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On Friday, the WNBA season officially begins with four games – featuring Washington Mystics traveling to Phoenix for a crucial contest that could decide their playoff hopes.

Andraya Carter will make her inaugural appearance as an ESPN studio analyst during Los Angeles’ home opener against Chicago Sky – her debut.

Dallas Wings vs. Minnesota Lynx

Minnesota Lynx defeated Dallas Wings on Tuesday in a close game, yet many didn’t expect such an outcome. Dallas came into this matchup with significant momentum, seemingly poised to run away with it, but Minnesota Lynx proved themselves worthy and eventually held on for an impressive 94-89 victory. Dallas Wings struggled mightily with turnovers, one of their main issues during this loss.

This was the second meeting between these teams this season and the first in Minnesota. The Wings won their previous matchup 94-89 at home in May when Satou Sabally posted 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and three steals. Arike Ogunbowale contributed 21 points as high scorer for Minnesota.

Dallas started slowly and trailed Minnesota by double digits early but later surged late in the first and early in the second to take control of the game. Minnesota managed to maintain a narrow edge throughout most of the third quarter before K-Mac came through with an effective dagger three in the fourth to put this game away for good.

The Wings have averaged 87.0 points per game this season and connected on 43.8% of their three-point attempts. Unfortunately, the team has struggled with turnovers, committing 12.8 turnovers per game while giving opponents an impressive 59.7% shooting efficiency rate.

Minnesota Lynx are a far superior defensive team. They only allow opponents to shoot 35.1 percent from the field this season, leading the league. Furthermore, Minnesota ranks first when it comes to preventing points in the paint and possesses veteran leadership that will look to extend their winning streak when taking on the Dallas Wings tonight.

Los Angeles Sparks vs. Connecticut Sun

Los Angeles Sparks host Connecticut Sun in an essential matchup to keep their playoff hopes alive. Currently sitting ninth in the Western Conference standings, they need four wins in their remaining four matches to advance to postseason playoffs.

Los Angeles Sparks have experienced recent difficulties, requiring them to regroup to secure their sixth straight WNBA championship. After being outwitted by the Washington Mystics last weekend and without Nneka Ogwumike due to an injured knee, Los Angeles must rely on other stars, such as Candace Parker and Azura Stevens, to retake their top.

Even without Ogwumike, the Sparks remain a formidable team. Their depth makes them capable of competing with the Sun; however, they must play much better defensively to pull off an upset.

The Sun are one of the top teams in the WNBA and have already secured their playoff spot. Their offense ranks as one of the most efficient, while their defense allows just under 82 points per game. Although they did suffer an unfortunate 31-point blowout loss against New York Liberty last time out, they still possess plenty of talent that should allow them to compete against Los Angeles.

Connecticut Sun has shown they excel when playing in front of their fans at home compared to when on the road, averaging an impressive average of 7.5 made three-pointers at home versus 6.8 threes made on average when away, as well as allowing fewer rebounds per game while forcing more turnovers than on average when home.

There have only been two head-to-head matchups between these teams this season; both were won by the Sun. Of the five games played between these two sides this year, only two have favored the Sparks; they must improve their game to win against this Sun squad.

New York Liberty vs. Phoenix Mercury

New York Liberty fans hope that with some luck, the team can avoid an upset in the playoffs and reach the WNBA Final Four this year. But that won’t be easy against Phoenix Mercury; their matchup last year in the Finals could prove riveting again this season. Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu currently lead an East Division standings position of second. Phoenix has fallen to bottom place with only seven wins out of 20 this season; both will look to rebound after losses against opposing opponents this time.

This year marks the first time that WNBA games will be shown live on ESPN on a dedicated Friday night slot to create regular viewing habits similar to what exists for NBA and NFL games on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, respectively.

The Liberty have not had an impressive start this season, but they can salvage things with a win against the Mercury. Their defense must improve to compete with top teams in the WNBA; nevertheless, they will enjoy support from an enthusiastic sellout crowd at Barclays Center.

At first, the Liberty were slow in getting going, with even their starters struggling to gain ground. Marine Johannes and Betnijah Laney stood out, but the team struggled to score in the opening period.

But the team made a comeback in the second quarter, and their two-point lead proved enough for them to keep fighting back. Michaela Onyenwere and Jonquel Jones hit vital shots to put Liberty up 94-92 before Courtney Vandersloot stole a pass from Stewart before feeding her for a layup with just 1:19 left to give them victory.

No matter Diana Taurasi’s absence due to injury, the Liberty have enough talent to challenge for a playoff berth. Stewart and Ionescu will provide ample scoring power, while Brittney Griner and Brianna Turner can contribute significantly in the paint. Courtney Vandersloot has been on an impressive tear lately; her performance will also be pivotal.

Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Storm

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The Las Vegas Aces are three wins away from winning their inaugural WNBA championship, following an incredible postseason run that saw them dispatch the Seattle Storm in three games in the Finals to earn their place in the championship series. However, they face another challenging test against Connecticut Sun, who pose another formidable opponent to defend their title.

After winning Game 1 on Sunday, Las Vegas returned strong in Game 2, taking an early 13-point lead and maintaining it throughout to ultimately claim victory by outscoring Los Angeles 78-71. Riquna Williams led Las Vegas with 17 points scored.

It marked the Aces’ fourth consecutive playoff win and helped them notch one of the best records in the league this year. Their regular-season dominance was complemented by an impressive playoff run that saw victories against Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever, and Boston Pride to reach the finals.

The Aces have struggled in recent playoff games due to an inability to close out games quickly enough, something they hope to address in the Finals. Their 3-ball hasn’t been as influential, and late rallies by opponents like Sun, Dream, and Fever have allowed late rallies from occurring, while 3-ball has not provided them the same advantage it once did last year.

The Sun has plenty of talent, but they must make adjustments to compete with the Las Vegas Aces. They need to tighten up on team defense and focus on getting more shots inside the paint; if they can do that, they should be able to defeat Las Vegas in the Finals. This year, it will be an epic matchup between two of WNBA’s premier teams, featuring some of its finest talent, like Kelsey Plum, Jewell Lloyd, and Breanna Stewart.