Overcoming an injury to their star center, the Phoenix Mercury won its third WNBA title last night, beating the Chicago Sky in three games. An eye injury suffered in game two forced Phoenix center Brittney Griner to sit out.
“Phoenix got 24 points each from Candice Dupree and the sublime guard Diana Taurasi – the Finals MVP – to win,” NPR’s Tom Goldman reports. “The Mercury dominated this year, they won a record 29 regular-season games. They’re fitting champions.”
In the tight game played on Chicago’s home court, Phoenix went into halftime with a two-point edge. But led by Dupree and Taurasi, they held on to win, 87-82. A recap of the game’s late moments comes from NESN:
“Taurasi hit a tie-breaking short jumper and was fouled with 14.3 seconds left, and she made the ensuing free throw to put Phoenix up 85-82. [Chicago’s Elena] Delle Donne missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, and the Sky fouled Penny Taylor, who made both free throws with 9.3 seconds left for the final score.”
Delle Donne finished with 23 points to lead Chicago, which was beset by injuries of its own this season, losing both its starting point guard and the All Star Sylvia Fowles for more than a dozen games. And Delle Donne was lost for half the season as she fought the lingering effects of Lyme disease.
As Tom reported when the finals got underway, Sky coach Pokey Chatman said that at one point, the team barely had enough players to practice, with eight women able to suit up.
In Friday’s game, Phoenix was able to adapt to the absence of the 6’8″ Griner, who averaged nearly 4 blocked shots per game this season. And in closing out a Chicago team it had dismantled in the finals’ first two games, the Mercury also capitalized on what member station commentator Niki D’Andrea calls its “perfectionist work ethic.”
In last night’s game, Taurasi became the all-time scoring leader in the WNBA Finals. And with the new title, Taurasi has now won three elite championships — in the NCAA, the Olympics, and the WNBA. Here’s what she had to say about that:
“College ones feel great because when you’re in college you’re really in a family atmosphere with people that are my friends for life. Olympics is for your country. You wear that flag and there’s no other feeling like that. And then, the WNBA is the best competition in the world. So when you’re champions here, you’re champions. You’ve earned it.”
Using the word “champions” to describe her team, Taurasi, 32, broke a self-imposed embargo.
“I didn’t want to say that word all year because you get lost in winning a championship and you forget to do the hard work,” she said.