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Candace Parker, Sky Beat Diana Taurasi, Mercury in Game 1 of 2021 WNBA Finals

Doric SamOctober 11, 2021

Mike Mattina/Getty Images

In Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, the Chicago Sky earned a 91-77 road win over the Phoenix Mercury to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Six players scored in double figures for Chicago in the victory, led by Kahleah Copper's 21 points.

Chicago star Candace Parker, who is in her first year with her hometown team after spending her first 13 WNBA seasons in Los Angeles, had 16 points and eight rebounds.

Brittney Griner had 20 points for Phoenix in the loss.

The last time either team reached the finals was in 2014, when they faced each other. The Sky were swept by the Mercury in that series 3-0. Phoenix also won all three games in this year's regular-season series, but Parker missed the first two games while recovering from an ankle injury.


Notable Performers

Kahleah Copper, G, Sky: 21 points, 10 rebounds

Allie Quigley, G, Sky: 18 points

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Candace Parker, F, Sky: 16 points, 8 rebounds

Brittney Griner, C, Mercury: 20 points, 6 rebounds


Sky Use Big 2nd Quarter to Pull Away

After a closely contested first quarter, the Sky exploded in the second quarter to pull away, outscoring the Mercury 26-10 in the frame.

Chicago upped the tempo in the second quarter, scoring more in transition and attacking earlier in the shot clock.

Chicago Sky @chicagosky

CANDACE PARKER, Y'ALL!<a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/skytown?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#skytown</a> <a href="https://t.co/aZgnlCqaNg">pic.twitter.com/aZgnlCqaNg</a>

Even more impressive was the Sky's work on defense. Chicago's activity stifled Phoenix and forced it into uncharacteristic turnovers. The Mercury totaled 11 first-half turnovers, the most in any half this season.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Talk to ‘em, <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a> 🗣<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/WNBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WNBA</a>)<a href="https://t.co/Yu0NEXJcf3">pic.twitter.com/Yu0NEXJcf3</a>

The Sky seemed to find a winning formula when they stopped double-teaming Mercury center Brittney Griner and stayed home on the perimeter players, forcing them to shoot contested three-pointers. Phoenix went 0-of-5 from deep in the quarter. Chicago ended the second quarter on a 17-2 run and took a 46-35 lead into halftime.

The Mercury attempted to claw back in the second half and cut the deficit to seven points, but the Sky had an answer and stopped every rally.

When Chicago watches film of Sunday's game, the team's performance in the second quarter will likely receive a ton of focus. If the Sky can match the effort from that quarter on both ends of the floor, they have a good chance to earn another road win Wednesday.


Diana Taurasi Doomed by Fouls and Turnovers

Mercury star Diana Taurasi had an uncharacteristic showing in Sunday's game. Despite scoring 17 points, Taurasi looked out of sorts throughout the contest and committed six turnovers and five fouls.

Taurasi's frustration boiled over in the third quarter when she picked up a technical foul. She was fouled by Chicago's Diamond DeShields while shooting a three-pointer but brought her hand down on DeShields' face and broke her goggles. The play was reviewed and Taurasi was determined to have made an unnatural motion, resulting in the technical.

The Mercury had a quick turnaround after topping the Las Vegas Aces in Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals Friday. But Taurasi didn't use fatigue as an excuse, saying they were just being outplayed by the Sky.

ESPN @espn

"We're not tired, we're just getting our ass kicked right now."<br><br>Diana Taurasi kept it real.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBA?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WNBA</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WNBATwitter?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WNBATwitter</a> <a href="https://t.co/Sc3gVmL8xH">pic.twitter.com/Sc3gVmL8xH</a>

Phoenix emptied its bench with a little over four minutes left to play, pulling Taurasi along with Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner.

The Mercury finished with 18 turnovers Sunday. Phoenix will have to play more efficiently in Game 2 if it hopes to avoid a 0-2 hole.     


What's Next?

Both the Sky and Mercury will have a couple of days of rest before returning to action for Game 2 on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

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