CHICAGO – Diamond DeShields scored 25 points and the fifth-seeded Chicago Sky used a dominating second half to beat the eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury 105-76 in a first-round, winner-take-all playoff game on Wednesday night.
Astou Nadour and Stefanie Dolson added 16 points apiece for the Sky, who play at fourth-seeded Las Vegas on Sunday in the single-elimination second round. Allie Quigley had 15 points, Cheyenne Parker had 11 off the bench and Courtney Vandersloot had nine points to go with 11 assists as Chicago was making its first playoff appearance since 2016.
Phoenix only trailed 44-41 at halftime despite losing league-leading scorer Brittney Griner with a left knee injury with 8:18 left in the second quarter. Griner was called for an offensive foul setting a screen on Quigley, and it appeared there was knee-to-knee contact. Griner went to the locker room with the help of injured star Diana Taurasi, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Griner returned to start the third quarter with a knee brace, playing briefly before going to the bench for good. She had six points, more than 14 below her average. Chicago used a 12-0 to start the second half and the Sky didn’t look back.
DeShields, who scored the fifth-most points in a playoff debut, opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Dolson had a 3 at the 7:20 mark for a 56-41 lead.
Chicago had a 29-19 advantage in the third quarter for a 73-60 lead. Sophie Cunningham hit a 3-pointer barely a minute into the fourth quarter to cut the Phoenix deficit to 11 but Quigley answered with five quick points and Chicago pulled way.
DeWanna Bonner led the Mercury with 21 points. January finished with 12 and Camille Little had 10. WNBA all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi did not play because of a hamstring injury.
Phoenix was 6-0 in the single-elimination format since the WNBA changed its playoffs in 2016. The margin of victory was the fourth-largest in a playoff game and the biggest ever for Chicago. Five years ago Phoenix had a 29-point win over Chicago in Game 2 of the Finals.