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2021 WNBA playoffs – How Connecticut Solar, Phoenix Mercury may even their semifinals collection

No shade in any respect to how good the publish gamers have been in Tuesday’s semifinal openers of the 2021 WNBA playoffs. However the guards stole the present for the successful groups in each video games.

The Chicago Sky‘s Courtney Vandersloot had the second triple-double in WNBA playoff history, and backcourt mate and spouse Allie Quigley added 19 factors, because the No. 6 seed Sky beat the top-seeded Connecticut Sun 101-95 in double additional time.

In Las Vegas, Aces guards Riquna Williams, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray mixed for 68 factors because the No. 2 seed received 96-90 over the No. 5-seeded Phoenix Mercury.

Las Vegas coach Invoice Laimbeer mentioned that even going again to his days as an NBA participant he has at all times believed guards are the important thing to successful playoff video games.

“As a result of they will create,” Laimbeer mentioned. “Bigs are topic to the protection. Defenses can assault you and take you out of the sport to a level. Guards management the motion with the ball.”

The Solar host the Sky at Eight p.m. ET Thursday, adopted by the Mercury on the Aces at 10 p.m. ET. Each video games are on ESPN2 and the ESPN App.

Can the Solar shield their dwelling courtroom? Can the Mercury even their best-of-five collection earlier than returning to Phoenix? We take a look at three of the storylines heading into Recreation 2:

Will the Griner-Cambage heart battle actually materialize?

Phoenix’s Brittney Griner is 6-foot-9, and Las Vegas’ Liz Cambage is 6-foot-8. They each can impose their will on a recreation. However on Tuesday, Griner had the most effective of it with 24 factors, seven rebounds and 6 assists.

Cambage, taking part in simply her second recreation after being out with COVID-19, remains to be attempting to get again near recreation form. Foul hassle additionally helped restrict her to 9½ minutes, and he or she scored seven factors. That did not harm Las Vegas, which nonetheless received the victory. However the Aces stay hopeful they will see nearer to the “actual” Cambage because the playoffs proceed.

“I am nonetheless going to determine methods to use Liz Cambage … every recreation goes to be totally different,” mentioned Laimbeer, who empathized with how a lot the sickness impacted her. “Her conditioning will not be the place it must be, and we won’t decelerate.

“I do not need her to only fall down as a result of she has nothing left they usually’re operating up and down and scoring. So, I’ve to essentially intensely handle three- and four-minute blocks, which is tough.”

Will Connecticut’s protection rise to the event?

The Solar had 4 gamers on the WNBA’s All-Defensive Groups and had the highest protection throughout the common season. However they gave up 101 factors, 84 of these in regulation, in Recreation 1 on Tuesday. Connecticut coach Curt Miller and his participant gave numerous credit score to Vandersloot efficiently attacking the protection. However they know it is one thing they’ve to repair rapidly to keep away from an upset.

Whereas the Solar’s publish recreation was very robust — Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner mixed for 61 factors — Connecticut shot simply 37.8%. That performed into the Sky’s arms: Chicago’s offense is at its finest when the Sky are getting stops and rapidly pushing the tempo in transition.

“We all know we will play higher,” Bonner mentioned. “We missed numerous photographs. We have been out of rhythm. We will regroup, watch video and see how we will sluggish them down. They performed a terrific recreation.”

Jonquel Jones agreed.

“There have been some missed alternatives for us defensively, missed assignments that we’re normally on prime of,” she mentioned.

That mentioned, Chicago’s passing recreation was clicking so properly, it actually taxed the Solar protection. The Sky completed with 31 assists to 17 for the Solar.

How large an element will Taurasi be?

Mercury star Diana Taurasi had 20 factors, six assists and 5 rebounds in 31 minutes on Tuesday. She has been coping with an ankle harm since early September, and Phoenix barely received by means of its first playoff recreation with out her, beating the New York Liberty 83-82 within the first spherical on Sept. 23.

Taurasi’s mobility could be a bit affected, nevertheless it seems she can be on the courtroom for so long as the Mercury are taking part in this postseason. Offensively, she confirmed on Tuesday and within the second-round victory over the Seattle Storm on Sunday (14 factors, 5 assists) that she will be able to get the job completed.

However what about defensively? Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello mentioned you might ask that of the entire staff.

“We should be a bit bit extra aggressive, do not give them these open appears to be like,” Brondello mentioned. “Ensuring we all know their tendencies a bit bit higher than what we did. I assumed that was a bit little bit of psychological fatigue. We have got some changes in place.”

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