Phoenix Mercury vs Indiana Fever Preview – 2016 WNBA Playoffs

The 2016 WNBA playoffs will start on Wednesday, September 21st with two games between the 5th to 8th placed teams.

The regular season concluded on Sunday as the Seattle Storm won the final game of the regular season. That sets up the first round of the WNBA playoffs, a single-elimination round, that will feature a double header on Wednesday night. In the first game of the night the Phoenix Mercury will travel to Indiana to take on the Fever with the loser’s season coming to an abrupt end.

In their preview of the upcoming game involving the Mercury and Fever, the WNBA website states that the Mercury are a “team that is more dangerous than their record would indicate.” Phoenix weren’t bad down the stretch as they won six of their last ten games to grab the last playoff spot. However, the Mercury’s weak point all season has been road games against strong teams.

Overall, Phoenix are just 5-12 as visitors on the entire year. While they won a road game against the San Antonio Stars to conclude the regular season, let’s look at how the Mercury did against playoff-caliber teams in their own buildings post-Olympics:

  • September 13th: lost to the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center 90-85
  • September 6th: lost to the Atlanta Dream at the Philips Arena 91-87
  • September 3rd: lost to the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden 92-70

Phoenix also lost by 13 to Connecticut in early September, a team not even in the post-season. The one result that should give the Mercury some hope heading into their playoff encounter is a big win directly over Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse from late August. However, the Mercury don’t look “more dangerous than their” 16-18 record but rather they look less dangerous. Phoenix’s overall record is inflated with home wins and yet they probably won’t see their homecourt again.

The Mercury are the last-placed team in the post-season, with a clear weakness for road games, that will be facing nothing but away games until Game 3 of the semifinals (if they make it that far). If nothing else is factored in then a road-winning percentage of .294 (5-12) gives them an 8.7% chance of surviving until the semifinals.

During the preseason everyone thought that Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner were going to be a dynamic duo for Phoenix. Taurasi finished 7th in the association in scoring while Griner went 6.5 and 14.5 for boards and points per game. For certain, neither player had a bad season.

However, other teams have similarly-effective duos with stronger supporting casts. I think Phoenix has a chance to beat Indiana, a team with a losing record at home, however the three-seeded New York Liberty look like a much tougher order.

Phoenix and Indiana play at 6pm ET on Wednesday night with Seattle and Atlanta to follow.

Shane Lambert