Preview: Phoenix Mercury host Seattle Storm in first round

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23: Diana Taurasi
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 23: Diana Taurasi /

The Phoenix Mercury will host the Seattle Storm in a single-elimination contest on Wednesday night in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The matchup will feature two teams who found a rhythm over the last month of the regular season, whose aspirations reached higher than their respective achievements this year. And with the pressure that the WNBA’s new playoff system brings, the game will push the two teams even further into the desperation they’ve faced all season.

Of course, the Mercury hold the overall edge being the home team and the higher seed, but the Storm began Interim Coach Gary Kloppenburg’s tenure with a win in Phoenix on August 12.

Additionally, the Mercury won’t have a typical home-court advantage on Wednesday: they will be playing at Arizona State University’s Wells Fargo Arena, not their own home court, Talking Stick Resort Arena. According to the team, the move is happening to make room for Marvel Universe Live! setup for the show’s run in Phoenix this weekend.

A quick rundown ahead of the game:

How to watch:

  • Broadcast at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2
  • Online at WatchESPN


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Mercury Coach Sandy Brondello told me after last Friday’s victory over the Connecticut Sun that the team’s latest starting lineup will be the one she sticks with for at least the first round of the playoffs. That means the team’s focal points, Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, as well as veterans Camille Little and Leilani Mitchell and rookie Yvonne Turner.

Mitchell said postgame on Friday that the strength of that unit is that “if there’s nothing there initially, we’re taking our time”. That offensive potential was on display Friday in a throttling of the Sun in which Phoenix shot 45 percent from the field and tallied 18 assists.

Seattle certainly has the talent in its starting lineup to match Phoenix, from all-time assist leader Sue Bird to 2015 and 2016 Rookies of the Year Breanna Stewart and Jewel Loyd. The problem for Seattle all season has been working the offensive system to get the most out of its secondary pieces.

Early in August, the Storm beat the Mercury in Phoenix behind Loyd’s career-high 33 points, along with important contributions from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Crystal Langhorne.

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What’s at stake:

Following Wednesday’s slates, which also includes a game in Washington, D.C. featuring the Wings and Stars, the playoffs will continue on Sunday with the second round. The Sun will host the lower-seeded of the two first-round winners, while the Liberty will take the higher seed.

What all this means is that if the Mercury win, they will face the Liberty in the Big Apple on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. ET.