Chicago Sky, Phoenix Mercury ride momentum into second round

Candace Parker is not content. After her team's victory on Thursday, the Chicago Sky star was not content.
"What is there to be joyful about?" Parker stated. Parker said, "We won one playoff match."

Things get more difficult for Parker's sixth-seeded Sky, as well as for the No. The Phoenix Mercury, the 5th seed, won on Thursday to advance to the second round. Both teams will travel to another single-elimination match.

The No. 4 seed, Seattle Storm, is the defending champion. The No. 4 seed will host Phoenix on Sunday (3:00 p.m. ET, ABC in a game that could see WNBA legends Sue Bird versus Diana Taurasi. The Sky take on the third-seeded Minnesota Lynx at 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2, a game featuring a matchup between two of the most important players in WNBA history as Parker takes on Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi (ankle), who was limited to 16 games due to injuries, sat out Phoenix’s game Thursday wearing a boot. We are monitoring the condition of Seattle's Breanna Stearn (foot), who has been out ever since Sept. 7.

The No. The top-seeded Connecticut Sun and No.

We look at the potential impact on Sunday's second round games and make predictions about which teams will win.

Which player impressed you the most during Thursday's wins in the first round and will have an impact on the second round?

Voepel: Kahleah copper was 10 of 14 from the field for Chicago, and the top defender in the Sky. She was a strong performer and will be an important factor in Chicago's victory over Minnesota.

Candace Parker was just as omnipresent Thursday night with 11 points and 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. She will need to play another big game to help Chicago reach the semifinals.

Candace Parker was able to score 11 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists in Chicago's victory over Dallas. Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

In the regular season, Chicago won 105-89 against Minnesota on June 15 and Minnesota won 101-95 on August 21. Parker scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the opening game, but was injured for the second.

Sophie Cunningham was another player to stand out on Thursday. The Phoenix guard made 6 out of 7 3-pointers, scoring a record 21 points. The Mercury needed offense after Taurasi (ankle), and Cunningham was able provide it.

Cunningham wore the No. 3 from her WNBA debut to the moment, when she wore No. It's now No. 9 Cunningham pulled off a Taurasi impression Thursday shooting from long distance (and picking up technical).

The Mercury hope Taurasi will return to Seattle. Phoenix will benefit greatly from more 3-pointers by Cunningham, with or without Taurasi.

Sophie Cunningham, Mercury guard, came off the bench and scored 21 points with 6-of-7 3-point shooting. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cohen: Courtney Vandersloot was the one who impressed me most. She is the best point guard in league, and she proved it Thursday. Her ability to cut through defenders was amazing, especially during the third quarter, when the Sky seemed uninspired and struggled on the boards. Vandersloot ended the game with 17 points, 8 rebound and 6 assists. Vandersloot's ability to move the ball will be critical against Minnesota, which has a strong defense.

What is the crucial matchup that will decide the Chicago-Minnesota 2nd-round game?

Voepel: Meet again two of the most important players in WNBA history, the 1-2 picks from the 2008 draft. This is Sylvia Fowles and Parker, whose rivalry dates back to their SEC days at Tennessee or LSU.

Fowles, at 6'6", is the classic low-block centre while Parker, who is mobile 6-4 forward/center is just 6'6, will be competing in the paint. Fowles scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Sky in their first meeting, while Parker had 15 and six in the second.

Parker was 35 years old in April and Fowles 36 in October. Both are still the most feared players of the WNBA. However, we don’t know how long we will have to see them. So take advantage of every opportunity. (This theme will be repeated in another second-round matchup).

Cohen: Let's talk about a key stat, not a matchup. Turnovers are my focus. Both the Sky and Lynx average approximately the same number of giveaways. Both teams score about the same points on turnovers. The winner is the team that takes better care of it.

How many times more will we see Sue Bird (40) and Diana Taurasi (39) on the same court? Barry Gossage/Getty Images

What will determine the Phoenix-Seattle matchup with Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi nursing injuries?

Voepel. Taurasi had to watch the Mercury navigate a tightrope as she held off New York's attempt to upset her on Thursday. Sue Bird, her long-time friend and UConn/USA Basketball basketball teammate, will she be facing off against her? We don't think they will be able to match up again with Taurasi turning 39 in October and Bird turning 41 this October. The Storm and Mercury have a playoff history that has helped to define some of their WNBA career's most memorable moments, especially since they play each other in the semifinals. The epic battle between the Storm and Mercury in Game 5 in the semifinals of 2018 will be relived by all who witnessed it. Bird won the fourth quarter.

The Storm has Stewart if Seattle has her. They have to play differently without Stewart. They will rely more on their perimeter shooting and hope that Ezi Magbegor, second-year center, can provide them with quality minutes. She scored 15 points in each of Storm's last three games.

If they don't have Taurasi, the Mercury don't have to play differently. They can rely on other guards to make enough shots, as they did Thursday.

Cohen: I look forward to two matchups. Skylar Diggins Smith from Phoenix and Jewell Loyd from Seattle are very familiar with each other's games, not only because they were both on the USA Basketball gold-medal winning Olympic basketball team, but also because their roles at Notre Dame overlapped. Both ended the regular season on hot streaks and their matchup at the backcourt is sure to be exciting and intense.

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Brittney Griner from Phoenix and Mercedes Russell from Seattle should be another X-factor. Griner struggled against the New York Liberty's quick double teams and swarming defense, but she had a slow start. She finished the game with a double-double, and she also added three blocks. The Mercury looked their best offensively early on, when they were struggling.

On Sept. 17, Griner and Russell were not able to play good defense against each other the last time they played. Griner was 10-of-16 on the field, while Russell was 7-of-9. The post-matchup should be good.

What team do you pick to win each match?

Voepel: Minnesota, with its dynasty team, was for many years the favorite. The Lynx, despite being the No. 1, are now more inclined to accept the "overlooked Underdog" role. 3. It's not a popular belief, but the Lynx are a great team. They got an extra boost after Aerial Powers, the injured forward and guard, returned to practice Aug. 21. She has scored double figures in eight of the 10 games she has been back, including a career high-tying 27 points during the regular-season finale.

The Sky may have more information about what the Lynx will get, but the Sky don't have that factor. Will she be closer to the player who scored 30 points in their regular-season finale? Or the one who was 1-of-8 and scored four points on Thursday?

All of it adds up to me giving Minnesota the edge in this game.

Phoenix-Seattle's fate depends on Taurasi, Stewart and their ability to play. We'll still see if Griner can win her team victory. She will be a crucial part of the Mercury's attempt to win in Seattle.

In the end, I am leaning towards the Storm to win this one. But it could come down to the wire just like the first round game between New York and Mercury.

No. No. 2 Las Vegas will be following closely to see who is next. Both the Sun and Aces were awarded the double bye. They will both be trying to balance their rest with preparations for the remainder.

Cohen: In ESPN's playoff predictions, I had predicted that the Lynx would reach the conference finals. But the Sky and Lynx are much closer than I thought -- especially when it is about their bench players. Minnesota is my pick to win Chicago, despite having a superior defense.

In the middle of the week, I thought Phoenix would upset Seattle, even without Breanna Stewart in good health. To win their first round elimination game, the Mercury had to do some heroics in the final minutes. This would normally be cause for concern, but after such an impressive win, I believe they are able to ride that high into a Storm upset.

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