Six players in double figures lead Chicago Sky to a Finals Game 1 win over Phoenix Mercury, 91-77
The Chicago Sky ran past the Phoenix Mercury, 91-77, to take game one of the WNBA Finals on Sunday afternoon at the Footprint Center in Phoenix with 10,191 fans in attendance. Six players scored in double figures to help the Sky earn a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five Finals series. The win marked the first-ever Finals victory for Chicago. The last time the Sky played in the Finals was in 2014, when the team lost to Phoenix in a 3-0 sweep.
Phoenix had the hot hand early on, starting the scoring action with a three-pointer from veteran guard Diana Taurasi. Teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith led the Mercury with eight points in the first ten minutes, and Phoenix went into the second period with a 25-20 lead.
When asked about his team’s deficit in the first quarter, Sky head coach James Wade attributed it to players not accustomed to reaching the Finals.
“It’s been a long time since the organization has been here,” Wade said. “Even the players, I think the last person to play the Finals was Candace [Parker], and she was probably the most settled.”
The tide changed dramatically in the second quarter for his team. Chicago displayed dominance outscoring the Mercury 26-10.
The Sky earned its first lead of the game, 35-33, after a pull-up jumper from Courtney Vandersloot at 3:14 in 2Q. Parker quickly followed up with another layup. With a 17-0 run in the period, the Sky’s run froze the Mercury. At the break, Chicago led 46-35. Parker had 11 points while Vandersloot scored 10 points and dished out five assists in the first half.
Led by Taurasi and Brittney Griner, Phoenix made a valiant effort to recover in the third quarter, scoring 26 points to Chicago’s 28. However, the Mercury still had an uphill battle as the period ended with the Sky holding a 74-61 advantage.
Taurasi, who spoke to sideline reporter Ros Gold-Onwude in the short break between the last two quarters, summed up her team’s performance: “We’re not tired, we’re just getting our ass kicked right now.” Taurasi rushed back from her team’s semifinal win over the Las Vegas Aces late Friday night just in time to be with her wife, Penny Taylor, for the delivery of their second child. On the other hand, the Sky finished their semifinal series on Wednesday and had more time to rest and prepare.
Fatigue was a factor that affected the team mentally, according to Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello.
“Definitely. I don’t want to make excuses, but we were fatigued,” Brondello said. The tiredness was a factor as “the execution wasn’t really there where we needed it to be on both ends of the floor.”
“The most important thing for us is we’ve got to freshen up these next few days. That’s actually good we don’t play again until Wednesday. We can regroup, watch the video, and play a better game on Wednesday.”
In addition, the Mercury played without key contributors, guards Kia Nurse and Sophie Cunningham. Nurse tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during semifinals game four against the Aces on Wednesday night. Cunningham is suffering from a left calf strain and may see action in the Finals, according to Brondello.
Phoenix only managed to knock one point off their deficit during the fourth period before the Sky finished them off with a layup from Azurá Stevens, the last shot of the contest.
All five Sky players were in double figures, led by forward Kahleah Copper, who had a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Allie Quigley had a great scoring outing with 18 points. Parker finished with 16 points plus eight rebounds. Vandersloot added a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists, and Stevens contributed 10 points plus eight rebounds. Stefanie Dolson came off the bench for 14 points.
Griner led Phoenix with 20 points and six rebounds. Taurasi, who was voted as the WNBA’s Greatest Player of All Time in a fan vote, scored 17 points. The league announced the voting results right before the game. Diggins-Smith was also in double figures for the Mercury with 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
Game two is Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN (TSN2 in Canada).
- With his seventh-career playoff head coaching win, James Wade tied Pokey Chatman for the most all-time Sky postseason wins.
- In their fourth-ever WNBA Finals game, Chicago finished on 52.9% (36-68) shooting from the field, 34.8% (8-23) from three, and 100% (11-11) at the free throw line.
- The Sky totaled 34 rebounds, 24 assists, six steals, four blocks, 48 points in the paint, and converted 19 points off the Mercury’s 19 turnovers.