Mercury head to Connecticut for another elimination game
Diana Taurasi has had so many proud basketball moments in the state of Connecticut.
Sunday, the former UConn star has a chance to add another one.
Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, takes a 10-0 record in deciding league playoff games into the Mohegan Sun Arena when she and her Phoenix Mercury teammates visit the Connecticut Sun in the second round of the playoffs.
The fifth-seeded Mercury advanced with 79-69 victory over former UConn star Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm while the fourth-seeded Sun had a bye.
The winner of this game advances to a 3-of-5 semifinal against either the No. 1 Minnesota Lynx or the No. 2 Los Angeles Sparks.
The teams played three times in the regular season — the Sun winning both games in Uncasville, Conn. while the Mercury romped in the Sept. 1 game in Phoenix behind 31 points and eight rebounds from league scoring leader Brittney Griner.
She will be matched up in this game against Jonquel Jones, the league rebounding leader who was voted most improved player in the league.
“It’s a very tough matchup,” said Connecticut coach Curt Miller, the league’s coach of the year. “Phoenix made a concerted effort late in the year to play through Griner. She’s a unique player that no one in the league sees, so you have to plan for Brittney Griner.
“You have to have a contingent plan, and a contingent upon contingent plan when she starts to hurt you. When you have two of the most elite players the game has ever seen in Taurasi and Griner, it poses a lot of problems, but they’re not the only players that can hurt you.”
Jones broke the WNBA rebounding record — previously held by Tina Charles, then of the Sun, in 2010, finishing with 403 — and she tied the league record of 20 double-doubles.
“Jonquel Jones is going to be a problem in this league for a long time,” Taurasi said at this year’s All-Star Game. “With her stature and the way she can handle the ball, shoot the ball, and work so easy on the court, I just think she’s got a really bright future.”
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Sun, especially after losing star Chiney Ogwumike for the season before the year even started. But after a 1-5 start, Miller’s team got hot — especially at home, where it is 12-5.
The Mercury, 3-0 in single elimination games, finished the season 9-8 both home and on the road before winning their home playoff game.
The three-time WNBA champions (most recently in 2014) have a distinct experience edge in this game. While the Sun players have totaled 875 minutes and 302 points, Taurasi, a three-time champion, has 1,566 minutes and 1,009 points. She cleared the 1,000-point mark with her first basket of the second half of the first-round game.