For the first time since sports betting in Arizona launched, bettors in the state can place wagers on the WNBA Playoffs.
The opening contest of the 2021 postseason for the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury comes against the eighth-seeded New York Liberty in a single-elimination contest.
The game, which tips off at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix at 7 p.m. Arizona time (10 p.m. EST) Thursday, will be carried live nationally on ESPN2.
In June, Bally's announced a 15-year team sponsorship and sports betting partnership with the Mercury. It was the first gaming access deal with a professional women’s sports team. Bally’s has not launched its app, Bally Bet, in the state.
Phoenix Mercury Favorites on Thursday
Arizona sportsbooks like Phoenix’s chances.
A major turning point in the Mercury’s title chances is the health of veteran guard Diana Taurasi’s ankle.
The 10-time WNBA All-Star is battling an ankle injury and is listed as questionable to play in Thursday’s playoff opener.
Phoenix’s last WNBA Title came in 2014, while the Seattle Storm — who Phoenix would face if they win on Thursday — are the defending champs in the league.
Who to Watch on Thursday Night
For the Mercury, the show starts and ends with the larger-than-life exploits of veteran forward Brittany Griner.
The seven-time All-Star has been a tour de force in the paint this year, ranking 2nd in the WNBA in points per game (20.5) and field goal percentage (.575).
Griner also ranks first in the WNBA in blocks per game (1.9), giving head coach Sandy Brondello a dominant player to center her offense around.
For the Liberty, the offense revolves around the play of guards Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu, with the former leading the team in scoring (16.8 points per game), while the latter leads New York in rebounding (5.7 RPG) and assists (6.1 APG) this season.
Ionescu ranks third in the league in free throw percentage (.911), while teammate Sami Whitcomb is third in three-point percentage this year, at .425.
What’s Next for Phoenix Mercury?
With a victory on Thursday night, the Mercury would advance to the single-elimination second round of the WNBA Playoffs, where they’d face the fourth seeded Storm in Seattle.
From there, the winner of that contest would play the top seed Connecticut Sun in the semifinal round in a best-of-five series.
The 2021 WNBA Finals is also a best-of-five series, pitting whichever team wins the Sun series versus the winner of the series between the second seed Las Vegas Aces and either the Minnesota Lynx, Chicago Sky or Dallas Wings.
Teams in the playoffs will be re-seeded after each round, with the top seeded team facing the Aces and the lower seeded one squaring off against the Sun.
Whether the Mercury will be one of those teams will depend on how they play in the team’s postseason opener on the campus of Grand Canyon University Thursday night.