After dropping Game 1 at home, the Phoenix Mercury were in desperate need of a win in Game 2 to even the 2021 WNBA Finals before the series shifts to Chicago. Behind 29 points from Brittney Griner and 20 from the GOAT Diana Taurasi, Phoenix earned a 91-86 win in overtime in front of their home fans at Footprint Center.
Let’s dig into the numbers behind Phoenix’s win with a look inside the box score.
• Brittney Griner not only led all players in Game 2 with 29 points, she also matched her career playoff high, which she originally set in 2018 against the Seattle Storm. Griner had an efficient night as she did much of her damage near the basket, but did hit a pair of jumpers from the top of the key as she finished the game shooting 12-19 from the field and 5-5 from the foul line.
• Diana Taurasi scored eight of her 20 points in overtime, including a four-point play early in the extra period to put the Mercury ahead, then another 3-pointer with 1:24 to play to break an 86-86 tie and put Phoenix up for good. Who is the last player with at least eight overtime points in a playoff game? Tamika Catchings in a first round game against Washington in 2014. The last time it happened in a Finals game was back in 2009 by Indiana’s Katie Douglas in a loss to Taurasi and the Mercury.
• Taurasi now has 19 clutch points on 5-11 shooting from the field, 4-10 from 3-point range and 5-6 from the free throw line in 26 clutch minutes this postseason. Only Brittney Griner (20 points on 9-11 FG, 2-5 FT) has more clutch points in the playoffs.
• Courtney Vandersloot recorded only the fifth game in WNBA history with at least 20 points and 14 assists – and the first to do so in a playoff game. Of the five 20-point, 14-assist games in league history, Vandersloot and Taurasi have two apiece, while Ivory Latta has the other.
• Skylar Diggins-Smith matched her career high (regular season or playoffs) in assists with a dozen dimes to go along with 13 points in Phoenix’s win. Her driving layup with 12 seconds remaining in overtime sealed the win for the Mercury. Diggins-Smith was Phoenix’s leading scorer against the Sky during the regular season at 24 points per game.
• The Mercury assisted on 25 of their 36 field goals made in Game 2. Between the regular season and playoffs, the Mercury are 5-1 when they finish with 25 assists or more, with the only loss coming in Game 1 vs. Las Vegas in the semifinals.
• This was the fifth WNBA Finals game to ever go to overtime and the first since 2009 when the Mercury outlasted the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of their five-game series. The Mercury have been involved in three of the five overtime games in WNBA Finals history. With Phoenix’s win over Chicago in Game 2, home teams are now 5-0 in overtimes games in the Finals. This was the fourth time that the overtime game came in Game 2 of the series.
1998 Game 2: Houston Comets 74, Phoenix Mercury 69 (Aug. 29, 1998)
2000 Game 2: Houston Comets 79, New York Liberty 73 (Aug. 26, 2000)
2005 Game 2: Connecticut Sun 77, Sacramento Monarchs 70 (Sept. 15, 2005)
2009 Game 1: Indiana Fever 116, Phoenix Mercury 120 (Sept. 29, 2009)
2021 Game 2: Phoenix Mercury 91, Chicago Sky 86 (Oct. 13, 2021)
• Kahleah Copper (15 points) and Brittney Griner (29 points) are the only two players to have reached double figure scoring in every game this postseason. Copper is averaging 18.1 points per game for the playoffs (18.0 for the Finals), while Griner is averaging 21.8 points for the playoffs (series-leading 24.5 for the Finals).
• Skylar Diggins-Smith not only set a career high with 12 assists, she did so while committing only two turnovers. Diggins-Smith 6.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is her highest mark of the season (regular or playoffs).
• In addition to the Big Three, the Mercury got key contributions from both Sophie Cunningham (playing in her first game in 10 days) and Shey Peddy. Cunningham finished with nine points on 3-4 shooting from beyond the arc, while Peddy had 10 points on 4-7 shooting from the field. The Mercury posted a net rating of 18.2 (outscoring Chicago by 18.2 points per 100 possessions) during Peddy’s 22 minutes and a net rating of 14.1 in Cunningham’s 29 minutes. Both players posted matching 64.3% effective field goal percentages to lead the Mercury.
• The Sky won the points in the paint battle 50-40, and it was 6-foot-1 Kahleah Copper (14 points) and 5-8 Courtney Vandersloot (12 points) doing most of the damage. Candace Parker scored 10 of her 13 points in the paint. Brittney Griner was the only Mercury player in double figures in points in the paint as she posted a game-high 18.
• The Sky ranked second in the league in fast break points during the regular season at 10.8 per game, while the Mercury ranked ninth at 6.9 per game. But in Game 2, it was Phoenix that finished with an 11-6 advantage on the break as they took away one of Chicago’s biggest strengths.
• Turnovers will be a point of discussion during Chicago’s film session leading into Game 3, as they have allowed 24 and 25 points off turnovers in the first two games of this series, respectively. Phoenix nearly doubled up the Chicago in points off turnovers in Game 2, 25-13.
• With Courtney Vandersloot running the show, the Sky finished the season ranked first in assist percentage with 70.7% of their field goals coming off an assist – the second-highest mark in league history behind the 1998 Cleveland Rockers. In Game 2, the Sky assisted only 54.1% of their field goals; that is the fourth-lowest mark in any game this season (regular or playoffs).
• Each member of the Mercury Big Three posted a usage rate over 20% during Game 2: Brittney Griner (25.3%), Skylar Diggins-Smith (22.8%) and Diana Taurasi (21.8%). Their usage in Game 2 was more balanced than it was in Game 1, which was dominated by Taurasi (29.5%) and Griner (28.0%), while Diggins-Smith posted 13.7% – her lowest mark of the postseason, and second-lowest of any game this season.
• Courtney Vandersloot finished with a usage rate of 22.6% – second on the team to Allie Quigley among players that logged at least five minutes. Keep in mind that usage rate counts the possessions that end with a player either taking a shot (15 FGA), turning the ball over (6 TOV) or going to the free throw line (0 FTA). It does not count the 14 possessions that ended with a Vandersloot assist. So between the 20 points she scored herself and the 32 points she created with her assists, Vandersloot contributed to 52 of Chicago’s 86 points (60.5%).
• Chicago’s four free throw attempts were their fewest in a game since July 14, 2017. The Sky finished the regular season ranked eighth in free throw rate (0.243), which measures the number of free throw attempts a team shoots compared to the number of field goals attempts they shoot. They finished Game 2 with a free throw rate of 0.050.
• Phoenix’s free throw rate in Game 2 (0.136) was also far below their regular season mark (0.295, second in the league), but the Mercury still finished with an 11-4 advantage in free throw attempts and a 10-3 advantage in free throws made.
• Phoenix finished with slight scoring advantages from both their starters (79-76) and their bench players (12-10). Shey Peddy accounted for 10 of Phoenix’s 12 bench points as she returned to a reserve role after starting Game 1.