Off to a scorching 7-2 start, the Connecticut Sun have emerged as the early title favorites, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI). Their path to what could be their first WNBA championship will likely go through the Seattle Storm (7-3) or Phoenix Mercury (8-3), the two teams that the Sun will face in back-to-back road games this weekend.
Three of BPI's four most probable WNBA Finals matchups feature Connecticut, which has not reached the championship round since losing consecutive appearances in 2004 and 2005. While BPI gives the Sun approximately a 10 percent chance to face the Storm or Mercury in the finals, Connecticut is three times more likely to encounter at least one of them in an earlier round due to the conference-less playoff structure. Last season, the Sun were eliminated at home by the Mercury in a single-game second-round playoff.
What should we expect this time around? Both matchups should feature plenty of scoring, as the Storm, Mercury and Sun boast BPI's top three offenses in the league, each contributing an expected four points above the WNBA average.
Connecticut (92.4 points per game) is on pace to be just the third team in league history to average 90 points per game, and the first since the Mercury in 2010. The Sun are getting help throughout the roster, with six players averaging at least 10 points per game. Seattle and Phoenix, meanwhile, are typically fueled by star duos. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd have scored or assisted on more than half of the Storm's points, while Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi have accounted for 60 percent of the Mercury's offense.
Despite the cross-country travel and lack of rest, the Sun are the slight BPI favorite in each game this weekend. However, its opponents will be motivated by possible playoff implications. The Mercury could improve their chances to receive a double-bye to 43 percent with a win against Connecticut. Seattle could also improve its probability of securing an automatic semifinal bid by 13 percentage points with a win. The Storm will also be seeking their first win over Connecticut since June 2016, after losing all three contests to the Sun last season.
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