2021 WNBA Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Chicago Sky preview, how to watch

The 2021 WNBA finals are here. It’s a matchup few expected but no one will refuse as Diana Taurasi leads the Phoenix Mercury against Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky. Two legendary legends go head to head, two of the best fouls in the league and a rematch from the 2014 Finals. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Heading into the Olympics break, the Mercury were under .500 and leaning toward another disappointing season. But when play resumed, they immediately won 10 wins in a row to turn things around, and after surviving some close matchups in the first few rounds of the playoffs, they have a chance to claim their fourth title in to win franchise history. That would connect them most with the Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm and Houston Comets.

The Sky also had a mediocre season, finishing in 6th place at 16-16. They had their moments, but could never find any consistency, largely due to multiple ankle injuries that limited Parker to 23 games. However, when the postseason started, they turned the page and finally put it all together. Now they are in the finals for the second time and will try to win their first title in franchise history.

Let’s take a closer look at what should be an exciting series:

(5) Phoenix Mercury vs (6) Chicago Sky

(All times East)

  • Game 1: Heaven at Mercury | Sunday 10 Oct., 3 p.m. | TV: ABC | Current: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Game 2: Heaven at Mercury | Wednesday, Oct 13, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Current: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Game 3: Mercury in the sky | Friday Oct 15. 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Current: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Game 4*: Mercury in the sky | Sunday Oct 17, 3 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Current: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Game 5*: Heaven at Mercury | Tuesday 19 Oct. 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Current: fuboTV (Try for free)

*If necessary

Players to watch

Mercury: Brittney Griner

As usual, Griner is the player to watch with the Mercury. A matchup nightmare who single-handedly dictates how the opponent’s defense should play, she has been arguably the best player in the world in recent months. Few players are capable of taking over a game like Griner can.

Sky: Candace Parker

No surprise here either. Parker returned home off-season as she wanted to give the Sky their first title, and now she’s three wins away from making it happen. She won’t score many points, but she will affect the game in every department and her leadership will be even more important at this stage.

Three keys that will determine the series

1. How will the Sky defend Brittney Griner?

This has been key to every game and series the Mercury has played this postseason, and that won’t change in the finale. Griner is the biggest matchup problem in the league, and her size and skill around the basket have teams designing their entire defensive game plans to slow her down.

Since most teams have no one to handle her one-on-one, they are forced to send multiple defenders her way when she catches the ball. That can be an effective strategy at times, especially if the players on the Mercury’s perimeter are cold from the outside, as we saw in the first round against the Liberty. But Griner has become such an improved passer-by that she usually makes the right decision and creates open eyes for her teammates. Over the course of most games and series, those opportunities pay off, which is why the Mercury have the best offense in the playoffs yet.

In Azura Stevens and Candace Parker, the Sky has two of the better interior defenders, but neither has the strength to deal with Griner alone. They will have to send double teams at some point, and the question really becomes how aggressive will they be to force the ball out of her hands?

Against the sun in the semi-finals, the Sky was determined not to let Jonquel Jones beat him and took the paint to the limit. It won’t be so easy to do that against the Mercury because Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith are much more dynamic than the Sun’s backcourt. At the same time, few teams have the height and athleticism to fly in rotations like the Sky, and that gives them the opportunity to be more flexible in their schedules.

2. Can the Mercury slow down Courtney Vandersloot?

While Sky’s coaching staff is concerned overnight about how to defend Brittney Griner, Mercury’s coaches will be doing the same regarding Courtney Vandersloot. Chicago’s veteran point guard is the best passer in the league and is able to tear apart opposing defenses at will.

Against the Sun in Game 1 of the Semifinals, she set a new WNBA playoff record with 18 assists, while also noting just the second triple-double in playoff history. But while she prefers to be a playmaker, she’ll score if you make her, as the sun discovered in the series-defining Game 4 when they went down on screens over and over, and Vandersloot buried five three-pointers en route to 19 points.

Vandersloot is not a physically dominant player and usually won’t score many points, so sometimes her impact can fly a bit under the radar. But not for opponents and coaches, who are well aware of the way she controls the pace and manipulates defenses. When she’s on the field in the playoffs, the Sky has an offensive rating of 108. When she’s down, it drops to 79.7.

The edge chess match will be intriguing because the Mercury is not a great defensive team and would much rather outdo you. However, that is in the hands of Vandersloot and the Sky, and it will be very interesting to see if the Mercury can slow her down in this series.

3. Does the shorthanded Mercury have enough in the tank?

Since the league adopted this new play-off format in 2016, no teams had started playing in the first round that made it to the final. Both teams made history by accomplishing that feat, but running the gauntlet has taken a much greater toll on the Mercury.

Diana Taurasi played through a sprained ankle and a fracture in her foot, which, despite some of her clutch performance, has markedly limited her at times. Then Sophie Cunningham suffered a calf strain that knocked her out of Games 4 and 5 against the Aces and Kia Nurse is ready for the season after tearing her ACL in Game 4 of that series.

During Game 5 against the Aces, the Mercury really only played the starters. All Taurasi, Griner, Diggins-Smith and Brianna Turner played over 35 minutes. The only other players who came into the game for a short period of time were Bria Hartley, who just came back from a torn ACL in late September and still isn’t herself, and Kia Vaughn.

The Mercury will likely follow the same formula the rest of the way, unless Cunningham can return at some point. And while rotations always get shorter in the playoffs, this is the extreme end of that scenario. With their injuries and only a 36-hour break between the end of the semi-finals and the start of the final, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Mercury will have enough left in the tank to take on a Sky team. who likes to play against a higher level. pace pace.

Forecast

These two teams are similar in that no one ever questioned their talent, but rather their ability to reach their potential on a consistent basis. In a funny twist, they both got it together in the post season and now meet in the finale. Both teams are currently playing at a high level and are going into this series with full confidence.

This series can really go either way, but we’re going for the Sky. They have the offense to keep up with the Mercury and are much better on defense. In addition, they are healthier and have had more rest. In a fairly even matchup, those margins can make all the difference.

Heaven in 4

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