Career Night for Diana Taurasi puts the Mercury back on track

Diana Taurasi grimaced on the pitch as her Phoenix Mercury teammates cautiously lifted her late in the third quarter of Game 1 of the WN...


Diana Taurasi grimaced on the pitch as her Phoenix Mercury teammates cautiously lifted her late in the third quarter of Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals.

In the previous play, she hit Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby while trying to dribble, slipping awkwardly to the ground. Taurasi limped back and forth across the field in the fourth quarter, favoring the left ankle that had held him sidelined for the last four regular season games and the first round of the playoffs. She gritted her teeth and flexed her ankle on the Phoenix bench during the first part of the fourth period. Still, Taurasi finished with 20 points and six assists in the game, a 96-90 loss to the Aces.

Subsequently, when asked how his ankle felt, Taurasi’s response was brief.

“Awesome,” she said.

His proof? A 37-point, eight-three-point assault 48 hours later in the 117-91 loss of fifth-seeded Mercury to the No.2 Aces at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday. The best-of-five series now heads to Phoenix tied 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday.

Despite Taurasi’s continued health issues, the Mercury made it through the first two rounds of the playoffs, toppling the Liberty – in a game missed by Taurasi – and the reigning champions Seattle Storm in knockout matches. Their next mission is a high power attack in Las Vegas with A’ja Wilson, MVP of last season, and a host of other rating threats.

The Aces got a double pass to start the playoffs after going 24-8 in the regular season, the second-best in the league. They had fought off the Mercury in Game 1 with powerful shots from guards Kelsey Plum, who won the sixth player of the year award this season, and Riquna Williams.

Ahead of Thursday’s game, Mercury center Brittney Griner told reporters she is treating it like a knockout game.

“You have to win this game to stay alive. It’s a series, but you definitely don’t want to drop two of them when you get home. You’ve made it a lot harder for yourself, ”she said.

The result was a performance of 25 points. She had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in the first quarter.

“Brittney is a beast. We’ve asked so much of him this year, ”Taurasi said on the post-match TV show, probably referring to Griner’s ability to manage doubles teams and take on tough defensive assignments.

squeak finished second behind the Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones in the MVP vote this season, averaging 9.5 rebounds per game, a career-high, and 20.5 points per game. She is the defensive anchor of the Mercury, with a wingspan of 7ft 3.5in, height and athleticism that make her nearly impossible to pull.

Griner’s responsibility this series has been to keep Ace center Liz Cambage, whose dominance in pole and rim protection seems to rival only that of Griner.

Cambage terrorizes his opponents with his ability to pivot, score and reduce rebounds in the post as defenders attack his body. And the way she can change shots on defense is one of the reasons the Aces have never allowed more than 99 points in a regular season game this season. Cambage and Wilson’s tandem in the frontcourt had a lot of people confident early in the season that Las Vegas was set for another deep playoff run.

After being swept away by the Storm in last year’s final, the Aces had the motivation to sail through the regular season with seven players who averaged double digits. They were Cambage-free for a while after she tested positive for the coronavirus, but now, at full strength, the Aces are pushing for the title which eluded the injury-ravaged team. last year.

But they have to overtake a Mercury team who are also determined to make a final appearance. Phoenix is ​​at its best when its main Griner players Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith bring down shots from all over the ground like they did on Thursday night. Griner made a handful of midrange jumpers. Diggins-Smith scored on all three levels, and as far as Taurasi is concerned, well, the WNBA’s career top scorer did what she usually does.

Taurasi said after the game that after an aggressive physical exit from the Aces on Tuesday, the Mercury responded in kind in Game 2. They built a 17-point lead in the first quarter and never gave it up, unlike in the game. 1 when their start the advance fizzled out before the end of the first period. Taurasi said that with so many shots, “it makes the game easier for you. It was a big test for us in a lot of ways, and I think we played the right way.

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer told reporters afterwards the team couldn’t glance openly at Griner outside of the post.

“At the station, she’s going to do her thing. This is what it is, ”he said. “But the open shots she fired tonight hurt us a lot. We’ll take this photo sometimes, but they got in. And we’ll take some of Taurasi’s photos some nights as well, but they got in. This is what they are. They are great players, and when they go like that, that’s what makes the Phoenix team.

Even when it appeared the Mercury couldn’t keep up their high percentage shooting, they added free throws to their arsenal. Their first miss from the free throw line didn’t come until the third quarter, and they made 23 of 24 free throws.

Wilson said after the game that Las Vegas was not “locked into our missions” at all. She added: “It looks like we are behind schedule. You can’t do that against a good Phoenix team.

The Aces, with one of the best defenses in the league, had no way of stopping Taurasi on the perimeter. His eight 3 points were a career high in the playoffs.

After the game, ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude asked Taurasi how she felt about going 8 for 11 from a 3-point range.

Taurasi’s response, again, was succinct.

“I only got 11?” ” she said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Career Night for Diana Taurasi puts the Mercury back on track
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