The first round of the WNBA playoffs delivered on the excitement factor.
In the first game, the veteran experience of the Chicago Sky was the difference-maker in their 81-64 victory over the upstart Dallas Wings while the Phoenix Mercury edged out the New York Liberty 83-82 in the dying seconds of a back and forth affair.
You can watch the second round of the WNBA playoffs on Sunday beginning with the Phoenix Mercury vs. Seattle Storm at 3pm ET/12 pm PT followed by the Minnesota Lynx vs. Chicago Sky at 5pm ET/2 pm PT on TSN5 and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
The second round of the playoffs has all three Canadians in action. First up is Kia Nurse and the Mercury battling the Seattle Storm with Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton and the Minnesota Lynx facing the Sky.
The winners will meet either the No. 1 Connecticut Sun or the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals.
No. 4 Seattle Storm vs. No. 5 Phoenix Mercury
It’s hard to resist the narrative of having Diana Taurasi vs. Sue Bird in a single elimination playoff game.
However, this matchup is full of uncertainty as the health of Taurasi is in question and Breanna Stewart has been ruled out with a left foot injury.
Stewart missed the last two games of the regular season with the injury and has not played since Sept. 7.
Not having their best player on the court could spell trouble for the Storm, who have struggled post-Olympic break at just 5-6. Stewart finished the season third in the WNBA in points per game (20.3) and fifth in rebounds (9.5). The Storm are just 1-4 without her in the lineup this season.
Taurasi missed the last four games of the regular season and the first round against the Liberty with an ankle injury. Injuries have been an issue for Taurasi this season as she only played 16 games. However, when healthy, her impact is undeniable, managing 15.2 PPG in 2021.
Without Stewart, it means that Jewell Loyd will get ample opportunity to shine. Some of her highest-scoring games this season came without Stewart in the lineup, including 26-, 35- and 37-point performances.
In the paint, Brittney Griner and Mercedes Russell will go head-to-head. Griner finished Thursday’s game with 16 points and 10 rebounds but the Liberty double-teamed her every chance they could which limited her at times.
The development of Russell has been key this season for Seattle after an off-season that saw several valuable players depart. With 7.3 PPG and second on the team in rebounds (6.1), Russell’s play took a big step forward.
When the Mercury needed a spark against the Liberty, it was Sophie Cunningham who stepped up in a big way. With 21 points and hitting six of seven from three, her energy and production off the bench was a game-changer for a Phoenix squad that was floundering.
Skylar Diggins-Smith finished the game with a team-high 22 points while Nurse dropped eight points and pulled down six rebounds.
Both teams boast players that can change the complexion of a game on a dime. However, Phoenix was outplayed by New York at numerous points in the first round before scraping out the win while Seattle’s play heading into the postseason has been less than inspiring and not having Stewart in the lineup heading into this game hurts their chances greatly.
No. 3 Minnesota Lynx vs. No. 6 Chicago Sky
This matchup features the No. 1-2 picks from the 2008 WNBA Draft in Chicago’s Candace Parker and Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles. Both 35, Parker and Fowles are continuing to be the focal points on their respective teams.
Parker had a strong game against the Wings, with 11 rebounds, 15 rebounds and seven assists. She, along with Kahleah Copper (23 points) and Courtney Vandersloot (17 points and six assists), paced the Sky to victory.
In Minnesota, Fowles continues to pad her impressive resume as she finished the regular season second in the WNBA in rebounds (10.2), blocks (1.8) and steals (1.8) per game as she took home AP Defensive Player of the Year.
The Lynx had a busy off-season as they loaded up for a championship run, signing Kayla McBride, Aerial Powers and Achonwa.
Having several new faces in the lineup, even talented ones, didn’t translate into immediate success for the Lynx. The team started the season 0-4 and struggled to find a consistent rhythm.
Eventually the team began to gel. The addition of veteran Layshia Clarendon at the end of May was a big one for the Lynx as their leadership and play-making ability found a home in Minnesota. Clarendon went on to lead the Lynx in assists per game (5.7).
For Achonwa and Carleton, their value on a stacked roster comes through providing quality minutes off the bench.
Achonwa missed most of June with a knee injury and struggled to find much playing time. However, she has played some of her better basketball of the season as of late, seeing 20-plus minutes twice in her last six games. Against her former team, the Indiana Fever, on Sept. 17, she netted a season-high 11 points with four rebounds and three assists.
Carleton has become a trusted role player for head coach Cheryl Reeve. Her basketball IQ, defensive play and shooting ability have helped elevate her from fringe player to someone that averages about 19 minutes a game.
In the second half of the year, the Lynx went 10-3 and ended the season with four consecutive wins.
The Lynx are the better team in this matchup and the favourite. While the Sky were able to take down the Wings, their inconsistency showed at times throughout the game and the Lynx have the experience that Dallas lacked.