A look at the two second-round games in the WNBA playoffs:
No. 4 Connecticut (21-13) vs No. 5 Phoenix (18-16)
Season Series: Sun, 2-1.
Connecticut: It’s the first playoff game for the franchise since 2012, and the young, surprising four-seed is primed to continue its remarkable season. The Sun struggled down the stretch playing on the road against playoff-caliber teams. Coach Curt Miller hopes the physical play his team faced down the stretch will have them prepared for the postseason. The Sun are led by the AP’s most improved player, Jonquel Jones, who has the height and athleticism to match Brittney Griner. Jones broke the WNBA single-season rebounding record by grabbing 403 boards this year. Connecticut also the Thomases, Jasmine and Alyssa, who both had career years. The Sun finished the regular season ranked second in scoring average (86.0 points per game). Former Sun star Katie Douglas donated 200 tickets to the game.
Phoenix: Diana Taurasi is 10-0 in her career in the deciding game of a WNBA playoff series. That includes single elimination games as well as best-of-three and best-of-five series. She sat out most of the first half in the Mercury’s win over Seattle in the first round because of foul trouble, but came back to hit a huge 3-pointer and assist on another 3 to help Phoenix beat Seattle. Taurasi has averaged 21.0 points in 48 career playoff games. Griner was nearly as unstoppable in the opening round as she has been most of the season. The 6-foot-9 Griner missed the first meeting between the teams as she was recovering from an ankle and knee injury. She played in the second matchup, but wasn’t a huge factor in the Sun’s blowout victory. Griner was dominant in the third meeting, scoring 31 points.
No. 3 New York (22-12) vs No. 6 Washington (18-16)
Season series: Liberty, 2-1.
New York: The Liberty finished the season by matching a franchise record with 10 straight wins. That streak isn’t in jeopardy in the playoffs, but the team hopes to keep winning. New York, which hasn’t lost in over a month, was in the same spot last season before losing in the second round to Phoenix. The Liberty also lost a deciding third game to Indiana in 2015. New York is led by Tina Charles, who had another incredible season, averaging 19.7 points and 9.4 rebounds. She’s gotten help this season from Epiphanny Prince and AP sixth woman of the year Sugar Rodgers, who was moved to the bench in the middle of July.
Washington: Elena Delle Donne showed no ill-effects from her thumb injury that sidelined her toward the end of the season in the opening-round win over Dallas. She had 25 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks in the victory. It was the first postseason victory for the franchise since 2002. Now they’ll have to figure out a way to beat a team that dominated them in the last two meetings. While Delle Donne most likely will get her points, the Mystics will need another strong game from Kristi Toliver to have a chance to upset the Liberty. This is the fourth time these two teams have met in the postseason, and Washington lost all three of the previous series.
Prediction: New York.