The Chicago Sky made their return to the postseason by dominating the Phoenix Mercury 105-76.
The game was strikingly similar in outcome to the 105-78 drubbing the Sky handed the Mercury just 10 days prior. The only difference in last night’s single-elimination matchup was that Phoenix was without Diana Taurasi, who also missed the last few regular-season games due to a lingering hamstring injury. Making matters worse for Phoenix, Brittney Griner suffered an apparent knee injury in the second quarter, which severely limited her minutes in the third quarter before she was taken out of the game entirely.
Without Griner to patrol the paint, the Sky ran roughshod through the Mercury defense, outscoring them 50-20 on the interior and 25-7 on the fast break. Led by newly-christened Coach of the Year James Wade, Chicago got strong contributions up and down its roster. But it was Diamond DeShields who stood out the most. The second-year wing scored a game-high 25 points, dazzling the Wintrust Arena crowd with her athleticism and asserting a physical dominance best summarized by this emphatic block:
The win was a big one for the Sky, who have been rebuilding since their last playoff appearance in 2016. And the statement they made over the Mercury was clear: While the future of the Sky is bright, they’re ready to win now. The next step in that journey will be in Las Vegas, where the Sky will play the Aces on Sunday in a Round 2 win-or-go-home game.
Phoenix is in a considerably less enviable position. Much of the Mercury’s future will depend on Taurasi’s health. Even if she returns, the number of games she has missed with injury this season (29, including last night) — combined with how soundly the Mercury have been beaten by younger teams like Chicago — will inevitably raise the question of whether the time to rebuild has arrived. We’ll see which direction the franchise takes soon enough.