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2021 WNBA Playoffs: Mercury starters come through

The Phoenix Mercury have won two close playoff games to advance to the WNBA Semifinals.

2021 WNBA Playoffs - Phoenix Mercury v Seattle Storm
Sue Bird (left) and Diana Taurasi (right) pose for a picture after a thriller between their two teams.
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Diana Taurasi was not 100 percent down the stretch of the Phoenix Mercury’s second-round win over the Seattle Storm on Sunday at Angel of the Wings Arena in Everett, WA. Yet she made a three to tie the game one minute and 11 seconds in to overtime and a fadeaway mid-range baseline shot that gave the Mercury the lead for good with 2:14 to play.

Taurasi finished with 14 points and five assists in the 85-80 Mercury win and it was a complete effort from Phoenix’s entire starting lineup. Brittney Griner notched 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, Skylar Diggins-Smith had 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks, Brianna Turner had 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks and Kia Nurse posted 12 points, including a free throw curse-breaking 2-of-2 trip to the charity stripe with 15 seconds remaining.

Taurasi and Sue Bird exchanging jerseys at the end of the contest was the highlight of what was another classic played between the two.

Katie Lou Samuelson made a three 29 seconds into overtime to give Seattle a three-point lead, but an amazing block from Turner on an Ezi Magbegor layup attempt swung momentum in Phoenix’s favor.

The Storm took a two-point lead with 4:59 to go in regulation, but were held scoreless for the next 3:59. At the one minute mark of the fourth, after three misses from Jewell Loyd, two from Bird and one from Samuelson, Seattle chose to go to Bird, who was 3-of-5 from deep at the time compared to Loyd, who was 0-of-5. Loyd passed it to Bird who buried a three to tie the game at 73. That would remain the score entering the extra period.

The Storm went on an 18-0 run from 5:34 in the second to 7:36 in the third to take a six-point lead. The run featured a three from Bird that gave Seattle a one-point lead.

So Bird was clutch throughout the game, but her 16 points and five assists were not enough. Samuelson added 18 points and Loyd had 15 to go along with five helpers and two blocks, but was 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from the field and 0-of-7 from downtown in the absence of Breanna Stewart.

Mercedes Russell contributed 10 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks while playing all 45 minutes in defeat. Magbegor was good for nine points and nine boards.

Phoenix had 18 fast break points compared to two for Seattle. The Mercury attempted eight more free throws, but made two less. Griner was 1-of-5 from the line while Diggins-Smith was 3-of-8.

The Mercury advance to play the Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals.