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Lessons Learned after Game 1 of the WNBA Conference Finals

And then there were four.

Following the first round of the WNBA Playoffs, the Chicago Sky, Washington Mystics, Tulsa Shock and Los Angeles Sparks were all eliminated from playoff contention.

Wednesday marked the start of the conference title shots, with Game 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York with the New York Liberty hosting the Indiana Fever.

For the Liberty, their road in the playoffs hasn’t been a breeze. The team lost the first game of the semifinals after the Mystics beat them at home in double-overtime. New York rebounded easily in the next two and shut down the Mystics to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

In Wednesday’s Game 1, the Liberty got the jump on the Indiana Fever from the beginning, holding a lead of 48-42 heading into halftime. In the third quarter, they solidified the lead by outscoring Indiana 16-7 and ultimately took home an 84-67 victory.

Kiah Stokes and Tina Charles led the offensive charge with 21 and 18 points, respectively. The biggest assist to the offense, however, came from Epiphanny Prince and Sugar Rodgers.

In Game 3 against the Mystics, Prince was 2-for-12, but in this game, she was 4-for-6 on three-pointers alone. She racked up 17 total points for the night.

During the regular season, Rodgers averaged a modest 8.1 points. Since the start of the playoffs, her new average is over four points higher, and she put up 14 points against Indiana.

As for the Fever, their offense was scattered. Shenise Johnson was the only player to hit double figures with 12 points. Tamika Catchings only had nine points, well below her regular-season mark of 13.1 points per game.

Unlike Game 1 against Washington, New York didn’t let its opponent steal a game from them in a heated battle at home. The Liberty have found a rhythm on offense, and that’s what will likely propel them into the Finals.

Indiana hosts Game 2 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

As for the Western Conference, the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx meet once again in the Western Conference Finals. Since 2011, the two teams have battled it out for the West title three times. The winner of those matchups has historically gone on to win the championship.

In Game 1 on Thursday, the Lynx managed to top the Mercury by a final score of 67-60.

Phoenix had a 21-14 lead following the first quarter, however, the Lynx found a rhythm in the second quarter and outscored Phoenix 21-11, essentially paralyzing all aspects of the team.

The Lynx spread their points out between multiple players, while the Mercury had one primary player take a bunch of their shots.

Dewanna Bonner led the Mercury with 21 points in the first game, and she was the only player on the team to score in double figures. However, Bonner shot just 6-for-18 from the field.

On the Lynx side, Maya Moore led her team with 19 points. Rebekkah Brunson had 13 points as well as a franchise playoff record of 19 rebounds.

Moving ahead, the Mercury really need to improve their work on the boards, as they were outrebounded 44-30 in Game 1. Additionally, Phoenix has to up its scoring output. Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree scored just nine and eight points, respectively, and the Mercury shot under 33 percent.

Heading into Game 2, the Mercury have to find that groove that helped them destroy the Tulsa Shock in the opening round. While the Lynx are a formidable opponent, the thing to remember is they’re beatable, even in playoff contention. The Sparks managed to snag a game from the top-seeded Lynx in the semifinals, and Phoenix took the regular-season series 3-2.

The Mercury host Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

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