CHICAGO – How ugly was Game 3 of the WNBA Finals for the Phoenix Mercury?
“It was ugly as hell,” guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said.
Let’s go. Could you do it better. More descriptive.
“They kicked our butt,” Diggins-Smith said.
“You just have to clean that one,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.
That sounds like a good plan. But what if they look down at Game 4 and… well… Game 3 is still stuck in the bowl and the water is filling to the brim? Hey, we’ve all been through that.
The Chicago Sky are one win away from their first championship. They can get it here Sunday afternoon in front of a stadium full of Chicagoans smart enough not to see the Bears play the Packers. It is possible that Mercury, a proud and talented team, will find a way to win Game 4 and force a decisive game in Phoenix. It seems equally likely that the halftime entertainment for Game 4 will be Sky’s championship parade.
The final score here was Chicago 86, Phoenix 50. It was exactly this close, and nothing felt strange. Chicago swarms on defense and moves symphonically on offense. These two teams have played three WNBA final games, but only a significant second half. Phoenix managed to win Game 2 in overtime, but the other two games were Chicago blowouts.
“Today, honestly, nothing worked,” said Phoenix star Diana Taurasi. “Inside, outside, they just took us out of everything we wanted to do.”
Taurasi, who produced some classic Taurasi magic in Game 2, played Game 3 as if trying to strike a wet match. He fired three wide open and missed. She bounced off her own miss, drove for a layup and missed. He briefly tried to get inside Chicago guard Kahleah Copper’s head and failed, too.
Taurasi is one of the greats of all time, but she is 39; she will put on some rags, and this was a big one. He finished 1 of 10 shots from the field. But hey, at least she got into the arena for free, which put her in a prime spot to see the Kahleah Copper Show.
Copper scored 20 points in the first half. A sequence is all the play-by-play you need. Copper hit a three to put it at 30-16. Allie Quigley hit a long almost three. Then Candace Parker found Copper on a break, and Copper on a break is one of the great joys of the WNBA today, unless you’re the poor jerk between her and the rim. She scored, was fouled by Diggins-Smith and made the free throw. Chicago led by 19. This may have been when Brondello started thinking about toilets.
“It would have been nice to take a couple of shots here and there as a group,” Taurasi said. “It is the game of basketball. It’s about putting the ball in the hole ”.
Can Phoenix win two games in a row? One is inclined to say yes, sure, why not … but Chicago has only lost twice in nine postseason games. They both hit the road. Phoenix needs a great performance from Brittney Griner (always likely, although she struggled in this one) and a great one from Diggins-Smith (she could go either way, she’s a great player who’s had a tough series) and Taurasi to play well. , and ignoring the crowd and the feeling of impending doom and … well, even that might not be enough.
Sky was not only the best team in Game 3. They were clearly the best team in this series. Will Chicago be nervous or overconfident in Game 4? Nervous, maybe. Too confident, very unlikely. They were so upset by their performance in Game 2 that they ran off in Game 3. The Mercury showed a sign of life, scoring five in a row in the second quarter, and then Chicago’s Allie Quigley decided enough was enough. He drove hard to the edge and made contact. She made both free throws. That was it. By the time it ended, Heaven was already protecting itself against any kind of disappointment.
“They are a great team,” Parker said. “If we think it’s going to be easy, that’s a lie.”
Chicago has some distinctive advantages in fighting. No one in Phoenix has been able to protect Copper. The Skies are faster and deeper and more importantly, their defense is fueling their offense. That makes Chicago resistant to the kind of offensive slump that hit the Mercury in Game 3.
Taurasi, who once scored 47 points in a game, marveled at his team’s anemic output in this one.
“Fifty!” she said. “We’ll be better than 50. Go to Vegas with that one.”
They will be better than 50. Being better than Chicago will be much, much more difficult.
More WNBA coverage:
• Diana Taurasi shows that real goats don’t age
• Liberty forward Michaela Onyenwere wins Rookie of the Year
• Mercury Griner and Diggins-Smith join MVP Jones in the WNBA first team
• Nneka Ogwumike is focusing women’s reproductive health on sports
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.