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WNBA first-round playoff preview: Dallas Wings vs. Connecticut Sun

Isabelle Harrison scores over Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones. Chris O'Meara/AP photo.
Isabelle Harrison scores over Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones. Chris O’Meara/AP photo.

The first-round playoff matchup between the sixth-seeded Dallas Wings and the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun could truly go either way. Both teams have had streaky seasons, though each brings a lot of firepower to the court.

The 18-18 Wings began the season with some short losing streaks that were punctuated by wins. They have played better of late, finishing the regular-season 7-3. The 25-11 Sun went on a few winning streaks that were ended by a loss – most of them close losses. Dallas faces personnel issues in the series, while Connecticut will look for consistency.

The Wings will be without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale, who had surgery last week on her hip, and forward Satou Sabally, who is rehabbing an ankle injury. Though Ogunbowale is the team’s top scorer, they have played well without her, moving the ball fluidly.

Dallas will need high-scoring guards Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray to play efficient basketball. Mabrey averaged 13.6 points per game this season, shooting 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from the three-point line. To beat the Sun, Mabrey will need to score close to 20 points per game and play smart basketball.

Gray averaged 13.3 points per outing this season, while also playing tough defense. She shoots 40 percent from behind the arc, and will need to knock down some threes for the Wings to be successful.

Key for them will be the play of center Teaira McCowan, who started the season slowly but has turned it on of late. After the All-Star break, the fourth-year big turned it on, averaging 16.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. She is good at getting deep position, and getting the opposing team in foul trouble. McCowan also has soft touch around the basket.

If Dallas wins this series, it will be up to McCowan to lead the way, as an inside-out strategy is the best. If McCowan continues to play at a high level, they have a chance to win.

Connecticut is a very talented team with a lot of size in the middle, in the form of reigning MVP Jonquel Jones and All-Stars Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner. That trio should provide a significant size advantage every night, but unfortunately, the Sun sometime have lapses that cost them wins.

Jones is their leading scorer at 14.6 points per game. But if they want to win the title that has long eluded them, she will have to raise her level of play, and coach Curt Miller will have to run the offense through Jones.

Thomas is a do-it-all forward who can score in the paint and run the offense. She is good at grabbing the rebound and pushing the tempo, and she should be try to put consent pressure on the Wings’ defense. We all know Bonner is a bucket-getter, and she will do whatever needed to win.

Dallas will probably try to pack the paint and try to keep the Sun from getting easy baskets. That will be the time when the outside shooting of Courtney Williams and Natisha Heideman will come into play. Williams is a 33 percent three-point shooter and Hiedeman, 41 percent. If they are both on, it could be lights out for their opponents.

This will be an exciting series, which could come down to whomever can knock down the most outside shots and play the tightest defense. If Connecticut plays to their potential, they could make quick work of the Wings, but their lapses could give Dallas a puncher’s chance.

Tipoff for tomorrow’s game at Mohegan Sun Arena is 8 p.m. ET.

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