The WNBA will start its 2014 playoffs on Aug. 21, with the Washington Mystics and the Indiana Fever will kick off the Eastern Conference action at 7:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. The game will be followed by game one of the Western Conference playoffs between the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Minnesota Lynx at 9:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN2.
Indiana (16-18), the No. 2 seed, and Washington (16-18), the No. 3 seed, come in about as evenly matched as two teams possibly could. They have identical records and sport an identical 5-5 mark over their past 10 games. The teams also split their four regular season meetings.
About Washington: The Mystics ended the season with the WNBA’s No. 1 defense, allowing 73.8 points a game. They also ranked No. 2 in defensive field goal percentage (42.9 percent) and No. 5 in three-point defense (31.8 percent).
Offensively, Washington was pretty anemic as they averaged just 74.29 points a game (ninth in the league). The Mystics failed to tally their average in each of their last three games.
Washington was also in the bottom third of the league in field goal percentage (42.9 percent) and was eighth in three-point percentage (31.7 percent).
About Indiana: The Fever are also pretty good on the defense end, surrendering 75.12 points a game (third in the league). They also finished second in defending the three-point line as opponents shot (30.5 percent) from beyond the arc but were eighth overall in defensive field goal percentage (44.3 percent).
Offensively, the Fever averaged slightly less than the Mystics (74.15) and finished 10th in the league in scoring. They also didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (41.8 percent) -- ranked 11th in the league – but finished third in three-point percentage (31.8).
Players to watch:
Tamika Catchings (Fever): Catchings, 35, is one of the all-time great WNBA players. Despite missing 17 games with a sore back, Catchings led the team with 16.1 points and also had 6.4 rebounds.
Ivory Latta (Mystics): If Washington is going to pull the upset, Latta must be a major factor. She isn’t going to have it easy as Indiana has several strong perimeter defenders, including Briann January who was named a Second Team All-Defense selection last season.
Latta led the Mystics in scoring at 12.8 points per game this year, however, they were a much better team when she tallied 15 or more points. In the 12 games that Latta scored 15 or more points, the Mystics went 9-3 (.750).
Emma Meesseman (Washington) vs. Erlana Larkins (Indiana)
Meeseman, 6-foot-4, is one of the most improved players in the league. She finished second on the team In scoring (10.1) and led the squad in rebounding (6.4) She also had 86 assists, 48 steals and 34 blocked shots. Meeseman shot 52.3 percent from the field.
Larkins is known for her defense ad rebounding. Larkins averages 9.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. She also accumulated 99 offensive rebounds, 84 assists and 27 blocks.
Keys to victory
With the teams so evenly matched, the team that wins at least two of three following criteria will likely come out victorious.
2. Three-point shooting
The remaining games
Sat August 23
Minnesota at San Antonio
Mon August 25
San Antonio at Minnesota
Prediction: Fever in three. The Mystics are quite young and don’t score enough to pull an upset. Latta is the only Washington player averaging double figures.