Among the lots of stories swirling around the 2021 WNBA Finals — from underdogs to GOATs to home town gals — is that this is a rematch of the 2014 WNBA Finals, when the Phoenix Mercury topped off perhaps the best single-season in WNBA history with a 3-0 sweep of the Chicago Sky.
Only 3 members of the Mercury stay in Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and head coach Sandy Brondello. The Sky just have 2 holdovers in Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley.
However, while both lineups have actually substantially altered, 2014 looks more comparable to 2021 than may be anticipated.
What has altered because that champion series 8 seasons ago? What has remained the exact same?
An appearance back at the 2014 WNBA season
To set that phase, here’s a fast, big-picture introduction of the 2014 WNBA season.
Maya Moore vanquished Taurasi for the MVP award, scoring a league-leading 23.9 points per video game as she led the Minnesota Lynx to a 25-9 record and a second-place surface in the Western Conference. Candace Parker, who is at the heart of the Sky’s 2021 playoff run and was then in the middle of her Los Angeles Sparks prime time, completed fourth, while Griner was 5th in the last tally.
Moore captained a 2014 All-WNBA First Team that otherwise included a variety of names who are starring in this 2021 Finals. Taurasi and Griner made their tenth and very first All-WNBA nods, respectively. Parker made All-WNBA for the fifth of 9 times. Another gamer in the 2021 Finals — Skylar Diggins-Smith, then a second-year gamer with the Tulsa Shock — declared the very first of her 4 All-WNBA honors.
Griner likewise was called Defensive Player of the Year for the very first time in her profession, having actually led the league in protective score and blocks. This season, Griner when again was the WNBA’s block queen.
Similarly, Diggins-Smith was a foul-drawing sage in 2014 simply as she remained in 2021, as she led the league in totally free tosses tried both seasons. Although she missed out on half the season due to injury, Vandersloot, then in her 4th season, led the WNBA in helps per video game for the very first time in her profession; in 2021, she was tops in helps for the 6th time. Quigley, then just in her 2nd complete WNBA season, functioned as the 6th lady for the Sky, the function in which she started the 2021 season.
In short, a number of the names that specified the 2014 WNBA season are still doing their thing in 2021.
Similarities, distinctions with 2014 and 2021 variations of Mercury, Sky
As Swish Appeal’s Eric Nemchock recorded, the 2014 Mercury had a wonderful season. Unlike in 2021, nearly whatever went right for Phoenix in 2014.
However, whether it is 2014 or 2021, Diana Taurasi is Diana Taurasi. In 2014, the GOAT began the playoffs with a 34-point efficiency versus Parker’s Sparks. That stood as her playoff career-high prior to this season’s 37-point surge versus the Las Vegas Aces. Despite the passage of 8 seasons, her playoff points per video game average has actually hardly dropped off, going from 21.9 in 2014 to 19.3 in 2021.
Griner, on the other hand, has actually revealed considerable development because her 2nd postseason experience. For the 2014 playoffs, she balanced 16.7 points and 6 rebounds per video game. In 2021, when she often has actually appeared like the very best gamer on the planet rather of a still-raw skill with the prospective to be among the very best ever, her point overall has actually leapt to 20.9 points per video game, while she has actually gotten 9.3 rebounds per video game.
Despite more extreme lineup distinctions, the Sky’s 2014 and 2021 seasons share more similarities.
It was anticipated that the 2014 Sky, helmed by head coach Pokey Chatman, would be title-contenders led by Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne, 2 gamers who because have actually ended up being associated with their 2nd franchises. Yet, Fowles and Delle Donne skilled injuries and health problems, as did Vandersloot. Epiphanny Prince, Tamera Young and Jessica Breland were amongst the crucial factors for an up-and-down Sky group that completed the season 15-19 and 4th in the Eastern Conference. Sounds not unlike the 2021 Sky’s unequal routine season.
The 2014 Sky, like their 2021 equivalents, likewise started to peak to in the playoffs. After simply slipping into the postseason, Chicago distress the Atlanta Dream, the East’s No. 1 seed, in an exhilarating three-game Eastern Conference semifinals. They then thrived over the Indiana Fever in 3 video games in the Eastern Conference finals. Unexpectedly, the Sky advanced to the Finals.
Over the course of Chicago’s 2014 playoff course, Vandersloot was a vital gamer. Yet, unlike in 2021, she did not raise her play in the postseason. In specific, Vandersloot had a hard time to put the ball in the basket in the 2014 playoffs, shooting 38.3 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from 3-point variety. In 2021, she has actually asserted herself as a more aggressive scorer, scoring 13.7 points per video game in the playoffs after balancing 10.5 points per video game in the routine season. A set of historical efficiencies — just the 2nd triple-double in WNBA history versus the Connecticut Sun and an 11-assist and zero-turnover efficiency in Game 1 of the Finals — capture Vandersloot’s maturation into a certainly elite operator over the previous 8 seasons.
Quigely has actually held consistent because 2014. She scored 14.2 points per video game on 34.2 percent 3-point shooting throughout the Sky’s 2014 go to the Finals. This postseason, she is publishing 14 points per video game while shooting 35.3 percent from behind the arc. However, reflective of the sport-wide shift that has actually taken place because 2014, Quigley is trying 7.3 3s per video game in the 2021 postseason; in 2014, she just fired 4.2 treys per video game in the playoffs.
Can the 2014 Finals anticipate the 2021 Finals?
Fortunately for the Sky, their very first journey to the Finals because 2014 has actually left to a far better start.
With the exception of the very first quarter, Chicago controlled Game 1 of the 2021 Finals. In 2014, the Sky badly had a hard time in their Finals launching, losing 83-62 after falling back by more than 30 points.
Currently down 0-1, Phoenix most likely hopes tonight’s Game 2 parallels 2014’s Game 2. The Mercury travelled to a comfy success, 97-68, with all beginners scoring in double figures. Griner was a game-best plus-28 while Taurasi shot 58.3 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3, numbers that, if they might be duplicated this evening, would be favorable indications for the Mercury.
In the 3rd and last video game of the series, the Sky marshaled a more competitive effort, keeping a 63-61 lead getting in the 4th quarter. But, nobody needs to be amazed by what occurred in the last duration —Taurasi entered into GOAT-mode. She sunk 5 of her 6 shot efforts, consisting of both of her 3-pointers, in order to take the Mercury to the 87-82 success and a 3rd WNBA champion.
In 2021, playing through a set of injuries at age 39, can Taurasi when again take advantage of her well of achievement and let loose another legendary effort? Or, will Candace Parker seek to reverse the clock to 2016? In the Sparks’ championship-clinching Game 5, Parker had a double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Alternatively, for all the resonances in between 2014 and 2021, it would not be unexpected if a fresh face swings this Finals. If Game 1, in addition to the whole postseason, is any sign, Kahleah Copper’s impact will be all over these Finals. Brianna Turner likewise has actually revealed that she can raise her play in the crucible of a postseason contest. Shey Peddy has actually shown her clutchness on several events. Diamond DeShields likewise has the prospective to do something unique.
For all that has actually remained the exact same and for all that has actually altered, the 2021 Finals are a pointer of the achievement of the WNBA.