Thursday and Friday night boasted the first games of the WNBA playoffs. The two and three seeds in both conferences took to the court Sept. 17 while the one and four seeds duked it out Sept. 18. From game one of the playoffs, teams learn and mold their strategies to come back harder in game two to either seal the deal or even the playing field.
Here’s what we learned from each game.
Phoenix Mercury vs. Tulsa Shock
These two teams squared off on Thursday night in Phoenix. While the matchup started off close, the Mercury exploded in the second quarter and stunned Tulsa with a rout of 88-55.
Brittney Griner dominated for the Mercury defense with eleven blocks, a WNBA playoff record. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year became the first player in WNBA history to record more than four blocked shots per game. She tallied 105 blocks on the season, despite a seven game suspension to start the season.
The Shock have had a turbulent season with the absence of key players like Glory Johnson and Skylar Diggins. The team boasted a .529 winning percentage this season. In matchups with the Mercury, they’ve managed to defeat the team two of the five times they’ve met. Both of the Shock’s wins over Phoenix come at home.
The key for Phoenix to close things out in Tulsa are to have a repeat of the July 30 win over the Shock on their home court.
Chicago Sky vs. Indiana Fever
In any aspect, Chicago has been a lethal force all season. The Sky took Game 1 77-72 in Chicago over the Fever.
The Sky has 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne leading their team, and the league, in nearly every way. Since the introduction of Delle Donne, she has been the driving force of edging the Sky to the playoffs for the first time in 2013.
Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 21 points while Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot held a combined 39 points to lead the Sky.
For the Fever, they need to work on limiting turnovers and defending the Sky in the must-win Game 2 they host in Indiana Saturday. Aside from Delle Donne, Quigley and Vandersloot are also power guards for the Sky. Essentially, the defense can’t guard everyone, but they need to come in with a strong game plan to avoid a rerun of Game 1.
Minnesota Lynx vs. Los Angeles Sparks
The Lynx topped the Sparks in the first game of the playoffs in a close game of 67-65. The Sparks were leading in the final minutes; however, a turnover by Los Angeles allowed Lynx forward Maya Moore to drive down the court and seal the game.
Moore, who scored a playoff career high of 33 points in the opener, led the Lynx in scoring. For the Sparks, their season was rickety until the return of a healthy Candace Parker. Parker led the team with 16 points on the evening.
The main thing to remember is that while the Lynx are the top team in the West, there is a way to take them down. The Sparks managed to beat the Lynx once this season at the beginning of August in a result of 83-61.
New York Liberty vs. Washington Mystics
A game that should’ve been easy for a one seed was anything but. Following a 2OT game, the Mystics came out on top of the Liberty with an 86-83 win at Madison Square Garden.
During the regular season, the Mystics trounced the Liberty three of the four times they met. Washington, like all teams in the East, had a turbulent season. When it came down to making the playoffs, it looked like the Dream might snatch the four seed away from them.
The game was tied at 36 heading into halftime. Towards the end of regulation, Mystics guard Ivory Latta hit a key three to send the game to it’s first overtime. Latta had 15 points on the night, all at key points in the game to propel the Mystics over the Liberty.
New York’s biggest challenge on Sunday will be defending Latta alongside the rest of the power scorers for the Mystics.
Game two for the West take place Sept. 19 while the East resume play Sept. 20.