It had to be behind the backs of the game the entire game. Diana Taurasi, after a six-figure loss in the first game, had yet to make an impact.
In the first minutes of overtime, it hit hard. Taurasi opened the frame with a four-point play and secured a slim late-game lead with a steal and critical save that carried the Phoenix Mercury to a 91-86 victory at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on Wednesday night.
The WNBA Finals, a best-of-five series, will head to Chicago Sky’s home in a tie 1-1.
Taurasi scored eight of his 20-point total in overtime and scored the 3-point with 1:34 which proved the winning points after Sky’s five quick points gave them a one-point lead.
Skylar Diggins-Smith made the layup to seal the game in overtime to lead the Mercury after Brittney Griner kept them throughout the game.
Diggins-Smith scored 13 points with 12 assists and seven rebounds, while Griner led all scorers with 29 points, adding nine rebounds and two blocks. Shey Peddy scored 10 points off the bench.
Game 3 is sold out at a Wintrust Arena in Chicago on Friday (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Courtney Vandersloot forces OT and directs Sky
Phoenix took a 70-69 lead on an and-1 by none other than Griner, their player of choice all night. Quigley responded for Chicago with a 3 point pointer in the corner of the classic Sky ball movement and the momentum seemed to come back to them after a Mercury 3. But Candace Parker, who bounced him back and brought him down to the field , was stripped by Brianna Turner, who completed the bucket at the other end to tie it up again, 72-72.
Griner and Vandersloot traded lay-ups and the Sky failed to bounce off several Mercury misfires until Griner struck another blow on a massive night. Peddy added a bucket to mount four.
Kahleah Copper, who set the pace for Sky in Game 1, fought off a rebound and added the free throw to get closer to one with 14.7 seconds on the clock. They fouled Peddy, who missed the first of the two.
Vandersloot tied him on a drive to basket and Phoenix couldn’t get a final shot as the incoming pass tipped Griner’s hands to Parker.
Vandersloot was phenomenal for Sky, who struggled to reach the free throw line in the first half. The point guard managed a double-double of 20 points and 14 assists with five steals and three rebounds. It’s the first 20 points and 14 assists in WNBA Finals history, according to his hoop stats.
Quigley added 19 points, but was 3 for 12 on a 3-point range. Copper had 15 points with nine rebounds and Parker added 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Chicago made 19 turnovers compared to 13 for Phoenix. It was a problem for both, but it turned out to be costly for Chicago in the end.
Chicago’s third quarter
Chicago created a split with a 9-0 run in the third quarter that ultimately gave a 63-57 lead in the fourth. They won the quarterback by the same six-point margin that determined each of the four regulation periods.
Led by four after the third bucket of the night from Taurasi, Parker managed a 3 points on an assist from Vandersloot. Quigley made the two free throws, the first attempts of the night for Sky, and Parker again added a deep two and a Vandersloot alley-oop.
This gave Chicago a 51-46 lead at 5:44 and the teams began trading buckets six points ahead of Sky in the fourth.
They managed to keep the distance until a 6-foot Griner and Taurasi warmed up with 3-point back-to-back for a one-point lead. It helped that a 3 point pointer from Diamond DeShields was removed after review before the comeback. It was ruled a shot clock violation by a shard of play later, which reduced the lead from nine points to six. It was a close battle from there.
Brittney Griner wearing Mercury
Phoenix fed Griner for his first 10 points of the game which was only broken by a Peddy layup on a Chicago turnover. The streak included a crashing dunk from the pioneering center arena who nearly did it again later in the game, but admitted the shot clock was too low. It was the first WNBA Finals dunk in league history.
Griner’s run was enough for Sophie Cunningham to warm up with two 3s at the end of the quarter and the Mercury were behind 26-20.
The chippiness peaked midway through the second half on a chaotic streak that culminated with Copper and Cunningham battling to the ground for a rebound. Cunningham had it on the ground and kept moving it as Copper tried the ball and put his arm around Cunningham’s neck.
As the officials and teammates came running, Copper stood over Cunningham and they shook each other. A common foul was called on the play.
2021 WNBA Finals Schedule
Game 1: Sky 91, Mercury 77
Game 2: Mercury 91, Sky 86 (Tied series, 1-1)
Game 3: Mercury at Sky, 9 p.m. ET Friday (ESPN2)
Game 4: Mercury at Sky, 3 p.m. ET on October 17 (ESPN)
Game 5: Sky at Mercury, 9 p.m. ET on October 19 (ESPN2) (if needed)