No. 1 seed Las Vegas won its WNBA playoff series opener 79-63 over Phoenix on Wednesday, but an image many were left with was Peddy being carried off the court near the end of the third quarter after falling despite any contact. She didn’t return to the game. Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard referred to it as a foot injury that will need further evaluation, but reactions of the players and both head coaches showed a great deal of concern.
“It looked like something similar that happened to me,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who missed the 2020 WNBA season with an Achilles injury. “Kind of like you plant your foot and you just drop. My prayers go out to her, and I hope it’s not as serious and everything’s OK. At the end of the day, this is bigger than basketball, and you want to see everyone healthy. I just felt my heart drop.”
For the Mercury and their fans, it was another gut punch in a year that has been full of them. Brittney Griner has been jailed in Russia since February, Tina Charles had a contract divorce from the team in June, Diana Taurasi has a quad injury that has kept her sidelined for the past six games and Skylar Diggins-Smith stepped away from the team in the last week of the regular season for personal reasons. All were expected to be major contributors this season to the Mercury, who were WNBA runners-up last year.
Now, Peddy’s injury is yet another difficult issue to deal with for the Mercury and first-year coach Nygaard.
“I don’t know that anybody in this league has been dealt a tougher hand than Vanessa Nygaard,” said the Aces’ Becky Hammon, who also is in her first season as a WNBA head coach. “That completely sucks for them. That is not a fun moment for either side. … Hopefully, it’s not what we think.”
If it is, then Peddy — who had eight points and five assists in almost 26 minutes Wednesday — will be done for the playoffs. The Mercury themselves could be finished Saturday if they lose Game 2 of this best-of-three first-round series.
“Shey has been such a force for us this year,” Nygaard said of the 33-year-old Peddy, who battled for years to make a WNBA squad before debuting with Washington at age 30 in 2019. “So all the different things we’ve had challenge us this year, add another one. But we’ll be ready for Saturday.”
Diamond DeShields, who was part of Chicago‘s championship team last season before signing with the Mercury as a free agent, led Phoenix with 18 points, while Sophie Cunningham and Megan Gustafson each had 12 points. A flagrant foul called on Gustafson with just under seven minutes left in the game — which the Mercury didn’t believe warranted that upgrade — helped spark seven consecutive points from the Aces’ Chelsea Gray.
What had been a close game — 53-51 with 7:15 to go — swung the Aces’ way for good. Plum led them with 22 points and Gray had 17. Unlike No. 2 seed Chicago, which fell to No. 7 seed New York in Game 1 of their series earlier Wednesday, Las Vegas was able to avoid an upset.
To keep the series going, the Mercury must win here Saturday, possibly without Peddy, who started 24 games in the regular season.
“With the type of season we’ve had … it’s one for a book to be made. Holy cow,” Cunningham said. “Shey keeps our team together, she’s the life of the party and a great human. For her to go down like that, it just breaks your heart.”