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No. 1 Phoenix (29-5) vs. No. 4 Los Angeles (16-18)

Schedule: Friday, Sunday, Tuesday (if necessary).

Season series: Mercury won 5-0.

At a glance: This is a rematch of last season's conference semifinals, won by Phoenix in three games. The Mercury set a league record with 29 victories and had a 16-game winning streak at one point in the season. The Sparks have one of the most talented starting five in the league, but they were inconsistent during the season, which included a midseason coaching change. The Mercury is loaded. G Diana Taurasi led the league in assists and was eighth in scoring. C Brittney Griner set a league record for blocks, finished 10th in scoring and ninth in rebounding. Phoenix is the league's most efficient and highest-scoring offensive team, and has added defense to the mix, finishing second in points allowed. Candace Parker didn't play in two of L.A.'s five losses to the Mercury. But she played very well in two close losses to Phoenix. The Sparks need G Kristi Toliver to come up big to have a chance.

Prediction: Phoenix in two.


No. 1 Atlanta (19-5) vs. No. 4 Chicago (15-19)

Schedule: Friday, Sunday, Tuesday (if necessary).

Season series: Chicago won 3-2.

At a glance: Much like the Lynx, the Sky dealt with health issues all season; star G/F Elena Delle Donne missed much of the season with Lyme disease. But the Sky is getting healthy. Delle Donne is back, as is G Courtney Vandersloot. C Sylvia Fowles, whose season didn't start until late June, appears to be at full strength. The Dream has been inconsistent as well, despite another terrific season from F Angel McCoughtry (18.5 points per game, fourth in the league). Atlanta was the only Eastern Conference team with a winning record, but the Dream went 2-6 in August. Two big keys are bench play and the battle in the post. If Fowles is on her game, she will be able to battle with Atlanta C Erika de Souza. All-Star Game MVP Shoni Schimmel could be the difference for the Dream, which is looking to make it to the WNBA finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

Prediction: Atlanta in three.


No. 2 Indiana (16-18) vs. No. 3 Washington (16-18)

Schedule: Thursday, Saturday, Monday (if necessary).

Season series: Tied 2-2.

At a glance: Indiana is in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. Seven of those have been with Lin Dunn as head coach. Dunn will retire when the season ends. The Mystics went young this season, and it took awhile for the team to jell. But coach Mike Thibault's team won six of seven games in July before an inconsistent finish. Indiana had to play much of the season without star F Tamika Catchings, but she returned to again lead her team in scoring (16.1) while playing her signature defense. This is a top-notch coaching showdown with two of the most respected mentors in the game. For Washington to win the series, G Ivory Latta (12.8 ppg) will have to come up big and the Mystics will have to defend and rebound well. Indiana has a deep roster and the edge in experience.

At a glance: Indiana in three.

Kent Youngblood