The Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky will meet in the WNBA playoffs on Friday night, with both teams riding momentum from a win in their first round matchup.
The phoenix mercury vs chicago sky prediction is a match-up of the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky in the 2023 WNBA Playoffs. The winner will advance to face either the Washington Mystics or Los Angeles Sparks in the second round.
24 September 2023
- Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel Mechelle Voepel
- Mechelle Voepel is an espnW reporter that covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports. Voepel has been with ESPN since 1996 and has covered women’s basketball since 1984.
- Kelly Cohen is a writer who lives in New York
Candace Parker is dissatisfied. The Chicago Sky forward had just helped her club move to the second round of the WNBA playoffs in 2023, but she took her time celebrating after their 81-64 win on Thursday.
“What is there to rejoice over?” Parker remarked. “In the playoffs, we won one game.”
Things are only going to get harder for Parker’s sixth-seeded Sky, as well as the No. 5 seed Phoenix Mercury, who also advanced to the second round on Thursday. Both clubs will play another single-elimination game on the road.
On Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC), the reigning champion Seattle Storm hosts the No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns in a game that may feature WNBA icons Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. The Sky face the third-seeded Minnesota Lynx (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in a game that also includes a battle between two of the WNBA’s best all-time players, Parker and Sylvia Fowles.
Taurasi (ankle), who has played in just 16 games this season due to ailments, sat out Thursday’s game in a boot on the bench. We’re also keeping an eye on Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, who has been sidelined since sustaining a foot injury on September 7.
In the best-of-five semifinals, the top-seeded Connecticut Sun and No. 2 seed Las Vegas Aces await the victors on Sunday.
We look at what to anticipate and how it may affect Sunday’s second-round games, as well as who we think will win.
Which player from Thursday’s first-round victories pleased you the most and do you think will have an effect on the second round?
Voepel: Chicago’s Kahleah Copper shot 10-of-14 from the field and was the Sky’s best defender. She put up a great showing and will be a key player if Chicago is to beat Minnesota.
Candace Parker, on the other hand, was everywhere in Thursday’s game, with 11 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. And she’ll need another strong game if Chicago is to advance to the semifinals.
Candace Parker led Chicago to a first-round win against Dallas with 11 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. Getty Images/Gary Dineen/NBAE
In the regular season, the Sky and Lynx played twice, with Chicago winning 105-89 on June 15 and Minnesota winning 101-95 on August 21. Parker scored 12 points and seven rebounds in the first game but was unable to play in the second due to injury.
The other player that stood out on Thursday was Sophie Cunningham. The Phoenix guard hit six of his seven 3-point attempts for a career-high 21 points. The Mercury needed offense with Taurasi (ankle) out, and Cunningham was able to give it, as well as the typical competitive fire she brings.
Cunningham wore No. 3 until the end of her WNBA career since that number belonged to Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury. Cunningham, who is now ranked No. 9, performed her best Taurasi imitation on Thursday, shooting from a great distance (and picking up a technical).
The Mercury are now hoping that Taurasi will be available to play against Seattle. Getting more huge 3-pointers from Cunningham, with or without her, will be very beneficial to Phoenix.
Sophie Cunningham, a guard for the Mercury, scored 21 points on 6-of-7 3-point shooting. Getty Images/Christian Petersen
Cohen: I was particularly impressed with Courtney Vandersloot. She showed Thursday that she is the greatest point guard in the league. Her ability to slice past opponents was particularly impressive in the third quarter, when the Sky seemed uninspired and struggled offensively. Vandersloot had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in the game. Against Minnesota’s strong defense, Vandersloot’s ball movement will be key.
What is the crucial matchup that will decide the outcome of the second-round contest between Chicago and Minnesota?
Voepel: Two of the best players in WNBA history, the first and second overall selections in the 2008 draft, meet once again. That’s Parker and Sylvia Fowles, who have been rivals since their days at Tennessee and LSU in the SEC.
While Fowles is a traditional low-block center at 6-foot-6 and Parker is a mobile 6-4 forward/center at 6-4, they will compete in the paint. In the first encounter with the Sky, Fowles scored 14 points and nine rebounds, and in the second, he had 15 points and six rebounds.
In April, Parker turned 35, while Fowles will be 36 in October. While both are still two of the WNBA’s most feared players, we don’t know how much longer we’ll get to watch them, so take advantage of every chance (this theme will be repeated in the other second-round matchup).
Cohen: Instead of a crucial matchup, I’m going with a key stat: turnovers. Both the Sky and the Lynx have a similar number of freebies. Points off turnovers are about the same for both sides. As a result, the side that takes better care of the ball will be the winner.
How many more times will Sue Bird, 40, and Diana Taurasi, 39, be seen together on the same court? Getty Images/By Barry Gossage
What will determine the Phoenix-Seattle game now that Diana Taurasi and Breanna Stewart are out with injuries?
Taurasi: On Thursday, Taurasi was forced to witness the Mercury walk a tightrope in fending off an upset effort by the Knicks. Will she get the opportunity to play Sue Bird, a longtime friend and UConn/USA Basketball colleague, on Sunday? We don’t want to take it for granted that Taurasi and Bird will match up again, especially because Taurasi is 39 and Bird will be 41 in October. Especially because the Storm and Mercury have had such a long playoff rivalry that has helped define some of their most memorable WNBA moments. Nobody will forget the dramatic fight between the teams in Game 5 of the 2018 playoffs, when Bird took over the fourth quarter.
If Seattle has Stewart, the Storm will have the upper hand. But without her, they’ll have to play a different game, depending even more on their perimeter shooting and expecting for decent minutes from second-year big Ezi Magbegor. She accomplished it again in the Storm’s last three games, scoring 15 points in each of them.
If Taurasi isn’t available, the Mercury don’t have to play any differently. They can only rely on the other guards to make enough shots, as they did on Thursday.
Cohen: I’m excited about two matches. Skylar Diggins-Smith of Phoenix and Jewell Loyd of Seattle are both acquainted with one another’s game, not only because they were teammates on the gold-medal-winning USA Basketball Olympic team this summer, but also because they were teammates at Notre Dame. They both had hot runs at the conclusion of the regular season, and their backcourt battle will be intense and exciting.
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Another X factor could be the paint battle between Phoenix’s Brittney Griner and Seattle’s Mercedes Russell. Griner struggled against the New York Liberty’s fast double teams and swarming defense to begin the game. She did, however, end with a double-double and three blocks. When the Mercury were struggling early on, when the ball was flowing through Griner, they looked their best offensively.
On Sept. 17, the previous time these two teams met, neither Griner nor Russell played effective defense against each other. Russell went 7-of-9 from the field, while Griner was 10-of-16. This meeting in the postseason should be exciting.
Which side do you think will win each match, and why?
Voepel: With its dynasty teams, Minnesota has been the favorite for many years. Even though they are the No. 3 seed, the Lynx are more likely to attempt to play the “overlooked underdog” position now. Nobody believes it; the Lynx are an excellent squad that received a lift when injured guard/forward Aerial Powers returned on Aug. 21. She has scored in double digits in eight of the ten games since her comeback, including a career-high-tying 27 points in the regular-season finale.
The Lynx probably have a better sense of what they’ll get from everyone, while the Sky have the Diamond DeShields aspect to consider: will she be more like the player who scored 30 points in the regular-season finale or the one who went 1-of-8 for four points on Thursday?
All of this comes up to my picking Minnesota to win this game.
In terms of Phoenix-Seattle, so much hinges on Taurasi and Stewart’s participation. Even if they don’t, we’ll see whether Griner can motivate her team to victory in Seattle, since she’ll be such an important component of the Mercury’s chances.
In the end, I think the Storm will win this one, but it may go down to the wire, much like the first-round game between the Mercury and the Knicks.
No. 1 seed Connecticut and No. 2 seed Las Vegas will be keeping an eye on who comes next. The Sun and Aces both received a double bye, so they’ll have to balance relaxation and preparation for the rest of the week.
Cohen: Going into the playoffs, I projected the Lynx to reach the conference finals in ESPN’s playoff predictions, but the Sky and Lynx are a lot more equally matched than I anticipated, particularly when it comes to their reserve players. Minnesota, on the other hand, has a superior defense, although by a small margin, and is my choice to defeat Chicago.
I was certain at the start of the week that Phoenix would shock Seattle if they met, particularly without a completely healthy Breanna Stewart. The Mercury needed some late-game heroics to win their first-round elimination game on Thursday. That would usually be reason for concern, but after such a valiant victory, I believe they will ride that high into a Storm upset.
The Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Championship in 2023. They defeated the Chicago Sky, who had a record of 52-30 during the regular season. Reference: phoenix mercury 2023.