WNBA playoffs: Mercury edge Storm in OT; Sky roll past Lynx to advance to semifinals

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Diana Taurasi scored six points on an injured ankle in overtime to send the No. 5 Phoenix Mercury into the semifinals with a 85-80 win over the No. 4 Seattle Storm at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington, on Sunday. 

It was a tight contest throughout the second half and overtime that the Mercury (20-13) eked out at the end when they need it. Taurasi matched Katie Lou Samuelson's 3-pointer to tie it again minutes into overtime and gave the Mercury a lead with a jumper. Taurasi scored 14 points with five assists and four rebounds. 

Brittney Griner, nearly automatic in the paint, added a bucket with 52.6 seconds left in overtime that put the game out of reach. Griner scored a game-high 23 points with 16 rebounds, marking her 10th playoff double-double. 

Neither team could win it outright over the final minute after Sue Bird hit the tying 3-pointer to make it 73-73. Skylar Diggns-Smith missed both free throws and the Storm bled out the shot clock for one attempt that Loyd missed with no success at a put-back. Phoenix had another chance to win it, but Diggins-Smith was denied by Mercedes Russell with time expiring. Diggins-Smith scored 20 points with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. 

Loyd appeared to be en route to another big game after a hot second quarter. She had 37 points against the Mercury in the Storm's final game of the regular season that decided the home court for this game. But she went cold in the second half and was only 5-for-24, including missing all seven 3-point attempts. 

Samuelson led with 18 points, Russell had a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double and Bird scored 16 with five assists. 

It wasn't the cleanest of playoff games and neither team was at full strength. Breanna Stewart was ruled out for the Storm with a foot injury she suffered earlier this month. She was on the sideline with a boot on her left foot. Taurasi dealt with an ankle injury that hampered her Sunday. She limped on the sideline and occasionally pulled up grimacing. 

It was a three-point Seattle lead at half and a one-point one heading into the final quarter as they traded baskets with neither team pulling too far away. 

The Mercury made the first run of the game and led by as many as 12 early in the second. Bird, mic'd up for the ABC broadcast, told her team in the huddle Phoenix was making a lot of their shots to take that lead, but "eventually they will miss." 

That came to fruition at the backend of the half with a 5:34 scoreless streak and a skid of missed shots in the double-digits. Seattle hit its first 3-pointer of the night at 3:46 from the hands of Samuelson and Jewell Loyd came alive in the final minutes to pull Seattle back. 

Bird's 3-pointer at 1:10 gave Seattle its first lead of the game, 33-32, and they went into the half up, 35-32, behind a 15-0 run.  

Future plans for Taurasi, Bird

It could go down as the final meeting between Taurasi, 39, the league's all-time leader in points, and Bird, the all-time leader in assists. The two are good friends since their playing days together at UConn and at the ages of 39 and nearly 40 (Oct. 16 is Bird's birthday), respectively, they are on the cusp of retirement. 

ESPN reporter Holly Rowe said on the broadcast there's a feeling Bird might retire this offseason. Bird has been assessing how she feels every offseason on one-year contracts. But she's not committed to anything. 

As for Taurasi, Rowe said Mercury management said they would be surprised if Taurasi didn't return. The guard has dealt with injuries the past few seasons, including two different ones in 2021 that sidelined her ahead of and after a fifth Olympic gold medal. 

Sixth-seeded Sky soar past Lynx into the semifinals 

The No. 6-seeded Chicago Sky continued their upstart playoffs push, eliminating the No. 3-seeded Minnesota Lynx 89-76 in the second round of the WNBA playoffs on Sunday at Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Sky (16-16) got contributions across the court with Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper leading the way.

Vandersloot scored 19 points and dished five assists. Copper added a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Five players scored in double figures for the Sky, including Azura Stevens (15), Diamond DeShields (14) and Allie Quigley (11).

Chicago shot 49.2% from the field and had 37 rebounds. 

Minnesota’s Aerial Powers scored a playoff career-high 24 points in the loss. However, Powers also had six turnovers, which hurt the Lynx. The Lynx had 20 turnovers.

The Sky keyed in on Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles, who won her fourth award earlier Sunday, and she was still able to score 17 points and grab eight boards.

The Lynx (22-10) shot 50% from deep with Kayla McBride hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 19 points. 

Minnesota really missed Layshia Clarendon's leadership on the floor. He was dealing with a leg injury that forced them to miss seven games and clearly limited her ability Sunday.

The Sky will face the top-seeded Connecticut Sun in Game 1 of the semifinals at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2.

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