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Previews: Mercury look to stay hot, Sky hope to upset Storm

The Phoenix Mercury have not lost since the Olympic restart and will face the New York Liberty, who are in the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, the Chicago Sky already beat the Seattle Storm once and will look to do it again.

Washington Mystics v Phoenix Mercury
Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith have been consistent stars in 2021.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Mercury (14-10), who have won their last five games, take on the New York Liberty (11-15), who are fighting for their playoff lives, on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. Then, at 10 p.m. ET, the Chicago Sky (12-12) will be on the road facing the Seattle Storm (18-8), who are trying to avoid a second-straight loss to the Sky.

Phoenix has been on a tear since the season restarted, winning five games by an average of 14 points. Most recently, the Mercury thrashed the Liberty, 106-79. The three-pronged attack of Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner combined for 74 points. Meanwhile, Brianna Turner added her sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds, marking her fifth-straight game with 10 or more rebounds. The Mercury’s rhythm should scare the teams ahead of them as we get closer to the playoffs.

The Liberty’s identity is 3-point shooting. They boast the second-best percentage (36.8) and make an average of 10.4 threes per game. Defense has been their issue, as they have the third-worst defensive rating in the league and allow 86.2 points per game, the second-worst mark in the WNBA.

With six games remaining for New York, it will need to grind out some wins as it is just half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Chicago Sky are 2-2 since the restart and, with a point-differential of 2.3, it is hard to argue that the Sky should be anywhere else but the middle of the pack. The Sky are two games ahead of the Liberty, who have played two more games than the Sky. This advantage should put some Sky fans at ease but Chicago needs to get wins to avoid crashing out of the playoff picture at this late stage of the season.

In their first game after the Olympic break, the Sky beat the Storm 87-85 in overtime, which should give them some confidence. The Storm have looked beatable over the last two weeks. Seattle had a six-point lead with about 90 seconds to play before that evaporated and it was the Sky who closed out the game in the final minute of play in the extra period.

Allie Quigley, despite not being a consistent starter, has been the best scorer for the Sky with 14.6 points. Quigley is also shooting a staggering 48.3 percent from long range. Candace Parker’s presence has been real for the Sky. The star forward has missed nine games with the Sky posting a 1-8 record without her on the court. Parker posted 18 points in the Sky’s recent victory over the Atlanta Dream.

The Storm have lost three of their last five games and sit 1.5 behind the Connecticut Sun in the race for the top seed. With six games to go, Seattle will need to find another gear to reach the summit and post the best regular-season record as it fights for a chance to repeat as champion.

Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are the two engines of the Storm’s offense. Getting them involved early and often should result in good things for Seattle. It got off to a slow start in its loss to the Minnesota Lynx, getting outscored 25-14 in the first quarter. Seattle got beat up in the paint throughout that game, something that it will need to fix going forward. Against the Sky, Candace Parker should draw their attention for sure.

These two teams will see each other again on Aug. 29, with one of them looking to avenge a loss.

Game information

New York Liberty (11-15) vs. Phoenix Mercury (14-10)

When: Friday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Key to the matchup: The Liberty need to find ways to get stops. New York has no problem scoring, but when it is on defense, the Mercury have the advantage. If she plays, look for Griner to own the paint after scoring 26 points in the Mercury’s win on Wednesday.

Liberty injury report: Jazmine Jones (questionable; foot), Jocelyn Willoughby (out for season; Achilles), Sami Whitcomb (out; ankle)

Mercury injury report: Britney Griner (questionable; ankle); Bria Hartley (out indefinitely; knee)

Seattle Storm (18-8) vs. Chicago Sky (12-12)

When: Friday, Aug. 27 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, WA

How to watch: Facebook, KCPQ 13 (Seattle), The U

Key to the matchup: Candace Parker is a difference maker for the Sky. If she is able to get going, the Sky could be in line for another victory. The Storm are experiencing a little bit of a slump. They need to step it up if they are going to match their expectations for this season.

Sky injury report: none

Storm injury report: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (out for season; personal)