PHOENIX MERCURY: 20-14, second in Western Conference
Sitting second in the West for most of the season, Phoenix have booked a three-game series against Tulsa Shock in the Conference Semi-Finals. Just five wins from their final ten games is not great preparation and they lost their last two meetings with Tulsa, including a clash on September 13. However, they are 3-2 against the Shock overall and have the experience, including Australian head coach Sandy Brondello, to succeed in the post-season.
Leilani Mitchell- A buzzer-beater against Connecticut from long range was Mitchell’s second game-winner this season while her hot three-point shooting has continued throughout the year, sitting fourth in the competition at 40%. Her work around the perimeter extends beyond her ability to shoot though, averaging 2.7 assists (second for the Mercury) and a steal per game. In her seventh WNBA season, Mitchell will be looking to advance beyond the Conference Final for the first time in her career.
Cayla Francis- In a positive sign leading into the finals, Francis received her most minutes for the year in the last game of the regular season, collecting a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds with two blocks and two steals. She hit 5-9 from the field and was perfect from the free-throw line, showcasing her ability to be the perfect back-up for Brittany Griner as she begins her first WNBA playoff campaign.
LOS ANGELES SPARKS: 14-20, fourth in Western Conference
Despite the losing record, the Sparks have found themselves in the playoffs and will take confidence from almost half of their season’s victories coming in their past ten games. They have been unsuccessful in four attempts against the Minnesota Lynx this year, with an average losing margin of 13 points. However, they would like their chances against the rest of the Western Conference if they can advance beyond the Semi-Finals as they are 2-2 against Phoenix and 3-2 against Tulsa in the regular season.
Erin Phillips- An injury-plagued season ended prematurely for Phillips in August with a knee issue dashing her hopes of a WNBA finals stint as well as an appearance in the Oceania Championship against New Zealand. Averaging 6.6 points and two assists in 12 games and having won a Championship with the Indiana Fever in 2012, Phillips will leave a hole in the Los Angeles offence.
Mariana Tolo- The third Australian player in the WNBA to suffer a knee injury this year, Tolo’s season came to an end after 28 games and she will unfortunately miss the Sparks’ playoff run. The centre finished with an average of 4.9 points (81% free-throw shooting) and three rebounds while she was one of only three Los Angeles players to record a block per game.
SEATTLE STORM: 10-24, fifth in Western Conference
A frustrating season for Seattle has seen them finish four games outside the top four. They finished with an 8-9 record at home but could only muster two wins on the road. After a Championship in 2010, the Storm has now missed the finals for a second consecutive season, the first time that has happened since they debuted in the league.
Abby Bishop- One of the team’s top defenders for the season, Bishop finished second in blocks and fourth for steals in Seattle while adding 3.5 rebounds a game. Although her offence was not as necessary, she still hit double-figures three times during the year while stretching the opposition’s defence with 33% from beyond the arc.
Jenna O’Hea- Improving on her career numbers across the board, O’Hea increased her point production from 4.2 to 5.9, her rebound numbers from 1.6 to 1.9 and assists from 1.2 to 2.4. She shot a team high 38% from the three-point line and 92% from the free-throw line (fourth in the league).