The Seattle Storm are in a difficult position on Sunday in their second-round game against the Phoenix Mercury. They are flying high when they won the Commissioner’s Cup championship on August 12 and they seem to be the clear favorites of the WNBA Championship. But just one injury to Breanna Stewart on Sept. 7 made the team face the real possibility of not even reaching the semifinals.
On the other hand, Phoenix is possible without Diana Taurasi (doubtful), but even if that is the case, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith bring together more stellar power than Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird together at this stage of Bird’s career. The good news for Seattle is that the New York Liberty put together a successful defensive formula in the second quarter of their first round game against the Mercury, which Phoenix retained just 13 points. If the Storm tries to repeat that and keep the ball away from Griner, they can also achieve success. Of course, if Sophie Cunningham stays warm and hits open shots, the Mercury need not worry.
Phoenix beat Seattle 85-77 at home in the first game of 2021 between the teams on July 9, and it was without Taurasi while the Storm had Stewart. Griner has 29 points and 15 rebounds and Diggins-Smith has 26 points and six assists. However, the Storm won both games in Seattle to win the season series 2-1. Their second victory over the Mercury was without Stewart. In their first win, they kept Griner and Diggins-Smith under 20 points and caused Kia Nurse to do the most damage. In their second win, they surrendered 26 to Griner, but kept Diggins-Smith at seven. Shey Peddy had 17.
We’ll see if the Storm tries to beat the non-superstars of Phoenix, and if they can continue their title defense beyond Sunday.
Meanwhile, Phoenix has outperformed his talent this season than last year, and he has the momentum of an exciting win over New York. A trip to the semifinals would silence many critics.
Nr. 5 selected Phoenix Mercury vs no. 4 Selected Seattle Storms
When: Sunday, 26 September at 15:00 ET
Where: Angel of the Wings Arena in Everett, WA
How to watch: ABC
Mercury Injury Report: Diana Taurasi (doubtful; left ankle)
Storm Injury Report: Breanna Stewart (out; left foot)
Keys to the match: Jewell Loyd. With Stewart out, Loyd will have to have a great game. With a farewell in the first round and Stewart on Sept. 17, she scored 22 points in the first quarter en route to a career-high 37 when the Storm defeated Mercury. Loyd also dropped 26 and 35 respectively in Seattle’s first two games after the Commissaris Cup championship game when Stewart and Bird were out. Unfortunately, both of those games were a loss, raising the question of whether Loyd can carry the team alone. But she has at least proved that she will act and be at her best when Stewart is out. If Loyd plays well on Sunday and the Storm wins the championship with Stewart winning the Final MVP again, Stewie might decide to share the award with Jewell.