The Connecticut Sun began the 2019 season by winning 10 of their first 11 games, including seven straight. They then lost five straight before again winning seven straight. The Sun now have dropped their last two games. Can they prevent another extended slide?
They will attempt to do so tonight in Phoenix when they take on the Mercury.
To succeed, the Sun will need Jonquel Jones to return to MVP form. After posting a 27-point game out of the All-Star Break, she hasn’t exceeded the 20-point mark since and has posted only eight points in the past two games. The absence of Brittney Griner, who will be serving the first game of a three-game suspension for her involvement in the incident during Saturday night’s game, will make Jones’ task a bit easier.
Without BG, the Mercury will need another scorer to step up. DeWanna Bonner cannot assume all of the offensive load, even though she has scored well against the Sun this season: She put up 20 points in each of the previous matchups between these two teams, both of which were Connecticut victories. Head coach Sandy Brondello likely will have to look to rookies Brianna Turner and Sophie Cunningham for extra buckets. Of late, both players have had games where they have flashed their potential, although, characteristic of first-year players, they also have failed to make an impact in other games.
Before this battle in the desert, the Washington Mystics welcome the Seattle Storm to DC. A win for Washington will allow them to solidify their claim on the top spot in the standings, regardless of whether second-place Connecticut prevails in Phoenix. When these teams faced off twelve days ago, the Mystics were dominant, with Elena Delle Donne and the Washington offense having their way against the league’s second-best defense. The Storm will strive to put forth a stronger performance, showing the resilience and persistence that has characterized their season.
The Los Angeles Sparks likewise will aim to entrench their place near the top of the standings when they meet the Dallas Wings. Since Candace Parker returned from her ankle injury, the Sparks have scintillated. As one should expect, the two-time MVP has enhanced the LA offense, allowing them to begin to approach their upside.
Defensive-focused Dallas will not hesitate to slow down the game with their physicality, although they certainly will miss the services Kayla Thornton, who is suspended two games for her role in Saturday night’s incident. The absence of Thornton, the also-suspended Kristine Anigwe (two games) and Kaela Davis (one game) may result in more minutes for Megan Gustafson. Despite performing well immediately after the All-Star Break, Gustafson has seen her playing time drop of late.
Seattle Storm (14-11) vs. Washington Mystics (17-7)
When: Wednesday, August 14, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, DC
How to watch: CBS Sports Network, Monumental
Keys to the game: Although neither team is strong on the boards, with Washington 10th in rebounds per game and Seattle 11th, whoever can own the glass may well win this matchup. In the first game between these two teams, the Storm grabbed 40 boards, with their ability to earn second-chance points contributing to their comeback win. In Washington’s more recent win over Seattle, the Mystics dominated the glass, grabbing 38 rebounds, their second-most of the season. For Seattle, Natasha Howard’s rebounding numbers are the predictor of success, as she snags almost nine in wins compared to 7.4 in losses. For Washington, the key is Elena Delle Donne, who has averaged more than four rebounds more in wins.
Los Angeles Sparks (15-8) vs. Dallas Wings (7-17)
When: Wednesday, August 14, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: College Park Center, Dallas, TX
How to watch: WNBA League Pass, FOX Sports Southwest
Keys to the game: It’s time for Nneka Ogwumike to get some more MVP love! The July Player of the Month just grabbed another Player of the Week award. Through all the Sparks’ injury woes and uneven lineups, Ogwumike has remained ever steady. Expect the same against the Wings. Even if Dallas is able to use its defensive aggressiveness to disrupt LA’s “showtime” offense, look for Ogwumike to deconstruct the Wings’ somewhat-depleted defense with her measured and methodical offensive game.
Connecticut Sun (16-8) vs. Phoenix Mercury (11-12)
When: Wednesday, August 14, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ESPN2, NBA TV Canada
Keys to the game: Keep an eye on Courtney Williams! In the first game between Connecticut and Phoenix, a big win for the Sun, the speedy guard posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. In the second matchup, approximately two weeks ago, Williams dropped 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, sealing the six-point win for the Sun. If Willams again can effectively employ her energy and athleticism, the Sun should snap their losing streak.