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Previews: Griner, Charles take center stage in matchup between Mercury, Mystics

Brittney Griner and Tina Charles have been two of the WNBA’s top scorers in 2021. Their individual matchup will be one to watch during a game between the Phoenix Mercury and Washington Mystics that has postseason implications.

Phoenix Mercury v Washington Mystics
Centers Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Charles (Washington Mystics) are currently averaging 20.4 and 26.2 points per game, respectively.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The 2021 WNBA regular season continues on Thursday when the Washington Mystics (8-12) take on the Phoenix Mercury (11-10). The game will be streamed on Twitter, with tip-off scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.

Both the Mystics and Mercury are led in scoring by their centers, with Tina Charles (26.2) and Brittney Griner (20.4) ranking first and fourth in the WNBA in points per game, respectively. While it’s always a treat to watch these two legends of the league duel, Thursday’s game holds a little more weight than usual. The Mystics, in particular, are fighting for their playoff lives, currently sitting a half game behind eighth-place Dallas (10-13). The ongoing absences of Elena Delle Donne (back injury) and Emma Meesseman (not currently under contract) has led to some gaudy individual stat lines for Charles, but also makes Washington’s playoff push an uphill battle.

While the Mercury are in a slightly better position in the standings, they’re also dealing with the uncertain health of some of their bigger names. Franchise cornerstone Diana Taurasi has missed several games this season due to nagging chest and hip injuries, while her backcourt partner Skylar Diggins-Smith injured her ankle in Phoenix’s last game and remains questionable for Thursday. Thus, the Mercury’s spot in the 2021 postseason is far from guaranteed.

Washington Mystics v Las Vegas Aces
Tina Charles has been magnificent at scoring the basketball this season, but with Washington missing key high-end talent, those stats haven’t translated to many wins.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

With this in mind, expect both Phoenix and Washington to stick with their big guns. While Charles won the scoring battle the last time the two teams met, it was the Mercury who cruised to victory. The Mystics can ill-afford to come out flat once again.

Elsewhere, the Minnesota Lynx (13-8) will get another crack at the Connecticut Sun (16-6), while the Atlanta Dream (6-15) play the Los Angeles Sparks (8-13). Both games are rematches, with Connecticut defeating Minnesota and Los Angeles eking out a victory over Atlanta on Tuesday. They’ll be aired on both WNBA League Pass and NBA TV.

Game information

Minnesota Lynx (13-8) vs. Connecticut Sun (16-6)

When: Thursday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

How to watch: WNBA League Pass, NBA TV, NESN, TSN1/4

Lynx injury report: Aerial Powers (out; right UCL tear), Rennia Davis (out for season; left foot stress fracture)

Sun injury report: Alyssa Thomas (out for season; Achilles)

Keys to the matchup: Tuesday’s game between the Sun and Lynx was never much of a contest, with Connecticut jumping out to a 27-14 first-quarter lead and keeping Minnesota at bay the rest of the way. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve quipped postgame that she needed more from Napheesa Collier (six points, one rebound), and it would indeed be a surprise if the Olympian plays poorly once again. The Sun, on the other hand, will be sitting pretty if they can again get double-figure scoring from their starting backcourt of Jasmine Thomas (19 points) and Briann January (10 points).

Washington Mystics (8-12) vs. Phoenix Mercury (11-10)

When: Thursday, Aug. 19 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

How to watch: WNBA League Pass, Twitter, Bally Sports AZ, NBA TV Canada

Mystics injury report: Elena Delle Donne (out; back), Shavonte Zellous (out; right ankle sprain), Alysha Clark (out for season; foot)

Mercury injury report: Bria Hartley (out; knee), Skylar Diggins-Smith (questionable; ankle)

Keys to the matchup: It goes without saying that both Griner and Charles will do their fair share of scoring, and while it’s one of the most compelling individual matchups in the WNBA, this game may come down to which team can get more out of its supporting cast. Phoenix will be in a good position if Diggins-Smith is able to give it a go; otherwise, Washington will be able to lean on Ariel Atkins for both elite perimeter defense and outside shooting.

Atlanta Dream (6-15) vs. Los Angeles Sparks (8-13)

When: Thursday, Aug. 19 at 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

How to watch: WNBA League Pass, NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet, SN360

Dream injury report: Tiffany Hayes (questionable; right MCL tear), Chennedy Carter (out; suspended), Cheyenne Parker (out for season; personal)

Sparks injury report: Chiney Ogwumike (out; right knee); Jasmine Walker (out for season; right knee)

Keys to the matchup: The Sparks squeaked past Atlanta in overtime in their last matchup, with a Kristi Toliver jumper sending the game into overtime and poor free throw shooting ultimately sinking the Dream. Six Sparks scored in double figures in that game, which Los Angeles should be aiming to repeat. Atlanta, meanwhile, needs more out of Courtney Williams (2-of-13 shooting on Tuesday) in order to match the Sparks’ balanced scoring approach.