NEW YORK (AP) — A look at the two first-round games in the WNBA playoffs:
No. 6 Los Angeles (19-15) vs No. 7 Minnesota (18-16)
Season Series: Sparks, 3-1.
Los Angeles: The biggest question for the Sparks is the health of Nneka Ogwumike, who is listed as questionable for the game because of an illness. Ogwumike was sidelined for a few games before the All-Star break because of fatigue and exhaustion. The Sparks have gotten solid play from their guards with Chelsea Gray putting up strong numbers again along with Odyssey Sims, Riquna Williams and Essence Carson. The quartet has complemented star Candace Parker well.
Minnesota: The Lynx have dropped six of their last 10 games and haven’t been consistent for much of the season. Guard Lindsay Whalen announced her upcoming retirement last week and the Lynx would love nothing more than to send their leader out on top. Minnesota has its own injury woes with Rebekkah Brunson sidelined by a concussion and Danielle Robinson an ankle injury. Even if Brunson can’t play, the Lynx still have their own talented trio of Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore.
Outlook: These two teams have met for the last two WNBA championships and have played 16 times over the past two seasons with each team winning eight times. The game is basically a tossup and the home team will win this one.
No. 5 Phoenix (20-14) vs No. 8 Dallas (15-19)
Season Series: Mercury, 2-1.
Phoenix: Won’t be playing at their regular home because of a schedule conflict so will be at Arizona State instead. The Mercury have had experience in this playoff format, winning their first two games on the road as a No. 8 seed in 2016 and then winning two games last year. Have All-Star trio of DeWanna Bonner, Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi leading the way.
Dallas: Looking for the franchise’s first playoff win since 2009 when the team was still in Detroit. The team has only made the playoffs twice since, getting swept in 2015 by Phoenix when the team was in Tulsa. Dallas also lost in the opening round last season to Washington. It’s been a strange season for the Wings, who fired their coach Fred Williams during a nine-game losing streak before the team beat Las Vegas to clinch a playoff berth last Friday. The Wings have one of the most dominant players in the league in Liz Cambage, who led the WNBA in scoring with 23 points a game.
Outlook: Dallas might be the most dangerous team in the playoffs with the combination of Cambage and Diggins, but it’s asking a lot to overcome the veteran Mercury. Look for Phoenix to pull out the win.