Last night. Fifth and final match of the WNBA semifinals between Phoenix Mercury and Las Vegas Aces. The reporter at the foot of the runway asks for a pass. He just spoke to Diana Taurasi, who is in a horrible match, but who just left a premonitory phrase:
“I love the energy of the playoffs. There are players who are overcome by that pressure and it shows: sometimes she is a teammate, sometimes a rival … but it’s not me ».
Perhaps, in the end, this all boils down to that. In someone’s ability to put it in, over and over, over and over, when it matters. After a 32-game regular season, three playoff rounds, a 2-2 series, three-quarters of a grueling fifth game, it all comes down to not being outmatched. In doing bang, bang, bang. And bang again. And win a match.
That is, more or less, the story of yesterday’s game. Diana Taurasi, 39, perhaps the best of all time, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to send her Phoenix Mercury to the WNBA finals. There they will meet on Sunday with Chicago Sky.
The extended tale of how it happened is as follows.
Colophon to a spectacular series
Let’s position ourselves. We are in Las Vegas, Nevada, that infamous place. The Aces host Phoenix Mercury in the fifth and final game of the series to decide who accesses the WNBA finals. It has been four beautiful games, with memorable individual performances. Taurasi’s 37 points in Game 2. Kelsey Plum’s three games over 20 points. The consistency of Grinner. A’ja Wilson sticking with all Christ. But all this, unfair or not, will be overshadowed by what happens from here on.
The first two quarters are even. With a bad omen for the Mercury, yes: their leader, Diana Taurasi, is not there. Jackie Young is driving her crazy on defense. He has 6 points, a 0/4 in triples, 2 losses at halftime. He is playing with a small broken foot, a sprain and 39 years old. It does enough, it will be said, with being there, holding on.
The protagonists, at rest, are others. Brittney Grinner, who continues to dominate the paint for Phoenix with her 2.06 meters, just as she has done all season. What if a five-meter shiver now, what if then I post and put it. Now that help comes to me? Well, I open it for the triple. Clinic.
In Las Vegas, Kelsey Plum, with whom it is difficult to remember a player with more influence coming off the bench: 13 points with a 3/3 in triples after the first two quarters. And Chelsey Gray, the base of those in Nevada, who moves like a fish in water in these scenarios. 13 for her.
Las Vegas sweeps the third quarter
The turning point in the game and in the series, had it not been for Taurasi, would have been the third quarter. Today would be counting the victory of the Aces by the genius of A’ja Wilson. The 2020 MVP won every split ball and fouled and stole balls and clapped rebounds and always put that extra bit of energy to enforce her law. She is the queen of hussle, and, for a moment, it seemed to be too much for the Mercury.
After their 8 points in the third quarter and those of Liz Cambage, the Aces soared. They dominated the rebound against their rivals, they surpassed them for physicality, and the third quarter was final: 14-24.
The almost 10,000 fans of the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas who were celebrating. They were there, one step away from the final. 56-65 at the end of the third quarter. The chroniclers prepared their headlines for the next day: “A’ja Wilson Takes Las Vegas into the WNBA Final.”
But beware, right there, on the way to the benches, something happens. Jackie Young confronts Diana Taurasi, who has been bitter throughout the game. Beef. Come on, old lady, think you’re old for these things. If you have not put one. That you are going home.
Very bad idea. And that phrase that resonates: “There are players who are overcome by that pressure and you can see it: sometimes she is a teammate, sometimes a rival … but it’s not me.”
The Taurasi Show
There has been some debate recently about who is the best player in the history of women’s basketball. Those who affirm that she is Diana Taurasi, who are many, lived yesterday that insurmountable feeling that it is to be right.
In the last quarter of the game, after beef With Yackie Young, carried on his back at the age of 39, the broken foot, the sprained ankle and everything they wanted to throw at him, Taurasi won the game, the series and a large part of the ring, if they finish it. wearing the Mercury. 14 points, a 3/4 in triples and, above all, the play that defined a game.
There was 1:30 left to go. 81-81. Taurasi, who measures 1.83 meters, remains even in defense with Liz Cambage and its 2.03 meters. The ball reaches Cambage under the rim. Easy basket, you would say. But Taurasi puts a plug on him, his third in all the playoffs. The Mercurys recover the ball. And the GOAT that marks play: elbow, which must be something like give it to me to play it.
Effectively. Exits locks. The ball reaches him. Roll three. He puts it: 84-81.
Chicago Sky waits in the final
Chelsey Gray, always so clutch, tied the game with another triple. But a few free throws from Shay Peddy and a Grinner block to Wilson gave game, set and match for the Mercury.
Taurasi will seek his fourth ring in the finals. Phoenix Mercury could become the most successful franchise in WNBA history, alongside the Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx and the Houston Comets. They await the Chicago Sky of Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot, who passed over (3-1) of those that seemed favorites to the ring: Connecticut Sun. The first date is this Sunday in Phoenix, at 9:00 p.m. Spanish time.
(Cover photo by Ethan Miller / Getty Images)