The Phoenix Mercury shocked the world and eliminated the Las Vegas Aces from playoff contention by winning Game 5 Friday night. Brittney Griner made the game-defining play in the final seconds of the fourth, blocking A’ja Wilson’s shot and securing the victory.
With the GOAT in Diana Taurasi, a dominant big like Brittney Griner, and the scoring machine that is Skylar Diggins-Smith, talent was never a question for the Mercury. Health, however, was. Taurasi was battling injuries all season long. Of a possible 32 games, she only played in 16. She had a fractured sternum early on, suffered from a hip issue which forced her to miss a couple of games and then dealt with her latest ankle injury.
The other two stars carried the load and were outstanding. Griner and Diggins-Smith led the team in points, assists, and minutes played. The Mercury were able to put their potential into reality in August when they went red hot, won every game that month and went on to win ten in a row.
They were unable to close the gap between themselves and the Seattle Storm so they found themselves in the first round facing a gritty New York Liberty team. They were able to win the home game 83-82 in a surprisingly close matchup. In the second round, they got the opportunity to beat the team that finished just in front of them in Seattle. They got the job done and won 85-80 in a thrilling overtime game and went on to play Las Vegas in the semifinals.
The Aces were favored to win the series and favored to win it all by many experts, but the Mercury had other plans. The series became an instant classic. The Aces narrowly won Game 1, but the Mercury took home court advantage by winning Game 2 thanks to the phenomenal performance given by Diana Taurasi. The games in Phoenix were historic. In Game 3 the Mercury took control and blew out the Aces 87-60. In Game 4 the Aces responded with an impressive 24-0 run to force a Game 5 in their home arena.
Game 5 was a back and forth affair, but the Mercury were able to pull off the 87-84 victory. The big three of Phoenix came up huge, scoring a combined 66 points. The celebration can’t last long however; the Mercury face the Chicago Sky Sunday afternoon for Game 1.
Another title would tie the Mercury with the Storm, Comets, and Lynx for most WNBA championships at four. It would further make the case for Diana Taurasi aka the White Mamba as the GOAT of the WNBA, Brittney Griner would have another historic accomplishment attached to her name and Skylar Diggins-Smith would earn her first ring. Whether fair or unfair, championships change people's perspectives on your career. The more you have, the better it is for your legacy and the more credibility it gives to your game. Winning it all would further secure the legacies of these three superstars and make the case that the Mercury are WNBA royalty, and, arguably, the greatest franchise in WNBA history.
The Mercury should be feeling good heading into the Finals. They have home court and they beat the Sky in all three matchups they had with them in the regular season. Still, winning will be no easy task. The Sky are playing their best basketball of the year and look like the superteam we all thought they would be before the season started. Phoenix will have to continue getting incredible performances from their big three, solid games from Brianna Turner and as much production as it can from that slim bench. We’ll see if the Mercury can put it all together. Only two teams still have a season to play for and Phoenix is right where it wants to be.