NEW YORK — A look at the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
No. 3 Washington (22-12) vs. No. 6 Los Angeles (19-15)
Season Series: Mystics, 2-1.
Washington: The Mystics were one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs, winning eight of their final 10 games to secure the No. 3 seed. One of those victories was a last-second win over the Sparks when Natasha Cloud hit a jumper from the foul line while falling down just before the buzzer. The Mystics are led by Elena Delle Donne, who had another spectacular season averaging 20.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Coach Mike Thibault also received very solid play from center LaToya Sanders and guard Kristi Toliver over the course of the season. The Mystics will play the game at George Washington's arena because their normal home isn't available because of renovations.
Los Angeles: The Sparks vanquished rival Minnesota in the opening round Tuesday night before flying across country for Thursday's game. Los Angeles received a boost in the win over the Lynx with the return of Nneka Ogwumike, who is battling mono. Candace Parker only had two points in the first-round win as she was bothered by a stomach ailment, but Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams provided more than enough offense to secure the victory.
Outlook: Teams that have had first-round byes haven't fared well in the new playoff format, going 1-3 over the past two seasons. Los Angeles will continue that trend knocking off Washington.
No. 4 Connecticut (21-13) vs. No. 5 Phoenix (20-14)
Season Series: Mercury, 2-1.
Connecticut: The Sun won nine of their final 10 games to close out the regular season and a big reason why has been the play of Jonquel Jones over the past few weeks. The AP's sixth woman of the year has been averaging 18.4 points over the last month after a sluggish start to the season. The Sun also have been getting solid contributions from the Thomases — Jasmine and Alyssa as well as Chiney Ogwumike. Ogwumike missed last year's playoff loss to Phoenix while she was recovering from an Achilles injury. She missed the final regular season game while dealing with knee soreness.
Phoenix: The Mercury routed Dallas in the first round behind stellar games from Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner. Taurasi had 26 points and a career-playoff best 12 assists, and Bonner had 29 points. The effort of the two All-Stars helped offset a relatively quiet offensive game from Brittney Griner. The Mercury improved to 5-0 in first- and second-round games in the playoffs over the past two seasons.
Outlook: Diana Taurasi is 12-0 in deciding playoff games over the course of her career, including an 88-83 win over Connecticut last season in the second round. All streaks eventually do come to an end, but it's going to be difficult seeing this one come to a close on Thursday as the Mercury have just too much offensive firepower.