On the eve of the 2017 WNBA playoffs, all four Australian representatives have a shot at the Championship with the Phoenix Mercury featuring in the first round while the New York Liberty have already automatically advanced to the second round.
Under the new playoff structure brought in last season by the WNBA, the first round is an elimination game and the victorious teams will then be re-seeded to face the clubs that finished third and fourth respectively.
The winner of those two games (again just a single elimination) will then head to the Semi-Finals for a best-of-five series against the LA Sparks and Minnesota Lynx with the Grand Final also a best-of-five series starting late September.
PHOENIX MERCURY (18-16, 5th)
The Mercury, led by Australian Opals coach Sandy Brondello, will take on the Seattle Storm (featuring Perth Lynx’s Sami Whitcomb) on Thursday at noon AEST.
Cayla George- Over three clashes with the Storm this season, Phoenix have won two. While they dropped the second contest, George played a significant role with eight points on 3-6 shooting including two three-pointers as well as four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
She played 15 minutes in that game, four minutes more than her average but recently, has played a total of just 16 minutes over her last four matches.
George proved herself as a capable player in big moments though, contributing 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game when she last featured in the playoffs for Phoenix, two years ago.
A repeat performance at the defensive end will go a long way to helping the Mercury take care of Seattle on Thursday.
Leilani Mitchell- In Phoenix’s last meeting with Seattle, just over a week ago, Mitchell proved the heroine as she knocked down two late three-pointers to hold off the Storm and win by a point.
Promoted to the starting line-up, the guard finished with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals and will now be carrying a lot of confidence into the post-season.
She is averaging eight points and 3.6 assists (a team-high) while also sitting third in the Mercury for steals and as one of only five players to have featured in every contest for the side, Mitchell will be a valuable leader in the post-season as she heads into her sixth WNBA playoff series.
Steph Talbot- Heading into the playoffs in her debut season, Talbot has enjoyed her fair amount of responsibility having started 24 out of 34 games.
She has done a bit of everything at both ends of the court, recording 4.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists while showcasing her perimeter defence and will now be keen to prove herself at the business end of the season.
NEW YORK LIBERTY (22-12, 3rd)
The Liberty will enjoy some time off before their playoffs begin as they await the winners of the first round with the possibility of facing Phoenix on September 11 at 7am AEST.
Rebecca Allen- Her minutes are down on previous seasons which has hurt her stats but Allen had arguably her most productive game in late August when she came off the bench to provide nine points, two assists and three steals.
That was the most court time she has seen all season and will hopefully stick in the minds of the Liberty coaches when they take on their Round 2 finals opponent.