Seven years ago, Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Chicago Sky to win their most recent WNBA title. However, the Mercury didn’t have to face fellow league superstar Candace Parker in that matchup.
Two of the game’s all-time best begin their quest for another championship Sunday when Parker and the visiting Sky face Taurasi’s Mercury in Game 1 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals.
Back in 2014, with Taurasi and fellow star Brittney Griner in charge, Phoenix swept Chicago to win the franchise’s third WNBA championship. It was the first finals’ appearance for the Sky, who now boast the 35-year-old Parker, a 2016 title winner with Los Angeles, leading the way in her first Chicago season.
“We were missing one piece, and it was Candace Parker,” guard Courtney Vandersloot told ESPN. “She was going to take us to this point right here. Whether we win a championship or not, she changed this franchise.”
Vandersloot had 19 points in the sixth-seeded Sky’s 79-69 semifinal series-clinching win over No. 1 seed Connecticut in Game 4 on Wednesday.
Parker is averaging 13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the playoffs for the Sky, who finished 16-16 during the regular season. They caught fire in the playoffs by winning single-elimination games versus Dallas and Minnesota and taking three of four from the favored Sun.
Kahleah Copper (18.2 points per game in playoffs) and Vandersloot (14.0 points, 8.7 assists) have also been solid during the postseason for the Sky, who lost all three meetings with Phoenix during the 2021 season.
Hours before the birth of her second child with wife Penny Taylor, Taurasi (19.7 points per game in playoffs) scored 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter of fifth-seeded Phoenix’s 87-84 semifinal win at No. 2 seed Las Vegas in Friday’s decisive Game 5.
Griner (21.0 points, 9.7 rebounds) had 28 points with nine rebounds for the Mercury, who could tie a WNBA record with their fourth title after winning single-elimination contests over New York and Seattle before outlasting the Aces.
“I know the magnitude of this,” Taurasi told ESPN. “(My teammates) have been great all year. This team has just been resilient all year.”
–Field Level Media