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WNBA Playoff Preview and Predictions: Who Advances to the Semifinals?

Can Phoenix's Sophie Cunningham show that Thursday night's breakout performance wasn't a fluke versus the Seattle Storm in Sunday's WNBA single-elimination round?

Can Phoenix’s Sophie Cunningham gift that Thursday evening’s breakout efficiency wasn’t a fluke versus the Seattle Storm in Sunday’s WNBA single-elimination spherical?Associated Press

Seattle Storm head coach Noelle Quinn sat on the fringe of her couch watching the 2 single-elimination games Thursday evening between the Dallas Wings and Chicago Sky and the New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury.

“You know, basically the most attention-grabbing eliminations are sophisticated, but within these you see appropriate personality come out,” she mentioned. “You see appropriate the dog in folks come out, and the aggressive juices are going because folks secure now not favor to head home, so it became once very enjoyable to explore.”

I became once now not bowled over by the outcomes. As predicted, basically the most predominant matchup seen the Sky gift their desperation at home with smothering defensive intensity. They outrebounded the Wings 47-35, with 15 of these boards coming from Candace Parker. She became once on triple-double explore, ending with 11 factors, 15 rebounds and seven assists plus three steals. Parker, as anticipated, became once in each location on the stat sheet.

While Dallas clawed back within the third on snatch buckets from Satou Sabally and extra intense protection from Izzy Harrison, the Sky knew the explicit arrangement to punch back. The crew with extraordinary extra playoff expertise, in conjunction with single-elimination heartbreak, roared back and beat the Wings 81-64.

For the 2d game, the Liberty constructed off their last current-season matchup against the Washington Mystics and took the Mercury the total capacity all the map down to the closing 0.4 seconds of legislation. While the Liberty fell 83-82 on a Brianna Turner free throw, New York ready better than its opponent, and Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello admitted that postgame.

“We did now not play well; I’m now not going to understate that,” Brondello mentioned. “We know we are capable of also be capacity better than what we were, but that’s partly because of the what New York did to us. So credit the set aside aside credit’s due. I believed they ready very well. We’ll learn a lot from it, and confidently we are going to be better within the next game.”

No. 5 Phoenix Mercury vs. No. 4 Seattle Storm

The Noteworthy Inquire of: With Injured Stars, Who Steps In?

Breanna Stewart (left foot injury) and Diana Taurasi (left ankle injury) each and each most definitely can also now not play Sunday. Stewart became once already dominated out Saturday, and Taurasi has been listed as questionable and did now not apply Saturday.

The key for each and each groups will be how role avid gamers secure. The last game the Storm played became once at home of their 94-85 maintain against the Mercury. While Jewell Loyd’s 37-level romp became once predominant, the 37 and 34 minutes that Mercedes Russell and Ezi Magbegor played were the largest.

Both were efficient offensively, with Magbegor scoring 15 factors on 6-of-10 shooting and Russell adding 14 on 7-of-9 from the subject. However their defensive effort and execution impressed Quinn extraordinary extra. Magbegor and Russell zeroed in on Brittney Griner, bodying up on her early within the shot clock and preventing her from getting easy touches within the paint.

Seattle got 42 of its factors within the paint to Phoenix’s 40. The Storm also shot 50 percent from three-level differ (11 of 22). That form of effort and execution the Storm played of their current-season finale is what Quinn expects to explore Sunday.

“So appropriate extra or much less searching for to bottle that up,” she mentioned. “Effortwise in the initiating, but additionally the execution that would possibly perhaps presumably well entail our avid gamers hitting photos, animated the ball, now not turning it over and being very, very serious about Skylar [Diggins-Smith], on BG, and naturally if Diana plays to maintain to be locked in on her.”

Quinn paid shut consideration to how the Liberty played the Mercury defensively. While she mentioned her crew has extra dimension than New York and would possibly perhaps presumably well now not switch as in overall, she sees advantage within the Storm potentially the utilize of their faster guards and wings to motivate contain Griner moreover. If that occurs, the Mercury can blueprint shut advantage, specifically if Sophie Cunningham exhibits that Thursday evening wasn’t a fluke.

Double-teaming and in most cases tripling Griner comes with a trace. If the Mercury can fabricate extra photos from beyond the arc, they are going to protect this game closer and dare the Storm to regulate.

The Matchup That Issues: While Loyd combating it out against Diggins-Smith would possibly perhaps be the flashier matchup, what’s going to resolve who wins is who will also be extra productive on the flee. The Mercury escaped an upset on a snatch efficiency from Cunningham. Katie Lou Samuelson will favor to protect her in study to guarantee she would now not maintain open appears. And Kia Nurse, who slipped under the display to permit Betnijah Laney’s game-tying three, will favor to protect an come all over on Samuelson and Stephanie Talbot.

Prediction: The Storm play extra difficult and are extra ready without Stewart at their disposal. After snatch performances from Loyd and Magbegor, Seattle strikes on.

No. 6 Chicago Sky vs. No. 3 Minnesota Lynx

The Noteworthy Inquire of: Who Controls the Paint?

These were two very diverse groups after they last met. The last time the Sky took on the Lynx became once Aug. 21, a game when Parker became once out healing from her 2d ankle sprain of the season and Aerial Powers became once peaceful revving up to fat energy in her first game back from thumb surgical operation. Stretch gigantic Damiris Dantas, who suffered a Lisfranc injury 10 days later against the Liberty, became once peaceful healthy for the Lynx.

Can Candace Parker keep the Chicago Sky's playoff dreams alive with another steady performance?

Can Candace Parker protect the Chicago Sky’s playoff desires alive with one other actual efficiency?Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Even basically the most predominant time these groups met in mid-June, Parker became once in her fourth game with the Sky after being out for spherical three weeks along with her first ankle injury, and Layshia Clarendon (who goes by they, she and he pronouns) and the Lynx were peaceful figuring every other out after Minnesota signed them spherical three weeks earlier than.

However since, each and each maintain discovered their identity as groups that fetch over 45 percent of their factors within the paint. The Sky accomplished the current season first in that metric with 46.7 percent of their factors coming within the paint, while the Lynx accomplished third at 45.1.

“So it will return all the map down to who is extra continual, who is taking part in better schemes and who’s extra certain to protect folks out of the paint,” Lynx center Sylvia Fowles mentioned earlier this week after apply.

The variation between these two groups, nonetheless, is how they fetch within the paint and the tempo at which they secure it. Fowles well-known earlier this week that within the Lynx’s first game against the Sky, Chicago “ran us to loss of life.” The Sky maintain a roster that’s constructed with avid gamers who can secure out and speed.

At some level of the current season, Chicago boasted a tempo of 97.46, third-easiest within the league. Chicago’s guards and guard-adore forwards speed the gift.

No longer easiest is Courtney Vandersloot controlling the drift of the game, but Parker’s level-forward tendencies had been woven into the Sky’s identity. Both maintain routinely discovered Kahleah Copper, Chicago’s main scorer within the Sky’s 81-64 maintain over the Wings. Her quickness and effectivity has allowed her to be a threat within the paint, with 55 percent of her factors coming there this twelve months, fourth within the league amongst guards.

Speaking of that, Clarendon became once 2d amongst guards with 65.1 percent of his factors coming within the paint. However the Lynx were appropriate seventh in tempo this season at 95.74. Why is that? Clarendon muscle mass her capacity into the paint reasonably than with quickness, and the Lynx maintain Fowles at their disposal, notion to be some of the good WNBA centers ever, who rankings 75.4 percent of her factors within the paint.

“Clearly we maintain now notion to be one of basically the most attention-grabbing centers within the league, and we want to secure Syl Fowles the ball any likelihood we secure,” Lynx flee Bridget Carleton mentioned earlier this week. “We would favor in speak to secure that and [pass] it to her when she’s open and also appropriate riding and attacking. Layshia getting into there and getting two ft within the paint and [finding] shooters. I mediate that’s after we are at our easiest.”

It took the Lynx and the Sky a while to resolve out when and exactly how they are at their easiest. Going by injuries and avid gamers internal and out of the lineup, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve outlined how encountering that form of adversity prepares a crew for the playoffs.

“It’s extra or much less made us who we are,” she mentioned. “One of the most vital shortcomings and challenges, and that is the reason all piece of the budge, and it’s made us, you know, we maintain now some battle wounds, so as to hiss, and we were examined and all of that honest stuff. I’m hazardous any of it capacity something else after we go on Sunday, but I mediate it’s stunning to yelp that now we had been by some stuff and we know the explicit arrangement to navigate sophisticated moments in a game.”

Matchup That Issues: Both Parker and Fowles, who went Nos. 1 and a pair of within the 2008 WNBA draft, anchor their respective groups. Which seasoned outdated is easiest conserving her pulse on the paint?

Prediction:  With two groups that play by the paint at diverse paces, the battle of energy and dimension against quickness and athleticism will be on fat mumble. Even supposing Clarendon became once dominated questionable in Minnesota’s most current injury file, the Lynx will utilize their home court docket to their advantage and grind out the maintain after the Sky play all of them the map down to the closing minute.

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