A week ago, the Phoenix Mercury were still searching for their first victory.
Now, after finally getting back on track in a major way, the Mercury look for a fourth consecutive win on Thursday night against a Chicago Sky team that's played quite well at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Even with stars Brittney Griner (16.6 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game), Diana Taurasi (16.4 ppg, 6.0 assists per game) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (14.0 ppg, 4.2 apg) in the mix, the Mercury (3-2) opened with consecutive losses to Los Angeles and Indiana. That actually sparked a little concern among the Phoenix fan base that this could be a long season.
However, it seemed like it was just about finding the right chemistry. Also, the emergence of free agent acquisition Bria Hartley as the team's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game. On Tuesday, Taurasi scored 16 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter while Griner added 18 as Phoenix outscored Atlanta 32-19 in the final period of an 81-74 win.
The Mercury shot just 38.7 percent in that contest, but took advantage of 23 Dream turnovers.
"It was good to get the "W" even though we had to grind it out," Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello told the Arizona Republic.
The Mercury might find themselves in a similar situation on Thursday in a rematch of last season's 105-76 loss to Chicago in the playoffs. Without Taurasi and Diggins-Smith on paternity while still with Dallas, Griner was held to just six points and three rebounds in that defeat.
Diamond DeShields's 25 points led five players in double-figure points in the playoff victory for the Sky (4-1), who will try for a third consecutive victory on Thursday. DeShields has not had the same impact in 2020 as she did a year ago, thanks in part to the addition and emergence of former Dallas Wings forward Azura Stevens (14.2 ppg), who leads six Chicago players averaging at least 10.6 points.
The Sky rank among the league leaders in scoring (87.0 ppg) and top the WNBA shooting 48.6 percent from the field. Their 47 made 3-pointers were also the most in the league entering Wednesday's play.
Stevens had 15 points with 10 boards and Courtney Vandersloot added 14 with 10 assists during a hard-fought 82-79 win over Dallas on Tuesday.
"That was another (game) that we kind of showed a lot of grit, I think," Vandersloot, who averages 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists and hit a pair of key free throws with 0.1 seconds to play, told the Sky's official website.
"Obviously, we're going to go back and look at ways we can finish games so they aren't coming down to one possession. So, we're going to use this game as another learning lesson and be ready for the next game."