Going into the 2021 WNBA season, many viewed the Phoenix Mercury as championship contenders. But some tough losses and injuries during the season anchored the team down. Still, the Mercury qualified for the postseason for the ninth straight season, this time as the league’s No. 5 seed.
Now, these preseason championship hopefuls will need to win a pair of single-elimination playoff games before having a shot at making a run to the WNBA Finals. While oddsmakers aren’t confident about the Mercury’s chances of taking the title, the team is expected to at least take out the eighth-seeded New York Liberty, which visits the Mercury in Thursday’s first round.
However, Thursday’s game will not take place at the Footprint Center, where the Mercury played all 17 of their home games this season. Instead, the playoff action will happen at Grand Canyon University Arena.
While this takes the game away from the retail FanDuel Sportsbook, interested bettors will still have a chance to place a wager on the Mercury as they begin the hunt for the franchise’s fourth WNBA championship.
Phoenix Mercury expectations heading into first-round game
Ahead of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs, most sportsbooks are on the same page when it comes to the Mercury. Oddsmakers have them slotted with the fifth-best chance of winning the championship at +900.
|Team||DraftKings Sportsbook AZ||Caesars Sportsbook AZ||FanDuel Sportsbook AZ|
|Las Vegas Aces||+225||+225||+220|
|New York Liberty||+10000||+6600||+15000|
The quest for a title obviously starts with the opening round, and the Mercury are expected to win their first-round matchup with New York. According to the Arizona FanDuel sportsbook app, Phoenix enters Thursday’s game as a 9.5-point favorite. FanDuel also lists the over/under for total points in the game at 162.5.
The Mercury is the fifth-best scoring team in the league, averaging around 82 points per game. Meanwhile, the Liberty scored about 78 points per contest.
Arizona sportsbooks expect Mercury stars to show out
FanDuel is also offering prop bets on player points during the game.
For the Mercury, the focus is on Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The two members of the team’s “Big 3” are playing some of the best basketball of their careers heading into the playoffs. The over/under for Griner is at 22.5 points, while the market sits at 16.5 points for Diggins-Smith.
Oddsmakers for AZ mobile betting apps put Ionescu’s over/under 13.5 points, a full point below teammate Betnijah Laney, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season.
Mercury, Liberty trending different directions
Since the All-Star break, these two teams have gone in opposite directions. The Mercury enter the playoffs hot, having won 10 of their last 13 games. On the other hand, the Liberty plummeted, losing 9 of their last 11.
But for Mercury fans, the team’s success hinges on the health of Diana Taurasi. If the unquestioned face of the franchise is healthy and can tap into her “White Mamba” mode, she could help carry the team on a deep playoff run.
For the Liberty, all eyes are on young star Sabrina Ionescu. Fans of Arizona’s two Pac-12 schools know her well from her time at Oregon, where she was named Pac-12 Player of the Year three times. After her rookie season was cut short due to an ankle injury a year ago, she now heads into the postseason for the first time in her young WNBA career.
(8) New York Liberty at (5) Phoenix Mercury
Date: Thursday, Sept. 23
Time: 7:00 p.m. MST
Location: Grand Canyon University Arena – Phoenix, Arizona
TV Coverage: ESPN2