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Few expected the No. 5 Mercury to reach the WNBA Finals, and even fewer thought they’d own home court advantage. But that run was wiped away in a 91-77 Sky blowout win in Phoenix.
Support for the four-headed beast of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brianna Turner shouldn’t be lost, though. This high-frequency 3-point shooting team with one of the best posts to ever live is built for dramatic comebacks with an offense that can ignite at any moment.
Here are three reasons why the Mercury could break open the floodgates and take command of this series.
Chicago was able to mix up single and double coverage on the 6-foot-9 star to throw her off her rhythm, but Griner found her composure late (20 points), which is great news for Phoenix. If they’re better able to isolate her in single coverage, Griner can back anyone in the paint and hook-shot in easy buckets.
She’ll have to be more aggressive, not being afraid of drawing contact going forward. She took six free throws in Game 1, but should have more opportunities going forward. Griner’s over/under for points is set at 21.5 for Game 2.
They call her the GOAT for a reason. When the lights are at their brightest (and when she can drum up some added fuel by starting fights with whoever’s guarding her) Taurasi shows up. She already coughed up the ball six times for an unusually sloppy first game, so there’s a solid chance she comes back composed and collected on Wednesday.
We saw her drain 14 points in the final quarter against Vegas on Friday. When she’s hot, she’s hot. Taurasi’s over/under for points is set at 17.
Cunningham’s missed the last three games to a strained calf, and with Kia Nurse (torn ACL) also sidelined, the Mercury have been lacking depth at the guard position. That’s led to clunky spacing on offense, and nobody to check Kahleah Copper on defense.
If Cunningham’s able to play, her presence can change the dynamics of the game. Her shooting threat will alter Chicago’s rotations and open slashing lanes for Diggins-Smith and Taurasi.
The Mercury are underdogs to win the series (+170), but with Griner and Taurasi, the game isn’t over until it’s over. If you feel that Cunningham’s expected return is the reboot Phoenix needs, feel comfortable siding with the Merc.