Among the many storylines surrounding the 2021 WNBA Finals – from underdogs to BUCKS on hometown girls -is it a repeat of the 2014 WNBA Finals, when the Phoenix Mercury probably ended the biggest single season in WNBA history with a 3-0 result from the Chicago Sky.
Although both rosters have changed significantly, 2014 looks more like 2021 than can be expected.
What has changed since the championship series eight seasons ago? What remained the same?
A look back at the 2014 WNBA season
Here’s a quick, big picture overview of the 2014 WNBA season.
Maya Moore beat Taurasi for the MVP award and took a lead of 23.9 points per game when she led the Minnesota Lynx to a 25-9 record and a second-place finish in the Western Conference. Candace Parker, which is at the heart of the Sky’s playoff game in 2021 and was then in the midst of its heyday in Los Angeles, finished fourth, while Griner was fifth in the final count.
Moore was the captain of a 2014 All-WNBA first team that otherwise contained a number of names playing in the 2021 final. Taurasi and Griner earned their tenth and first All-WNBA nods, respectively. Parker reached the All-WNBA for the fifth of nine times. Another player in the final of 2021 – Diggins-Smith Blames, when a second-year player at the Tulsa Shock — earned the first of her four All-WNBA honors.
Griner was also named Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in her career, after leading the league in defensive ratings and blocks. This season, Griner was again the block queen of the WNBA.
Diggins-Smith was a dirty tractor in 2014 just like in 2021, while leading the league in free throws in both seasons. Although she missed half of the season due to injury, Vandersloot, then in her fourth season, led the WNBA for the first time in her career as an assistant per game; in 2021 she was top for the sixth time. Quigley, then only in her second full WNBA season, was the sixth woman for the Sky, the role in which she began the 2021 season.
In short, many of the names that defined the 2014 WNBA season are still doing their thing in 2021.
Similarities, differences with 2014 and 2021 versions of Mercury, Sky
Whether it is 2014 or 2021, Diana Taurasi is Diana Taurasi. In 2014, the GOAT kicked off the playoffs with a 34-point performance against Parker’s Sparks. It was her highlight in the playoffs before the season 37-point blast against the Las Vegas Aces. Despite the passage of eight seasons, her playoffs per game have barely dropped on average, from 21.9 in 2014 to 19.3 in 2021.
Griner, on the other hand, has shown significant growth since her second post-season experience. For the 2014 playoffs, she averaged 16.7 points and six rebounds per game. In 2021, when she regularly looked like the best player in the world instead of a talented talent with the potential to be one of the best ever, her total points increased to 20.9 points per game, while she 9 , 3 rebounds. per game.
Despite more drastic roster differences, the 2014 and 2021 seasons in Sky seem more similar.
The 2014 Sky, led by head coach Pokey Chatman, is expected to be title contenders led by Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne, two players who have since become synonymous with their second franchises. Yet Fowles and Delle Donne sustained injuries and illnesses, just like Vandersloot. Epiphanny Prince, Tamera Young and Jessica Breland were one of the key contributors to an up and down Sky team that finished the season 15-19 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. It does not sound different from the Sky’s of 2021 uneven regular season.
The 2014 Sky, as their 2021 peers, also peaked in the playoffs. After just entering the post-season, Chicago upset the Atlanta Dream, the East’s No. 1 seed, in an exciting Eastern Conference semifinal in three games. They then triumphed over the Indiana Fever in three games in the finals of the Eastern Conference. Unexpectedly, the Sky advanced to the finals.
Vandersloot was a critical player on the Chicago playoffs in 2014. But unlike in 2021, she did not increase her game in the post-season. In particular, Vandersloot struggled to put the ball in the basket in the play-offs of 2014, with 38.3 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from a 3-point mark. In 2021, she claims to be a more aggressive scorer, scoring 13.7 points per game in the playoffs to an average of 10.5 points per game in the regular season. A few historical performances – only the second triple-double in WNBA history against the Connecticut Sun and a performance of 11 assists and a zero turnover in game 1 of the finals-catches the maturity of Vandersloot to an undisputed elite operator the past eight seasons.
Quigely has held steady since 2014. She scored 14.2 points per game on 34.2 percent 3-point shooting during Sky’s 2014 finals. This post-season she puts up 14 points per game while shooting 35.3 percent from behind the arc. However, due to the sporting move that has taken place since 2014, Quigley tries 7.3 tries per game in the post-season 2021; in 2014, she fired only 4.2 treys per game in the playoffs.
Can the 2014 final predict the 2021 final?
Luckily for the Sky, their first trip to the final since 2014 started much better.
With the exception of the first quarter, Chicago dominates Game 1 of the final of 2021. In 2014, the Sky struggled heavily in their debut in the final and lost 83-62 after falling behind by more than 30 points.
At the moment with 0-1 down, Phoenix tonight is probably hoping that Game 2 is parallel to Game 2 of 2014. The Mercury won a comfortable victory, 97-68, with all beginners in double digits. Griner was the best plus-28 at stake, while Taurasi shot 58.3 percent off the field and 60 percent from three, numbers that, if they could be repeated tonight, would be positive signs for the Mercury.
In the third and final game of the series, Sky caught up with a more competitive effort and maintained a 63-61 lead in the fourth quarter. However, no one should be surprised at what has happened in the last period non-Taurasi has gone into GOAT mode. She sank five of her six shot attempts, including both her three-pointers, to the Mercury to the 87-82 victory and a third WNBA championship.
Can Taurasi use some injuries again in 2021 at the age of 39 in her pit of greatness and unleash another epic attempt? Or will Candace Parker look to turn the clock back to 2016? In the Sparks’ Championship game 5, Parker scored a double of 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Alternatively, for all the resonances between 2014 and 2021, it would not be surprising if a new face wins this final. If Game 1, as well as the entire post-season, is an indication, Kahleah Copper’s influence will be everywhere in this final. Brianna Turner has also shown that she can increase her game in the crucible of a post-season competition. Shey Peddy has proven her stubbornness several times already. Diamond DeShields also has the potential to do something special.
For all that has remained the same and for all that has changed, the 2021 final is reminiscent of the greatness of the WNBA.