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Preview: Minnesota Lynx take on Dallas Wings, seeking fifth-consecutive win

The Minnesota Lynx have climbed up to fourth place in the WNBA standings, overcoming a rough start to the 2021 season. The young and exciting Dallas Wings now stand in their way in a Wednesday night matchup televised on ESPN2.

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury
Napheesa Collier (center) is currently averaging a career-best 17.8 points per game for the Minnesota Lynx.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx (9-7), winners of four straight games, welcome the Dallas Wings (9-10) to Target Center in a nationally-televised matchup on Wednesday, July 7. Later in the day, the Phoenix Mercury (7-9) will try to break out of a rut when they face the league-leading Las Vegas Aces (14-4), while the Los Angeles Sparks (6-11) and the Seattle Storm (14-4) renew their rivalry.

While the Lynx continue to play somewhat shorthanded — both Aerial Powers (thumb) and Natalie Achonwa (knee) remain shelved — most of their healthy players have stepped up to contribute to the team’s rise in the standings. In particular, Lynx leading scorer Napheesa Collier has been excellent during Minnesota’s winning streak, averaging 18.3 points per game in that span and recording two double-doubles. Center Sylvia Fowles, meanwhile, has perhaps been even more impressive, averaging 19.3 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 3.5 blocks in those four games.

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury
Sylvia Fowles is once again posting eye-popping defensive stats midway through the 2021 season.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Don’t sleep on Dallas, either. The Wings continue to make strides as a young, exciting team, and while their 9-10 record may seem mediocre, their efficiency differential (3.2 net rating) suggests that they’ve been playing better basketball than that record indicates. With big-time shot-makers in Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, Dallas has a high ceiling as a team, though if their guards’ shots aren’t falling, they may have a tough time winning grind-it-out games. The perfect examples of this are the Wings’ previous two meetings with the Lynx: an 85-73 loss, in which the team shot 34.7 percent from the field, followed by a 95-77 win fueled by 50 percent shooting.

Such consistency is something the Wings, while undeniably talented, are still searching for as they aim for their first playoff appearance since 2018. The veteran Lynx — well on their way to their 11th consecutive postseason — will serve as a worthy test in their third and final meeting of the season. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Game information

Dallas Wings (9-10) vs. Minnesota Lynx (9-7)

When: Wednesday, July 7 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

How to watch: ESPN2, NBA TV Canada

Wings injury report: none

Lynx injury report: Aerial Powers (out; thumb), Natalie Achonwa (out; knee), Rennia Davis (out; foot)

Keys to the matchup: As the injury report alludes to, the Lynx are somewhat banged-up, though it hasn’t seemed to bother them recently. The Wings have the depth advantage, but they also have no individual player capable of stopping Sylvia Fowles; expect Minnesota to go to their center early and often as try to control the paint against Dallas. Kayla McBride (50 total points in her previous two games) vs. Arike Ogunbowale is another individual matchup whose winner will give their respective team the upper hand.

Phoenix Mercury (7-9) vs. Las Vegas Aces (14-4)

When: Wednesday, July 7 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena, Las Vegas, NV

How to watch: Amazon Prime

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

Aces injury report: Angel McCoughtry (out for season; knee)

Keys to the matchup: The Aces and Mercury currently rank, respectively, No. 1 and No. 2 in the WNBA in free throw rate, and they’re a close No. 2 and No. 3 in opponents’ free throw rate as well. Needless to say, whichever team is able to better control the foul game will be at a significant advantage in this one, but keep an eye on pace of play as well; the Aces are one of the WNBA’s deadliest transition teams, while the Mercury prefer to player a slower and more methodical offense.

Los Angeles Sparks (6-11) vs. Seattle Storm (14-4)

When: Wednesday, July 7 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, WA

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Sparks injury report: Nneka Ogwumike (out; knee), Chiney Ogwumike (out; knee), Kristi Toliver (out; eye), Jasmine Walker (out for season; knee)

Storm injury report: Jewell Loyd (probable; ankle)

Keys to the matchup: On paper, this is a mismatch in Seattle’s favor. The Storm are by far the healthier and deeper team and the Sparks are currently spiraling, having lost four consecutive games. Los Angeles does, however, force turnovers at a higher rate (23.3 percent) than any other team; the Sparks will need to dig in and force the Storm (15 percent turnover rate) into errors if they’re going to have a chance at an upset.