With the star forward for each team struggling, the point guard matchup has been a deciding factor in the Eastern Conference finals.
The winner of that battle along with the one between Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings – as in which one will finally step up with a big performance – is seemingly likely to determine whether the Chicago Sky or Indiana Fever reach the WNBA Finals.
Following a thrilling victory that forced Wednesday night’s decisive Game 3 in Indiana, Chicago tries to win the first conference title in franchise history while sending Fever coach Lin Dunn into retirement on a sour note.
"All they lack is playoff experience, and they’re getting that now," Dunn said of the Sky.
Indiana seeks a third WNBA Finals appearance in six years and is 8-1 at home in elimination games, with four of those coming during its 2012 championship season. The Fever have won five straight home games against the Sky, including a 77-70 victory in Game 1.
Chicago, though, erased a 14-point deficit before losing that contest and did the same Monday, but won 86-84 in double-overtime.
"It’s second nature for them to bounce back and stick together and feed off each other," coach Pokey Chatman said.
The Sky also rallied from a 20-point hole last Tuesday in Atlanta, proving they can win an elimination game on the road. Delle Donne had 34 points that day and averaged 25.7 for the series but has yet to get going in this one, averaging 11.5 points.
Catchings has averaged 13.0 points on 9-of-34 shooting in the first two games, going 0 for 5 from 3-point range. She scored 24.0 per game in a first-round sweep of Washington.
Their offensive efforts in the regular-season series would seem to indicate that a big game from one of them could lead to victory. In three appearances, Catchings had 25 points twice – both wins – and scored 11 in a loss. Delle Donne had 23 points in a win in her only start against Indiana before this series.
Sky center Sylvia Fowles, meanwhile, has been outstanding in the first two games with averages of 23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. However, leading scorer Epiphanny Price has been limited to nine points on 2-of-16 shooting while being badly outplayed by Indiana’s Shavonte Zellous, who has averaged 19.0 points.
"They’ve got to be shooting over us, not going by us," said Dunn, the Hall of Famer who has said this is her final season coaching. "It’ll be a battle of the backcourts, and everybody else will be on Sylvia. And then who’s got Delle Donne?"
The one positional matchup that has been the difference has been point guard.
Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot had 18 points Monday after scoring four in Game 1. Indiana’s Briann January had 19 points with three 3-pointers in the series opener but was held to eight in Game 2 on 3-of-16 shooting, missing all five of her 3-point attempts.
"We know how to bounce back and we know how to make adjustments," January told the Fever’s official website. "I’m glad we get to go home and play off of our fans and feed off of their energy."