Game Preview: Phoenix Mercury at Dallas Wings

Things to know about the Phoenix Mercury's 2018 season opener.

Friday, May 18, 2010

10:00 pm ET/ 7:00 pm PT

NBA TV, FSAZ+ (local station)

The 2018 WNBA regular season officially starts on Friday night. Three-time league champion Phoenix Mercury faces off against the Dallas Wings (who also have three championships, but under their former identity as the Detroit Shock).

The Mercury played two preseason games (both against the Seattle Storm), losing both of them. The Wings played three games against the New York Liberty, Connecticut Sun, and Las Vegas Aces, only losing one (a blowout by the Sun). 

With the Mercury’s Brittney Griner already setting her sights on the MVP trophy at the end of the season and the Wings’ Skylar Diggins-Smith following up her successful return from a torn ACL, here’s some of what we can look forward to.

Matchups

Disclaimer: All projected Phoenix starters are taken from the game notes posted on the team's official website and are subject to change. As players are increasingly playing more than one position, the WNBA seems to be phasing out traditional position titles (e.g. small forward, power forward) and just labeling players as "guard", "forward" and/or "center".

Guard: Briann January (Mercury) vs. Skylar Diggins-Smith (Wings)

Guard: Diana Taurasi (Mercury) vs. Aerial Powers (Wings)

Forward: DeWanna Bonner (Mercury) vs. Allisha Gray (Wings)

Forward: Sancho Lyttle (Mercury) vs. Karima Christmas-Kelly (Wings)

Center: Brittney Griner (Mercury) vs. Liz Cambage (Wings)

Given that All-Stars January and Lyttle were recent Mercury additions in the offseason, it's clear that Phoenix is not wasting any time in gunning for the franchise's fourth championship by adding them to the starting lineup over team incumbents. If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

Must-see TV

The Griner/Cambage matchup. Cambage is making her return to the WNBA after being drafted in 2011 by the Tulsa Shock (now the Wings) and playing exclusively overseas since 2013. Griner is fresh off a 2018 Euroleague championship for UMMC Ekaterinburg (Russia). Both women are the tallest in the league at 6’9” (although some sources list Griner as 6'8").  YES, PLEASE!

BTW: In case you don't know, Griner's ex-wife, Glory Johnson, is a forward for the Wings. Both parties have moved on (and Griner remarried), but the aftermath of failed workplace romances is always a bit awkward.  

X-Factors

The Wings will see if its 2017 Rookie of the Year, Allisha Gray, will build upon her standout rookie season. 6'6" rookie Azura Stevens, taken fourth overall in the 2018 draft, made a positive statement during the preseason. If either or both of these two's conditions hold, then the Mercury may have problems.

The Mercury only roster two rookies, but their offseason acquisitions are what matter (hi, Sancho and Briann). Bonner returns from giving birth to twins. 2018 first-round pick Marie Gülich should get some burn. If the Mercury can get it together, the team will breathe new life into the old adage, “Offense sells tickets but defense wins games.”

In Other News

ABUS will donate $50 to Phoenix Children's Hospital every time Griner posts a recorded block in a game this season, as part of its "Brittney Blocks" initiative. A lucky Arizona-based fan will also win $5,000 every time she dunks in a Mercury home game this season.

Hope you tune in! #BeHeard 

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