Seven newly-minted WNBA All-Stars will be in action on Wednesday as the Chicago Sky welcome the Atlanta Dream to the Windy City, the Dallas Wings take on the Phoenix Mercury in the desert and the Seattle Storm head to the land of lakes to face the Minnesota Lynx.
First up, the Sky’s trio of All-Star guards — three-timer Allie Quigley, two-timer Courtney Vandersloot and first-timer Diamond DeShields — will be challenged by a Dream guard rotation that, while possessing All-Star potential, has lacked the consistency and efficiency that earns All-Star berths. The über-athletic pair of Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes, along with Alex Bentley, can threaten their Sky counterparts on both ends of the floor with the ability to get to the basket and lock down the perimeter. However, the Sky have played much better at home, suggesting they should be ready for this showdown despite the early start time.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Mercury will aim to avoid a three-game losing streak and avenge their earlier loss to the Wings. In the June 20 matchup in Dallas, the All-Star duo of Britney Griner and DeWanna Bonner did not play like All-Stars. Instead, it was Kayla Thornton who flashed All-Star-like form, not only turning in a double-double but also demonstrating the kind of urgency and intensity that the Mercury have lacked much of the season. Of course, if all-time All-Star Diana Taurasi plays, especially if she plays significant minutes at the level of which she is capable, the Mercury finally may begin to approach their upside.
Then, three All-Stars (and a snub) will take the court Wednesday evening when the Lynx and Storm face off for the third time this season. And, again, the mentee versus mentor matchup should attract the most attention, as first-time All-Star and MVP candidate Natasha Howard and six-time All-Star and former MVP Sylvia Fowles do battle. While Howard has had the more heralded season so far (although the recent exposure of domestic violence accusations against her certainly stains her star rise), Fowles became the WNBA’s all-time leader in double-doubles on Sunday. Throughout the season, she has shown her characteristic consistency and efficiency, possessing the league’s sixth-highest player impact estimate at 17.2. With a strong second half, the mentor just may steal the MVP buzz from her mentee.
Atlanta Dream (5-11) vs. Chicago Sky (9-8)
When: Wednesday, July 17, at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, IL
How to watch: Twitter, Bounce TV
Keys to the matchup: Which team will control the pace of play? The Sky play at the third-fastest pace at 97.51. In wins, they play even faster at 98.40. The Dream, in contrast, succeed by slowing things down. While playing at an overall pace of 92.91, Atlanta’s pace has been 90.72 in their five wins.
Dallas Wings (5-11) vs. Phoenix Mercury (7-8)
When: Wednesday, July 17, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: NBA TV, NBA TV Canada, Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Southwest
Keys to the matchup: Dominating the boards allowed the Wings to defeat the Mercury in their first matchup. Can they do it again? Dallas can overcome their often uneven offense by extending possessions and earning second chances. On the other end of the floor, ending possessions by crashing the boards can keep Phoenix from establishing an offensive rhythm. While lacking star power, the Wings do have a relatively deep front court. The willingness of Kayla Thornton, Glory Johnson, Isabelle Harrison, Theresa Plaisance and Imani McGee-Stafford to bang in the paint could lead the Wings to another win.
Seattle Storm (10-8) vs. Minnesota Lynx (10-7)
When: Wednesday, July 17, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
How to watch: NBA TV, NBA TV Canada, Fox Sports North
Keys to the matchup: Can the Lynx get the ball to Syl so she can go to work? The Lynx sport the league’s worst turnover mark at 20.8 percent. Facing the league’s clear leader in steals is unlikely to help their cause. The Storm average 9.4 steals per game, with Jordin Canada creating chaos on the perimeter and Natasha Howard doing the same inside. The return of Temi Fagbenle, while an overall a positive for Minnesota, may not help them improve their possession stats in the short term, as frequent roster turnover is responsible for much of the Lynx’s ball control struggles.