The Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury hook up for the final time Friday night and it will likely be the final time two WNBA greats get to face off against one another.
Seattle Storm vs. Phoenix Mercury
Friday, July 22, 2022 – 10:00 PM EDT at Footprint Center
Sue Bird vs. Diana Taurasi One Final Time
While the Phoenix Mercury have had a rocky season to say the least, they have clawed their way to just a game out of the final playoff spot. A win here at home would go a long way to helping Phoenix’s playoff chances.
The Dallas Wings, who hold that final playoff spot currently, are on the road in Chicago against the defending champion Sky and are bigger underdogs than the Mercury on Friday.
This makes tonight, even against the Storm, a winnable game for the Mercury.
They will have to do it without Diamond DeShields who will miss her second straight game with a hip injury she suffered last week against the Washington Mystics.
A Big Game in Phoenix
That being said, the big story of this one is the likelihood that this will be the last meeting between Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi ever.
While they could still meet in the playoffs, the Storm would likely have to go on an incredible run to close the season as the league’s best team AND the Mercury would have to get into that final playoff seed. Improbable, but not impossible.
Even more so improbable would be the Storm staying in fourth and the Mercury upsetting the number one seed as the eighth seed and then they would meet in the second round assuming Seattle advanced too.
However, for regular season purposes, this will be a big game in Phoenix. The crowd will be out to see Bird visit the desert one more time and I think the Mercury will be up to play this game as well, at least early on.
The Sharp Pick
Storm Struggling on Offense
One area the Storm have struggled in this season is playing first halves on the road. Seattle is an outstanding defensive team, which has saved them time and again this year.
However, their offense is very inefficient on the road early in games, averaging just 92.5 points per 100 possessions in 13 road first halves this year.
While Phoenix isn’t a far trip from Seattle, this could be due to the longer travel times they have to endure already and doing so on commercial flights.
Mercury Has the Home Advantage
That being said, the Mercury also plays well at home and with the potential for a better-than-average WNBA crowd, I could see Phoenix playing well early despite not having DeShields again.
Phoenix’s offense has been hot early in games as of late. They rank third in the WNBA in first-half offensive efficiency in their last five games and over their last five home first halves, they are averaging nearly 109 points per 100 possessions.
I don’t think the Mercury will catch the Storm sleeping here, but I do think they are good enough to cover a +3 first-half spread.
For four quarters, the Storm will likely be the better team tonight, even on the road, but their offensive struggles away from home will come into play, even against a below-average defensive team.
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