It’s time to win or go home for the top two teams in the WNBA as both the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces trail 2-1 in this semifinal round. What makes their prospects even more difficult is that both teams will need to win on the road to force a Game 5 in their building.
That only helps to add to the intrigue of Wednesday’s Game 4 doubleheader on ESPN. Can the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury close out their series on their home court?
Let’s take a look.
Projected WNBA Odds
|Matchup||Time||Proj. Spread||Proj. Total|
|Sun vs. Sky||8 p.m. ET||Sun -3.69||154.13|
|Aces vs. Mercury||10 p.m. ET||Aces -0.55||168.09|
Sun vs. Sky
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
Why Tempo Will Decide The Team That’ll Cover
When I previewed Game 1 of this series, I highlighted the contrasting playing styles of the Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky. Connecticut prefers a slower pace, while Chicago wants to play the game at a more uptempo speed. My handicap was based on the principle that if you could identify the game was flowing, you’d have a pretty good idea which team would cover the spread. I surmised that a combined score of 155 points or less would favor Connecticut, whereas any score over 155 favors Chicago.
In the series opener, Connecticut got caught playing the game at Chicago’s pace. Both teams combined to score 168 points scored after four quarters before the two overtime periods. Chicago wound up winning the game 101-95 as a 7.5-point underdog.
In Game 2, a total of 147 points were scored, which is a much slower pace that suits Connecticut. The Sun went on to win the game 79-68 and covered as an eight-point favorite. Recently, We had a combined total of 169 points in Game 3, and you guessed it — Chicago won outright, 86-83, as a 4.5 underdog.
Based on these findings, I don’t see much value in landing on a side in this matchup. The series has been relatively unpredictable because we’re not seeing the superstars on both teams take over the game as we’d generally expect them to.
For example, Chicago’s Candace Parker averaged 13.3 points in the regular season but only 12.6 points during the postseason. Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones won the MVP award with 19.4 points per game during the regular season but has only put up 13.3 points in the playoffs. You’d like to see your star players increase their scoring in the playoffs and not remain stagnant or drop off.
I think the best way to get involved in Wednesday’s matchup would be in-game. Generally, a WNBA game has a fast pace if you have 20 combined points around the five-minute mark in the first quarter. That would project to around 40 points at the end of the quarter. If both teams are on that pace or ahead of it, look to play Chicago live. If they’re below the pace, look to play Connecticut.
Hopefully, after five minutes of play, the in-game spread won’t have deviated too much from the closing number. I think that’s the best way to approach this game, given the correlation between the tempo and which team will cover and win.
Pick: Bet live based on Q1 total projection (40 points)
Aces vs. Mercury Odds
|Aces Odds||+1.5 (-124)|
|Mercury Odds||-1.5 (+102)|
|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
Aces Should Prioritize Perimeter Play In Game 4
Betting games within a playoff series can often be tricky, depending on your approach. One skill I’m hoping to add to my toolbox is looking more at different types of futures like series prices or exact outcomes.
The Action Network’s research has shown that publicized systems like the zig-zag theory aren’t necessarily profitable. As a result, it was not something I used as part of my handicap in Game 2 because I went in the other direction and chose to play the Aces in a teaser off their Game 1 victory.
You see, I expected that each team would hold serve on their home court through the first four games before reaching the rubber match in Game 5. That’s where I had Phoenix-winning based on the veteran presence of Diana Taurasi.
I’m holding significant WNBA title futures on the Mercury at +1850, and I also gave them out at +900 before the start of the playoffs. As a result, I’m entirely content in being on the sidelines to watch how the rest of this series will unfold.
However, I started to think about this Game 4 from an efficiency perspective. We’ve seen both teams combine to score over 180 points in the first two games. We might have gotten a similar result in Game 3 if the Aces didn’t shoot 31% from the floor and 2-of-14 from behind the three-point line.
As for the Mercury, they’ve scored at least 87 points in all three games this series and at least 83 points in each round thus far. Moreover, Phoenix scored at least 83 points during the regular season in two of its three meetings with the Aces, and Diana Taurasi didn’t play in any of those games. While it’s clear that the Phoenix has looked like the better team in the series, there are two things it’s doing remarkably well that’s leading to all these points:
- Phoenix is averaging 9.8 three-point field goals in the playoffs, while Las Vegas averages 5.0 per game.
- Phoenix is averaging 9.0 offensive rebounds per game, while Las Vegas is averaging just 4.0.
Las Vegas will need to play better from the perimeter and have more second-chance opportunities if they want to win Game 4. I think that will shift some of their focus away from the interior, mainly since A’ja Wilson (18.3 vs. 11.3 points) and Liz Cambage (14.2 vs. 11.0 points) are both performing below their regular season averages. Cambage, of course, contracted COVID-19 towards the end of the season, and I think it’s taken a toll on her.
FanDuel Sportsbook has set her points total at 13.5 for Game 4. She’s yet to surpass that mark in any of the three playoff games this season which means the Mercury have now held her under 14 points in five of the six meetings this season. I like that to continue on Wednesday night, and I’d recommend playing her scoring prop under 13 points or better.
Pick: Liz Cambage under 13.5 point