Two stars, maybe the brightest in the WNBA, facing head-to-head on a Sunday afternoon. For the Phoenix Mercury, you have Brittney Griner, the behemoth that, at 6'9, casts a shadow as tall as a Chicago skyscraper.
For the hometown Sky, you have Elena Delle Donne, whose exploits have been so numerous and so well-covered that to reiterate them here would be like reiterating the Second Amendment.
The game had to live up to the wattage of their stars, and it did. The first quarter, an offensive display, ended with the Mercury on top by three. It looked to be another typical Chicago Sky game; big offense on both ends, with a bend-but-don't-break defense.
However, when the second quarter ended, Phoenix had only scored 11 points, and the Sky only ten. It seemed as if Griner and her well-deserved reputation as a destroyer of worlds (after all, the Griner-led Mercury did sweep this Sky team in the finals last year) would be the team to finally slow down the potent Chicago offense.
But, of course, that wouldn't be the case.
Elena Delle Donne had 33 points in this game; she had 10 in the first half, and an unbelievable 16 in the third. The Mercury went totally cold, finishing with only a paltry six points to the Sky's unassailable 24. Chicago was now up 20, and though the game would grow much closer towards the end, it was a lead the Sky would never relinquish.
"I don't think we were locked in," said Griner, "We started the game really well: our offense, our defense, and we were energized. That third quarter we lost it a little bit. We let them come out and get hot and we got behind. That led to us not having that fire or spark."
Griner had 21 points and 14 rebounds on 9-14 shooting. She played 37 of a possible 40 minutes, and oftentimes looked like the only player on the floor capable of standing up to the offensive juggernaut they shared the floor with. Only two other players were in double-figure points (Monique Currie and DeWanna Bonner), and both had ten points on 3-7 shooting and 3-13 shooting, respectively. Bonner had this to say after the game:
"They play aggressive defense. I don't think I was aggressive enough, and I missed a couple easy shots.
Delle Donne also had little help; only Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley had double-digit points, and Quigley shot 5-16 from the field to accumulate hers. The game, essentially, came down to the matchup of the two stars, and Delle Donne's 33 points on 11-18 shooting and a breakout 5-9 from deep made all the difference in the world. And, all of this, coming on a taped ankle.
"I felt okay," said Delle Donne, "I was confident, and my trainer had me go through a couple tests in the locker room. I felt good. Nothing a little duct tape can't help. Tape it up, and the adrenaline takes you through."
The Sky have won three of their last four, putting them firmly in the second seed over the Washington Mystics. They head to Madison Square Garden to take on the Eastern-leading New York Liberty, who beat the Sky by double digits on Friday.
The Mercury, having their six-game winning streak snapped in this loss, take on the Seattle Storm at home.