Friday’s WNBA slate kicks off with Liberty (3-1) at Sky (3-2) at 6 p.m. ET. The Sky are coming off their worst performance of the season: an 18-point loss to the 2-2 Dream. The Liberty are coming off a closer-than-expected win over the Storm in Breanna Stewart’s return to Seattle.
With the Liberty fully healthy and with their glowing 16-point win over the Sun still sticking out in everyone’s minds, they will be the heavy favorites in this game. But only beating the Storm by eight certainly makes them seem a bit vulnerable. Stewart has had one outstanding game and two very, very good ones out of the four she’s played in this season. It doesn’t seem she will play a lesser role on the Liberty than she did in Seattle because of all the other stars around her. She is the leader and the team will go as far as she takes it.
The Liberty’s perceived second-best player, Jonquel Jones, has had a quiet start to the season, and it remains to be seen how well she will fit with Stewie and the other pieces. So far it’s been the trio of Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and Sabrina Ionescu in the spotlight.
Chicago, unlike New York, is far from completely healthy. Isabelle Harrison, who was expected to be a key piece, has yet to play and Rebekah Gardner and Morgan Bertsch will also be out on Friday. Fortunately, the big three of Kahleah Copper, Marina Mabrey and Courtney Williams will be available, but all three of those players will need to play better than they did in the 18-point loss to Atlanta.
Wings (3-1) at Mystics (2-2)
This is the Mystics’ Wear Orange Game raising awareness of gun violence. Natasha Cloud’s involvement in raising awareness is so important and the game itself will be of secondary importance.
The Wings have been involved in four close games, so it’s hard to tell how good they really are. But you have to assume they’ll be pretty dangerous if Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally and Natasha Howard can keep playing the way they are playing. Ogunbowale has scored 20-plus in every game so far, averaging 25.3, and is doing a solid job with distributing as well (career-best 3.8 assists per game). More surprising is how well Sabally and Howard are playing. Sabally is putting up superstar numbers far above her previous accomplishments: 22.3 points, nine rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Howard, meanwhile is playing at her 2019 All-WNBA First Team level statistically after three seasons where she fell off the superstar radar.
The Mystics haven’t played since they evened their record with a 71-69 win over the Sky last Friday. Their only losses were both close ones to one of the best teams in the league in the Sun and they still sport that extremely impressive 16-point win over the Liberty. Shakira Austin is a player to look out for on the Mystics; she’s averaging 14 points and 8.3 rebounds in her second WNBA season.
Aces (4-0) at Dream (2-2)
The Aces are the only remaining unbeaten team in the league and have looked dominant in three of their four wins. The other victory was a hard-fought comeback against the Sparks, but even that nine-point win showed just how tough Vegas will be to beat this year. Jackie Young stepped up and was the star of that game, and is looking like she’s far ahead of her fifth-best-player counterpart on the Liberty, Betnijah Laney. Not that Laney has truly needed to step up, but Young is playing like a superstar who can carry the Aces on her back on nights when the other four superstars aren’t feeling it. Young is averaging 23 points per game; Laney is averaging 5.8.
The Dream lost by three to the Fever on Sunday and beat the Sky by 18 on Tuesday. The Fever have also played the Sun close twice, so perhaps they will be decent this year and perhaps Atlanta’s three-point loss to them wasn’t so bad. And wow did the Dream bounce back in a big way.
Allisha Gray has probably been their best player so far, proving that she can score more when asked to and be more than just a scrappy player who does the little things. She can be a big star. Beating the Aces will be an extremely difficult task though.
Sparks (1-2) at Mercury (1-2)
The Mercury haven’t played since May 25, so they may be a little rusty. The Sparks last played on May 27 though, so not much of a difference. Diana Taurasi’s 23 points and 10 assists got Phoenix to their one win this season and have given the team hope that there will be more wins to come. But the Mercury certainly didn’t look good in their season opener, a 23-point loss to the Sparks.
In this rematch, we’ll see if Chiney Ogwumike can continue to be a major factor. She missed LA’s last game, but in the two she played in she was phenomenal. She has been the Sparks’ best player so far this season, which is surprising. Also surprising is that Karlie Samuelson, who has had to battle just to make a WNBA roster throughout her career, is averaging 12.3 points for LA.
The Sparks look like a team that will play above their talent level this season because they are unified and going about things the right way. We’ll see if they can hand the Mercury another blowout loss.
New York Liberty (3-1) vs. Chicago Sky (3-2)
When: Friday, June 2 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to watch: ion
Liberty inury report: none
Sky injury report: Morgan Bertsch (ankle; out), Rebekah Gardner (foot; out), Isabelle Harrison (knee; out), Ruthy Hebard (personal; out), Li Yueru (lower body; out for season)
Dallas Wings (3-1) vs. Washington Mystics (2-2)
When: Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
How to watch: ion
Wings inury report: Diamond DeShields (knee; out), Lou Lopez Sénéchal (knee; out), Teaira McCowan (not injury-related; out)
Mystics injury report: Myisha Hines-Allen (kneecap; out)
Las Vegas Aces (4-0) vs. Atlanta Dream (2-2)
When: Friday, June 2 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Gateway Center Arena @ College Park in Atlanta, GA
How to watch: ion
Aces inury report: Riquna Williams (back; out)
Dream injury report: Danielle Robinson (knee; out), Iliana Rupert (not injury-related; out)
Los Angeles Sparks (1-2) vs. Phoenix Mercury (1-2)
When: Friday, June 2 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ion
Sparks inury report: Katie Lou Samuelson (personal; out for season), Azurá Stevens (out; back), Stephanie Talbot (knee; out for season), Jasmine Thomas (knee; out)
Mercury injury report: Skylar Diggins-Smith (personal; out)