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Preview: Phoenix Mercury, Las Vegas Aces face off in star-studded desert duel

Even without Diana Taurasi, big names abound in this desert duel! Both the Phoenix Mercury (2-2) and Las Vegas Aces (2-2) will be looking for their third win of the season when they meet on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. While the bigs battle between Brittney Griner and Liz Cambage inspires intrigue, the shotmaking abilities of Chelsea Gray could swing this contest.

Phoenix Mercury v Washington Mystics
Can BG win the bigs battle against Liz?
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET, the Phoenix Mercury (2-2) welcome the Las Vegas Aces (2-2) to the Valley for a star-studded Commissioner’s Cup contest.

Even without Diana Taurasi, who is expected to miss at least four weeks with a chest injury, we’ve got A’ja Wilson, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, Kia Nurse and Dearica Hamby. Don’t forget Brianna Turner and Jackie Young either!

And, oh yeah, the headliners of this showdown are two of the WNBA’s premier bigs — Brittney Griner and Liz Cambage.

In the last three meetings between Griner and Cambage, all of which occurred during the 2019 season, Griner posted higher scoring numbers, putting up an average of 22 points per game. But the Aces won two of the three games, with Cambage turning in better all-round performances in the Vegas victories. Her superior rebounding abilities, in particular, helped to give her team the edge, as she exploited Griner’s notoriously poor work on the boards.

However, Griner is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game so far this season, her best mark since 2015. This number matches A’ja Wilson’s rebounding average and slightly betters Cambage’s 7.5 rebounds per game game. Phoenix also employs one of the league’s best boardwomen in Brianna Turner, who is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game.

Of course, other stars could determine the outcome of this matchup, especially Chelsea Gray. After a down shooting season last year, Gray has been en fuego to start her tenure with the Aces, evinced by her true shooting percentage of 70.2 percent. While she has been deadly from inside the arc, she been far from a slouch from longe range, shooting a superb 45.5 percent on 2.8 trey attempts per game.

In contrast, the Mercury, without Taurasi, do not have a surefire perimeter threat, as both Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse have gotten off to uneven starts. While Diggins-Smith’s shooting and scoring numbers are slightly down, Nurse is severely struggling with her shot. Now is the time for both to step up. Fortunately for Phoenix, both have the potential to do so.


Game information

Las Vegas Aces (2-2) vs. Phoenix Mercury (2-2)

When: Wednesday, May 26 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, AZ

How to watch: CBS Sports Network, MYLVTV

Key to the matchup: The reigning MVP also is in this game! It seems smart to expect A’ja Wilson to impact the action on both ends of the floor. Through four games, Wilson is totaling 18.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, numbers that approach her MVP averages. She is doing this as she has diversified her shot profile. Yes, it was exciting to see Wilson connect on her lone 3-point attempt. More interestingly, 27.4 percent of her field goal attempts have come from midrange, compared to 19.1 percent last year. She also has flashed improved playmaking, with 3.3 assists per game.

Aces injury report: Kelsey Plum (out; temporary suspension), Angel McCoughtry (out for season; knee)

Mercury injury report: Diana Taurasi (out; chest), Bria Hartley (out; knee)