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Mystics vs. Mercury preview: Washington faces a struggling but dangerous Phoenix team

The Mercury are having a down year but don't count out Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Mystics look to extend their win streak to four against the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night. After struggling out of the gate, the Mystics have found success by leaning heavily on their deep bench with a rotation that comfortably features 9-10 players.

Game Info

When: Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m.
Where: The Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
TV/internet: Monumental Sports Network and WNBA League Pass

Things to watch for

Just two years away from their last championship with their core still intact, the Phoenix Mercury have started the season off at a disappointing 4-9, the second-worst record in the league.  After having a top three defensive rating in 2014 and 2015m they are dead last in the league with an abysmal 108.4.

For a team with a reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner anchoring the defense, one of the league's top point guards in Diana Taurasi, plus size and length at virtually every position, these numbers are shocking.

Where has Phoenix's defense gone?

Griner's blocks per game are down from 4.0 last year to 2.1 this year in roughly the same number of minutes, and her rebounds are down from 8.1 to 6.7. Combined with Phoenix's poor three-point line defense (which is not, itself, a new phenomenon) the entire defense is a disaster.

The key to victory: make it a grind

But Phoenix can still out points on the board. The ageless Taurasi is averaging 19.8 points per game, and the Mercury are getting double-digit contributions from DeWanna Bonner, Penny Taylor, Griner, and Candice Dupree.

The Mystics have been inconsistent defensively. Over their past three games (all wins) they have had an impressive average defensive rating of 88.3 they are averaging a thoroughly mediocre 103.1. Defending well will be crucial in this game because if it turns into a shootout the advantage swings heavily in the Mercury's direction.