Diana Taurasi brought Phoenix Mercury back to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
Next up is a familiar foe – Candice Parker and Chicago Sky.
These two teams met seven years ago in the championship – the last appearance of each of the teams at a critical stage of the game. Taurasi and Mercury covered a streak of three games. On Sunday in Phoenix, they will kick off a top-five series.
Taurasi scored 14 of 24 points in the fourth quarter, helping Mercury beat runner-up Las Vegas 87-84 Friday night in the fifth game of the semifinal series. In the other semi-finals, Chicago beat Connecticut with the best seed in four games.
For the first time since the WNBA changed the playoff format in 2016, neither of the top two teams made it to the finals. Phoenix was the fifth seed and Chicago was the sixth.
“It’s difficult,” Taurasi said. “Was it now, seven, eight seasons? And when you get there, you think you will always get there. This is not the case. I know the scale of it and these guys have been great all year. This team has been steadfast all year long. We had injuries, this and that, and we could always stay together and love each other. Which is very important. “
Chicago faced adversity this season, breaking the start 2-7 while Parker recovered from an ankle injury. Parker decided to return home to Chicago after spending the first 13 years of her career in Los Angeles.
She now has Sky on three wins before winning their first championship.
“It’s like a vicious circle moment,” said Parker. “To look at the stands and see the people in front of whom I started playing basketball. It’s super special. This is a special group. The way you face adversity has shaped and revealed our character. All of us going to the playoffs thought we were going to sit here. “
Chicago advanced to the final by beating Dallas in the first round and then knocking out Minnesota. Sky has one of the top offensive moments in the league led by point guard Courtney Wanderslot, who had her second triple-double in playoff history in her first game of the series against Connecticut.
“Chicago is playing really well, they peak at the right time,” said Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello. “They play their best ball at the right time of the season. This is a big challenge for us, they will be more rested, but I hope we can make this streak good, achieve some success and win the championship. “
Here are some other interesting facts from the WNBA finals:
Phoenix won Game 5 without starting quarterback Kia Nurse to rupture a cruciate ligament in the first minute of the fourth playoff game. Mercury also lacked Sophie Cunningham’s understudy with a tense calf.
Brondello said she hopes Cunningham will return to the finals.
“At the moment we are facing a lot of adversity, but it shows how determined this team is,” said Brondello.
Without a nurse, Shay Peddy stepped in and played another solid game with free throws 4.8 seconds left. She finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
BEGINNING MAIN START
Chicago decided to fly to Las Vegas on Friday before the final match was scheduled. Coach James Wade, who was tipped for the first game on Sunday, found it helpful for the team to get used to the time difference and not waste a day preparing on Saturday while traveling.
If Phoenix does win, Mercury will have four titles, which will give Houston Comets, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm the most wins in league history. Mercury won in 2007, 2009 and 2014. … Mercury won three games in the regular season, but Parker missed the first two games while recovering from an ankle injury. … Brondello is married to Chicago assistant coach Olaf Lange. They lived separately in the WNBA bubble last season to avoid potential conflicts.
Former President Barack Obama on Twitter congratulated Chicago Sky on reaching the finals.
“It’s always good to be from Chicago, but this year is especially sweet. Congratulations to (c) ChicagoSky on reaching the WNBA Finals and a Legend, (c) Candace_Parker for making us all proud. We will be rooting for you. “
There is no word yet if Obama will try to attend the third game Friday night in Chicago.