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WNBA Playoffs Preview: Game 2 Analysis for Sky vs. Sun & Mercury vs. Aces

WNBA betting analyst Michael Arinze previews Thursday's WNBA playoff games: Sky vs. Sun & Mercury vs. Aces.

Michael Arinze

The WNBA semifinals began with a thrilling start as the Chicago Sky outlasted the top-seeded Connecticut Sun 101-95 in double overtime. The second game of the doubleheader was also very competitive, but this time, the home team prevailed as the Las Vegas Aces held off the Phoenix  Mercury 96-90.

Although the visiting underdogs earned a split in the games, both teams got the money by covering the spread. Will that continue in for Game 2? Let’s dig into the matchups and see if we can cash another ticket.

Projected WNBA Odds

Matchup Time Proj. Spread Proj. Total
Sky vs. Sun 8 p.m. ET Sun -6.25 158.39
Mercury vs. Aces 10 p.m. ET Aces -6.15 170.68

Sky vs. Sun

Sky Odds +7.5
Sun Odds -7.5
Over/Under 155.5 (-106 / -114)
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.

A Correlated Side And Total

When I previewed the first game of this series, I posed the following question: Which team would succeed in getting its opponent to play at its tempo?

You see, I think there’s a strong correlation between the pace of play and which team has success in this series. A more up-tempo pace favors the Sky, while a more deliberate defensive battle would favor the Sun.

It didn’t take long to see which team had the edge as both teams combined to score 45 points in the first quarter and 93 points by halftime. Those numbers were well ahead of the pace to go over the closing total of 154.5 points. Early bettors disagreed with the opening number of 152.5 but only managed to move it two points. Keep in mind that an opening number of 152.5 was more tilted to the Connecticut Sun as a seven-point home favorite.

My model projected a total of 157.19 points, but that number was short even before the game went into double overtime. The game finished with a combined score of 196 points. I must admit that I am a bit surprised that the bookmakers only adjusted the opening total by one point to 155.5.

The critical takeaway here is that the more points scored in this game, the more the up-tempo style will benefit the Sky. Note that the Sun went 1-2 against the Sky during the regular season. The lone victory was a 74-58 result on Jun. 27. They lost the other two games, 81-75 and 91-81.

Chicago’s Perimeter Defense Key To Repelling Connecticut

As much as Sun may want to harp on their defense for Game 2, I don’t think they’re going to try to slow the game down. That could backfire and stagnate their offense, which would be ill-advised since they’re already trailing in the series.

What we saw in Game 1 was consistent with the regular season, whereby the Sun didn’t attempt a ton of three-pointers. Their 17 three-point attempts would have put them 11th in the league based on a regular-season average.

Connecticut averaged 15.5 three-point attempts this season in the four games against Chicago. That’s four fewer three-point attempts than its regular-season average (19.5). In my earlier preview, I correctly mentioned that these two teams allowed the fewest three-point field goals in the league during the regular season. However, I neglected to mention that Chicago allowed the fewest three-point attempts per game (18.7).

In Game 1, Chicago made three more three-pointers than Connecticut (5) and finished with five more three-point attempts (22). I think this is a glaring problem for the Sun if they’re unable take more shots from distance.

Here’s something else to keep in mind: Since the 2018 season, road teams that cover the spread by at least double digits in the postseason are 9-3 ATS for 5.3 units.

This is another game that you might want to bet closer to tip-off in case this line gets to +8. Take the points with the road underdog.

Pick: Sky +7.5 or better


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Mercury vs. Aces Odds

Mercury Odds +6.5
Aces Odds -6.5
Over/Under 170.5 (-110 / -110)
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.

Did Phoenix Deserve To Cover Game 1?

I purposefully dug deep for the first game because I was unsure what to make of this matchup. However, I’d give myself better than a 50-50 shot that I’ll probably figure out some angle to get myself to the betting window.

Let me start by saying I’m not sure if the Mercury were the right side in Game 1 as we cashed that ticket by just a half-point. Both sides had a reasonably clean game as neither team finished the night with double-digit turnovers and both shot at least 48% from the floor.

The big surprise was that Las Vegas made nine three-pointers in the ballgame. That’s almost double its season average of 5.1 per game. Moreover, Phoenix couldn’t contain Riquna Williams, who led all scorers with 26 points, including 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. That was quite a performance for Williams, who averaged 10.5 points and two three-pointers per game during the regular season.

Las Vegas also got a tremendous contribution from Kelsey Plum off the bench. Plum dropped 25 points in her 26 minutes on the court. With her efforts, the Aces’ bench outscored their opponents 34-11.

Mercury Need A Third Player To Step Up

As for Phoenix, the team needed much more from Skylar Diggins-Smith, whose 10 points were below her season average of 17.7 points per game. The reality is that Diggins-Smith was the only starter in the Mercury lineup who scored below their season average,

The Mercury started brightly in the game and even led 30-21 after the first quarter. However, they seemed to wane toward the end of the first half and into the third quarter. If Diggins-Smith isn’t at her best, Phoenix needs one of those magical performances from Sophie Cunningham off the bench. Cunningham only averaged 5.6 points this season, but against the Liberty in the second round, she caught fire with 21 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the three-point line.

Phoenix had four players in its starting lineup that played at least 31 minutes, while Las Vegas had only two players reach that mark. I’m not sure how sustainable that is for a Mercury team that’s on one day’s rest and playing their third game in five days. The Aces are a team that can push their opponents to the brink of exhaustion by playing at a breakneck speed. Las Vegas led the league in pace with 82.49 possessions per 40 minutes.

Since the 2016 playoffs, teams that failed to cover the spread as a 6.5 point favorite are 8-1 ATS in their next game.

I debated using this game as lean because I’m more invested in the Sky-Sun matchup. However, I’ve decided to get a little creative by playing this game as part of a two-team, 4.5 point teaser that brings the Aces down to two points while teasing the Sky up to 12 points.

Pick: Two teams 4.5 point teaser (+103) with Aces -2 and Sky +12


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