The Phoenix Mercury and Washington Mystics survived single-elimination games at home in the first round, but, to reach the semifinals, each team will have to win on the road. According to ESPN's WNBA Basketball Power Index (BPI), there is at least a 70 percent chance that at least one of these lower-seeded teams will be moving on. Second-round coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN2).
Phoenix at Connecticut
The Sun are the youngest team still alive in the postseason, but they play like a group of veterans when protecting their half of the court. According to the BPI, the Sun defense is an expected 2.6 points better than that of an average team, and fourth best in the league.
However, when facing an average WNBA team, the Sun's projected defensive contribution is nearly identical to the predicted points added by the Mercury offense. As a result, the BPI expects this to be a close game, giving Connecticut a 51 percent chance to win on its home court.
Washington at New York
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York is the only team in WNBA history to enter the postseason riding a 10-game win streak. However, the Liberty's stats during their win streak are not drastically different from those in their first 24 games of the season. Nevertheless, the WNBA BPI illustrates New York's improvement over that span.
Before the streak began, the BPI expected the Liberty to beat an average WNBA team by approximately five points per game. Coming off New York's first-round bye, the BPI predicts that the Liberty would double that scoring margin against the Mystics, giving New York a 59 percent chance to advance to the semifinals.
Although the Liberty are surging, they will face a much stronger Mystics offense than the one they beat twice at home in the regular season. Recall that the Mystics were missing Elena Delle Donne when they were held to a season-low 55 points at The Garden in July.
This time around, the 2015 league MVP is coming off a 25-point, 11-rebound first-round performance, part of an attack that the BPI rates as the second-best unit in the league. Although the Mystics' defense remains their vulnerability, Washington's primary struggle has been protecting the perimeter, where the Liberty are not particularly efficient.
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