WNBA League Pass Alert: Must-Watch Games (July 10-15)

A summary of select must-see games on WNBA League Pass for the week of July 10-15, 2018.

Disclaimer: All stats are courtesy of the official WNBA site. Viewing options are valid at the time of publication; check for updated information on game days. Opinions are solely those of the author. Get WNBA League Pass for only $16.99 for the entire season. Don’t @ me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Los Angeles Sparks at Seattle Storm

3:00 pm ET
Twitter, League Pass, JoeTV (local), SPECSN (local)

This is an early afternoon game, so plan accordingly (or just get WNBA League Pass to watch it anywhere on your mobile device, or at your convenience if you can’t watch the game live). This will be the third and final meeting of these two top teams this season (the Storm have won the previous two, by the way). Los Angeles has looked a bit discombobulated lately after three straight losses to the Minnesota Lynx, Las Vegas Aces, and Connecticut Sun (and a 24-point loss to the Storm on June 7) while Seattle settles into the top spot of this week’s WNBA rankings. This game will be full of likely 2018 All-Stars in Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray (Sparks); Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd (Storm), plus talented rookies in Seattle’s Jordin Canada and Los Angeles’ Maria Vadeeva and breakout performers Natasha Howard (Seattle) and Riquna Williams (Los Angeles). Fun times.

Phoenix Mercury at Dallas Wings

8:00 pm ET
League Pass, FSSW+ (local), FSA+ (local)

Phoenix is operating at a deficit since defensive specialist Sancho Lyttle went out for the season with a torn ACL. The Mercury recently lost a close contest to the Atlanta Dream on the road as they figure out how to navigate in Lyttle’s absence, and this will be their second game of a four-game road trip. The Wings have been on fire, having won their last three games (including a 108-85 blowout of the Chicago Sky). Phoenix won the last contest with Dallas on June 12, but that was with Lyttle in the lineup. Dallas is confident and Liz Cambage is one of the few players in the league that can get inside Brittney Griner’s head and under her skin. Oh yeah.

Las Vegas Aces at Chicago Sky

8:30 pm ET
League Pass, The U Too (local)

The Aces recently beat the Sky on their home court in a close, physical game. The Sky are looking to return the favor but will still be without the services of bench spark Jamierra Faulkner (who is out for the season with a torn ACL) and possibly center Astou NDour, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Three of the top four 2018 draft picks will be on the floor (A’Ja Wilson, #1, for the Aces; Diamond DeShields, #3 and Gabby Williams, #4, for the Sky). DeShields has gotten back into her groove but Williams has been relatively quiet. The true threat for Las Vegas will come from Chicago’s Cheyenne Parker, who has been instrumental in keeping Chicago competitive. Moriah Jefferson’s return to the team gives the Aces more offensive power and playmaking, Kelsey Plum has been a lot more aggressive, and Kayla McBuckets McBride is Kayla McBuckets McBride. Both of these teams are trying to knock the Atlanta Dream out of the eighth and final playoff spot (the Aces are currently ranked ninth and the Sky are ranked 10th in the league standings), so expect this match to be just as scrappy as the previous one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Atlanta Dream at Washington Mystics

11:30 am ET
League Pass, Monumental (local)

This is a lunchtime game that may be worth the watch as Atlanta visits the Mystics for the first of three games this season. The Dream lost a reliable piece of their rotation when All-Star Layshia Clarendon was recently traded to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for Alexandria “Alex” Bentley and a second-round draft pick.  Bentley (who was drafted by Atlanta in the second round of the 2013 WNBA draft) can provide energy and scoring off the bench as well, so this may work out for Atlanta. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the Mystics are not an ideal opponent for a team in transition; they are quick to capitalize on defensive holes and will force turnovers (and they have been getting a lot of friendly calls by referees on their home court of late; just ask the New York Liberty). The Dream just managed to reach the .500 mark again with the win over the Phoenix Mercury and are barely hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot; they need every win they can get because the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky are coming for that same playoff spot and have good chances of getting it if Atlanta isn’t careful.

Minnesota Lynx at Indiana Fever

12:00 pm ET
League Pass, WNDY (local)

Another lunchtime game! I never thought I’d designate a 2018 Lynx-Fever game as a must-see, but here we are. Minnesota got served on their home court when they hosted Indiana on July 3, so they are looking to get a bit of their own back. But that win coincided with the Fever’s midseason addition of 2-time WNBA champion and seven-time All-Star Cappie Pondexter, who was waived by the Los Angeles Sparks. Pondexter can shoot, facilitate, and play defense, which will take some of the pressure off her new teammate, veteran All-Star Candice Dupree. Natalie Achonwa continues to have a great season with Indiana and rookie Kelsey Mitchell, who hasn’t been the prolific scorer she normally is, is due to break out of her slump. Tiffany Mitchell and Erica Wheeler continue to provide solid minutes for the Fever but the Lynx is still the Lynx and as long as they have Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Danielle Robinson and Cecelia Zandalasini, they will give any team problems. This is going to be good.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dallas Wings at Los Angeles Sparks

3:30 pm ET
League Pass, SPECSN (local)

The Dallas Wings have split the previous two games (one win, one loss) against the Los Angeles Sparks, and this will be their third and final meeting of the compressed season. The Sparks are without Cappie Pondexter (who was acquired by the Indiana Fever) but the rise of bench spark Riquna Williams keeps them steady -- through the Sparks have not looked like their former championship selves lately. Nneka Ogwumike, who was on the bench for the last contest on June 26 (a Wings loss), has retaken command of her team. This will be a shooting match; Chelsea Gray is red-hot for the Sparks, and Odyssey Sims has provided both clutch shooting and clutch defense (especially steals). Candance Parker has been up and down lately, but you can never count her out. It will be up to the strong defense by Dallas’ Kayla Thornton, Glory Johnson, and Liz Cambage to slow Los Angeles down, and Skylar Diggins-Smith has no problems putting the team on her back if necessary. Wings rookie Azurá Stevens and second-year player Allisha Gray could give the Sparks problems if they get hot -- and they have.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Indiana Fever at Atlanta Dream

7:00 pm ET
League Pass, FSSE-ATL (local)

This is the fourth and final contest this season between the Fever and the Dream; Atlanta has won two of the past three. The Indiana Fever are looking to move up some in the league standings during the second half of the season (though they probably won’t make the playoffs this season). The Atlanta Dream are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot (and need every win they can get if they hope to move up) and are getting used to their new trade acquisition, Alex Bentley. The Fever have nothing to lose; the Dream, plenty. This is going to be interesting.

Phoenix Mercury at Connecticut Sun

7:00 pm
League Pass, NBCSB (local)

This is the last of three games that will be played between the Mercury and the Sun this season (Phoenix has won the previous two). This will be the third game of the post-Sancho Lyttle reality for the Mercury and is a good indicator of how they will adjust to that reality going forward. This will also be the third game of Phoenix’s four-game road trip. This will be the Sun’s second home game in a four-game homestand and the second game in their new Layshia Clarendon reality. Two teams in transition and a veteran team that has shown some weak spots even before the loss of Lyttle. The Sun is trying to keep its playoff hopes alive as well and get back to that early season dominance, and hopefully, Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams will be returning soon. This game may prove more interesting than it seems.

Las Vegas Aces at Minnesota Lynx

8:00 pm ET
League Pass, FSNTH GO (local)

The Minnesota Lynx put an 88-73 whipping on the Las Vegas Aces when they visited Sin City on June 24. The Aces have a bit more confidence in themselves now and are learning to close games; the Lynx recently lost to the worst team in the league, at home, followed by a surprising loss to the Chicago Sky two games later.  There is blood in the water and the Aces need to take advantage of the opportunity. Keep in mind that Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson took Las Vegas’ rookie A’Ja Wilson to the woodshed during their last meeting; Wilson was completely exhausted by Brunson’s physicality (I mean, Brunson built a record-breaking, five-championship, 15-year career from bodying folks in the paint. Just saying.). Hopefully, Wilson has been in the weight room a bit more and gets a good nap on game day (and maybe a good helping of carbohydrates); she’s going to need all the help she can get. So will Ji-Su Park, whose rookie-ness was on full display against the reigning league MVP Sylvia Fowles. Moriah Jefferson’s speediness will help, but once again every Las Vegas player from 1-12 will need to step up in a big way if they want to get a win against the defending WNBA champions.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Los Angeles Sparks at Las Vegas Aces

6:00 pm ET
League Pass, ATTSN-RM (local), SPECSN (local)

The last time I didn’t list a Sparks-Aces game, it turned out to be a nail-biter (and a surprising Aces win).

 This will be the third and final contest between these teams for the season; they have split the previous two games with one win each. The Aces will be back at home, which is a plus; they have what is becoming one of the best fan bases in the league. The Aces found a solution for the road-weary Sparks back in June but failed to capitalize on that win when they visited Los Angeles two days later.

Now it’s time to see if the Aces have not only learned from their mistakes but have the confidence to stand up to one of the top teams in the league and show that their June 29 win wasn’t a fluke. This is another “1-12, everybody show up and show out” situation for Las Vegas because the Sparks aren’t going away -- and they are bringing a barrage of three-pointers with them.

Honorable mention:

Chicago Sky at New York Liberty

3:00 pm ET
League Pass, MSG  (local)

I really don’t know what to expect from this game. This will be the fourth and final meeting of these teams this season. The Liberty beat the Sky in an overtime road game on July 1 but lost their previous two games against Chicago both on the road and at home. The Liberty have been struggling in the past couple of weeks and likely won’t make the playoffs (though one can never discount the Tina Charles effect) while the Sky are within striking distance of a playoff berth. No Jamierra Faulkner (ACL injury) gives a slight glimmer of hope for New York, but can they handle a whole lot of Cheyenne Parker (and Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, Diamond DeShields, Stefanie Dolson, and Gabby Williams), plus the emergence of rookie Alaina Coates? An Empire State of mind won’t give up easily.

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