The WNBA’s two hottest teams take their winning streaks on the road on Sunday as the first-place Connecticut Sun and second-place Washington Mystics battle — separately — to maintain their positions at the top of the table.
Basketball, it’s said, is a game of runs. But for the Sun, it’s been nearly a whole season of runs. After starting the season 2-1, they won seven games in a row, lost five in a row and have now won their last six games. The longer their current streak goes, the clearer this question becomes: Will a loss send them into a tailspin once again?
Connecticut will try to put off answering that question again this afternoon at the New York Liberty, a team that would love to turn a two-game losing streak around and inch closer to the eighth-place Minnesota Lynx. The Sun are coming out of a four-game homestand, and being 4-5 on the road, the chance of being jolted back to reality with a loss is high.
Boards into buckets.— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 2, 2019
The JJ lifestyle. pic.twitter.com/Fgl64oKtLr
The Mystics, on a five-game winning streak, are in a similar position to the Sun. They lost their season opener, but have experienced their wins and losses in runs of at least two ever since. However, three of the five wins in their current streak came on the road, putting them in a more comfortable position today at the Phoenix Mercury.
Beyond the Mystics’ relative comfort level on the road, where they’re 8-3, there’s also the fact that the Mercury have experienced a rash of injuries lately. Briann January, Diana Taurasi and Alanna Smith are all out today, while Brittney Griner — who suffered an ankle injury in Phoenix’s last game — is listed as probable. It’s an unfortunate yet solid opportunity for Washington to at least keep pace with the first-place Sun with a win today, if not overtake them.
Atkins ➡️ EDD... too easy pic.twitter.com/HZKd5sSYat— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) August 3, 2019
Today’s middle game between the Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks is less about remaining at the top of the table or winning streaks — though Los Angeles could extend its own streak to three games today — and more about positioning for the playoffs. The fourth-place Sparks can’t overtake the third-place Aces, but they can put some more distance between themselves and the fifth-place Chicago Sky. Meanwhile, the sixth-place Storm would pull into a virtual tie with the Sparks with a win, crowding the middle of the eight-team playoff standings even more than they already are.
Here’s how to follow today’s games:
Connecticut Sun (15-6) vs. New York Liberty (8-12)
When: Sunday, August 4, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY
How to watch: NBA TV, NBA TV Canada, YES, WTIC
Keys to the matchup: The Sun have the worst home vs. away point differential in the WNBA, scoring nearly 10 more points per game at home than they do on the road. To put that into perspective, the Dallas Wings, who have not won a single road game this season, have a home vs. away point differential of 6.5 points. Considering the Liberty only lost by seven points in Connecticut on July 24, that 10-point swing could be a game-changer should it be in effect today in New York.
Seattle Storm (12-10) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (12-8)
When: Sunday, August 4, at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: NBA TV, NBA TV Canada, Spectrum SportsNet
Keys to the matchup: The only thing that has remained consistent across the Storm’s last two games is that they lost both of them. Otherwise, they’ve experienced drastic changes in areas including three-point percentage (42.9 and 13.6), free throw percentage (64.7 and 80) and turnovers (19 and 7). There are some good numbers there — they just didn’t all happen in the same game.
But the Storm will need to find that consistency again against the Sparks, who have not only been mainly consistent over their mini-win streak, but also got a vintage Candace Parker performance in their last game against the Las Vegas Aces. If these trends continue, Los Angeles should be able to hold down their home court and keep inching up the standings.
Washington Mystics (14-6) vs. Phoenix Mercury (10-10)
When: Sunday, August 4, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: WNBA League Pass, Monumental Sports Network
Keys to the matchup: The big draw for this game, on paper, is scoring. Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner are the league’s No. 1 and No. 2 leading scorers, while Washington’s Elena Delle Donne is No. 3. This game could simply come down to which stars have the best game. But with Griner only probable to return after suffering an ankle injury in the Mercury’s last game, her impact could be lessened, leaving Bonner to pick up her slack.
These teams have an interesting split in their two prior meetings this season, with the Mercury blowing out the Mystics in Washington on July 10 before the Mystics defended their home court in a much closer game this past Tuesday. Washington seems capable of delivering Phoenix a home blowout of its own, but matching its 8-3 road record with Phoenix’s 6-2 home record should make for an interesting matchup indeed.