The Phoenix Mercury will have to hold on to a WNBA playoff spot without Diana Taurasi.
The Minnesota Lynx hope the arrival of Napheesa Collier provides the boost they need to inch closer to playoff positioning as they visit the Mercury on Wednesday night.
The Mercury (14-19) announced Monday that Taurasi, an 18-year veteran who averaged 16.7 points per game, will miss the remainder of the regular season because of a right quad strain.
Diamond DeShields, who’s averaging 13 points per game this season, likely will take Taurasi’s spot in the starting lineup.
“We know the playoff race is close,” DeShields said. “So, we just keep coming out and keep competing. We’re all here to win.”
With six playoff spots already determined, Phoenix is tied with Atlanta for the last two berths. The Lynx (13-20) are one game behind the Mercury and the Dream, but locked in a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty.
The Mercury have all three of their final regular-season games at home, facing the playoff-bound Dallas Wings and Chicago Sky after the meeting with the Lynx.
“There is this playoff picture, but there are so many variables,” Phoenix head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “There’s games left to be played.”
Collier, who averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season, made her season debut on Sunday in Minnesota’s 81-71 win over visiting Atlanta, less than three months after giving birth to her daughter, Mila.
“Obviously, there’s some nerves coming in, especially this late in the season,” Collier said. “But it felt so good to hear my name called and have the fans cheer for me. It was a really good feeling. So I’m really glad I played tonight.”
She finished with six points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 21 minutes.
“Each time she plays, she’s going to get more comfortable,” Lynx head coach/general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “She’s got to catch up with the speed of the game and as things are happening, but that’s probably about as successful as I thought (her debut) could be.”
The Lynx play host to the Seattle Storm on Friday before concluding the regular season with a visit to the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.
–Field Level Media
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