The first round of the WNBA Playoffs ended on Wednesday. In one game, the Seattle Storm defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 84-74. And in the other, the Chicago Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury 105-76. The latter match also eliminated a team that I thought could be an upset candidate against Washington in a semifinals matchup.
Phoenix won the head-to-head series against Washington this season, 2-1. Let’s take out the July 10 loss when Elena Delle Donne AND Emma Meesseman sat the game out due to injury and international commitments, respectively. Even then, Phoenix center Brittney Griner scored at least 25 points in each game, having her way with every Washington low post player, whether it was LaToya Sanders or Tianna Hawkins or even Meesseman defending her.
Bottom line, the Mercury were a team that screamed “upset alert.”
Yes, I know that Griner got injured in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game and didn’t return soon after that injury. And veteran star guard Diana Taurasi has missed most of the season due to a hamstring injury. So perhaps this is spilled milk.
But we can’t predict injuries. So let’s assume Griner is healthy the whole time. If the Mercury won this game and Griner led Phoenix to a first and second round playoff win, Phoenix would have faced Washington in the semifinals.
It’s reasonable to say that the Mercury would have a very good chance of upsetting the Mystics in the semifinals due to matchups, especially at center. Griner would have done whatever she wanted against the Mystics. DeWanna Bonner is also a very tough matchup, even with the Mystics having two All-Defensive Team players. And other shooters like Leilani Mitchell showed their wrath on Washington in the regular season.
I don’t want to say that the Mercury would decisively beat the Mystics in a five-game series. But if there was a team that had the players to make it happen, Phoenix was definitely one of them.