Mercury-Sky Preview

The Associated Press

Having already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky are gearing up for the franchise's first playoff appearance.

The Phoenix Mercury are headed back to the postseason thanks in part to Britney Griner.

After getting the best of Griner in the first matchup between these star rookies, Delle Donne tries to lead Chicago to its first season sweep of visiting Phoenix, which will be without leading scorer Diana Taurasi on Wednesday night.

The Sky (22-9) endured seven losing seasons before selecting Delle Donne second overall in this year's draft, one spot behind Griner. The former University of Delaware standout has averaged 18.3 points to rank among the WNBA leaders, transforming Chicago into one of the league's elite teams.

Delle Donne shot 6 of 18 but scored a game-high 22 points after making a couple key shots down the stretch in Sunday's 93-79 win at Washington, Chicago's seventh victory in eight games.

"I never feel like (Delle Donne) misses a lot of shots, and I always feel like every shot is going in," coach Pokey Chatman said of Delle Donne, who is shooting 42.0 percent from the field. "I'm glad she felt like she didn't make any. Maybe she'll come out more aggressive on Wednesday against Phoenix."

Delle Donne shined brightly in her much-anticipated WNBA debut against Griner, posting 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a season-opening 102-80 road win May 27. Griner, meanwhile, became the first WNBA player to dunk twice in one game, finishing with 17 points, eight boards and four blocks.

While the Mercury (18-13) missed out on last year's playoffs, they are back in the postseason after going 8-2 under interim coach Russ Pennell. Griner is fourth on the team with 13.0 points per game and is averaging a league-leading 3.0 blocks.

She blocked four shots Tuesday while Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner each had 18 points in an 80-76 win over New York.

Phoenix now seeks a season-high fifth consecutive victory.

"We starting to get healthy and play better, but it's not like there's a switch we can just turn on and off," said Taurasi, who added 17 points, nine assists and six boards.

Taurasi, averaging 20.8 points to rank second in the WNBA, will serve a one-game suspension after receiving her ninth technical foul for flailing.

"At least I'll get the day off," she said with a smile.

With Taurasi out, the Mercury could look to Penny Taylor to pick up the slack. Taylor scored 12 points off the bench, including 10 straight in the third quarter, in her second game back since missing 13 with a right knee injury.

"I'm just trying to work some of the rust off," she said. "I'm getting better day by day and will keep working at it."

Despite their loss earlier this year, the Mercury are 12-3 all-time against the Sky.

Phoenix will need to keep a close eye on Epiphanny Prince, who has scored 40 points while going 8 of 9 from 3-point range in the last two games.

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