🏀WNBA Finals Elimination Game Preview
With the Chicago Sky leading the best-of-five WNBA Finals 2-1, tomorrow (at 3 p.m. ET) could be the day they win it all.
- So here’s a look back at how we got here and a look ahead at what to expect.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You have to be the calm for the storm, and you have to be the storm when everyone's calm."
— The Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker, on what she needs to do to get her team a championship title. Meta.
🏀 How we got here
Phoenix Mercury: After finishing the regular season 19-13 and fifth in the league (the top eight teams in the league make the playoffs), the Mercury began their postseason with a tight first-round single-elimination win over the No. 8 New York Liberty, followed by a second-round overtime (OT) victory over the reigning champion No. 4 Seattle Storm.
- The semis weren’t much easier: they needed all five games to beat the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces.
Chicago Sky: The No. 6 Sky had a mediocre (and injury-plagued) regular season, finishing 16-16, and like the Mercury, their end-of-season rank did not earn them any byes in the postseason.
- But unlike the Mercury, they dominated rounds one and two, easily eliminating the No. 7 Dallas Wings and the No. 3 Minnesota Lynx, respectively.
- In the semis, they faced the league’s top team in the Connecticut Sun. After defeating the Sun in a wild double-OT in Game 1, they went on to take the series in four.
👀 Finals so far
Game 1: Chicago took the first match with an easy 91–77 win, thanks in part to big performances from Candace Parker and Kahleah Copper. However, it was as much of a Sky win as it was a Mercury loss.
- Given the tight turn around between Phoenix’s semifinal Game 5 last Friday night and Sunday afternoon’s Game 1, they didn’t even have a chance to practice in between games.
Game 2: A much more rested Mercury — except for Diana Taurasi probably, who has a week-old baby — took to the court on Wednesday, and it showed. After going to OT, the Mercury took it 91–86 thanks to a clutch finish from Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Game 3: It was all Chi-town last night, with the Sky taking it 86–50. Now that’s what you call a thrashing. If the Sky are able to close it out tomorrow, they’ll have a chance to join LA and D.C. as the only cities to win the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS and WNBA titles.
🔑 Keys to success
Phoenix Mercury: Playing without lockdown defender Kia Nurse (who tore her ACL in the semis), the Mercury will need to step up their defensive game to shut down the balanced Sky attack, which has featured multiple players racking up 10+ points each game. Defense wins championships, after all.
Chicago Sky: Stay the course. Chicago is peaking at exactly the right time. Finally healthy, the squad has looked consistently dominant throughout the playoffs so far. With the hometown crowd on their side, if they can keep calm through the storm (à la Parker), they’ll pull out the win tomorrow.
💁♀️ Players to watch
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix: She’s the GOAT, need we say more? But seriously, outside of last night, Taurasi’s veteran leadership has been key for the Mercury. When Phoenix needs a big play, you know the ball will be in DT’s hands.
Candace Parker, Chicago: The Sky’s de facto leader, Parker has been outstanding during the postseason, but especially in the Finals. With 16 points in Game 1 and 13 in Game 2 and 3, she’s been hard to defend, and what she brings to the court, she matches in leadership.
Sophie Cunningham, Phoenix: After missing Game 1 with a calf injury, she made a splash in Game 2...literally. She’s best when shooting from deep, and she’ll bring the heat to fire up this Mercury squad.
Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago: She is the
dancing passing queen. Vandersloot is averaging just under 10 assists per game this postseason, and she even had a record 18 (!!!) assists vs. the Sun in Game 1 of the semis. Unreal.
Brittney Griner, Phoenix: How can we not talk about Brittney Griner? After sinking 29 points, including this ridiculous dunk, in Game 2, Griner is proving that Chicago just can’t always defend her 6’7” frame.
Kahleah Copper, Chicago: She posted a double-double in Game 1 and drained 22 points in last night's Game 3 win. If she can keep it going tomorrow, Copper could be the difference-maker for Chicago.
📺 How to watch
Game 4 tips off tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET. And, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a Game 5 on Tuesday, October 19th at 8 p.m. ET. Catch the action on ESPN in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada.
🏀Preview game 2 of the WNBA Finals
Game 2: The WNBA Finals continue tonight at 9 p.m. ET, with the Game 1–winning Chicago Sky back in Phoenix to play the Mercury. The Sky’s Kahleah Copper will look to match her 21-point performance, while the Mercury are expected to welcome back Sophie Cunningham from injury in hopes of a better result.
WNBA: Elsewhere in the league, the Atlanta Dream have as their new head coach (HC). The Dream (who had their this season) had two coaching changes this past year, and rookie HC Wright should give the Dream the necessary stability and fresh outlook to end their three-year postseason drought.
Athletes Unlimited: And while W commissioner Cathy Engelbert , the great minds over at Athletes Unlimited have (for women!). It’ll run during the W’s offseason, and Washington Mystics star Natasha Cloud has already signed on to join the inaugural five-week season, which starts January 29th. Can’t freaking wait.
🏀Chicago Sky move on to the WNBA finals
Game 5: Tonight’s matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and the Phoenix Mercury is for all the marbles. The No. 5 Mercury led the series 2-1 going into Game 4, but the No. 2 Aces showed total dominance, winning 93–76. Guard Chelsea Gray had 22 points as one of four Aces players who scored double digits.
- Given the back-and-forth nature of this series, tonight’s game is impossible to predict, but there is one key factor missing: starting Mercury guard Kia Nurse after suffering a knee injury in Game 4.
- Watch this one on TSN4 at 9 p.m. ET. Not not stressing.
- Watch this one on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET. Not not stressing.
The Finals: With the No. 6 Sky as the lowest ranked team still in the postseason, whoever wins tonight will host the first two games of the Finals, set to begin Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
- Game 2 is scheduled for October 13th, and the rest of the best-of-five series will happen every other day after that. Yes, your calendar is booked.
Sports Quick Hits: October 6th, 2021
🏁NASCAR: With his win at the YellaWood 500 on Monday, Bubba Wallace became the second Black driver — after Wendell Scott in 1963 — to win a NASCAR Cup Series race. And to celebrate the historic moment, Wallace had his , join him for pictures. S’cute.
🏀NBA: Preseason is underway — shoutout to the Toronto Raptors, who finally made it home after 19 months and won their first game — but the Brooklyn Nets are without a key player to start. The unvaccinated Kyrie Irving can’t practice with the team due to and if he doesn’t smarten up.
- Despite that, the annual predicts the Nets will win the championship, and Irving’s teammate Kevin Durant is already a favorite for the real MVP.
🏈NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars new head coach Urban Meyer is in trouble. After losing again on Sunday, Meyer was caught on video getting disgustingly close with a woman who is not his wife in a bar.
🏀Game 4 previews of the WNBA Finals
No. 1 Connecticut Sun vs. No. 6 Chicago Sky: These teams are way more balanced than the rankings show, with the league-best Sun losing by just three points in a hard-fought Game 3. So don’t be fooled: the Sky, who are leading this series 2-1, have all the tools to take tonight’s game — and the series — from the Sun.
No. 2 Las Vegas Aces vs. No. 5 Phoenix Mercury: We heard you like underdogs, so here’s another. The lower-ranked Mercury are also leading their series 2-1, and will actually get to host tonight’s potentially series-ending game in their home arena, the Footprint Center.
- The NBA’s Phoenix Suns originally had a preseason game scheduled at the same time at their shared home, but they moved their match to earlier in the day to instead lead a double-header. We love to see it.
Off-court: The NY Liberty’s Michaela Onyenwere (pronounced own-yen-WEH-ray) was named Rookie of the Year yesterday, as the league announced its full All-Rookie Team. Onyenwere’s teammate DiDi Richards, Atlanta Dream's Aari McDonald, the Sky’s Dana Evans and No. 1 draft pick Charli Collier of the Dallas Wings rounded out the roster. Stars in the making.