Since the end of the Olympic break, the Dallas Wings (12-16) have gone 3-4, failing to secure a firmer grip on a playoff berth. While still the favorite for the seventh seed, the Wings have disappointingly dropped some winnable games, highlighted by Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Dream, then losers of 11-straight games, and an Aug. 20 loss to the Indiana Fever, the league’s worst team.
Tuesday evening (8 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime) does not present an easy opportunity for Dallas to strengthen its postseason position, as it hosts the red hot, league-leading Connecticut Sun (21-6), winners of nine-straight games.
Dallas not only faces the difficult task of slowing down the Joneses — Eastern Conference Player of the Month, current Eastern Conference Player of the Week and MVP candidate Jonquel and recent Eastern Conference Player of the Week Brionna — but they will have to do so with a depleted front court.
Satou Sabally, who has not played since July 11, remains out with Achilles soreness. In addition, last week, the Wings lost the services of Isabelle Harrison due to a breakthrough case of COVID-19. Even though Harrison lacks the size, strength and elite defensive instincts needed to slow the likes of Connecticut’s Joneses, she has been Dallas’ most reliable big this season, putting together the most effective season of her career.
Without Sabally and Harrison, the Wings could be forced to overextend Kayla Thornton as a small-ball big or rely more heavily on rookies Charli Collier and Awak Kuier, both of whom have been in and out (and mostly out) of head coach Vickie Johnson’s rotation this season.
In Dallas’ Aug. 15 blowout loss at Connecticut, both Collier and Kueir played less the four minutes. However, Collier is coming off her best game since the Olympic break. She scored 10 points and grabbed seven boards against the Dream on Sunday. But, in contrast to the Connecticut frontcourt, the Atlanta front line trends toward undersized.
If the Wings are to have a chance, they likely will need an Arike Ogunbowale explosion. Yet, in that previous contest, Ogunbowale had an efficient 20 points, and Dallas still lost by more than 20 points. Considering Connecticut’s guard personnel includes some of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Briann January and Jasmine Thomas, it will be a challenge for Ogunbowale to replicate, if not improve on, this shooting and scoring performance.
In short, the Sun seemed well situated to secure a 10-game win streak.
In other action, the Washington Mystics (10-17) meet the Seattle Storm (19-10). Last time the Mystics visited the Pacific Northwest, they earned an incredible win with only eight active players behind a 34-point, 16-rebound double-double from Tina Charles.
The Mystics will hope to again conjure such magic.
Similar to Dallas, Washington has been unable to find the stability needed to power their way into the playoff field, temporarily stuck in the ninth seed. While Tina Charles returned from her glute strain on Saturday, the WNBA’s scoring leader managed only 12 points in a loss to the Minnesota Lynx. With Elena Delle Donne’s comeback again in question, Washington will need Charles’ top gear to take down Seattle.
Dallas Wings (12-16) vs. Connecticut Sun (21-6)
When: Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: College Park Center in Arlington, TX
How to watch: Amazon Prime, Bally Sports Southwest+ or NESN+
Key to the matchup: As has been the case throughout his tenure with the Connecticut Sun, head coach Curt Miller has ridden his starters, playing all five of his starters more than 30 minutes per game this season. Playing your best players is generally a good strategy for winning games, as well as a title. However, it also is important to make sure your reserves as ready, in case of injury or illness. Early in the season, Natisha Hiedeman provided strong play as a spot starter. For the month of May, she played more than 30 minutes per game, averaging more than 10 points and almost two steals. Month by month, her minutes have dwindled, resulting in only 12.8 minutes per game in August. It could be wise to extend Hiedeman’s minutes down the stretch of the regular season, making sure she is up to speed ahead of the playoffs. If Connecticut can establish a comfortable lead against Dallas, it could be a perfect opportunity for Hiedeman to spend some extra time on the court.
Wings injury report: Isabelle Harrison (out; health and safety protocols), Satou Sabally (out indefinitely; Achilles), Moriah Jefferson (questionable; hamstring)
Sun injury report: Alyssa Thomas (doubtful; Achilles)
Highlight: Swaggy shows off her 38 percent 3-point stroke
Seattle Storm (19-10) vs. Washington Mystics (10-17)
When: Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Angel of the Wings Arena in Everett, WA
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or JOE TV
Key to the matchup: Last Thursday, the Storm snapped their surprising three-game losing streak, defeating the New York Liberty behind a dominating offensive performance from Breanna Stewart. However, it required Stewart playing more than 38 minutes. Jewell Loyd, who again struggled with her shot, played nearly 38 minutes. Sue Bird also played more than 30 minutes and for her it was the first time since June. With Jordin Canada recently suffering a minor knee injury, these minute loads seem unlikely to be reduced. And, in contrast to the Sun’s high-minute stars discussed above, the Storm trio are managing the wear-and-tear of a tiring Olympic experience, something that seems to have contributed their three-game slide. In short, it will be interesting to see how hard head coach Noelle Quinn and her stars push to try to guarantee themselves the third seed in the standings.
Storm injury report: Jordin Canada (out; right knee), Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (out for season; personal)
Mystics injury report: Elena Delle Donne (out; back), Myisha Hines-Allen (out; non-COVID illness)