Both the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky are looking to keep the league-leading Seattle Storm in their sights as they square off in the "wubble" Wednesday in Florida.
Both teams are 5-3 and two games back of Seattle as the league draws near its halfway point. The Mercury have already gotten the better of the Sky, recording a 96-86 victory last Thursday as Britney Griner had 22 points and eight rebounds.
Diana Taurasi also had 22 points in that victory, but she is expected to be sidelined a second straight game after suffering a back injury in Phoenix's 74-68 loss to Seattle on Saturday. The Mercury did not miss her all that much Monday when Skylar Diggins-Smith totaled 26 points ' making all 10 of her free throws -- and seven assists against her former team in a 91-79 win over Dallas.
"It real nice having Sky out there, running us, setting us up," Griner told azcentral.com. "She had a lot of big plays getting to the basket, drawing fouls, getting them in foul trouble. That's what we need, to get us going and get us in the right spot but also take control and making plays."
Griner had another 22 points to go with 13 boards for her first double-double of the season while stretching her streak of 20-point games to three. The Mercury have won five of six after starting the season with a pair of losses.
Chicago's "Big 3" of Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Keleah Cooper combined 52 points on 20-of-41 shooting versus the Mercury, but defense was an issue as the Sky allowed the Mercury to hit 10 of 19 from 3-point range and shoot 52.5 percent overall.
Those defensive shortcomiongs were evident again Monday when the Sky lost to the Storm 89-71. Chicago dug itself a 15-point deficit in the first quarter, yielding 33 points, and Seattle shot 51.4 percent while hitting 9 of 17 from deep.
"We're just not a good defensive team right now," Sky coach James Wade told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're trying to find some solutions, but it all comes down to effort. I've never been in a situation like this where we're just giving teams so much stuff, whether it be from our turnovers or whether it be from face-cuts or straight-line drives.
"We're just not connected as a defensive group, and offensively, when we give the ball to the other team, it just handicaps us."
Vandersloot has recorded eight or more assists in her last five games but was held to four points in Monday's defeat. She had a season-high 21 in the first matchup with the Mercury but also had a season high with six turnovers.
Still, Wade knows full well "Sloot" is the engine that drives the Sky.
"When Sloot sits down, everything just tumbles," Wade said. "We're trying to find a solution for that. But it's difficult. You have the best point guard in the world. We know that we can't play her a certain amount of minutes, and they make a run when she comes out of the game."