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Taurasi, unreal again, sends Mercury to Finals

A Diana Taurasi block and three back-to-back saved the day for the Phoenix Mercury, who defeated the Las Vegas Aces in Game 5 of the semifinals. Shey Peddy free throws and a Brittney Griner block sealed the deal.

Phoenix Mercury v Las Vegas Aces - Game Five
Diana Taurasi made sure her 37-point effort in Game 2 of the semifinals was not in vain.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Phoenix Mercury seemed to win their semifinal series against the Las Vegas Aces by more than three points. When they needed to take over in Game 5, they were able to, demonstrating the explosive offense that led them to 26- and 27-point victories in Games 2 and 3, respectively. Diana Taurasi was simply lethal in captaining that takeover and gave herself an opportunity to undoubtedly cement her GOAT status by matching two others in the conversation, Cynthia Cooper and Maya Moore, with four championships.

Taurasi scored 14 fourth-quarter points in Game 5, blocked a layup attempt by 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage with 1:26 to play and, on the possession following that rejection, made a three that gave the Mercury a three-point lead.

Vegas’ Chelsea Gray flexed her clutch muscles back at Taurasi by burying a game-tying three with 1:06 to go, but Shey Peddy was fouled by Riquna Williams on a trey attempt with 4.8 seconds remaining and made 2-of-3 free throws. Brittney Griner blocked an A’ja Wilson layup attempt on the ensuing Aces possession and then made 1-of-2 free throws with 0.7 ticks left. Aces guard Kelsey Plum threw up a one-handed, full-court prayer as time expired but it hit the top of the backboard and fell harmlessly to the floor, giving the Mercury an 87-84 victory on Friday night at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Vegas.

To make the win even sweeter, Taurasi’s second child was born early Saturday morning. She finished with 24 points and the Aces were unable to force one player to beat them because Griner also scored 20-plus (28) to go along with her nine rebounds.

“I hope everybody’s not taking this talent for granted that we get to see out there on this court with (Brittney) and Diana,” said Mercury point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who added 14 points and eight assists.

Peddy was huge too with 15 points and three steals while Brianna Turner had a typical performance with 11 boards, four steals and three blocks. Phoenix played just seven players as both Kia Nurse and Sophie Cunningham were out with injuries.

The third quarter belonged to the Aces. After a Peddy mid-range make 44 seconds into the frame, Vegas went on a 14-0 run that gave it a 10-point lead. Momentum truly shifted when a bad pass from Taurasi was stolen by A’ja Wilson, who drew a clear path foul from Taurasi and made both free throws. Wilson scored again on a layup, Cambage made two free throws and Gray made a layup and mid-range shot to extend the run.

The Mercury trailed by eight entering the fourth but opened the final frame with a 12-0 run that featured two threes from Taurasi.

“It’s called heart,” Griner said. “We got heart. That’s what the Phoenix Mercury have. We’re not gon’ stop, we’re gon’ keep going. Odds against us, people against us. We know what we can do.”

Wilson finished with a personal series-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three assists. The 2020 MVP truly stepped up in the contest, making an incredible reverse layup in the fourth that cut Aces’ deficit to one and a mid-range shot with 2:55 to play that gave them a two-point lead. She was also 7-of-7 from the free throw line. The Aces were 20-of-20 as a team.

Gray added 22 points and six assists and Plum had 22 and three in defeat. Cambage was good for 10 points, 11 boards and three steals.

The Mercury will face the Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the Finals on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (ABC). They are back in the championship round for the first time since 2014 when they swept the Sky. Taurasi and Griner were both a part of the 2014 team and current Sky players Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley participated in the 2014 Finals too. Phoenix is 3-0 in the Finals with Taurasi and 3-1 overall.

Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello’s husband is Sky assistant coach Olaf Lange.

Brondello is hopeful Cunningham will be available for Game 2 of the Finals if not Game 1. Nurse has a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the season.