October 25, 2021

WNBA Finals: Diana Taurasi, Mercury outlast Sky in OT in Game 2 to even series

View Original Notice ? WNBA Finals: Diana Taurasi, Mercury outlast Sky in OT in Game 2 to even series

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  • Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot gets hit in the face by Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner defends during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy drives on Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy drives past Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley (14) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith (4) drives past Chicago Sky guard Lexie Brown during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) shields Chicago Sky center Azurá Stevens from the ball during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Chicago Sky forward Kahleah Copper (2) and Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham (9) compete for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Sophie Cunningham of the Phoenix Mercury, bottom, and Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky battle for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Sophie Cunningham of the Phoenix Mercury, bottom, and Kahleah Copper of the Chicago Sky battle for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Sky forward Kahleah Copper (2) and Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham, bottom, vie for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Official Tiara Cruse holds back Chicago Sky forward Kahleah Copper (2) above Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham (9) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham reacts after scoring against the Chicago Sky during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Chicago Sky head coach James Wade talks to Courtney Vandersloot (22) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Courtney Vandersloot #22 of the Chicago Sky lays up a shot against the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Bria Hartley (14) during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Azurá Stevens #30 of the Chicago Sky attempts a shot over Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury dunks the ball against the Chicago Sky during the first half in Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Allie Quigley #14 of the Chicago Sky attempts a shot over Kia Vaughn #1 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Kia Vaughn #1 of the Phoenix Mercury looks to pass guarded by Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi drives on Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. Taurasi paced the Mercury to an overtime win that evened the best-of-five series. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Chicago Sky head coach James Wade reacts during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) shoots over Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Phoenix Mercury reacts after a 3-point shot against the Chicago Sky during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury attempts a shot against the Chicago Sky during the first half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Sky center Candace Parker (3) is pressured by Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the second half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. The Mercury won 91-86 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • From left, the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi, Brianna Turner, Sophie Cunningham, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith stand on the court during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky on Wednesday night in Phoenix. The Mercury won, 91-86, in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury puts up a shot against the Chicago Sky during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Courtney Vandersloot #22 of the Chicago Sky looks to pass around Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) grabs a rebound in front of Chicago Sky center Azura Stevens during the second half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. The Mercury won 91-86 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Kia Vaughn #1 of the Phoenix Mercury attempts a shot over Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury celebrates after a turnover ahead of Allie Quigley #14 of the Chicago Sky during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky handles the ball under pressure from Brianna Turner #21 of the Phoenix Mercury during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brianna Turner #21 of the Phoenix Mercury and Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky battle for a loose ball during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky reacts to a call during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello looks on during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot (22) gets hit on the face by Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers watches Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury handles the ball under pressure from Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Sky forward Kahleah Copper (2) drives on Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith during the second half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. The Mercury won 91-86 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • From left, Skylar Diggins-Smith #4, Shey Peddy #5, Brittney Griner #42, Diana Taurasi #3 and Brianna Turner #21 of the Phoenix Mercury walk down the court during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Sky forward Kahleah Copper (2) drives between Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) and guard Sophie Cunningham (9) during overtime of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. The Mercury won 91-86 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury controls the ball ahead of Candace Parker #3 and Allie Quigley #14 of the Chicago Sky during overtime in Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Sky 91-86 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns watches from courtside during Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury shoots the ball during overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy celebrates after the Mercury defeated the Chicago Sky, 91-86, in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Candace Parker of the Chicago Sky shows her frustration after an overtime loss to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Diana Taurasi #3, Brianna Turner, center, and Sophie Cunningham, right, of the Phoenix Mercury celebrate after defeating the Chicago Sky in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brittney Griner, left, and Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Phoenix Mercury celebrate after defeating the Chicago Sky in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury celebrates with fans after defeating the Chicago Sky in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

  • Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury celebrates with fans after defeating the Chicago Sky in overtime in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Wednesday night in Phoenix. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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By JOHN MARSHALL AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX — Diana Taurasi spent most of the night being hounded by Chicago’s Allie Quigley, an exhausting exercise in an already challenging game, particularly for a 39-year-old.

As Game 2 of the WNBA Finals wound toward a tight finish, the Phoenix Mercury looked to the player recently named the greatest in the WNBA’s 25-year history.

Anyone who knows anything about Taurasi knows what happened next.

Summoning the will that’s made her great for so long, the former Don Lugo High star scored eight of her 20 points in overtime to help the Mercury even the WNBA Finals, 1-1, with a 91-86 victory over the Sky on Wednesday night.

“That’s the GOAT right there,” said Mercury center Brittney Griner, who dunked and had 29 points. “We know time is going down, it’s crunch time, we have all the faith in the world she’s going to make big shots for us.”

Griner carried the Mercury early and brought the Phoenix Suns players sitting courtside to their feet with her second career playoff dunk in the first quarter. She scored on a turnaround jumper to help give Phoenix a late four-point lead in regulation but just missed blocking Courtney Vandersloot’s tying layup with 4.4 seconds left.

Overtime is Taurasi time and the league’s all-time leading scorer did what she does best.

Held to six points through three quarters, she opened overtime with a four-point play and added a 3-pointer that put Phoenix up 89-86 with 1:24 left. Taurasi then came up with a huge defensive play, getting a steal with 36 seconds left, and Skylar Diggins-Smith sealed it on a layup with 12.8 seconds left.

“When you’re in that moment, the gravity of what’s going on, you can feel it and you try to just laser in on each possession, each timeout, really communicating with each other,” Taurasi said.

Chicago backed up its Game 1 win with another strong offensive performance, yet couldn’t finish it off. Vandersloot hit some big shots while scoring 20 points and finished with 14 assists. Allie Quigley added 19 points.

Game 3 of the best-of-five series is Friday in Chicago.

“We have a lot of weapons and when they take one away, we have to be confident and move it (the ball),” said Chicago’s Candace Parker, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. “We did that early, but we need a consistent 40 or 45 minutes of moving it.”

Chicago overcame some early jitters and took advantage of the short-handed and fatigued to win Game 1, 91-77. Parker was a calming influence while scoring 16 points and Kahleah Copper scored 21 points.

Phoenix was without guards Kia Nurse (torn ACL) and Sophie Cunningham (calf) and had to play two days after clinching its semifinal series in Las Vegas.

The Mercury had more prep time and Cunningham back in the lineup after missing three games, but they were disjointed early.

Chicago, one of the WNBA’s top offensive teams, was at its free-flowing best, its crisp passing setting up open looks. The Sky knocked ’em down early, hitting seven of their first 12 shots to take an early nine-point lead.

Phoenix went to Griner early and often. The 6-foot-9 center delivered with an early dunk after the Sky inexplicably left her alone in the lane, bringing the Suns players to their feet, and had 14 points by halftime.

Cunningham hit a pair of 3-pointers to bring the Mercury back from the early deficit and hit another after a wicked crossover to help Phoenix pull even at 40-all at halftime.

“We put her in the starting lineup, we just thought that was the right way for us to start with our rotations and the energy that she brings,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “She was great for us.”

Chicago revved up its offense again to start the third quarter, building a seven-point lead. Phoenix countered by getting the ball back in to Griner to help the Mercury surge back into the lead in the fourth quarter.

Then it was Taurasi’s turn.

FREE-THROW DISPARITY

Game 2 was physical throughout and the officials seemed to let the teams play, including an exchange between Cunningham and Copper while fighting for a ball on the floor.

Phoenix ended up the beneficiary, making 10 of 11 free throws while Chicago shot just four.

“I don’t understand what ‘let them play’ means,” Sky coach James Wade said. “I’ve never heard that in a game. If they’re going to the free-throw line, we should.”

SKYLAR’S LIFT

The third player among Phoenix’s big three had a pretty game herself.

Diggins-Smith controlled Arizona’s offense from the start, finishing with 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.

“Skylar would probably say, ‘I’ve missed too many shots,’ but I thought with her ability to facilitate and just give us some easy baskets, we needed that,” Brondello said.

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