Capitals

Mystics-Liberty playoff preview: Upset brewing?

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Mystics-Liberty playoff preview: Upset brewing?

Kara Lawson the basketball analyst and Kara Lawson the Washington Mystics guard are at odds.

The fourth-seeded Mystics open their best-of-3 opening round WNBA playoff series Friday in New York against the Eastern Conference regular season champion Liberty. At 18-16, Washington finished five games back of New York in the East standings.

"If I was doing this series for TV, I would probably pick New York to win because they've been the most consistent team all year in the league," said Lawson, an ESPN college basketball analyst. "So I would pick them just based off their consistency."

The player side of Lawson isn't about to pick against Washington.

"Obviously as a player, you're not picking New York to win since you're going up against them," said the 12-year veteran and Washington's fourth leading scorer this season.

Certain facts make Lawson the player's pick legitimate for reasons beyond homerism.

The Mystics took three of four head-to-head meetings this season including both matchups in New York. Washington dominated last Friday's matchup for an 82-55 win.

The Liberty, coached by former NBA star Bill Laimbeer, control games defensively. They held opponents to a league-low 71.1 points per game. By the numbers, New York won't have an advantage defensively in this series. Washington finished second at 71.2.

Whether either side ends up holding an advantage in the frontcourt could tip the balance, according to Lawson the analyst.

New York center Tina Charles ranked fourth in the WNBA in scoring (17.1) and second in rebounding (8.5). Connecticut product Kiah Stokes is among the top rookies in the league.

Meanwhile, Washington's frontcourt boasts two All-Stars in Stefanie Dolson and Emma Meesseman plus rugged center Kia Vaughn.

"The matchup is really going to come down to the frontcourts," Lawson stated. "Their frontcourt is so good. They're big, one of the biggest teams in the league. ...Their size and rebounding ability is really at the core of what they do.

"Our post players come at it a little bit differently. ...All of our post players can come outside and hit shots, bring their post players away from the basket.

Meesseman, one of the top mid-range shooters in the league, and Dolson sank a combined 16 of 34 3-pointers this season. 

Both teams also receive scoring punch from the backcourt. Ivory Latta topped the Mystics with 13.6 points per game.

Epiphanny Prince (15.0 ppg) and former Georgetown standout Sugar Rogers provide perimeter offense for New York.

Prince missed the first two games against Washington this season, which is among the reasons why Lawson the analyst doesn't believe too much weight should be placed on the regular season results. The Liberty having nothing at stake in the meeting last week is another example.

Lawson the player knows the importance of keeping those confident memories within reach. Washington made the playoffs the last two seasons under coach Mike Thibault, but exited in the first round. The franchise last won a playoff series in 2002.

"We can take some of the good from all the games, even the loss and say, 'here are some ways we can be effective against the way that they play."

If they end that playoff series losing-streak against the Liberty, the Mystics would face either the Indiana Fever or Chicago Sky in the conference finals.

"Do we want to win the series, absolutely, but we're going to have to play very well to do it," Lawson said. "If we're able to it that should give us a lot of confidence because we would have beaten the best team."

Even if the playoffs are different from the regular season, that's something the Mystics have done three of four times this year. Now they just need two more wins.

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Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today Sports Images

Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-1, 7pts) are coming off of an overtime thriller at home over the Rangers thanks to Matt Niskanen's crafty timing.

Through the first six games of the season, Washington is undefeated on Wednesdays, yet has failed to win consecutive games. The Caps hope to change that trend Friday night at home vs. the Florida Panthers (0-2-2, 2pts).

The Panthers have yet to win a game this season, with each of the four games being decided by just one goal. The Panthers have no problem scoring, netting at least five goals in two of the first four games, but have failed to seal the deal. This is where the defending Stanley Cup champions will need to capitalize.

Only the Maple Leafs (33) and Hurricanes (33) have scored times more than the Capitals (24). Washington has a clear advantage in firepower. The biggest key to victory is keeping the space in front of Braden Holtby clean as a whistle. If the Caps control their goalmouth, they should have no issues dispatching the Panthers.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Panthers on the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS-PANTHERS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: NHL: Florida Panthers at Capitals 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Travis Boyd (OUT, IR), Tom Wilson (OUT, Suspension)

Panthers: Michael Haley (OUT, Leave of Absence), Roberto Luongo (OUT, MCL injury), Mike Matheson (OUT, Suspension) 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Evgenii Dadonov, W, Panthers: Dadonov is leading the Panthers this season with two goals and two assists on the season.

John Carlson, D, Capitals: Carlson had a heck of a game vs. the Rangers Wednesday night with a goal and two assists. The Capitals practiced faceoffs in practice leading up to Wednesday night's game and all of the practice paid off with Carlson's goal coming right off the faceoff from Backstrom. 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 123

All-Time Series Record: 64-50-9

Playoff Record: N/A

Last Meeting: Panthers beat Capitals 3-2 (2/22/2018)

Last 10 Meetings: Tied 5-5 

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Kelly Oubre turns into 'Spooky Papi' ahead of home-opener vs. Heat

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NBC Sports Washington

Kelly Oubre turns into 'Spooky Papi' ahead of home-opener vs. Heat

As the weather in Washington, D.C. drops below 60 degrees, most athletes typically arrive at their games in sweatsuits for comfort or suits for luxury. 

Kelly Oubre, on the other hand, is going full gothic for the Washington Wizards' home-opener against the Miami Heat. Oubre is the self-proclaimed "Wave Papi," but tonight he is giving off a vampire-slayer vibe.

Maybe he didn't get the memo that Halloween is roughly two weeks from now.

For the sake of it still being October, let's call him "Spooky Papi."

His black belts and buckles match his rockstar lifestyle, but the bloody, disfigured skull accessory is one of the most ridiculous things we've seen at Capital One Arena. Ever. 

Maybe there's a hidden meaning to it all, or maybe it's just yet another in a long line of Kelly Oubre fashion statements. 

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