WNBA

WNBA Finals 2021: Chicago Sky ride big first-half run to cruise to Game 1 victory over the Phoenix Mercury

The WNBA Finals are the greatest stage of women's professional basketball but that didn't seem to bother the Chicago Sky.

A new arena, a larger stage and a different opponent, however, the Sky's 2021 playoff form remained intact. Winners of five of their last six playoff games coming into tonight's contest, the Sky stole homecourt advantage by securing a 91-77 victory in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals over the Phoenix Mercury at the Footprint Center.

They finished with six players scoring in double figures, led by Kahleah Cooper's game-high 21 points while also recording 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Her double-double made her the 10th player in league history to post a double-double in a Finals debut.

Allie Quigley scored 18 points, point guard Courtney Vandersloot recorded 12 points and 11 assists while former Finals MVP Candace Parker put up an all-round performance with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

"Everybody had first-game jitters except Candace," Kahleah Copper said postgame. "She was that calmness for us."

After the first 11:01 minutes of the game, the Mercury, who held a 29-20 lead at that point, seemed like they were going to run away with the game. However, Chicago turned the tables on the back of a monster 26-6 run over the final 8:59 of the first half.

The starting guard duo of Quigley and Vandersloot combined for 14 points and were responsible for 19 points in that team run.

The comeback helped them spark the only lead change of the game midway through the second quarter. They showed that the huge run wasn't a flash in the pan as they maintained control of the game rest of the way, including holding their largest lead of 23 points midway through the fourth quarter.

As a team, the Sky shot 36-of-68 (52.9 percent) from the field which is far better efficiency than the Mercury (27-of-62; 43.5 percent). They also outrebounded the hosts (34-29) and dished out more assists (24-17).

For the Phoenix franchise, only three players scored in double figures and they combined for 52 of the team's points. Brittney Griner top-scored with 20 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Meanwhile, the starting guard duo of Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith combined for 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field.

Their short turnaround, just two days after defeating the Las Vegas Aces in Game 5 of the WNBA Semifinals, combined with missing key players in Kia Nurse (torn ACL) and Sophie Cunningham (left calf strain) hurt the Mercury and is sure to have played a role in the result from Game 1.

The two days off before Game 2, which tips off on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 9:00 p.m. ET, should provide Phoenix some much-needed rest.

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