Kahleah Cooper, Chicago Sky, WNBA
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Phoenix, AZ — Basketball has always been a game of runs. Today’s match-up between the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky was no different. While Chicago took Game 1 of the 2021 WNBA Finals, it wasn’t an easy task. Both teams had moments of looking very good while there were also times Chicago and Phoenix were playing very sloppy.

To open the game, Phoenix fed off of its faithful “X-factor” crowd. A key reason for the early lead was the play of Skylar Diggins-Smith who orchestrated the offense very well for the Mercury. But she wasn’t alone as Diana Taurasi and Britney Griner were also establishing their offensive games early, too. Chicago did punch back to stay within striking distance. Unfortunately for the Mercury, Taurasi picked up her third foul and was forced to sit on the bench but her team had the lead, 25-20.

However, the second frame was a completely different ball game. Chicago found its flow and quickly calmed down the home crowd. Behind the electric play of Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker, the Sky not only erased its deficit, but the team also pulled away from Phoenix. By the end of the second-period buzzer, Chicago had outscored the Mercury 26-10 and held the lead at intermission, 46-35.

Out of the locker rooms, the Sky opened with a great defensive possession caused by Kahleah Cooper’s active hands. Allie Quigley picked up the loose ball and passed it up to Vandersloot who then threw a perfect lob to Cooper on the right side of the rim. In the next possession, Griner pushed off of Parker and was called for the offensive foul which led to the ball being back in Chicago’s hands. Once again, the Sky scored an easy bucket and immediately, Sandy Brondello called a timeout less than one minute into the third period.

Brondello’s timeout did seem to settle Phoenix as they responded with five points from Taurasi and a tip-in from Griner. From there, both teams traded baskets as the crowd erupted in cheers at times and boo’s at times as well. By the end of the third though, Chicago was still in command of the game — 74-61 — despite Vandersloot exiting for a period of time with a left foot injury.

Phoenix tried to overcome its deficit, but it was a battle. As Taurasi said in her live game interview, the Mercury had to be better. They did not rebound the ball well and continued to be a step behind defensively. Whoever wanted to score for Chicago, they could. All in all, the Sky has a handful of scoring options and with Phoenix dragging defensively, it was a long game.

Chicago pulled off the Game 1 victory, 91-77 to take the WNBA Finals series lead.

Taurasi finished with 17, Griner and Diggins-Smith contributed with 20 and 15, respectfully. On the opposing end, six players finished in double figures. Copper led the way with 21, 10 rebounds, Quigley poured in 18, Parker stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and two steals while Vandersloot had 12 points, 10 assists, Azura Stevens with 10 points, eight rebounds, and Stefanie Dolson contributed 14.

Game 2 of the Finals will be on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.

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