be desired, even since welcoming Chiney Ogwumike back to the starting five.

All things considered, the Mercury have the clear edge in this game, especially with Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi’s partnership working as well as ever. The truest test will be whether Phoenix can recover from losing a starter more efficiently than Connecticut has had to for much of the season.