Two drastically different games played out in the first round of the WNBA playoffs on Thursday.
The Chicago Sky ran away from the Dallas Wings thanks to a 13-2 game-closing run en route to an 81-64 win.
The nightcap featured far more drama as the Phoenix Mercury held on to defeat the New York Liberty 83-82 in a game that went down to the final possession.
Now, the second round will take center stage Sunday as the Sky visit the Minnesota Lynx and the Mercury take on the host Seattle Storm for more single-elimination action.
Here's a look at the remaining playoff schedule, some Round 2 television and live-stream information and quick notes on the four teams playing Sunday.
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Results, Schedule, Live Stream and TV Information
Round 1 (Single Elimination): Thursday, Sept. 23
No. 6 Chicago Sky 81, No. 7 Dallas Wings 64
No. 5 Phoenix Mercury 83, No. 8 New York Liberty 82
Round 2 (Single Elimination): Sunday, Sept. 26
No. 5 Phoenix Mercury at No. 4 Seattle Storm: 3 p.m. ET, ABC
No. 6 Chicago Sky at No. 3 Minnesota Lynx: 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Lowest Seed Remaining at No. 1 Connecticut Sun
Highest Seed Remaining at No. 2 Las Vegas Aces
Both series start Tuesday, Sept. 28 (Game 1), per Sports Media Watch. Game 5 for both series would be Friday, Oct. 8 (if necessary). All games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
No. 1 Connecticut Sun/Lowest-Seed winner vs. No. 2 Las Vegas Aces/Highest-Seed winner.
Games 1-2 and 5 will be at the higher seed. Games 3-4 will be at the lower seed. Games 4 and 5 will only be played if necessary. All games on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
No. 3 Minnesota Lynx
The Lynx finished the season winning 17 of their last 20 games and nine of their last 10.
It's not difficult to see why: The Lynx simply play far better when Aerial Powers and Layshia Clarendon are on the court.
Minnesota is 10-4 when Powers plays and 16-5 with Clarendon.
Powers is fourth on the team in scoring (13.4 PPG) and money from the free-throw line (91.7 percent).
Clarendon is the engine that drives Minnesota's offense with a team-high 5.7 assists per game, and their scoring efficiency (10.4 points on 51.7 percent shooting) helps a team with the second-best shooting percentage in the league.
Simply put, the Lynx are loaded. In addition to Powers and Clarendon, they have a dominant scorer in Napheesa Collier, a double-double machine in legend Sylvia Fowles and a three-point sharpshooter in Kayla McBride.
That quintet is not only good enough to beat the Storm, but it's good enough to win the whole thing. And that doesn't even count the talented players off the bench, led by 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield.
Her shot hasn't been falling as much this year (47.1 percent field-goal rate in 2020, 38.8 percent in 2021), but having a talent like Dangerfield off the bench is a luxury for the loaded Lynx, who could very well win fifth WNBA title.
No. 4 Seattle Storm
The Storm aren't exactly riding a wave of momentum: They're 5-6 since the Tokyo Olympics and 9-10 overall in their last 19.
Perhaps a nine-day rest period will be good enough for the team to recharge its batteries and play to its championship-level potential, however.
They still have the game's best player in Breanna Stewart, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time WNBA champion and two-time WNBA Finals MVP. The 27-year-old averaged 20.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game this year.
Jewell Loyd arguably had her best season as a pro, notching a career-high 17.9 points per game. She notably dropped 37 points in a regular-season finale for a shorthanded Storm team playing without Stewart amid a 94-85 win over the Mercury.
And then there's Sue Bird, who has one of the best resumes in basketball history. She's still dominating with her 41st birthday approaching in October, averaging 10.0 points and 5.3 assists per game. Bird also knocked down 41.9 percent of her three-pointers.
That trio is good enough to lead the team back to the title, even if the Storm have to take a longer route there than last year, when they finished with the No. 2 seed and got an automatic semifinal berth.
The Storm avoided a rough matchup with the Sky, who beat them all three times during the regular season. They had more success against the Mercury, winning two of three.
No. 5 Phoenix Mercury
Simply put, the Mercury survived and advanced Thursday after stumbling into the playoffs on a three-game losing skid.
Thanks to Sophie Cunningham's heroics off the bench (6-of-7 from three-point range), the Mercury kept pace with the Libs in the second half before Brianna Turner's free throw with four-tenths of a second left gave Phoenix the win.
Phoenix played without superstar Diana Taurasi, who tested out her ankle injury pregame but could not go for the Mercury, per Alex Simon of The Next.
The big question is whether Taurasi, who averaged 15.2 points and 4.9 assists per game this season, can go. If she can, then the Mercury have a shot at pulling off the road upset over the Storm. If not, then it's hard seeing how the Mercury can pull this off.
Still, the Mercury have two superstars outside of Taurasi.
Seven-time WNBA All-Star and unofficial Tokyo Olympics MVP Brittney Griner leads the team with 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Her post presence could propel the Mercury into the finals.
Skylar Diggins-Smith played the last 4:25 of the Mercury's Round 1 playoff win with five fouls and found a way to lead her team to victory as well. She had a hand in three straight buckets: a clutch three-pointer that bounced around and in for a 77-all tie, an assist to Cunningham for her sixth and final three and a layup to give Phoenix a 82-79 lead.
The Mercury need more of that late-game magic from Diggins-Smith, who excelled this season with 17.7 points and 5.3 dimes.
Phoenix has enough talent complementing its big three, including Collier (9.4 rebounds per game), Kia Nurse (team-high 59 three-pointers) and the playoff heroine in Cunningham. Whether that will be enough to beat the defending WNBA champions is hard to say, but on paper, this Round 2 matchup looks like a potential classic.
No. 6 Chicago Sky
The Sky were also in top form against the Wings. Outside one bad third quarter where they were outscored 21-11, the Sky were firing on all cylinders.
Candace Parker was dominant in the paint, Courtney Vandersloot did a little of everything as usual and Allie Quigley hit big shots when her team needed her the most. And then there's the team's leading scorer in Kahleah Copper, who dropped a game-high 23 in the win.
At their best, this team is a dominant, balanced force to be reckoned with. The Sky can beat anyone in this league, as noted by their pair of wins over the top-seeded Connecticut Sun and their victory against the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces.
On the flip side, their defense can be suspect, with the team allowing 81.9 points per game (fifth-worst mark in the league). The Sky have allowed 100 or more points four times and even let the 8-24 Atlanta Dream hang 90 on them in a seven-point loss.
Still, this team is far better than the one that started the year 2-7. It helps that Parker is playing; the team is 15-8 with her on the floor and 1-8 otherwise. She helps the team's balanced offense (five players average in double digits in scoring) with 13.4 points per game in addition to her team-high 8.4 boards.
Quigley plays a huge role in the scoring attack with her phenomenal three-point shooting (45.4 percent), and she's also near-perfect from the free-throw line (95.9 percent). Vandersloot, who seems to get better as time goes on, posted 10.5 points and 8.6 assists. She's posted 10 double-doubles this year.
But Collier may be the X-factor here: The Sky are notably 8-3 when Collier scores 17 or more points per game. If she gets hot again from the field, Chicago could make a run to the Finals.