PHOENIX – Diana Taurasi wasn’t the best player on her team Wednesday night. That was Brittney Griner. She wasn’t the best guard on the floor. That was Courtney Vandersloot from Chicago. But Taurasi’s greatest gift is not an ability but a genetic trait, Diana’s DNA, a badass quality that she carries everywhere and summons when she needs it most.
It takes many forms. Here was one: Taurasi coming up, sinking a 29-foot-three-inch pointer and committing a foul and then making a free throw, a four-point play that somehow felt ridiculous and highly predictable. After all, it was the overtime of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. The Phoenix Mercury needed Taurasi to become fully Taurasi, and it did. Taurasi scored eight points in overtime. Sky scored seven. The Mercury won, 91-86.
“She is amazing, isn’t she?” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “She is just a player who loves those moments. There is no fear, even when she is so tired. “
Griner said, “That’s the GOAT right there, okay? We know what Dee can bring. It doesn’t matter how the game starts. When push comes to shove, we have all the faith in the world that Dee is going to make decisive shots for us. He does it year after year ”.
The Finals now go to Chicago, tied 1-1. Taurasi probably can’t lead his team to the championship – he’s 39, he’s lost a step or two, and the Skies are just too good. But if Taurasi can transport the Mercury for one or two more critical stretches, that might be enough. For now, Phoenix has life and hope. Chicago has a concern: Vandersloot, an impressive passer who hit a canted layup on an extended Griner to force overtime, came out with a boot on the left foot. She said it will be fine. Heaven needs her to be.
The Sky should never have let this game come to Taurasi time. They led most of the game. They are the fastest and deepest team, changing and catching on defense, getting to their places faster on offense. But winning Game 2 on the road after you’ve already won Game 1 requires something more, a perpetual balance that Sky couldn’t muster.
When a delayed replay review wiped out Sky’s triple in the fourth quarter, Chicago seemed to rock. Reviewing a shot for multiple possessions later might be the right thing to do for the game, but it’s still weird for fans and gamers alike. Sky went from leading 72-65 to losing 70-69, a technologically induced run that helped force overtime. But the Mercury also lost a bucket due to a late overhaul, and this is the game now anyway.
Chicago coach James Wade walked into his postgame press conference determined to complain about the refereeing. He used the first question to regret his team’s four free throws in 45 minutes and said: “They played more physically and I think they were allowed. We took four free throws. Four free throws. Call it what you want … I think when you attack the rim and you miss it, it should be called. I’ve never heard of ‘let them play.’ He had a point, but this was an away Finals game in front of a noisy crowd. You can’t count on whistles.
Wade knows it too: “We were a little impatient and we shot the first three who were there. I hope for a better execution. “
In Game 1 and in long stretches of Game 2, Sky seemed like the superior team. They might as well turn out to be. But Griner kept his team in it with 29 points on 19 shots. Everything you do seems easier than it needs to be. As Taurasi said, “We know where our bread and butter are. BG is playing at a different level right now. There’s really nothing anyone can do. “
In the fourth quarter, Griner handed over the baton to Taurasi, perhaps the best finalist in the game’s history. This has to end at some point, right? Taurasi is 39 years old. She was harassed for most of the night by Allie Quigley and parts of her by Kahleah Copper. She only attempted three two-point shots. He had no assists. He did not get a single foul while driving to the basket. Naturally, she took over the game anyway.
“You try to hit every possession, every timeout, and focus on each other,” Taurasi said. “At the end of the day, it ends up being just basketball.”
Part of the Taurasi aura is that it is obviously made up of different things, but it still has a vulnerable all-female form. Mercury teased Taurasi about her only robbery, a rarity for her at this age, and she joined in: “I finally get a robbery and then trip over my own feet. That’s my life in so many ways. “In the past six days, he called for an absurd Game 5 performance to eliminate Las Vegas, welcomed his second child with his wife Penny Taylor, was destroyed in Game 1 of the Finals, then rescued her team in Game 2. She needs two wins for her fourth WNBA championship. She is 39 years old, no longer a dominant 40 minute player, but she is still Diana Taurasi. She knows it. Your opponents know it. And she knows that they know.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.