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After a 1-1 outing last night, my WNBA picks are now 6-4 (60%) since the Olympic break. The only matchup of tonight’s WNBA slate features the Phoenix Mercury visiting the New York Liberty. I looked at the most important stats and storylines surrounding these teams to find the value in betting this WNBA matchup at 7:00 pm ET. The spread opened at Mercury -3 but quickly moved to Mercury -6, while the total currently sits at 162.5 on PointsBet Sportsbook.
New York Liberty vs. Phoenix Mercury
The Liberty hold a record of 11-14 and rank seventh in the standings heading into this matchup, while the Mercury sit in the fifth spot with a 13-10 record. New York is among the most turnover-prone teams in the WNBA, with a league-high 17.2 giveaways per game, and is the only team with a turnover rate above 20% this season. The Liberty also average the second-fewest steals per game and allow the most opposing points off turnovers per game, so New York may struggle to win the turnover battle tonight.
I'll be interested to see whether the Mercury can take advantage of New York's mistakes, as Phoenix is the only team averaging fewer steals per game than the Liberty and also score the fewest points off turnovers per game this season. The Liberty have gone 1-3 since the break, and August was the team's highest average of opposing points off turnovers per game of any month.
New York is playing without Sami Whitcomb, which should be a huge loss for the team in this matchup. Whitcomb shot 64.9% of her field goal attempts from beyond the arc this season and led the WNBA in both effective field goal percentage and three-pointers made per game. New York's sharpshooter also ranked in the 95th percentile of Synergy's Points Per Possession (PPP) on offense and was the most efficient player in PPP on spot-up plays. Opponents outscored the Liberty by 12.7 points per 100 possessions with Whitcomb off the court, the lowest off-court net rating for any player on the team. This means that New York will have a tough time replacing the team's best shooter.
Rebecca Allen could see increased minutes as a result of Whitcomb's injury. Allen made an average of 1.9 three-pointers per game this season and ranks in the top-10 of steals per game, so the 6'2 wing provides the Liberty with a solid three-and-D player who can help the team win the turnover battle. Allen's turnover rate this season is impressive, as she has only turned the ball over on 7.5% of her possessions.
For the Liberty to have a chance against the Mercury, the team needs a big game from Betnijah Laney. New York's first-time All-Star averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists while ranking in the top-10 of points scored off turnovers per game this season. Last year's WNBA Most Improved Player needs to cut down on turnovers to take another leap in her development, as Laney leads the league in giveaways per game.
Natasha Howard returned from an injury after the Olympic break and has immediately made an impact with the Liberty. Howard is one of two players with a usage rate above 30% this season and averaged 16.2 points and seven rebounds per game in her first six games.
The biggest edge for the Mercury will likely come in the paint behind star center Brittney Griner. The Liberty scored the fewest points in the paint among all WNBA teams this season and allowed opponents to score the second-highest average of points in the paint per game. This could be an issue against Griner, who averages more points in the paint than any WNBA player besides Tina Charles this year. Griner also ranks second in overall scoring average with 20.5 points per game on 57.6% shooting and grabs 9.8 boards per game.
Phoenix has paced the WNBA in blocks per game this season behind the interior defense of Griner, who averages a league-high 2.1 rejections per game. Griner shares the frontcourt with Brianna Turner, who is limited offensively, but averages 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this year.
Skylar Diggins-Smith also ranks in the WNBA's top-10 scorers this season with 18.5 points per night in addition to five assists per game. Diggins-Smith has been able to get to the line with ease this season, averaging the third-most free throws per game among all WNBA players. The Mercury's speedy point guard also scored the fourth-most fast-break points per game this season, which could be a factor against the mistake-prone Liberty.
Despite Diana Taurasi turning 39 this summer, the five-time Olympic gold medalist is still among the most feared clutch-time players in the league. Taurasi, the WNBA's all-time leading career scorer, ranks sixth in the league with three clutch-time points per game this year on 50% shooting from deep.
The Mercury have allowed the most second-chance points to opposing teams in the WNBA this season, but the Liberty may not be able to capitalize on this flaw, as New York scores the fewest second-chance points per game in the WNBA.
In the last matchup between these teams, Phoenix lost 85-83 without Diana Taurasi, but the Mercury's other stars played well, as Griner put up 29 points and 14 boards while Diggins-Smith had 25 points, six boards and five assists. Laney and Whitcomb each hit three shots from beyond the arc for New York, and the Liberty tied for a season-low 10 turnovers in the win.
If the Liberty can take care of the ball again, the team should be able to overcome the loss of Whitcomb. For Phoenix, it will be important to force Liberty turnovers and put Griner in positions to maximize her paint advantage. I'm staying off the spread for this game, but I think Phoenix should still win, so I’ll be looking for live betting opportunities if the Mercury fall behind.
EDGE: No Bet but look for Phoenix Mercury ML live
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