WNBA preview: Phoenix Mercury vs. Dallas Wings final matchup

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 27: Glory Johnson
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 27: Glory Johnson /

The end of the season is fast approaching and the playoff push is in full throttle.  Only a several game separation exists between teams currently ranked fifth through tenth overall.  Winning each game is high priority for these teams who are vying to make the top eight in order to be eligible for playoffs.

Thursday, August 10, the Phoenix Mercury (13-12) will travel to the College Park Center in Texas to take on the Dallas Wings (13-14), in a game that can be seen on ESPN2. The teams are sixth and seventh, respectively.  The Summitt checked in with both teams to see how they plan to execute the rest of the season to secure a spot in post-season play.

Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury have had a roller-coaster season, especially after center Brittney Griner suffered a left knee bone bruise and right ankle sprain in the July 14 game against the Minnesota Lynx; their record is 2-6 since the incident.

PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 12: Brittney Griner
PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 12: Brittney Griner /

The franchise acquired veteran Monique Currie in late June and she has been a key leader on the team since her return.  Currie said Coach Sandy Brondello has been “in [her] ear about not being a passive player” and being particularly “aggressive on offense,” even pre-Griner injury.  “I take on [the leadership] role with a lot of  pride and as much effort as I can so I can try to help the team win,” Currie said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. She explained how, with Griner out, the team has “the opportunity to get better and improve [player] confidence.” This will be a time players are encouraged to fill the void of Griner’s absence.

Ultimately, Currie feels the winning  the game will be a team effort. “Everybody has to get in the paint and box out.” She also stresses that defense cannot be limited to only stopping Glory Johnson because “Dallas is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league.”

PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 30: Monique Currie
PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 30: Monique Currie /

The Mercury can depend on their veteran experience to keep them leveled through the last few games of the regular season.  Diana Taurasi, for example, has seen many playoffs in her tenure, and is rubbing off on her teammates.

Danielle Robinson, a former player for the San Antonio Stars, credits Diana Taurasi for being a personal influence on bettering her game. “[Taurasi’s] overall presence has affected me,” Robinson explained. “The way that she leads is so approachable and…it rubs off on me because I’m a point guard.”

As far as the Mercury/Dallas match up, Robinson anticipates playing her game with out worrying about trying to to adjust to Skylar Diggins-Smith’s style of play. She knows “it’s about speed for both of [them]” so it will “be a battle,” but stresses the importance of the overall team execution and covering for one another if any lapses occur.

“Every game is important. Every game is close. Every single team is close to each other. We know what we’re capable of. We haven’t won as many close games as we’d like without [Griner], but we have an opportunity tomorrow.” Robinson said, as she and the Mercury prepare to face the young Dallas team.

Dallas Wings 

The Dallas Wings have almost the opposite construct as the Mercury.  As the team with the highest rookie count, they are relying on energy and eagerness to end the season with a string of wins.

Glory Johnson, in her fifth year in the WNBA, is viewed as one of the upper veterans. She has delivered a whopping 29 rebounds in the last two games to earn her the title of Player of the Week.

Johnson enjoys her veteran role.  “I do enjoy when players come to me and ask for my advice, but at the same time, I…enjoy when they give me their feedback.” Despite her five seasons in the League, she has yet to make a playoff appearance.

Knowing her team is so young, Johnson wants to stress the importance of taking a day-by day-approach.  The goal, according to Johnson, is to “understand the importance of every single game [the Wings] play,” so they can secure a post-season slot.  She’s cognizant of the milestone this would be for the Wings if they were to make playoffs, but is adamant on not wanting to “play out of character just because [everyone] is so anxious.”

In regard to tomorrow’s match-up, Johnson highlights the keys to winning: best team defense; offensive sharing of the ball; and double digit bench scoring.  Her focus is equal distribution among players.

ARLINGTON, TX – AUGUST 4: Aerial Powers
ARLINGTON, TX – AUGUST 4: Aerial Powers /

Wings guard Aerial Powers adds that “everyone on the team is paying attention to [Thursday’s game].” The players are aware that this is, indeed, a tie-breaking game.  Powers, in particular, wants to add to the team by “help[ing] in any way and not overdo[ing] anything.” She has been a spark for the team since her return from injury.

The Face-off

Tomorrow, the Mercury will face the Wings. It will be a contest of veteran poise verses rookie energy.  As the season comes to an end, the urgency to win increases. The Mercury and Wings share the same goal to climb in rankings.  This game will be a tie-breaking one.

PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 27: Glory Johnson
PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 27: Glory Johnson /