Diamond DeShields lit it up in her first postseason game, leading the No. 5 Chicago Sky’s fast-paced offense past the No. 8 Phoenix Mercury, 105-76, in the first round of the WNBA playoffs on Wednesday.
The No. 6 Seattle Storm joined the second round hours later with a 84-74 victory over the No. 8 Minnesota Lynx in Seattle. The backcourt duo of Jordin Canada and Jewell Loyd combined for 48 points to lead the 2018 WNBA champions.
Canada, Loyd storm out over Lynx
Canada scored a career-high 26 points with four assists to lead the Storm, who are defending their title without 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and WNBA great Sue Bird.
Loyd scored 22 with three assists and three steals. The backcourt duo outscored the Lynx duo of Danielle Robinson and Odyssey Sims, 46-1. Robinson and Sims, the Lynx leading scorer in the regular season, combined to take only five shots; Sims’ one point from a free throw didn’t come until the third quarter.
The Lynx pulled within three nearing the fourth quarter behind Rookie of the Year candidate Napheesa Collier’s 7-0 scoring streak. But the Storm came out of the break on a 7-0 run to push the score just out of reach.
The past two WNBA champions — Seattle in 2018 and Minnesota in 2017 — put on an offensive show in the first quarter. Canada and Loyd combined to make three 3-pointers as the Storm took the lead. They finished the first quarter up, 29-21, and kept the lead pace into halftime, 47-41.
The Storm defense forced the Lynx into bad looks, if they could get any at all, and took advantage of 18 turnovers along with 10 steals. The offense shot 41.2 percent from distance and 46.2 percent overall.
Seattle’s Natasha Howard, who finished fourth in league scoring, was kept off the board until the 3:45 mark of the second quarter. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year got into foul trouble early and finished with two points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Mercedes Russell had 13 points and led the team in rebounds with nine.
The Lynx were led by Damiris Dantas’ 20 points. Collier finished with 19 along with 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Sylvia Fowles, the 2017 league MVP, had 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
The Storm will play at No. 4 Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday at 3 p.m. on ESPN2.
DeShields shines as Sky light up ailing Mercury
DeShields scored 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. DeShields, at 6-foot-1, tipped the ball out of 6-foot-9 Brittney Griner’s hands and swiftly added to the Sky’s lead late in the first quarter.
It was a solid night from there for the second-year player out of Tennessee, who holds the fifth-most points in a postseason debut in league history
“It’s do or die. We don’t have time to make too many mistakes,” DeShields told ESPN’s Holly Rowe going into the locker room at half. “I just want to go out and make an impact for my teammates.”
The Sky had even scoring from their starting five under Associated Press Coach of the Year, James Wade. Stephanie Dolson and Astou Ndour had 16 points each while Allie Quigley added 15. Courtney Vandersloot again ran the offense with 11 assists and Cheyenne Parker had 11 points off the bench.
The Mercury started the game without the league’s all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi, and lost the league’s season scoring leader, Griner, minutes into the second quarter.
Taurasi did not suit up after playing only six games this season following back surgery and a hamstring injury. She is 13-1 all-time in elimination games with her only loss last season in the finals to the Seattle Storm. The Mercury came into the game undefeated in single-elimination games since the format changed in 2016.
Griner exited after knocking knees with the Sky’s Allie Quigley on a screen. She was helped to the locker room and returned for two minutes, but didn’t look herself and spent the rest of the night on the bench. She went 3-for-8 with three rebounds and one block over 14 minutes.
DeWanne Bonner, the final piece of the Mercury’s typically lethal attack, scored a team-high 21 points with six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Briann January scored 12 and Camille Little added 10.
Despite losing Griner, the Mercury stayed with the fast-paced Sky and went into the half down, 44-41. The Sky scored the first 12 points out of the break en route to the lopsided final.
Chicago advanced to play the No. 4 Las Vegas Aces, who had a bye in the first round. The single-elimination game will be Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN.
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