It's a do-or-die time for the Mercury on Tuesday as they are trying to avoid going down 2-0 in a best-of-five series. The Chicago Sky are playing with house money at this point as a victory would give them a commanding lead heading back home.
For the Mercury, Game 1 was a disappointing and exhausting defeat. The team had finished a grueling five-game series against the Aces just 48 hours earlier and had to prepare to play the hottest team in the league. Fatigue and exhaustion seemed to factor into their second-quarter drop off where the Sky outscored them 25-10. Diana Taurasi threw cold water on that theory during her mid-game interview with ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude, “We’re not tired. We’re just getting our ass kicked right now”. Either way, that second-quarter deficit was one the Mercury never recovered from. They went on to lose 91-77.
Watching @DianaTaurasi's game is like poetry in motion ‼️— WNBA (@WNBA) October 12, 2021
Take a look at some of DT's greatest moments on the court and be sure to watch her and the @PhoenixMercury back in action tomorrow night in Game 2 of the #WNBAFinals #CountIt pic.twitter.com/0DEPnaNKHr
Despite the loss, the Mercury have a lot to be optimistic about. They shot an impressive 46 percent from three, Britney Griner shot over 50 percent from the field, and the team had an uncharacteristically high amount of turnovers. Now that Phoenix has had a couple of days to recuperate, it should be refreshed and rejuvenated and can expect their big three of Griner, Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins-Smith to perform at their highest level.
The Sky are right where they want to be. Up 1-0 with a chance to put a dagger into Phoenix’s heart and take a commanding 2-0 lead. A loss on Tuesday would be disappointing but not devastating. They can play relaxed and aggressive, knowing they’ve already accomplished their goal of winning a road game during the Finals. If they win their home games, this series is over in four.
Easier said than done, of course. The Mercury have dominant bigs who can score at will and get the Sky in foul trouble. If the Sky can’t slow down Phoenix’s big three, the game could get away from them quickly, especially on the road. The Sky will need more from their bench in Game 2. In Game 1, only Stefanie Dolson scored from the bench. She had an incredible 14-point performance, but that's unlikely to happen again, and you ideally have more than one person contributing off of the bench. Diamond DeShields needs to show up, and the Sky need solid production from Dana Evans whenever she comes in to relieve Courtney Vandersloot.
The @chicagosky were RED HOT in Game 1 of the #WNBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV— WNBA (@WNBA) October 13, 2021
They had six players score in double figures on their way to a 91-77 victory
The Sky are back at it tonight at 9pm/ET on ESPN pic.twitter.com/mWD2wAk5Ww
For the Sky to win another road game, they’ll need another all-around performance. The team will have to reduce turnovers, it will have to shoot above 36 percent from three and it will need another player to be the X-factor. Can Allie Quigley have a big game? Will Azurá Stevens give you 13-plus points? Who else on the bench can be a momentum swinger? If the Sky cannot make these things happen, they’ll likely be heading back to Chicago tied at 1-1.
No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury vs. No. 6 seed Chicago Sky
When: Wednesday, Oct.13 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ESPN
Key to the matchup: It’s a must-win game for the Phoenix Mercury. They have to come out as agrgressive as possible and look to quickly estblish Brittney Griner. The Mercury also need to do better on the boards. They lost the Game 1 rebounding battle 34-29. The Sky need more production from their bench other than Stefanie Dolson and they have to shoot better from 3-point range.
Mercury injury report: Kia Nurse (out; right ACL)
Sky injury report: none