There won’t be a new first-place team by the time the day is up, but in Sunday’s most critical game, the Connecticut Sun’s grasp of the top of the table could end up being a little less solid.
After losing by 32 points on Friday in Minnesota, the Sun look to get back on track against the fourth-place Las Vegas Aces, who just lost their second straight game (the first being the second half of the “earthquake game”). For two teams that have seemed practically invincible at certain points this season, this meeting will say a lot about how these teams recover from adversity.
The Sun’s primary goal? Avoid falling into another losing streak. Before their latest seven-game winning streak, they lost five straight; before that, it was another run of seven straight wins. Not letting the loss of another big streak affect them so deeply is key to holding onto first place, but in a playoff race where the top four teams are within 1.5 games of one another, Connecticut simply can’t afford to nosedive again.
For the Aces, who have lost three of their last four games, the goal is getting favorable results in their last two games of this homestand. Having already suffered a home loss to the Sun this season, one where A’ja Wilson (who remains out with injury) scored a team-high 19 points, the Aces must find scoring elsewhere. In Friday’s loss against Chicago, that came in the form of a 28-point effort from Liz Cambage, plus four more players in double figures. Replicating that output against a recently-demoralized Sun team wouldn’t hurt.
With all four of the league’s top teams in action today, the results of the other games could shake things up, too. Either the Sun or the Washington Mystics (or both, if the teams have the same result) will still be in first place by the end of the day, as the Mystics take on the venerable Minnesota Lynx — the same giant-killers that just took down the Sun. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Sparks will try to avoid being overtaken by the Chicago Sky, who aim to find themselves in the top four by day’s end. Finally, the Seattle Storm simply have to avoid losing to the New York Liberty to maintain their comfortable hold on a playoff spot.
Here’s how to watch today’s games:
Seattle Storm (13-11) vs. New York Liberty (8-14)
When: Sunday, August 11, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
How to watch: NBA TV, FOX Sports Go, NBA TV Canada
Keys to the matchup: Neither of these teams has had the best luck lately, with the Storm losing three of their last four games and the Liberty currently on a four-game losing streak. Both are scoring in the low 70s for that span and shooting around 40 percent, and while that’s not far off either team’s season average, failing to establish themselves against better (or even worse) teams isn’t doing them any favors. With New York 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and Seattle just 1.5 games away from the bubble, putting together a statement win today would finally set a nice tone for either team’s August.
Minnesota Lynx (12-11) vs. Washington Mystics (16-7)
When: Sunday, August 11, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, DC
How to watch: WNBA League Pass, NBC Sports Washington
Keys to the matchup: Can the Lynx take down a first-place team for the second game in a row? The Mystics don’t have the same seven-game winning streak that the Sun did, but they have won seven of their last eight games. And, of course, Washington still has Elena Delle Donne, who has averaged a league-best 24.5 points per game in that span (though her low of 11 points came at the Lynx). Minnesota had an outstanding game against the Sun, shooting 53.7 percent and converting 9 of 18 three-pointers, but is that offensive performance sustainable? And can the Lynx play the kind of shutdown defense they’ll need against the league’s best offense?
Chicago Sky (14-9) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (14-8)
When: Sunday, August 11, at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: WNBA League Pass, Spectrum SportsNet
Keys to the matchup: After the dust settled on ending the winning streaks at the top of the table, the Sparks now own the league’s best such streak at four games. But second to them is the Sky’s three-game winning streak, two of which came on the road. The Sky will want to avoid another 25-point beatdown like they suffered in Los Angeles on June 30, but with a top-four seed promised to the winner, there should be a lot of fight in this matchup. With Jantel Lavender and Jamierra Faulkner not playing for the Sky, this fight won’t come easy, but counting out the Sky hasn’t been a great idea this season, either.
Connecticut Sun (16-7) vs. Las Vegas Aces (15-9)
When: Sunday, August 11, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, NV
How to watch: ESPN2, TSN
Keys to the matchup: The Aces are frustratingly close to taking back first place with a win tonight. But while they can’t quite do it in one game, taking advantage of the Sun after a huge loss isn’t the worst setup for a still-important win. With a terrible first quarter dooming them in their most recent loss, and a terrible first half doing the same in their other recent loss — they started Monday’s game down 15 in the conclusion of the “earthquake game” — it’s not that the Aces have been bad during this stretch, just not consistent. Missing A’ja Wilson is a big part of this, but the last game, at least, was winnable. While the Sun have to regroup after their worst offensive outing of the season, the Aces just seem to have to not fall into a hole to start the game. Should be easy enough during this extremely important game, right?