When Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello was asked what was the difference in the fourth quarter, she had a simple response: It was Diana Taurasi.
Taurasi scored 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter, and Brittney Griner had 28 points and nine rebounds to lead the Mercury past the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game 5 of the semifinals Friday night to advance to the WNBA finals for the first time since 2014.
“Diana making shots,” Brondello said. “That’s what changed it. That gave us hope. I thought we played with pretty good poise. That comes from developing chemistry, but Diana Taurasi, that was pretty big.”
Taurasi was 0 为了 5 from three-point range going into the fourth quarter with the Mercury trailing 66-58. The Aces, who were down 44-42 at halftime, used a 14-2 run to begin the third quarter for a 10-point lead, the largest of the game.
Phoenix went on a 10-0 run of its own to begin the fourth, capped off by back-to-back 3s from Taurasi to give the Mercury a 68-66 lead with 7:31 remaining.
“We were in the huddle (going into the fourth) and we just yelled, ‘three possessions,’” Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said. “People were saying, ‘chip away, chip away.’ We didn’t need to chip away. We were right there.”
Taurasi, who shot 5 为了 15 in Game 4 在星期三, made a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:12 left to give the Mercury an 84-81 带领.
Aces guard Chelsea Gray responded with a 3 只是 6 seconds later to tie it.
“I think that it’s a good learning experience for us, 希望,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They have two outstanding, mentally-strong players in Taurasi and Griner. They willed that onto their team. … We need to acquire that trait. Whether it is we grow up, or whether we acquire something, but it’s something that this team has consistently lacked throughout the course of the year.”
Gray and Kelsey Plum scored 22 points each for Las Vegas, and A’ja Wilson added 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Aces made the finals last season in the Florida bubble before being swept by the Seattle Storm.
“Really hard to gather my thoughts right now. We were so close,” said Plum, the league’s Sixth Player of the Year. “I wouldn’t want to do it with another group, and I do know we’ll be back. I have no doubt in my mind, and the result will be different.”
Shey Peddy made two of three free throws with 4.8 seconds left to give the Mercury an 86-84 带领, and Griner added one from the line to close the scoring. Griner also had a block on Wilson with 0.7 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“Speechless,” Griner said. “I’m just proud of the team. It doesn’t matter how you get it. We got the win.”