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Mercury look to close out Sky

Phoenix is on the verge of winning the franchise's third WNBA title, and becoming the fourth team in the past five years to do so via sweep.

The Mercury dominated Chicago in the first two games of the WNBA Finals, both played at Phoenix's US Airways Center. If Phoenix closes out the series Friday in Chicago (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET), it will be the Mercury's quickest championship.

Phoenix had to go the distance in both its previous appearances in the WNBA Finals, winning 2007's Game 5 in Detroit and 2009's Game 5 against Indiana at home. This year, though, it would be stunning to see the series return to Arizona for a deciding game.

Since 2010, Seattle and Minnesota (twice) both have won the WNBA Finals via 3-0 sweeps. And it seems the only thing that might hinder the Mercury from matching that now is some uncertainty on the availability of center Brittney Griner.

She was inadvertently poked in the right eye in the first quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday and went to the bench. She returned to the game, though, and ended up leading the Mercury in scoring with 19 points. But Griner had her eye re-evaluated Wednesday morning. She then underwent an outpatient retinal procedure. Her availability will be a game-time decision, Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

And if Griner, who on Thursday was announced as part of the All-WNBA first team, isn't able to play? Backup center Ewelina Kobryn and reserve forward Mistie Bass will need to help fill in a very large gap.

"We're built on team and team defense," Brondello said. "If [Griner] can't go, then everyone just has to step up and face adversity. Every other team has faced that. There's nothing you can do about it."

Griner has played in every Mercury game this year; she averaged 30.7 minutes in the regular season and is at 31.0 the playoffs.

"To say we wouldn't miss her would be just silly," said Diana Taurasi, who joined Griner on the All-WNBA first team. "But one thing we've said all year is, everyone stay ready. We have professionals. Whether you play 30 minutes or a minute, everyone's ready."

The Mercury won Game 1 by 21 points, and Game 2 by 29. So, actually, you could erase Griner's point totals of 12 and 19 from both those games, and the Mercury still would have had a winning margin. Of course, that doesn't take into account how her presence made it easier for teammates to score, nor the impact of her defense.

Still, what has defined Phoenix this year is how dangerous the entire starting five is, and how the bench has also consistently come through. Throughout the playoffs, the Mercury have had big contributions throughout their lineup. Penny Taylor, Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner all have the capability of hurting the Sky.

And Taurasi is one of the great "closers" in both women's college basketball and WNBA history.

"I just relax more than anything," Taurasi said of what her mindset has been in the postseason. "Because you can psych yourself out, wanting to play so hard and so good that you drive yourself crazy."

Instead, Taurasi has driven the opposition insane. She averaged 16.2 points in the regular season as Phoenix's point guard. In the playoffs, she has bumped her scoring average to 21.6. And she has been just as good a playmaker in the postseason (averaging 5.9 assists) as she was during the regular season (5.6).

While the Mercury want to get this series over as quickly as possible and return for a celebration at home, the Sky want to give themselves and the Eastern Conference a boost by extending the series to a fourth game. That would be Sunday in Chicago.

In the first two games, the Sky didn't have a very comprehensive team effort, in part because of injury. Standout Elena Delle Donne played just more than 10 minutes in Game 1 because of back problems, and wasn't able to be a factor with just two points. In Game 2, though, she scored 22 points in 28 minutes. But she acknowledges that she can't be sure day-to-day how her back will feel.

If Delle Donne is able to play Friday, the Sky at least have a chance to make it interesting. Chicago won elimination games against Atlanta and Indiana in the East playoffs to get this far, so the Sky are familiar with the feeling of having to hit with two strikes.

"Throughout the playoffs, it's felt like our backs have been against the ropes, and obviously we have a lot to clean up and fix on our end," Delle Donne said. "They're a phenomenal team. They're going to make a lot of runs, but we are going to have the home crowd behind us."