Kahleah Copper leads Sky in first game against Mercury
This is not your typical sixth seed.
The Chicago Sky continued to prove their regular season was a fluke with a dominant performance in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, claiming a 91-77 victory over No.5 seed Phoenix Mercury at the Footprint Center. from downtown Phoenix on Sunday.
Best of Five Series Game 2 is Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET in Phoenix on ESPN.
Sky’s balanced offense saw six players score in double digits, led by Kahleah Copper and Allie Quigley.
Copper finished with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Quigley had 18 points.
After completing their four-game semifinal streak on Wednesday against the number one seed Connecticut Sun, the Sky used the rest to their advantage and traveled to the Pacific time zone to acclimatize while the Mercury was forced to win or leave. 5th home game in their semi-final series against the Las Vegas Aces.
Chicago went 16-16 in the regular season, the third team to advance to the final with a record of .500 or worse. The Sky, along with the Mercury, are the first teams outside of the top three seeds in the Finals since the playoff format changed in 2016.
The Mercury continued their streak of hot starts in the first quarter, jumping five points ahead of one behind Skylar Diggins-Smith’s eight points.
But fatigue started to set in and the Sky made adjustments. They outscored the Mercury 26-10 in the second quarter. Chicago finished the half-time 17-2, taking their first lead of the game in the streak.
From there, the Sky punished the Mercury’s tired legs and lack of bench depth. The Mercury played in Game 5 of their semifinal series against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday. Phoenix needed every second of their closing game to advance to the final, then took the short flight home on Friday night.
Fatigue may have been the biggest issue for Mercury veteran Diana Taurasi, who welcomed her second child with wife Penny Taylor early on Saturday morning. She started the game with intensity, but ran into foul issues and struggled with turnovers. Taurasi had 17 points.
The Mercury rotation was short again with Kia Nurse (ACL tear) and Sophie Cunningham (calf strain). Cunningham could be available for Game 2, coach Sandy Brondello said ahead of Game 1 on Sunday.
Phoenix was able to regain its lineup after a dismal 3-point shooting night on Friday in the semi-finals. The Mercury shot 66% from long distance in the first quarter and finished 46.7%.
Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Diana Taurasi wins GOAT title by fan vote
As part of the WNBA’s 25th anniversary season, the league announced its top 25 players and asked fans to vote GOAT from that list.
Taurasi got the most votes of the 25 players on the list, followed by Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Cynthia Cooper, announced the league ahead of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
“Kudos to Diana Taurasi for being voted the best WNBA player of all time by fans who have followed her illustrious career and seen her rise above the rest,” said the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, in a press release. “This well-deserved recognition reflects her continued excellence on the court and her leadership role in advancing the WNBA and women’s basketball and as a role model for young athletes around the world. The opportunity to honor Dee is another special time to celebrate our historic 25th season. “
Taurasi is in his 17th season, all with the Mercury, and leads the WNBA in points, has goals and scored 3 points. She was named in a league record of 14 All-WNBA teams and 10 All-Star Games, second in WNBA history.
Taurasi and the Mercury compete for the fourth championship in franchise history. She won two WNBA Finals MVPs and was Regular Season MVP in 2009 and Rookie of the Year in 2005.
A number of W25 roster players were honored between the first and second quarters of Game 1, receiving varsity jackets with the WNBA logos and their names engraved on the back.
WNBA to pay for Game 3 charter flight
Travel issues have plagued the league this season, as teams continue to fly commercially and face delays, lost baggage and the division of a team on multiple flights.
Ahead of Game 1 on Sunday, Engelbert announced that the league will pay for the Mercury and Sky to take charter flights to Chicago when the series moves there for Game 3 and Game 4, if necessary.
“Finally, because I know you’re going to be asking questions about this, with Game 2 scheduled to take place here in the Pacific time zone on Wednesday and Game 3 scheduled for Friday in the central time zone, we will organize and cover the cost of a charter flight for both teams to Chicago between Games 2 and 3, ”Engelbert told reporters. “As you know, we did in 2019 from west to east with no days off in between. We have the same pattern this year in the final, so it’s something that I know is important. for our players and for the health and safety of players.
Game 2 of the Best-of-Five Finals Series is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Wednesday in Phoenix, while Game 3 is 9 p.m. ET Friday in Chicago. Game 4, if needed, would start at 3 p.m. ET next Sunday.
After the Connecticut Sun and Sky pointed out travel accommodation costs when their semi-final series changed locations, New York Liberty owner Joseph Tsai said he was working with Engelbert to find a sponsor charter for the whole league.
The collective agreement currently does not allow individual teams to book charter flights, as not all teams (read: team owners) will pay for those flights.
The Sky flew to Las Vegas ahead of Game 5 of the Aces-Mercury Semi-Final Series on Friday to position themselves near either of the Finals locations. From there they took a quick flight to Phoenix for Games 1-2.
2021 WNBA Finals Schedule
Game 1: Sky 91, Mercury 77 (Chicago leads, 1-0)
Game 2: Sky at Mercury, 9 p.m. ET Wednesday (ESPN)
Game 3: Mercury at Sky, 9 p.m. ET Friday (ESPN2)
Game 4: Mercury at Sky, 3 p.m. ET October 17 (ESPN) (if needed)
Game 5: Sky at Mercury, 9 p.m. ET on October 19 (ESPN2) (if needed)