Mercury-Dream preview

Mercury-Dream preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 4:43 p.m. ET

The regular-season finish line is in sight and teams are jockeying for a spot in the postseason.

Atlanta (14-14) isn't a lock for the playoffs, but the Dream are in decent shape. The same can't be said for the Phoenix Mercury (13-16), who sit precariously in the seventh playoff spot.

The Mercury have underachieved after being picked by league general managers in a preseason poll as the team to beat this season.

But Phoenix can take a big step toward living up to the hype when the Mercury travel Tuesday to Phillips Arena in Atlanta to take on the Dream in a 7 p.m. EDT game that could go a long way in determining each team's postseason fate.


And despite their record, the Mercury remain a confident bunch. Coming out of the Summer Olympics break, Phoenix reeled off three straight impressive wins with a dominating defense.

But the past two games their defense has regressed, giving up 87 and 92 points in losses.

The Mercury's high-powered offense isn't the problem at 84.5 points per game. It's the defense that allows 84.4 points per game that has cost Phoenix a chance to move up in the standings.

The Heat have their own defensive problems as they allow 83.7 points per game.

The Dream hosted the Mercury on July 3 in the only meeting this season of the teams. Brittney Griner dominated with 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Mercury waltzed out of Atlanta with a 95-87 victory.

If the Dream are going avenge that loss, they will have to find a way to stop Griner.

The Dream also will need their supporting cast to step up. In the first meeting, Tiffany Hayes and Angel McCoughtry combined for 48 points, but that wasn't enough.

In their last game, McCoughtry and Hayes combined for 52 points against Seattle on Sunday. But the Dream dug a hole too deep to climb out -- they trailed by 24 heading into the fourth quarter -- and dropped a 92-81 decision to the Storm.

In their last game, the Mercury met up with a buzz-saw otherwise known as Tina Charles and the New York Liberty. Once Charles got going, it was pretty much lights out as Phoenix lost by 22.

Griner was a nonfactor in that game, scoring two points in 23 minutes.

The two teams won't have to wait long to meet for a third time this season. Atlanta travels to Phoenix for another crucial game on Sunday.