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Liberty and Mercury wrap up the Saturday WNBA schedule

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Phoenix Mercury v Washington Mystics Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

A cold night. The New York Liberty were in another competitive one, but like so many of their games this year, they couldn’t bring it all the way home. As a result, they lost their third straight game, this time by six points to the Atlanta Dream on Thursday night.

The opponent today will be the Phoenix Mercury. Somehow, the Mercury have managed to overcome the injury odds and have punched their ticket to this year’s playoffs. They sealed the deal with an impressive win against the Indiana Fever on Thursday. It was the team’s fifth straight win.

Where to follow the game

Twitter has us covered tonight. Primetime party so we getting it going after 8 PM.

Injuries

Sabrina Ionescu is out.

Bria Hartley is out for the season. Britney Griner left the wubble due to personal reasons and is out indefinitely. Yvonne Turner and Jessica Breland are out too. Nia Coffey is probable and Sophie Cunningham is questionable. Eek.

The game

Phoenix won the first game in August.

When you’re shorthanded like the Mercury are, it takes a lot of determination and hard work to stay competitive. The Mercury’s rotation is down to seven players (nine if Coffey and Cunningham suit up) and from here on out, it’s only going to get harder.

In off the court news, the Mercury and Suns will be partnering with Phoenix officials to make the Mercury’s home arena a voting center for this November’s elections. This is unquestionably a good thing and shout to the players for doing everything they can to help make voting easier and more accessible. Lord knows too many elected officials are trying to make it impossible to do so.

When one star goes out, another one steps up. Without Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith has found her groove in Sandy Brondello’s offense. Over the past six games, Diggins-Smith is averaging a bit over 21 points a game on a .458/.457/.923 shooting split. She started off slow as she was moving to a new team following her offseason trade from Dallas and returning to WNBA action after missing 2019 due to giving birth to her first child, but now that she’s fully in the swing of things, Diggins-Smith will be someone to watch in the playoffs.

In the meantime, Jazmine Jones and Layshia Clarendon will handle guard duties. With five games to go, the kids on the team will see more time on the court as they soak up valuable experience that will take them into 2021 and beyond.

Player to watch: Diana Taurasi

It’s always good to see a legend of the game back in the swing of things. Taurasi missed some time with a back injury but has been on a tear since she returned. DT recently spoke about her pregame regimen:

“I used to be the kid that when we got to practice I didn’t even stretch. And now I’m not that person anymore. Now, the work to get on the court is so much more time-consuming and it’s definitely one of those things that’s more mental than anything, having to do all the things just to get ready for the game. So, it’s a battle. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed and I’m just trying to be as healthy and in the best shape I can be when I get on the court.”

It’s helped her to third in scoring this season as she’s averaging almost 20 a night. As one of the game’s greatest scorers, she can catch fire from anywhere on the court and for the Liberty, if they can chase her off the three point line, half the battle will be won.

The shots aren’t there, but the effort certainly is. Kia Nurse came off the bench for the second straight game and led the team in points. Paris Kea has been starting, but Nurse will still see her fair share of minutes. It’s a change of pace but one that will suit her as she winds down this season.

From the Vault

We’re gonna be seeing a lot more of Phoenix Suns legend (and WNBA supporter) Steve Nash now that he’s head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, so let’s take a trip back to 2006