A look at the two first-round games in the WNBA playoffs that will be played Thursday:
No. 5 Phoenix (19-13) vs No. 8 New York (12-20)
Season Series: Mercury, 2-1.
Phoenix: The Mercury enter the playoffs with three straight losses after they had a 10-game winning streak snapped. The setbacks were against three of the top four playoff seeds — Connecticut, Las Vegas and Seattle. Phoenix has been playing without veteran guard Diana Taurasi, who has been sidelined by an ankle injury. She's expected to practice this week before Thursday's game. Neither Phoenix nor New York was at full strength in their three regular season meetings. The Mercury didn't have the league's all-time leading scorer in the home loss to New York in June. Phoenix also was missing center Brittney Griner in their win over the Liberty in New York last month. Phoenix guard Bria Hartley missed all three of the matchups. The guard, who tore her ACL last year, has returned to the lineup the last few weeks and could provide valuable minutes off the bench.
New York: The Liberty backed into the playoffs earning the eight-seed on the final day of the regular season when Washington and Los Angeles both lost. It is New York's first postseason appearance since 2017 when the Liberty were a three-seed and lost to Washington in the second round. New York acquired Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard from Seattle during the offseason to add championship experience to their young roster. The pair won a title with the Storm in 2019. Making the playoffs is a huge step for New York, which won only two games in 2020. For New York to pull off the upset, the Liberty will have to shoot well from the 3-point line. The Liberty set a WNBA record with 321 made 3s this season.
No. 6 Chicago (16-16) vs No. 7 Dallas (14-18)
Season series: Wings, 2-1.
Chicago: This could be one of those games where the first team to 90 points wins as both play an up-tempo style. The Sky averaged 83.3 points this season — third best in the league. Chicago has had disappointing playoff exits the last two seasons and added Candace Parker in the offseason. The former league MVP provides valuable championship experience to the Sky. Chicago's offense is led by point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who once again led the league in assists. In the Sky's one regular-season win over the Wings, Chicago had a balanced offense with seven players scoring in double figures.
Dallas: The Wings are healthy heading into the playoffs as Isabelle Harrison is back from her bout with COVID-19 and Satou Sabally seems to have recovered from an Achilles' injury. The pair provide a major interior boost for the guard-heavy Wings. Dallas has very little playoff experience on its roster. Arike Ogunbowale can put points on the board in a hurry and made her mark on the biggest stage in college.