WNBA Odds, Picks & Previews: 5 Best Bets From Sunday’s Slate, Featuring Lynx vs. Sparks (July 31)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MAY 17: Center Sylvia Fowles #34 of the Minnesota Lynx puts up a shot against the Los Angeles Sparks in the first half at Crypto.com Arena on May 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
- There's a full slate on WNBA action today, and the matchups are full of playoff implications.
- Our analyst breaks down each matchup and offers up best bets for all five games.
- Keep reading for James Turvey's picks and analysis.
Thanks to a massive glut of teams in the middle of the WNBA standings, the playoffs have basically started three weeks early as nearly every game has importance on the standings and tiebreakers.
Six of the nine games that led up to Sunday this week involved teams directly next to each other in the standings.
Sunday is no letdown either. The standout is a showdown between the first-place Chicago Sky and third-place Connecticut Sun, but that’s not the lone matchup between a pair of Big Five teams. The Storm and Mystics also run back their matchup from Saturday with Washington undoubtedly hoping for a different outcome.
Further down the standings, the Liberty and Lynx both face near-must-win games as both square off with fellow competition for the final three playoff spots in the form of Phoenix and Los Angeles, respectively.
The lone matchup with any direct playoff implication is the Aces facing off with the cellar-dwelling Indiana Fever. With the Aces just a game behind the Sky and Chicago facing a tough test without Candace Parker, the Aces won’t want to slip up and miss a chance to reach a tie atop the W standings.
The playoffs officially start August 17, but they might as well be here now, so let’s jump in.
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WNBA Odds, Picks
Click on game to skip ahead
|Sky vs. Sun||1 p.m. ET|
|Mercury vs. Liberty||2 p.m. ET|
|Aces vs. Fever||3 p.m. ET|
|Storm vs. Mystics||3 p.m. ET|
|Lynx vs. Sparks||7 p.m. ET|
Sky vs. Sun
|Moneyline||+165 / -200|
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
The big news here came out Saturday afternoon when the Sky announced they would be without Candace Parker (illness).
On the Connecticut side, the only names on the injury report are the two long-term absences: Jasmine Thomas and Bria Hartley.
A line that looks too big, but is probably just right
At first glance, having the third-seeded Sun as five-point favorites over the first-place Sky seems a touch high. Sure the game is in Connecticut and the Sky will be without Parker, but five still seems high.
Well, it’s actually right in the perfect zone.
First of all, the Sun have the best net rating in the league and by some metrics have (quietly) been the class of the W this season while the Sky and Aces have taken all the headlines.
Then there’s the fact that the Sun are one of the hungriest teams on the offensive glass in the league and the Sky, even fully healthy, are susceptible to second chance points, ranking second in the league in most allowed per game. It makes sense, the Sky often run a three-guard lineup. Kahleah Copper is a good rebounder for a guard, but Emma Meesseman is a poor rebounding center.
Parker does most of the heavy lifting on the glass and that’s where the Sky are really going to miss her on Sunday. Parker averages three rebounds more than any other player on the Sky, so the Sun frontline has to be looking at her name on the injury report and salivating.
With all that in mind, the spread looks to be in the right spot.
I do see a bit of value on the under at this opening number, but I’m going to look to play this is on the player prop side. If you aren’t following in the Action Network app, you really should be as I have given out winners on 25 of my 34 player props on there. Unfortunately, they are never released by the time I write this. I’m going to look to hit Brionna Jones’ rebound total hard, especially if the books don’t compensate for Parker’s absence. Both Connecticut’s Jones’ are among the league leaders in offensive rebounds per game and they should both feast on the offensive glass Sunday.
I’d also be intrigued by Azura Stevens’ rebound prop if we get one. She should get a large boost in minutes (of course, this will also be more obvious to the books).
Pick (Assuming these are released and that they are not juiced to an absurd degree i.e. -170): Brionna Jones over 5.5 rebounds; Jonquel Jones over 8.5 rebounds
Lean: Under 165.5 total
Mercury vs. Liberty
|Moneyline||-149 / +125|
|Time||2 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
The same three names have been on the Mercury injury report for a couple weeks now: Brittney Griner, Kia Nurse, and Diamond DeShields. All will be out Sunday.
For the Liberty, it’s just Betnijah Laney, who they’ve had for only four games all season.
Two very similar teams
If you removed the team logo next to their stats and lined up the Liberty and Mercury, you might have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Both teams orient their offense from the outside and take an incredible amount of threes (while not always making them at the best clip). Despite all these long-range misses, neither team hits the offensive glass all that hard and as a result, neither team gets many second-chance baskets.
However, these two have been very different in the month of July. The seventh month has been very kind to the Mercury, who added through subtraction in late June and have proceeded to go 7-4 since, with a clear top half of the league net rating over that time. The Liberty, on the other hand, have to hope their Jekyll and Hyde season has one more turn in it, as they have rattled off stretches of 1-7 and 2-8 on either side of their impressive 7-3 run in the middle of the season.
If the season as a whole is to be trusted, these two teams are closer than this opening line would suggest (Phoenix being about 5.5-point neutral court favorites). But if the past month is a more accurate judge of true character, the Mercury should cruise to an easy win. The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, which is why we’re going to go elsewhere for our recommended play.
There’s one final way in which both teams are similar: they are both slow starters. Both teams do their best work in the fourth quarter, but they take a little while to get going. Both teams have a better offensive net rating in the second half, with New York in particular seeing a very large gap.
With that in mind, I’m going to take the first half under, a play I never hate in an afternoon game regardless of the teams, but especially like with these two teams. (I’d also consider live betting an over once the books adjust if I do indeed have this game script pegged.)
Pick: First half under 83.5
Aces vs. Fever
|Moneyline||-2000 / +900|
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetRivers. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
As if the Fever’s outlook for the rest of the season couldn’t get any darker, they have officially lost their All-Star, Kelsey Mitchell, for the rest of the year.
For the Aces, their impressive run of health continues with no one on the injury report.
A massive number that could be even bigger
Yes, you are reading that correct: A 16.5-point road favorite. According to Action Network’s BetLabs, that has only happened one other time in WNBA history and it was last season when the Seattle Storm traveled to Indiana to take on this same Fever squad as similar 16.5-point favorites.
I was wondering if this line would open up close to that number, if not higher. And given the amount of early public money on the Aces, I wouldn’t be shocked if this number does indeed sneak to 17 and thus make a little bit of history.
Usually, I’d say steal those points for Indiana and run. That may likely be the smart play (the Fever lost by 10, but covered last year when they faced the aforementioned 16.5 point spread at home), but let me at least lay out why the number is so big and why I’m personally still going with the Aces.
For one, we just saw it. These two played in Indiana on Friday and the Aces won by 19. Of course, they also played just a week before that and although the Aces did indeed win, the Fever covered, losing by 13. However, that took a frantic fourth quarter to do so. Now, that’s the danger in these massive lines, but it’s not the only factor at play here.
Indiana lost easily their best player during Friday’s matchup between these two teams, with Kelsey Mitchell now out for the season after a partial tear of her plantar fascia. Indiana is riding a 13-game losing streak, but things are about to get even uglier — maybe a lot uglier.
There’s also the fact that the Aces are basically the nightmare matchup for Indiana as they limit second-chance points, love to score on the fastbreak and excel at getting to the charity stripe.
With all that in mind, I’m going to roll back my best bets from Friday when the two matched up. As has been noted (and been profitable), the Aces are the opposite of the Mercury and Liberty — they start strong. So with that in mind, it’s back to the first quarter and first half props that hit on Friday.
Pick: Vegas -5.5 first quarter; Vegas -8.5 first half (up to -9.5)
(Final quick side note: FanDuel opened their moneyline for Las Vegas at -2500, which is an implied probability of over 96%. That’s mind-melting.)
New Caesars Sportsbook users will get a $1,500 risk-free bet when they sign up and deposit.
Storm vs. Mystics
|Moneyline||+115 / -139|
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
The big name here is of course Elena Delle Donne who, as of writing, hasn’t officially been said to be playing. However, given the intentional rest they gave her Thursday with the express purpose of resting up for this weekend series, one has to imagine that if she can, she’ll be playing.
For the Storm, the lone name on the injury report remains Mercedes Russell, who is out for the season.
It’s rare for the W to have teams play on zero days rest in general (only the ninth and 10th time this season) and it’s even rarer to have it be the same teams playing each other on back-to-back days. In fact, this is the first such time this season. But that’s what they have with this marquee weekend showdown between the Storm and the Mystics.
The two teams faced off on Saturday, with the Mystics leading most of the game before an early-fourth quarter run from the Storm bench wrestled control of the game away from the Mystics and handed Seattle a win that moved them back into sole possession of fourth place.
In what was likely a preview of the first-round matchup that would easily be drawing the most eyeballs, I was once again left a little cold watching the Mystics play. The two teams combined to shoot 12-of-41 from three and while some of that is undoubtedly these two top defenses, the game never really hit those peaks one would hope for in a matchup between two elite teams with two absolute megastars in Breanna Stewart and Delle Donne.
The books haven’t reacted much to Seattle’s win on Saturday and are rolling out a similar line to the game one line. That makes sense as there’s no need to overreact to one game, especially one in which Washington did in fact have the lead (albeit a small one) most of the game.
As such, I’ll likely be avoiding the spread and looking instead to the total, where there seems to be room on the over again. Yes, these are two monster defenses, but the over managed to hit on Saturday despite the aforementioned brutal shooting and their first matchup (just barely) cleared this 155.5 opening line as well, despite not being a close game.
But I’d say I have less of a feel for this game than the first few.
Lean: Over 156.5 total
Lynx vs. Sparks
|Moneyline||-105 / -115|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute WNBA odds here.|
The Lynx will be without Damiris Dantas and Napheesa Collier indefinitely, but are likely to have Jessica Shepard, who is probable for Sunday.
The Sparks injury report is starting to slow down a bit. The only name of note is Lexie Brown, who is doubtful for Sunday.
“Pythagoras of Samos was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism …”
So begins the Wikipedia entry for the famous ancient Roman philosopher, but if the Minnesota Lynx defeat the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday, we may have to update his Wikipedia page in honor of his impact on modern sports.
If you’re reading this, you likely have at least heard of Pythagorean win-loss records in sports, a concept created by Bill James. It runs on the idea that in the long run, a team’s run differential (or points differential in basketball) is more predictive of future success than its actual win-loss record.
For a brief example, if a team is 20-10, but they have scored the same number of points as they have allowed in those 30 games, we should expect them, moving forward, to perform more like the .500 team that their point differential suggests that they are, rather than the .667 team that their actual win-loss record suggests.
Why did I bother to go down that winding road here? As you are likely guessing, these two teams are the Pythag standouts of the WNBA season so far, so their showdown makes for a fun case study.
In the actual WNBA standings, the Sparks sit comfortably above the Lynx, with LA sporting a record of 12-16, while Minnesota sits near the cellar at 11-19. However, if we cue up the Pythagorean standings, the Lynx jump all the way up to sixth with a record of 14-16, while the Sparks plummet to near the cellar with a record of 8-20. Quite the flip flop.
And that’s how we end up with a road team with a far worse real-life record than the home team ending up as a near pick ’em (thus implying that the Lynx would be favored on a neutral court).
Vegas has respect for Pythagoras of Samos, but should you as a bettor?
The short answer is yes, but this test case is a little complicated because of the massive amounts of upheaval the Sparks have undergone this season. So while I would indeed lean to the Lynx, there are too many variables to make it a best play.
The over, however, is maybe my favorite play of the day. The Sparks should be able to turnover the Lynx and run on them as Minnesota struggles holding on to the ball as well as slowing down opponent fastbreak points. Both teams are also among the group of teams for whom it has been a positive ROI to simply just play the over this year. The Sparks are at the top of that list. Add in the fact that this should be a close game so we get the potential for late free-throw additions or even overtime and this is my favorite pick of the day.
Pick: Over 165.5 (play up to 170.5)
Lean: Minnesota -105