On Tuesday night at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Skylar Diggins-Smith had 20 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists and the Phoenix Mercury won by 20 (103-83) over a Chicago Sky team that had just beaten the third-place Seattle Storm by 32.
It was the seventh win in a row for the Mercury (16-10), who clinched the playoffs when the Minnesota Lynx defeated the New York Liberty prior to their game, and it was the fourth-straight 20-point, five-assist game for Diggins-Smith.
Phoenix has stepped up post-Olympics and is just a half a game behind the Lynx for the fourth and final first-round bye slot.
“We knew we had to catch up to the whole group,” said Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello of the run. “We had a good start, you know we were playing teams below us. … We’ve had a good run. I think we’ve built chemistry. We’re playing well and we’re doing it as a team on both ends of the floor, and that’s what you have to do if you want to go deep in the playoffs.”
Brondello added that this is the best basketball she’s ever seen Diggins-Smith play.
“It makes me happy to see her playing so well,” Brondello said. “Last year coming in she hadn’t played for a while and coming into a new team it’s Dianas and BGs and trying to find her way back in. Now I think she feels really comfortable.”
The Sky trailed by just three at halftime and cut it to one on a Courtney Vandersloot layup with 6:08 remaining in the third. But the Mercury went on a 10-0 run from there, a stretch that included triples from Kia Nurse (21 points) and Diana Taurasi (17 points, five assists).
Brittney Griner added 18 points and four assists to the winning cause while Shey Peddy was good for 11 points.
Kahleah Copper (three blocks) paced Chicago with 18 points while Azurá Stevens, who was predicted to have rising fantasy value by Eric Nemchock’s “Three Up, Three Down,” notched 15 points and nine boards.
Sky superstar Candace Parker went from 25 points against Seattle on Sunday to just two points on Tuesday.
The Mercury shot 14-of-27 from beyond the arc. Nurse was 4-of-6, Taurasi was 5-of-10, Peddy was 3-of-6 and Diggins-Smith was 2-of-4.
Phoenix swept Chicago (14-13) for the season, with the first two games being nail-biters. Much like the Sky after they beat the Storm by 32, the Mercury were looking to stay even-keeled.
“I like the basketball that we’re playing right now, I feel good about it,” Diggins-Smith said. “But I feel like we haven’t really done anything yet. We still need to continue to go and finish this (upcoming) road trip strong and that’s definitely in the front of my mind right now.”
Connecticut Sun (21-6) over Washington Mystics (10-16), 85-75
Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones played like an MVP with 31 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and three blocks. Brionna Jones added 22 points, 10 boards and four assists. Both shot over 70 percent from the field.
Huge games for the Joneses in the Sun win:
12-17 FG (70.6%)
10-14 FG (71.4%)
They are the 1st teammates to each have 20+ PTS / 10+ REB on 70% or better from the field in the same WNBA game.https://t.co/15pZqdjInE
— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) September 1, 2021
The Sun won their ninth game in a row and are now 1.5 games ahead of the Las Vegas Aces in first place.
Myisha Hines-Allen posted 16 points, five assists, four steals and two blocks in defeat.
Connecticut won the battle on the boards 38-20, offensive rebounds 16-3 and second chance points 19-0.
Indiana Fever (6-19) over Los Angeles Sparks (10-17), 74-72
LA’s Brittney Sykes missed two free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining, got the rebound off the second miss and missed a shot from the right baseline at the buzzer as Indiana held on.
The Fever ended the game on a 10-0 run that featured seven points from Kelsey Mitchell (25 points total). She tied the game with a triple at 1:18 remaining and gave Indiana the lead on free throws with 15 ticks to go.
The Fever moved out of sole possession of last place with the win.
Teaira McCowan notched 15 points and 19 rebounds for the winners while Tiffany Mitchell was good for 12 points.
Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks with 17 points to go along with her five assists.
Indiana out rebounded LA 39-20.
“We just kept playing hard,” said Fever head coach Marianne Stanley. “And we rebounded the ball, that was a big thing. We said that could be a key and it was. And Teaira was terrific. Her rebounding coupled with making 9-of-11 free throws, which is probably one of her best free throw-shooting nights, that was huge.”