Friday night’s semifinals games said a lot about the winning teams’ abilities to come back from adversity. Here’s how they did it.
Hayes leads Atlanta to another close win against Mystics
Tiffany Hayes was not an All-Star, and now she’s making the entire league pay for that omission. Hayes has been unbelievable all season and has elevated her game since Angel McCoughtry went down on August 7. Against the Mystics on the road in front of a sold-out crowd, Hayes showed why she’s one of the best players in the league, dropping in 23 points and 11 rebounds to fend off the Mystics, who were without their best player, Elena Delle Donne.
The turning point of the game for me was with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Dream were clinging to a scarce two-point lead until Hayes and Brittney Sykes knocked down back-to back-threes to give the Dream an 8-point cushion. From there, the teams largely traded buckets as the Mystics struggled to garner any sort of offensive rhythm without Delle Donne.
The Mystics shot 36 percent from the field for the game and went an abysmal 5-23 from beyond the arc. It was a rough night in particular for guard Kristi Toliver, who went 3-15 from the field and 1-9 from three. The Mystics needed her to step up big-time in this game, but the shot wasn’t there for her. The backcourt of the Mystics combined for just 10 points.
The Dream also struggled with field goal percentage, but Hayes was the difference. The Dream had a plan and a go-to scorer when it needed a basket, while the Mystics looked flustered and lacked a true number-one option. Replacing a talented player like Delle Donne is impossible, but the Mystics need to rally around each other quickly with her Game 4 status still up in the air. After all, the Dream are not going to show any remorse considering what they have overcome.
Mercury take care of Storm in dominating fashion
Tuesday’s Game 2 was a heartbreaking loss for the Mercury, and it might have been no shock to see them deflated by that and have Storm close the series out in a sweep. But if you thought that, then you clearly have no idea what the Mercury are all about.
Instead, the Mercury put on a dominating display that said, “We’re not going out easy.” Their best players have too much pride and too much talent to not bounce back and go out without a fight.
Diana Taurasi was not her usual self, as her shots just wouldn’t fall. It’s like that sometimes, even for the GOATs. But enter DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner. The pair dominated the glass and the inside with both shooting over 60 percent and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Bonner paced the team in the first half, scoring 18 points. It was a brilliant team display from the Mercury who got contributions across the board, including 19 points from Yvonne Turner, who was inserted into the starting lineup to replace the injured Stephanie Talbot. While Bonner paced the way for the Mercury in the first three quarters, it was a 14-0 run by the Mercury to start the fourth quarter that put the game away. Griner scored 8 of her 21 points in the final period, while Taurasi scored all of her 8 points in the fourth quarter.
On the Seattle spectrum, it was a nightmare shooting night for all of their stars. Sue Bird went 0-8 from the field and Jewell Loyd did not fare much better, going 1-10. MVP Breanna Stewart also struggled to find the range, going 1-8 from beyond the arc in a 15-point performance. When you look at those shooting numbers from the Storm’s top three scorers, it makes sense why the scoreline was what it was. The Storm will be looking to bounce back and close this series out in Game 4.