It’s a do-or-die time for Mercury on Tuesday as they try to avoid going 2-0 down in a best-of-five series. The Chicago Sky is playing with home money at this point, as a win would give them an edge to return home.
For the Mercury, Game 1 was a disappointing and exhausting defeat. The team had just completed a grueling five-game series against the Aces 48 hours earlier and had to prepare to play the hottest team in the league. Fatigue and exhaustion apparently played a role in their decline in the second quarter, where the Sky outscored them 25-10. Diana Taurasi poured cold water over the theory during her mid-game interview with ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude: ‘We are not tired. We just get our ass kicked now ”. However, the deficit in the second quarter was one from which the Mercury never recovered. They lost 91-77.
Despite the loss, the Mercury should be very optimistic. They shot an impressive 46 percent from three, Britney Griner shot more than 50 percent from the field, and the team had an exceptionally high turnover. Now that Phoenix has had a few days to recover, it needs to be refreshed and rejuvenated, and can expect their three great Griner, Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith to perform at their highest level.
The Sky is exactly where they want to be. At 1-0 with a chance to stab a dagger into Phoenix’s heart and take a 2-0 lead. A loss on Tuesday would be disappointing, but not devastating. They can play relaxed and aggressive, knowing that they have already reached their goal of winning a road race during the final. If they win their home games, this series is over four.
Easier said than done, of course. The Mercury has dominant majors that can score at will and get the Sky in trouble. If the Sky can’t slow down Phoenix’s big three, the game could quickly get away from them, especially along the way. The Sky will need more from their bench in Game 2. In Game 1, only Stefanie Dolson scored from the bench. She had an incredible performance of 14 points, but it is unlikely that this will happen again, and ideally more than one person should contribute from the bench. Diamond DeShields has to show up, and the Sky needs solid production from Dana Evans when she comes in to relieve Courtney Vandersloot.
To win the Sky another road race, they need another all-round performance. The team will have to reduce turnover, it will have to shoot above 36 percent out of three, and another player will have to be the X factor. Can Allie Quigley have a great game? Will Azurá Stevens give you 13 plus points? Who else on the bench could be a momentum swinger? If the Sky can not make these things happen, they are likely to return to Chicago tied at 1-1.
Nr. 5 selected Phoenix Mercury vs no. 6 selected Chicago Sky
When: Wednesday, October 13 at 21:00 ET
Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ
How to watch: ESPN
Key to matching: This is a must-win game for the Phoenix Mercury. They need to come out as aggressive as possible and want Brittney Griner to live out fast. The Mercury should also do better on the boards. They lost the setback of Game 1 by 34-29. The Sky needs more production from their bench besides Stefanie Dolson and they need to shoot better from a 3-point distance.
Mercury Injury Report: Kia Nurse (off; right ACL)
Air Injury Report: nothing