In a game where the Aces had their fourth largest crowd inside Mandalay Bay Michelob ULTRA Arena with a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line, everything looked in favor for Las Vegas until 10-time All-Star Diana Taurasi turned back the clock.
Taurasi, who has battled a nagging ankle injury dating back to the end of the regular season, scored 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter to secure the Mercury's spot the 2021 WNBA Finals in a thrilling 87–84 victory over the Aces.
With the win, Taurasi improved to 22-8 all-time in elimination games in the WNBA Playoffs (now 10-2 on the road) and 57-9 throughout her entire basketball career in elimination games (NCAA, WNBA Playoffs and Olympics).
As brilliant as Taurasi's late surge was, the Mercury's win could not have been completed without the clutch play of fellow superstar Brittney Griner.
With the game on the line, Aces' A'ja Wilson went up for a layup but was blocked by Griner, helping Phoenix secure its first WNBA Finals appearance since 2014.
After the game, Taurasi credited the solid play of Griner for lifting the Mercury to their upset win over the No. 2-seeded Aces.
"She has been incredible all year," Taurasi said. "We ask her to do everything. ... defend the best player, block, score, she is an incredible teammate and an even better basketball player."
In Phoenix's win, the team was without Sophie Cunningham and Kia Nurse. But, according to Taurasi, resiliency has been the motivation for the Mercury all season.
"We had injuries but we have always been able to bounce back," Taurasi said.
Phoenix will take on the Chicago in the best-of-five Finals beginning on Sunday as the Mercury look to capture a league record-tying fourth WNBA title. The two teams previously met in the WNBA Finals in 2014.
The Mercury came away with a 3-0 series sweep against the Sky, including a closeout win in Chicago to claim the franchise’s third WNBA championship. Two WNBA legends—Taurasi and Candace Parker—will battle the for league's 25th championship.
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