CHICAGO (AP) — Candace Parker isn't anticipating another rout that would complete the perfect ending to her homecoming by bringing the city of Chicago and the Sky their first WNBA title.
Parker and the Sky will try to win the best of five series in Chicago on Sunday after Friday's Game 3 blowout victory over the Phoenix Mercury. Chicago leads 2-1.
Standing in the way of that championship is the league's all-time leading scorer Diana Taurasi and the Mercury.
“Yeah, Game 4. I think it’s crucial for us to continue to have the same mentality that we had coming into (Friday's) game and even greater because it’s going to be really hard, and if we think it’s going to be easy, that’s a lie. Like there are great players on the other end," Parker said.
Parker, who scored 13 points in Game 3 will be trying to win her second WNBA Championship, but winning in Chicago may be just as significant as winning in Los Angeles with the Sparks in 2016. Parker was a high school star at west suburban Naperville Central High School, winning two state titles in 2003 and 2004 before capturing the national spotlight at Tennessee.
Kahleah Copper helped Parker and the Sky get one step closer to the championship by scoring 20 of her 22 points in the first half that ignited the Sky to an 86-50 victory on Friday, which was the most lopsided win in WNBA history.
“After a game like that, you would want to feel crushed and hopeless. But at the end of the day, you win by 40, you win by one, it's one game and I am sure they would probably say the same thing,” said Taurasi.
Taurasi, a three-time WNBA champion, said she hasn't lost a championship since her senior year in high school. She has piled up more accolades than anyone in the sport with five Olympic gold medals and three NCAA championships, but Taurasi is undecided if she will continue her career after this season.
Taurasi's wife Penny Taylor just gave birth to their second child and she will take time in the offseason to make a decision whether she'll play out the year she has left on her contract.
“Hopefully, I can fulfill my obligation which I committed to last summer, but you never know," she said. “Like I said, the offseason is really long in the WNBA, and not having overseas to play in it makes that eight months really long to stay game-ready physically and mentally so it is something I talk with Penn and my family and really do a little soul searching to see if this is something I want to continue to do,.”
Teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith is ready to support Taurasi on whatever decision she chooses.
“We need to appreciate what we're seeing from her because we'll probably never see anything like that again," Diggins-Smith said. “So I don't take any moment for grant it with her on the court. Whatever happens next we will cross that bridge when we get there. Whatever she decides. She doesn't have to prove anything, owe anything to anybody, she has a beautiful family, whatever she decides to do we're going to support her.”
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello has been frustrated by the inconsistent officiating. “ Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, that’s not usually, I say nothing because I know it’s hard. I know I’m not perfect. But you know, I don’t think they’re always bad; it’s just getting a little more consistency. I don’t know. Maybe -- who knows. Keeping refereeing in our league, refereeing more games and not doing college, two different rules, I think that helps. That’s one of them. You need money for that, too,” she said. “I’m not someone to put blame on everyone else, to be quite honest. If I blame anyone, it would be myself. That’s just how I am. But yeah, officiating, some days are good, some days are not so good. It’s more about just being consistently good or bad, I don’t care.”
Phoenix is 4-0 in WNBA Finals games after a loss. The team found itself down 2-1 in 2007 and 2009 before rallying to win the championship both years. In 2009, the Mercury won Game 4 at Indiana. The Mercury have also gone 8-0 all-time since drafting Taurasi in best of three and five game series when the series was tied 1-1 after two games.
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Patrick Rose, The Associated Press