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WNBA: Champion candidates meet Las Vegas Aces, Minnesota Lynx

As it currently stands, the Las Vegas Aces (20-8) and Minnesota Lynx (18-9) could face the third round of the WNBA playoffs in a best-of-three series. While the Aces have a somewhat comfortable hold on the second seed, the Lynx bounced back and forth with the Seattle Storm between the third and fourth seeds. They are currently sitting in the fourth seed.

The Aces, which are both previous games in this series, the Lynx hosts Wednesday night at 9pm ET at home (ESPN 2).

Although it seems unlikely that both teams are at full strength, while Liz Cambage (health and safety protocols) for the Aces and Layshia Clarendon (leg) are doubtful for the Lynx, expect both teams to be ready for the play-off caliber- challenge.

While the match between leading position A’ja Wilson, the reigning MVP, and Sylvia Fowles, a leading defender of the year’s defensive player of the year, takes the best account, the respective butts of this group can swing this match.

For the Aces, it’s Kelsey Plum. For the Lynx, it’s Aerial Powers.

With the back-to-back sixth woman of the year, Dearica Hamby recovering from an ankle injury, Plum, who is challenging her teammate for the season’s sixth women’s crown, will have to perform again. From late on, she willingly took on a greater offensive burden for the exhausted axes, aggressively trying to generate self-made purposes, which is a necessity for an offense that tends to break out.

During the last three games, when the Aces won 2-1, Plum averaged 19.3 points on 14.3 shot attempts, including 5.7 try attempts, per game. She also averaged 6.7 free throws, 3.7 assists and 2.7 shots per game. All of these numbers are better than her season-long averages.

If the physical Clarendon is out of the series, Plum is looking to try to feast on the Lynx’s subperimeter defenders, either the underdog Crystal Dangerfield or the slower feet Rachel Banham.

For the Lynx, Aerial Powers will be ready to match Plum’s fireworks to her own bravado. Eventually, she recovered from the nagging injuries that cut short her first season in Minnesota, and Powers came into shape, with her re-entry into the rotation that coincided with the line battle of Lynx’s five-game win.

On Saturday, she dropped a season-high 20 points on her former team, the Washington Mystics. It was also the third consecutive game she has designated for at least six free attempts, an indication of her aggressive mindset and increasing comfort with her role in the Lynx attack.

With the expectation that Clarendon is out again, Powers’ eagerness to attack the paint adds an essential element to a Lynx offense that could tend too heavily to Kayla McBride jumpers or Sylvia Fowles post-ups. Her all-round, off-the-bench energy can also give the Lynx an extra edge.

Wednesday at 7pm ET (NBA TV), the Atlanta Dream (7-20) and Phoenix Mercury (18-10) are in action.

Relieved to have ended their losing streak of 11 games, the dream is rewarded with a visit from the Mercury, winners of nine games in a row.

For Atlanta, the game of Tiffany Hayes was just as encouraging as its victory. For the first time since returning from an MCL injury, Hayes looked like herself and scored 22 points on 50 percent shooting in 36 minutes of play in the Dream’s overwhelming victory Sunday over the Dallas Wings. Her eight rebounds and three steals are a further indication that she has shaken off any rust after the injury.

For Phoenix, Bria Hartley is still working through the adjustment period after the injury.

After missing most of the season after suffering a serious knee injury, Hartley returns to court for the first time on saturdayby tapping a hat-trick in just over eight minutes of play in Mercury’s win over the Indiana Fever. Monday night, Hartley did not get time because Phoenix gained a big lead in the fourth quarter of a second consecutive game with Indiana. If Sandury head coach Sandy Brondello goes his way, her team will have a comfortable margin and maintain against another opponent, allowing her to allocate playing time to Hartley.

Game Info

Atlanta Dream (7-20) vs. Phoenix Mercury (18-10)

When: Wednesday 8 September at 19:00 ET

Where: Gateway Center Arena @ College Park in Atlanta, GA

How to watch: NBA TV of SN360

Key to matching: As with most of the WNBA newcomers in 2021, it was an up and down season for Aari McDonald. However, she has done enough to show that she belongs in the WNBA. Since the Olympic break, McDonald’s figures have not fallen off the table, with 7.6 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in almost 17 minutes per game. Yet her plus-minus of plus-4.1 is the highest point on the dream during the past eight games, suggesting she makes a positive impact more often. In the second of Atlanta’s two previous losses for Phoenix, McDonald scored 13 points in 19 minutes and shut down three three-pointers, while also picking up a few assists and a three-pointer. If the dream wants to hang on to the red-hot Mercury, they are hoping for a similar level of production from McDonald’s.

Dream Injury Report: Tianna Hawkins (out; right foot), Crystal Bradford (out for season; left foot), Chennedy Carter (indefinite; suspension), Cheyenne Parker (out for season; personal), Candice Dupree (probably; back)

Mercury Injury Report: Diana Taurasi (doubtful; left ankle), Alanna Smith (indefinitely; health and safety protocols), Brittney Griner (NWT; personal)

Highlight: Aari McDonald flashes her speed and skill

Las Vegas Aces (20-8) vs Minnesota Lynx (18-9)

When: Wednesday, September 8 at 21:00 ET

Where: Michelob ULTRA Area in Las Vegas, NV

How to watch: ESPN2 or TSN2

Key to matching: Will A or Phee spill the tea? This is the third and final match between the podcast partners. In the June 25 thriller for overtime that the Lynx won by one point, both players played excellent games. Wilson scored a double of 28 points and 14 rebounds; she also added four steals. Collier scored her own double, scored 23 points and got 10 boards, as she also got eight assists, two blocks and two steals. In the Lynx’s 10-point victory on 9 July, the two struggled, with both shooting less than 30 percent off the field. Phee scored only seven points and four rebounds, while A had 13 points and six boards. In short, the podcast couple seems to have excellent chemistry, as their performances fit almost perfectly. Will it be an excellent or overwhelming evening for the duo?

Asbestos report: Dearica Hamby (probably; sprain in left ankle), Angel McCoughtry (off; right knee), Liz Cambage (off; health and safety protocols)

Lynx Injury Report: Layshia Clarendon (doubtful; right fibula), Damiris Dantas (out for season; right foot), Rennia Davis (out of season; left foot – tension fracture)

Interview: A’ja discusses her debut as a weatherwoman on ‘Tea with A & Phee’

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