We’re here. We’ve made it. Potentially the final game preview of the WNBA season. The Phoenix Mercury are down 2-1 and need a win to save their season. The Chicago Sky are looking to end this series and win their first WNBA championship. Something has to give in Sunday’s WNBA Finals matinee.
For the Mercury, Game 3 is a game they’d love to forget. Their 36-point loss was the largest margin of defeat in WNBA playoffs history. So how can they turn this series around after two blowout losses? By going back to the basics. For Phoenix, the road to victory is simple. It needs to get outstanding performances from its big three of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Skylar Diggins-Smith. All three have to be on top of their game. The Sky have too many weapons for the Mercury to pull off a victory if their big three don’t bring their A-game.
Besides the big three, someone else will have to step up and play beyond their usual role. Perhaps Sophie Cunningham can give the team an offensive boost. Maybe Shey Peddy can give you some more production from the beach. Or Brianna Turner can score in the high teens and get Chicago’s bigs in foul trouble. I don’t think all of these things are possible in one game, but one of them has to occur for Phoenix to force a Game 5. The Sky have all the momentum and a sold out crowd hungry for a championship. Phoenix needs players to extend themselves a bit and overachieve if they want to keep their championship dreams alive.
Chicago is in an ideal scenario. All it has to do is win another home game. The last game was arguably its greatest performance, not just this season but in franchise history. The team was a well-oiled machine, firing on all cylinders, with little to no blemishes on its performance. The Sky shot 44 percent from three, outrebounded Phoenix 34-33, and kept turnovers down to a respectable 13. Everyone played double-digit minutes, and the starters rested in the fourth quarter while the bench players contributed to extending the lead.
Game 3 is likely impossible to replicate, but the keys to success are the same. Win the rebounding battle, keep turnovers low, and have a bench player like Diamond DeShields shine. When the Sky get solid production from their bench, they’re nearly impossible to beat. They already have three All-Stars in the starting lineup, so any help the bench can give is usually just too much for the opposition to overcome. Another player to look out for is Stefanie Dolson. She’s had an increased role coming off the bench in this series and had a standout Game 1 where she scored 14 points.
No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury vs. No. 6 seed Chicago Sky
When: Sunday, Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL
How to Watch: ESPN
Key to the matchup: For the Mercury, they need the big three to ball out and they need some help from their supporting cast. They will have to play their best game of the Finals to avoid elimination and win in this hostile enviorment. Chicago needs to shoot 36 percent or better from three to keep Phoenix’s defense honest and spread out. Another big game from a bench player like Dolson or DeShields would push the team over the edge. Both teams need to keep turnovers down and not give the opposing team too many second chance opportunities.
Mercury injury report: Kia Nurse (out; right knee)
Sky injury report: None