WNBA Playoffs got off to a great start with two single-elimination games

With two exhilarating games last night, the WNBA playoffs got of to a great start. Here’s a look at how both games went.

The WNBA Playoffs got off to a fiery start last night with a Round 1 doubleheader. The Chicago Sky beat the Dallas Wings in the first game while the Phoenix Mercury won a close one against the New York Liberty in the second.

With the Sky and Mercury both moving on to the second round, here’s a look at how they got through last night.

What happened in Game 1: Sky vs. Wings?

The first matchup of the evening was a contest between a cast of young upstarts and a group of grizzled veterans. The seventh-seeded Wings, led by fourth-year guard Arike Ogunbowale could not overcome the experience of the sixth-seeded Sky, who were led by Kahleah Copper’s 23 points and a near-triple double by Candace Parker.

Chicago jumped out to a 25-14 first-quarter lead behind an all-out paint attack. They made 10-of-13 attempts inside the paint in the first quarter while the Wings had six field goals in total. Copper herself had 12 points on six makes in the quarter.

At the half, the Wings trailed 29-44 but burst through the gates of the third with a balanced attack, cutting the lead to five as they entered into the fourth. To start the fourth, an early floater by Dallas’ Allisha Gray brought the Wings within three. But after a few minutes of trading buckets, Dallas got cold and Chicago went on a 13-2 run to close out the game.

In that 13-point run, Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot went on a personal nine-point run. She ended the game with 17 points.

Vandersloot’s wife and teammate, Allie Quigley, had 15 points in the win with three makes from downtown. Parker had 11 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in her first playoff appearance with her hometown team.

Ogunbowale scored 22 points for the Sky and Satou Sabally contributed 12 more.

Chicago moves on to face the third-seeded Minnesota Lynx in the second round on Sunday.

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury

Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

What happened in Game 2: Mercury vs. Liberty?

In the second half of the doubleheader, the fifth-seeded Mercury and eighth-seeded Liberty were tightly vested from start to finish. The Mercury broke out to a 21-10 lead halfway through the first quarter but New York pushed through and ended the quarter one a 13-3 run. The Wings’ young star duo of Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu combined for 15 points in the quarter.

The trend of Laney and Ionescu, alongside sturdy defense and rebounding from Natasha Howard, had the Liberty heading into the half up 41-37.

Although New York took the half-time lead, the story of the first half was the hot shooting of Phoenix’s Sophie Cunningham. Prior to that half, Cunningham had never made five threes in a game. Thursday night, she had six threes in the first half and seven in total for the game and scored a career-high 21 points. Cunningham’s hot scoring was necessary for the Mercury who were without the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi.

The game remained close up until the final seconds as the teams traded buckets and the lead. After a transition three by Laney with 2.7 seconds left, the game was tied at 82-82 and it looked like the game could be headed towards overtime. However, a last-second shooting foul by the Liberty’s Sami Whitcomb on Phoenix’s Brianna Turner gave the Mercury 83-82 lead and the win.

Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix in scoring with 22 points and five assists. Brittney Griner had 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks and Turner contributed 12 points and boards to go along with the game-winning free throw.

For the younger New York team, Laney had 25 points in the loss, Howard had 16 and 10 and Ionescu poured in 14 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Rebecca Allen also gave 11 points and three blocks.

The Mercury get to see last season’s champions, the Seattle Storm on Sunday for a second-round single-elimination game.

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