Legendary showdowns up next in WNBA’s 2d-spherical playoff video games

Sep 24, 2021

  • Mechelle Voepel


      Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began masking women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
  • Kelly Cohen

Candace Parker is removed from squawk material. The Chicago Sky necessary person had ideally suited helped her crew reach to the 2d spherical of the 2021 WNBA playoffs, however she used to be uninteresting to hang a ideally suited time after Thursday’s 81-64 victory.

“What’s there to be completely pleased about?” Parker talked about. “We won one playoff game.”

And things easiest come by more challenging for Parker’s sixth-seeded Sky — along with the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury, who furthermore won Thursday to succeed in the 2d spherical. Each teams hit the avenue for one more single-elimination game.

The defending champion Seattle Storm, the No. 4 seed, host Phoenix on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game that could well pit WNBA legends Sue Chook and Diana Taurasi. The Sky play at the third-seeded Minnesota Lynx (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2), a game that furthermore aspects a matchup of two of the most attention-grabbing all-time players in WNBA history, as Parker squares off in opposition to Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi (ankle), who has been cramped to 16 video games this season because of accidents, sat out Phoenix’s game Thursday, wearing a boot on the sideline. And we’re monitoring the popularity of Seattle’s Breanna Stewart (foot), who has been out since suffering the injury on Sept. 7.

The prime-seeded Connecticut Solar and No. 2 seed Las Vegas Aces, meanwhile, dwell wide awake for Sunday’s winners in most efficient-of-5 semifinals.

We use a see at what to construct apart a query to and what could impact Sunday’s 2d-spherical video games, and predict which teams will desire.

What player impressed you most in Thursday’s first-spherical wins and is anyone who will impact the 2d spherical?

Voepel: Kahleah Copper used to be 10-of-14 from the field for Chicago and the dwell defender for the Sky. She had a bring collectively efficiency and will more than likely be a critical component if Chicago is to upset Minnesota.

But Candace Parker used to be ideally suited so omnipresent in Thursday’s game with 11 parts, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. And she or he’ll need one more tubby game to examine out to come by Chicago into the semifinals.

The Sky and Lynx met twice in the regular season, with Chicago winning 105-89 on June 15, and Minnesota winning 101-95 on Aug. 21. Parker had 12 parts and 7 rebounds in the first game and used to be out with an injury for the 2d.

Sophie Cunningham used to be the opposite player who stood out Thursday. The Phoenix guard made 6 of seven 3-pointers and scored a occupation-excessive 21 parts. With Taurasi (ankle) out, the Mercury wanted offense and Cunningham used to be ready to present it, alongside with the frequent competitive fireplace she brings.

Cunningham wore No. 3 up till her WNBA occupation, as that number belongs to Taurasi in Phoenix. Now No. 9, Cunningham did her most efficient Taurasi impersonation Thursday, taking pictures from long fluctuate (and choosing up a technical).

The Mercury now hope that Taurasi will be again to face Seattle. But with or with out her, getting extra tubby 3-pointers from Cunningham will again Phoenix loads.

Cohen: Courtney Vandersloot impressed me the most. She’s the most attention-grabbing level guard in the league and proved that Thursday. Her ability to slit through defenders used to be simply wonderful, in particular in the third quarter when the Sky regarded uninspired and struggled offensively on the boards. Vandersloot accomplished with 17 parts, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Vandersloot’s ball circulate will be compulsory in opposition to Minnesota, which has a solid defense.

What’s the foremost matchup that will settle the Chicago-Minnesota 2d-spherical game?

Voepel: Two of the most attention-grabbing players in WNBA history — the 1-2 picks in the 2008 draft — meet but again. That’s Parker and Sylvia Fowles, whose contention goes the total methodology again to their SEC days at Tennessee and LSU.

Whereas the 6-foot-6 Fowles is the fundamental low-block heart and Parker is a cell 6-4 ahead/heart, they’d cope with every other in the paint. Fowles had 14 parts and 9 rebounds in the first meeting with the Sky and 15 and six in the 2d.

Parker grew to changed into 35 in April, and Fowles will be 36 in October. Whereas every are serene two of the most feared players in the WNBA, we carry out no longer know exactly how powerful longer now we hang left to peep them, so devour every different (this theme will be repeated in the opposite 2d-spherical matchup).

Cohen: I am going with a key stat as an different of a key matchup: turnovers. The Sky and Lynx every average about the identical amount of giveaways. Each teams average around the identical in parts off turnovers. So whichever crew takes better care of the ball will desire.

With Diana Taurasi and Breanna Stewart nursing accidents, what’s going to mediate the Phoenix-Seattle matchup?

Voepel: Taurasi used to be forced to peep the Mercury dawdle a tightrope in keeping off an upset strive by Fresh York on Thursday. Will she come by to face off in opposition to longtime friend and UConn/USA Basketball teammate Sue Chook on Sunday? With Taurasi at 39 and Chook turning 41 in October, we carry out no longer wish to use as a right them matching up but again. Namely since the Storm and Mercury hang this form of playoff history in opposition to every other that has helped account for about a of the most attention-grabbing moments of their WNBA careers. No one who observed it will probably forget the teams’ tale fight in Game 5 of the semifinals in 2018, when Chook took over the fourth quarter.

If Seattle has Stewart, that provides the Storm the sting. But with out her they should play a completely different methodology, relying powerful extra on their perimeter taking pictures and hoping 2d-year heart Ezi Magbegor might per chance give them honest, quality minutes. She did that in two of the Storm’s final three video games, scoring 15 parts in every.

The Mercury carry out no longer essentially should play differently if they carry out no longer hang Taurasi. They ideally suited should depend upon other guards hitting ample shots, which they did Thursday.

Cohen: I am having a see ahead to 2 matchups. Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith and Seattle’s Jewell Loyd are pretty conscious of each other’s game, no longer ideally suited because of they were on the USA Basketball gold-medal winning Olympic crew this summer season, however because of they overlapped as stars at Notre Dame. They every ended the regular-season on scorching streaks, and their matchup in the backcourt will be intense and thrilling.

The matchup in the paint between Phoenix’s Brittney Griner and Seattle’s Mercedes Russell needs to be one more X component. Griner had a uninteresting initiate in opposition to the Fresh York Liberty, struggling in opposition to their swiftly double teams and swarming defense. But she accomplished with a double-double and added three blocks. When the Mercury were struggling early, they regarded their most efficient offensively when the ball used to be running through Griner.

The closing time these two teams played, on Sept. 17, neither Griner nor Russell played honest defense in opposition to one one more. Griner used to be 10-of-16 from the field and Russell used to be 7-of-9. This put up matchup needs to be a honest one.

Which crew are you choosing to desire every game, and why?

Voepel: Minnesota used to be the fave for several years with its dynasty teams. Now, the Lynx are extra likely to examine out to embody the “missed underdog” position, even supposing they are the No. 3 seed. No one’s shopping for it, despite the incontrovertible truth that; the Lynx are a terribly honest crew and bought a hang when injured guard/ahead Aerial Powers returned Aug. 21. In eight of the 10 video games since she returned, she has scored in double figures, including a occupation-excessive-tying 27 parts in the regular-season finale.

The Lynx likely hang somewhat of upper idea what they’d come by from all americans, where the Sky hang the Diamond DeShields component: Will she be extra fancy the player who scored 30 of their regular-season finale or the one who used to be 1-of-8 for four parts Thursday?

All of it adds up to me giving the sting to Minnesota on this game.

As for Phoenix-Seattle, so powerful will depend upon Taurasi and Stewart and whether or no longer they play. But even though they carry out no longer, we will seek if Griner can will her crew to victory, because of she’s going to be this form of foremost share of the Mercury attempting to desire in Seattle.

Within the waste, I lean somewhat of in the direction of the Storm to use this one, however it will probably well scramble down to the wire fancy the first-spherical game between the Mercury and Fresh York.

No. 1 seed Connecticut and No. 2 Las Vegas will be watching to peep who’s next for them. The Solar and Aces earned the double bye, so every will be balancing their relaxation with their preparation for the remainder of this week.

Cohen: I predicted the Lynx to succeed in the convention finals in ESPN’s playoff predictions heading into the postseason, however the Sky and Lynx are powerful extra evenly matched than I realized — in particular close to their bench players. But Minnesota has a higher defense — despite the incontrovertible truth that it’s by a slim margin — and is my glean to beat Chicago.

Within the beginning of the week, I used to be definite Phoenix used to be going to upset Seattle could well serene they meet, in particular with out a fully healthy Breanna Stewart. The Mercury had to pull out some slack-game heroics Thursday to desire their first-spherical elimination game. That could automatically trigger dwell, however after this form of gutsy desire, I mediate they lope that prime glowing right into a Storm upset.

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