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WNBA Playoffs: Aces/Mercury semifinal series shifts to Phoenix

Both teams took each other’s best punch. Now we see who will take a commanding 2-1 lead Sunday afternoon.

2021 WNBA Playoffs - Phoenix Mercury v Las Vegas Aces
Brittney Griner (left) of the Mercury guards A’ja Wilson (right) of the Aces.
Photo by David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Aces narrowly won Game 1 of their semifinal series by six points while the Mercury blew out the Aces 117-91 in Game 2. So what have we learned so far? Who has the edge heading into Game 3?

Two things were clearly deciding factors in both games: 3-point shooting and rebounding. The Aces are definitely not a 3-point shooting team, but in the game they won they outshot the Mercury 47 percent to 29 percent from beyond the arc and in their blowout loss they got outshot 53 percent to 25 percent. So, while their attempts may not be the highest in the league, their ability to convert on them directly affects their chances of winning.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No boards, no rings. At this level of the playoffs, all teams left are elite and every possession, every opportunity matters. Getting second chance opportunities with offensive rebounds and ending possessions with defensive rebounds will decide who advances to the WNBA Finals.

You know which players will be crucial in grabbing rebounds? The Stars. Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, and Britney Griner are all elite rebounders, but they also are star players who have to play exceptionally well for their team to win. In the playoffs, having All-Star production is needed in these big moments. Those are the players who can actually reach another level of excellence that you just can’t ask of a role player. The teams whose stars play best will likely come out victorious on Sunday and in the series in general. Luckily, both teams have several players that fit this description beside the three mentioned before including, but not limited to; Kelsey Plum, Diana Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Game information

No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury vs No. 2 seed Las Vegas Aces

When: Sunday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. ET

Where: Talking Stick Sports Arena in Phoenix, AZ

How to watch: ESPN2

Key to the matchup: The winner will be the team that hits their threes at a high rate, grabs their rebounds, and has their star players perform at a high level. The Mercury will have a slight advantage being at home, but the Aces are such an elite team that it’s not the biggest advantage. The Aces would love to have a great A’ja Wilson performance in Game 3. She’s been fine, but she hasn’t been MVP A’ja Wilson in this series and they’ll need her to be to overcome great performances from Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi.

Mercury injury report: none

Aces injury report: Angel McCoughtry (out for season; right knee)