• Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi (L) and New York Liberty rising star Sabrina Ionescu (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
It will be a generational battle in the WNBA on Friday when the Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty face off in the first round of the Playoffs.
By
Nick Houghton

Source:
SBS Sport
23 Sep 2021 - 1:10 PM  UPDATED 23 Sep 2021 - 1:11 PM

The WNBA returns to centre court on Australian screens this season – with a host of games LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand, plus game replays.

WATCH the opening round of the WNBA Playoffs LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand with a doubleheader as Chicago Sky host Dallas Wings and New York Liberty take on Phoenix Mercury from 10 am (AEST) this Friday, September 24.

The WNBA’s star for the next generation, Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty will be looking to dethrone arguably the league’s greatest ever player in Diana Taurasi, who has a fourth title in her sights.

Taurasi’s importance to the Mercury can not be understated and was on full display as they suffered back to back defeats in her absence to end the season.

Fifth seed Phoenix had previously logged a 10 game win streak before the 39-year-old league great was forced to sit out with an ankle injury.

Taurasi is in doubt for Friday’s match which would be the 62nd playoff game of her career but the Mercury’s Australian coach Sandy Brondello is confident her superstar guard will kit up for the do or die clash.

“We're always going to give her to the last minute to decide," Brondello said.

"The ankle is making progress ... We're trying to do whatever we can and give her as much time as possible."

Playing in her 17th season, Taurasi is the WNBA's all-time leading scorer in the regular season (9,174) and playoffs (1,279) and has the third-most assists in the postseason (262).

On the other side of the court, rising star Ionescu will be focused on making her first playoff start one to remember.

The first overall pick in the 2020 draft missed most of her rookie season after suffering a knee injury only three games into her maiden campaign.

This season the 23-year-old California native has bounced back from that early hurdle and shown flashes of the form which made her a record-breaking star at the University of Oregon.

Ionescu found a purple patch of form over her final five games of the regular season averaging 17.8 points and 6.6 assists.

"I think we're starting to come together," Ionescu said.

"We're proud of what we've accomplished, but it's only the beginning. I'm really excited to see what the future holds for this team."

The young point guard wasn’t the only New York player to find a new level in the run home towards the playoffs.

The Liberty, who set a WNBA record with 321 made 3-pointers this season, were in sixth place starting the second half of the season but lost eight straight before defeating Washington 91-80 on Friday for just their second victory since the Olympic break. 

That victory was preceded by a 98-69 thrashing at the hands of Connecticut, which coach Walt Hopkins called "an anomaly", adding that the bounce-back win demonstrated "the team we are right now".

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Phoenix won two of the three meetings with New York during the season.

The Liberty won in Phoenix, 85-83, on June 13. The Mercury won successive August games in New York, winning by 27 and 16 points.

A victory would send Phoenix into the second round at fourth-seeded Seattle, while New York is hoping to earn a game at third-seeded Minnesota.

Upcoming 2021 WNBA LIVE on SBS VICELAND and live-streamed via SBS On Demand

Friday, September 24

WNBA Playoffs Round 1 - Dallas Wings v Chicago Sky 

10:00am – 12:00pm (AEST) 

LIVE on SBS VICELAND and streamed LIVE via SBS On Demand

 

WNBA Playoffs Round 1 - New York Liberty v Phoenix Mercury 

12:00pm – 02:00pm (AEST) 

LIVE on SBS VICELAND and streamed LIVE via SBS On Demand