Diana Taurasi made a three with Candace Parker contesting her to put the Phoenix Mercury up three with 1:24 remaining in overtime and Skylar Diggins-Smith increased the lead to five with a lay in at 12.8 ticks to go, after which the Chicago Sky did not score as the Mercury evened the 2021 WNBA Finals at 1-1 with a 91-86 victory on Wednesday night at Footprint Center in Phoenix.
Taurasi again proved to be the most lethal player in the postseason and demonstrated why the Mercury arguably became the team to beat after she erupted for 37 points in Game 2 of the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces. She opened overtime with a 4-point play, which was followed by a Diggins-Smith layup that put Phoenix up six. Chicago battled back to tie it but couldn’t come back from down two possessions twice in the five-minute frame.
Taurasi, Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner form a seemingly unstoppable force when they’re all clicking.
Griner (12-of-19 from the field) had 29 points, including the first dunk in WNBA Finals history, nine rebounds and two blocks, including one on Kahleah Copper that prevented the Sky from taking the lead with 1:34 to go in overtime.
Diggins-Smith finished with 13 points, 12 assists and seven boards while Taurasi totaled 20 points. Brianna Turner added eight points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, Shey Peddy had 10 points and five helpers and Sophie Cunningham was good for nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Sky were rewarded with just four free throw shots, while Phoenix took 11.
Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot (20 points, 14 assists, five steals) made a beautiful cut between Diggins-Smith and Griner for a layup with 4.4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. That after a Copper offensive rebound and 3-point play cut a four-point deficit to one and Peddy went 1-of-2 from the stripe.
Phoenix built that four-point lead with a 13-5 run that started when a Diamond DeShields 3-pointer was taken off the board for Chicago because it came after the buzzer.
In the third, Parker scored seven points on a 9-0 Chicago run that took the score from 44-42 Phoenix to 51-44 Sky. Vandersloot made two threes and a mid-range shot in what was remaining of the third, helping the Sky maintain a six-point lead entering the fourth.
Chicago led 30-22 before Diggins-Smith made a heavily contested three over Stefanie Dolson from the right corner, which Cunningham followed with a three that had the crowd going crazy. Turner then tied the game with a layup.
The Sky held their biggest lead of the first quarter at 21-12 after a 6-0 run that featured an Allie Quigley mid-range make, a Copper layup and a Parker inside bucket.
Parker finished with the solid stat line of 13 points, nine boards, three assists and two steals. Quigley missed her first seven 3-point attempts, but finished 3-of-5 and notched 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Copper had 15 points and nine boards while Azurá Stevens had nine and nine.
Chicago turned the ball over six more times than the Mercury and head coach James Wade criticized his team for taking ill-advised threes on multiple occasions. The Sky put up 25 trey attempts in regulation; they averaged 21.2 attempts in the regular season. However, the Sky did also score 50 points in the paint.
The Sky again failed to make use of DeShield’s offensive talents. She played just 10 minutes and 11 seconds and was 1-of-2 from the field with two points.
The series now shifts to Wintrust Arena in Chicago where a sold out crowd will be in attendance for Game 3.