Sky 81, Wings 64 (CHI advances)
Mercury 83, Liberty 82 (PHX advances)
What went down
The WNBA playoffs started with a bang as the Mercury and Liberty figured in a shooting exhibition for the ages. In the end, the home team managed to escape with a thrilling one-point win. Sophie Cunningham was the woman of the moment, posting a personal-best 21 points anchored on six treys.
The fourth quarter saw both teams trade bucket after bucket, big shot after big shot. New York's Betnijah Laney tied the ball game at 82 apiece with a long triple with 2.7 seconds left. On the ensuing play, the Mercury found Brianna Turner who was able to draw a foul with 0.4 seconds remaining. The home crowd held their breath after she missed the first, but then knocked down the second. Sabrina Ionescu’s heave at the buzzer fell short and the Mercury held on.
Skylar Diggins-Smith tallied 22 points for Mercury to go along with four rebounds and five assists despite battling late foul trouble. Brittney Griner provided a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, as well as six assists. For the Liberty, Laney top-scored with 25 points, while Ionescu put up 14 points and 11 assists in her playoff debut.
In the other game, the sixth-seeded Sky had too much firepower for the seventh-seeded Wings. Kahleah Copper and Candace Parker made sure that there wasn't going to be an upset. Cooper fired a playoff career-high 23 points while Parker filled the stat sheet with 11 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
The Sky built a 21-point lead in the first half but a third-quarter rally led by Satou Sabally put the Wings back in the game. In the end, however, the Sky leaned on the experience of their veterans to hold off the Wings, outscoring their opponent, 26-14. Arike Ogunbowale had 22 points, including five triples, for Dallas.
The second round of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs is set as Chicago will take on the Minnesota Lynx while Phoenix will face the Seattle Storm.
Sophie Cunningham had the game of her life just when her team needed her the most. The Liberty did a tremendous job defending the Mercury, especially limiting the touches of Griner in the post. As a counter, Mercury went with shooting and Cunningham's number was called.
Cunningham rose to the challenge and had 21 points on 6-for-7 shooting from deep. She scored 18 points in the second half alone. Every time the Mercury needed a big basket, she stepped up and knocked down the outside shot.
What she said
After almost getting a triple-double in her first playoff game as a Chicago Sky, Candace Parker proved that she's the ultimate teammate. The first words in her postgame interview? "You know, I think you should be talking to Kah right now," she said, referring to Kahleah Copper who had a playoff career-high.
.@sportsiren and @Candace_Parker chop it up after her homecoming playoffs debut with the @chicagosky— WNBA (@WNBA) September 24, 2021
CP nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 11 PTS, 15 REB, 7 AST#CountIt pic.twitter.com/XkV7dctEeP
After the interview, she also gave a shout out to her daughter. We hope that Lailaa watched the game!
Did you see that?
Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, an avid supporter of the W, showed up for the Mercury.
When the fam rolls through. 👏 pic.twitter.com/lt8sM1PrV5— Phoenix Mercury - X (@PhoenixMercury) September 24, 2021