The Seattle Storm destroyed the Phoenix Mercury’s title hopes in 2018, bouncing them from the semifinals to advance to the WNBA Finals where they won it all in a three-game sweep of the Washington Mystics. Without stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, however, the Storm have been unable to dominate the Mercury. In tonight’s fourth and final battle in the teams’ season series, the Storm will look to pull even with the Mercury while the Mercury will seek a morale-boosting win.
Although the Mercury hold the 2-1 series lead, the victories were by three points (May 15 in the preseason) and two points (June 30), respectively. Seattle, meanwhile, beat Phoenix 77-68 on May 25. Domination this is not, on either side. But the Mercury know they have what it takes to beat the Storm. After all, they pushed last year’s semifinals series to five games, with Stewart and Bird in the lineup.
The Mercury are eighth in the standings and will climb back to .500 with a win tonight. But beyond their season record and playoff seeding, the Mercury need a win to boost their morale and give the fans in Talking Stick Resort Arena something to cheer about. They’ll need that momentum heading into the playoffs.
For the Storm, tonight is all about evening the series with the Mercury and improving their season record to 17-15, for a tie with the Minnesota Lynx. Because the Storm have a 3-1 record in head-to-head matches against the Lynx, they hold the tiebreaker and, therefore, would overtake the Lynx for sixth place.
The Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks face unseeded teams tonight — New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream, respectively — but playoff implications are present for them, too. A Mystics loss would cut their one-game hold on the No. 1 spot to a half-game lead over the second-place Connecticut Sun. For the Sparks, a win would put them at a 20-12 record with the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces and Sparks hold a 2-2 tie in their season series, so the team with the better record against teams ranked .500 or above would break the tie.
Here’s what to expect and how to watch the games:
Washington Mystics (23-8) at New York Liberty (9-22)
When: Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Westchester County Center, White Plains, NY
How to watch: NBA TV, Fox Sports Go (New York), Monumental (D.C.), TSN
Key matchup: Emma Meesseman vs. Marine Johannès if Mystics coach Mike Thibault decides to rest Elena Delle Donne and if Liberty coach Katie Smith decides to rest Tina Charles. With the Mystics’ No. 1 seed not secure, look for Delle Donne to get big minutes.
Seattle Storm (16-15) at Phoenix Mercury (15-16)
When: Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ESPN2
Key matchup: Jordin Canada vs. Leilani Mitchell could be a fun battle of small guards. But the real thing to watch is whether Diana Taurasi can find her stroke and reduce the scoring load on Brittney Griner.
Atlanta Dream (7-24) at Los Angeles Sparks (19-12)
When: Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: ESPN3/League Pass, Spectrum SportsNet
Key matchup: Renee Montgomery has had some big games despite the Dream’s losing record. Look for her to make the night as difficult for the Sparks as possible, but look for Sparks coach Derek Fisher to tinker with lineups and perhaps limit the minutes of some of the veterans.