WNBA League Pass Alert: Must-Watch Games (June 18-24)

A preview of select WNBA games for the week of June 18, 2018.

Disclaimer: All stats are courtesy of the official WNBA site. Opinions are solely those of the author. Get WNBA League Pass for only $16.99 for the entire season. Don’t @ me.

Tuesday, June 19

Atlanta Dream at New York Liberty, 7:00 pm ET, League Pass, MSG+ (local)

It’s up to You, New York...

The Atlanta Dream (6-3) visit the New York Liberty (3-6). The Liberty is fighting to get to .500 and Tina Charles, bless her heart, is doing her darndest to get her team there.

Unfortunately, the team's foul trouble and occasional inattentiveness have hampered her efforts. Atlanta is looking to redeem itself after losing to the worst team in the league (the 1-10 Indiana Fever) on June 16. Both teams boast new head coaches; in this case, recently inducted Hall of Famer, former WNBA All-Star, and former Liberty assistant coach Katie Smith leads the Liberty against Nicki Collen and the surprisingly good Dream. Atlanta’s key players Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes have both been out with ankle injuries, though Sykes may return in this game as she’s been out longer. It should be an interesting matchup, especially if New York’s Shavonte Zellous and rookie Kia Nurse get cooking (and stay out of foul trouble).

Dallas Wings at Minnesota Lynx, 7:00 Pm Et, League Pass, Fsnth Go (local)

Hustle and Flow

When the Dallas Wings (5-4) visit the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-6), expect a lot of bodies hitting the floor, charges being taken, and hustle taken to the next level. Though both teams are coming off important franchise wins and boast high-caliber point guards in Skylar Diggins-Smith (Wings) and Lindsay Whalen (Lynx), watch out for the big girls: the reigning league MVP Sylvia Fowles (6”4”) will match up against Dallas’s Liz Cambage (6’8”), who has certainly worked herself into this season’s Defensive Player of the Year conversation in her successful return to the “W”. Dallas is also collectively younger than Minnesota, which has the dubious distinction of being the oldest team in the league--it’s going to be youth vs. experience, stamina vs. finesse. But hey, it worked on May 23, when the Lynx hosted the Wings and won, 76-68.

It’ll also be interesting to see if the Lynx’s Cecilia Zandalasini can capitalize on her breakout game against the Liberty last week and can match up against the Wings’ former Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray, who is having a bit of a breakout season of her own. But if any or all of Kayla Thornton, Kaela Davis, and Glory Johnson get going for Dallas, things could get problematic for Minnesota.

Friday, June 22

Connecticut Sun at Atlanta Dream, 7:00 pm ET, League Pass, FSSE-ATL (local), NBCSB (local)

The "what-if" Game

Atlanta handed the visiting Connecticut Sun their first loss of the season on June 5.

The Sun are naturally looking to rectify this situation; if Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas are back in the lineup for Connecticut (they’ve been out due to injury), that possibility edges into probability. If either or both players are still out, then the Dream’s hope of handing them another loss becomes much easier. For Atlanta, if All-Star starter Tiffany Hayes is back after her injury, then that boosts their chances of getting a win. If Atlanta’s Jessica Breland and Damiris Dantas go off, that spells problems for the Sun. If Morgan Tuck or Shekinna Stricklen get hot for Connecticut (especially if Stricklen serves up any more buzzer-beating daggers), they could give Atlanta fits. The Sun's Courtney Williams is always a problem for anyone. This will be fun to watch.

New York Liberty at Las Vegas Aces, 10:00 pm ET, ESPN2

Rolling the Dice

Depending on how their contest goes against the Atlanta Dream, the New York Liberty could roll into Sin City ready to rumble, or ready to get some rum. Then again, the Las Vegas Aces playing on their home court isn’t necessarily a positive; as the youngest team in the league (barely edging out the Indiana Fever) playing under a completely new identity, coach, and system, they have sometimes--well, a lot of times--shot themselves in the foot due to inexperience. That being said, this is a winnable game for the Aces even though the odds in this game show New York to be favored. Defense will be the key, as Tina Charles, Shavonte Zellous, and Amanda Zahui B will be bringing the noise; if Kia Nurse goes off again, well...things could get thick real quick. Both teams are prone to foul trouble and Las Vegas has problems with turnovers--something that the Liberty can use to their advantage. The X-factor for the Aces will be rookie Ji-Su Park; she is a big who can shoot from top of the key or mid-range, but one-on-one defensive assignments have proved a bit disastrous of late as veterans have taken advantage of her inexperience both in age (she’s only 19) and in the American basketball system (she’s from South Korea). This may prove to be an interesting game simply because of all of the things that could go wrong for either team.

Minnesota Lynx at Phoenix Mercury, 10:00 pm ET, ESPN3

The Sound and the Fury

I want to say that this will be a good game, as the Minnesota Lynx visit their rivals the Phoenix Mercury (9-3); the Lynx beat the Mercury in the semifinals last year to earn a Finals date with the Los Angeles Sparks and eventually their fourth franchise championship, but fell to the Mercury on June 1 of this year.

Until Minnesota strings together some more wins (at this point, I’m not picky about them being quality wins) and get over .500, they will remain the underdog. Phoenix is aggressively pursuing the franchise's fourth championship; they just won their eighth straight game on Sunday and retooled over the offseason, snagging 3-point All-Star sniper Briann January from the Indiana Fever and adding free agent defensive specialist Sancho Lyttle from the Atlanta Dream. Not to mention, DeWanna Bonner is back after delivering twins and she loves three-pointers--and three-pointers love her back. Diana Taurasi, who will probably be buried beneath the Talking Stick Resort Arena someday, is still around and paired with the incomparable Brittney Griner, who really should be a top candidate for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year this year. All-Star Seimone Augustus should be back for the Lynx after sitting out against the New York Liberty with an injury, and the Lynx have the rest of the All-Star starting five in Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, and Rebekkah Brunson. Fowles against Griner is always a treat. Still, as much as I like the Lynx, my money is on the Mercury.

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