Phoenix Mercury will play the next three games against rival LA Sparks

Typically, the Phoenix Mercury would not welcome the Los Angeles Sparks as potential break-in-buster opponents.

But for this week at least, the 25-year-old Mercury’s most hated rival could be just what it takes to break out of a three-game bankruptcy.

Los Angeles (4-5) is essentially level with Mercury (5-6) and three other teams in fifth place in the WNBA. But the Sparks are without Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike due to knee injuries and guard Te’a Cooper is suspended for Wednesday’s game against the Mercury, the first of three in a row between the teams.

Cooper, a Mercury 2020 draft pick, left the check-in area to join an altercation and suspension for a game during the Sparks’ 80-64 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

The Mercury, who is without a guard Diana Taurasi for a week due to a sternum fracture and shot 18.8 percent out of 3-point range with three consecutive losses, cannot currently suspect a win against anyone.

But with Guardian Skylar Diggins-Smith and center Brittney Griner playing across all leagues, the Mercury have a manpower advantage, at least on paper, that goes into the equivalent in a postseason series. The teams will also play at the LA Convention Center on Friday, due to NBA conflicts at the Staples Center, then in Phoenix on June 26th when Taurasi is back.

June 3, 2021;  Phoenix, Arizona, USA;  Phoenix Mercury Guard Sophie Cunningham (9) wants to pass the Chicago Sky in the Suns Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Mercury trainer Sandy Brondello is still debating whether to change the starting grid, with the guards Shey Peddy or Sophie Cunningham being options to be deployed before Kia Nurse or Megan Walker.

“It won’t solve the whole problem, but it’s more about who can bring the most energy out there,” Brondello said on Tuesday. “We know Diana will be right on the starting line as soon as she is back. But we have to try to build up some momentum now before she comes back. We don’t want to put ourselves in a really difficult position.” Position in the second half. I’ll watch a little more film and we’ll see. “

The Mercury bankers were mostly unproductive during the losing streak, being outpaced by Dallas (two games) and New York by a combined 87-28. So a change is not a panacea, but it could offer Brondello more of the ball movement, which she continues to emphasize as crucial to relieve the 6-9 griner and Diggins-Smith.

“We watched a movie and found that we lost and shot four misses in a row on the first shot and they went the other way,” said Peddy. “When we’re down, everyone’s adrenaline rushes, we’re trying to get the home run up and running and it gets us down.

“We have to take a deep breath, take the second and third action, let’s find a better shot because the first shot will always be there. But that’s not necessarily the best shot.”

All-Star Game Voting is in progress

Voting began Tuesday and runs through June 27th for the WNBA All-Star Game, which will be played on July 14th at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

The game will pit the US women’s national team against other WNBA All-Stars based on a combination of fan, player, media and coach voting. It will be held prior to the departure of players for the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to August. 8. The 1996 US Olympic Team is honored with a special presentation during the All-Star Game, as this team founded the WNBA 25 years ago.

Fan voting is available at, including 2-for-1 days on June 20 and 27 when votes count double. All-Star Roster will be announced on June 30th.

The top 36 winners (a minimum of nine backcourt and 15 frontcourt players) who are not members of the USA basketball roster will be given to WNBA coaches to determine the 12 players for the WNBA team.


Phoenix Mercury at Los Angeles Sparks, Wednesday 7:30 p.m., Los Angeles Convention Center, Prime Video – The Mercury (5-6) have a losing streak of three games, including 85-83 against New York on Sunday. The Sparks (4-5) lost two straight to Washington and 80-64 to Minnesota on Saturday. The long-time rivals will also play in LA on Friday and June 26 in Phoenix.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.

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