The WNBA’s most-talked-about trade of the 2019 offseason will finally come to fruition tonight, as Liz Cambage is set to play her first game for the Las Vegas Aces.
Some have already penciled in the Aces as not just title contenders, but title winners, thanks to the acquisition of Cambage. However this season shakes out, tonight’s game will answer several questions about both Las Vegas and the Phoenix Mercury, who enter this matchup having lost their first game of this very young season.
Phoenix is winless thanks to a surprising defeat at the hands of the Bird-less, Stewie-less Seattle Storm. But after losing badly to the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday, the Storm enters Friday’s first game of the night against Atlanta looking to get back on track. The Dream narrowly escaped with a win against Dallas in its opener.
Tonight’s final game features two more powerhouse squads: the Connecticut Sun taking on the Los Angeles Sparks on the road. The two teams had opposite opening-game experiences, with the Sun winning by double digits and the Sparks losing by double digits. This also marks the Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike’s first game against her former team.
Here’s what to expect in tonight’s games and how to watch:
Seattle Storm vs. Atlanta Dream
When: Friday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
How to watch: CBS Sports Network
Keys to the matchup: The distinction of being the first team this season to play two road games in three days may not have fazed last year’s Storm — who didn’t lose consecutive games all season until the semifinals — but it’ll be the first big test for this edition of the team. While the Dream could have had a better first game offensively, shooting well under 50 percent, Atlanta’s bench was able to pick up some of the slack. If Atlanta can put together another balanced game and a strong defensive outing, it could stop Seattle in its tracks for the second straight game, setting an uncomfortable tone for the Storm’s season.
Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury
When: Friday, May 31, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ESPN2
Keys to the matchup: The Cambage and A’ja Wilson-anchored frontcourt promises to be a dominant presence, but Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner are forces to be reckoned with in their own right. However, with that matchup comes the possibility that all of these normally dominant scorers might be limited — which tips in the Aces’ favor, considering that on Saturday, Griner and Bonner were the only scorers for the Mercury in the second half. If Phoenix can’t step up offensively beyond its duo of go-tos, it could be in for a world of hurt.
Connecticut Sun vs. Los Angeles Sparks
When: Friday, May 31, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: ESPN3, Spectrum SportsNet (LA-area TV), NESN+ (New England-area TV)
Keys to the matchup: While the Sun is a young team relying on its more experienced players, the Sparks are happy to use Maria Vadeeva as much as they can this season, as well as rookies Kalani Brown and Marina Mabrey. All three had solid outings against Las Vegas over the weekend in spite of the team’s loss, and Vadeeva’s newly-displayed maturity is going to be especially important for LA this season. The Vadeeva-Jonquel Jones matchup down low will be something to watch as the second-year player — who just missed a matchup with Cambage on Sunday — faces her toughest challenge yet. Can the Sparks’ youth hang in there? And, on a related note: Will the Sun take this opportunity to perhaps play their own rookies for the first time all season?