The 2014 WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile are finally here. Out of the West, we have the Phoenix Mercury, the powerhouse presence that just convincingly upended last year's defending champion Minnesota Lynx. Out of the East, we have the league's Cinderella story in the Chicago Sky, who've overcome everything from injury, illness and large deficits.
Conventional wisdom points to the record-setting Mercury as the team to beat in this series, but the Sky have proven themselves resilient in the most unlikely situations with countless clutch plays and unsung heroes stepping up when they needed it the most.
Because the Sky and Mercury are in different conferences, they only met twice this season and the Mercury won both times. Missing from those two games was Elena Delle Donne, who is currently battling a sore back that severely limited her in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the second meeting, Chicago lost by only six points, thanks to 23 points from Sylvia Fowles, who will be matched up with Brittney Griner for the duration of this series.
July 11: Phoenix 72, Chicago 66
How They Got Here
The Mercury have gone 4-1 in the postseason so far, losing only one game to the defending champion Lynx. In the first round, they put away the Sparks handily. The Sky are 4-2, taking both of their series to a Game 3. Those series, however, were against the two toughest teams in the East, including last year's Eastern Conference champions the Atlanta Dream. The Sky have routinely made clutch shots throughout the postseason and have proved that they are a team that knows how to perform, especially under pressure.
Phoenix: Beware of underestimating Chicago. It's easy with all of the hype surrounding the Mercury and the West to adopt a "we got this" attitude and loosen up a bit. That, however, is where Chicago will make you pay. If you're not on your toes every minute of every game, some of the unlikely heroes we've seen on this Sky team will gladly come and steal the game from you. If Delle Donne is healthy, the Mercury have to cut off her left hand drive. If not, Griner will have to watch out for Sylvia's Fowles' quiet dominance. Other factors include Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot who are very adept offensively and, although they don't have the repoire of players like Taurasi or Erin Phillips, they are fearless and determined. Given the chance, they will take Phoenix to the basket or breakdown a zone with clever passing.
Chicago: The Sky are up against arguably the best team that the WNBA has ever seen. With so many star players who have managed to stay healthy, the Mercury aren't letting up. The keys here are very obvious: deny, deny, deny. They cannot let Griner dominate the action on either end. In a moment of weakness in Game 2 against the Lynx, the Mercury showed that they can get flustered, and therefore, beating the Mercury might come down to a mental game.
Elena Delle Donne/Sylvia Fowles vs. Brittney Griner -- These matchups are the key to this series. Who can shut down the other? Chicago has to find a way to keep Griner from getting the ball while Griner (Defensive Player of the Year) can't let up because, before you know it, Fowles and Delle Donne (who are faster than Griner) will pull a quick move.
Diana Taurasi vs. Courtney Vandersloot -- Although both are heads-up guards, it's clear that Taurasi has an edge in the experience department. Taurasi is heralded as one of the best guards in the league, however, in true Chicago Sky fashion, Vandersloot is quiet, tough, sneaky and resillient.
Allie Quigley vs. DeWanna Bonner -- These two are kind of mismatched defensively, however, they do play somewhat of the same role on their respective teams. If one of these two explodes for a big game, it could make a world of difference as shown in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Allie Quigley put up 24 points.