Diana Taurasi makes a try with Candace Parker challenging her to put the Phoenix Mercury ahead with 1:24 in overtime and Skylar Diggins-Smith extends the lead to five with a 12.8 stroke to go, after which the Chicago Sky did not score, as the Mercury tied the 2021 WNBA final 1-1 with a 91-86 victory Wednesday night at Footprint Center in Phoenix.
Taurasi was again the deadliest player in the post-season and proved why the Mercury is likely the team to beat after bursting 37 points in the second half of the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces. She opened overtime with a 4-point game, followed by a Diggins-Smith set-up that put Phoenix in six places. Chicago sank back to tie it down, but could not come back twice in the five minutes of two possessions.
Taurasi, Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner form a seemingly unstoppable force when they all click.
Griner (12-of-19 from the field) has 29 points, including the first dunk in WNBA final history, nine rebounds and two blocks, including one on Kahleah Copper that prevented Sky from taking the lead with 1:34 to go into overtime.
Diggins-Smith finished with 13 points, 12 assists and seven boards, while Taurasi scored 20 points. Brianna Turner added eight points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, Shey Peddy had 10 points and five assists and Sophie Cunningham was good for nine points on 3-of-4 shots from outside the arc.
The Sky was rewarded with only four free throws, while Phoenix took 11.
Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot (20 points, 14 assists, five steals) made a beautiful cut between Diggins-Smith and Griner for a halftime break with 4.4 seconds left in regulation to enforce overtime. That after a copper-attacking rebound and 3-point play a four-point deficit to one and Peddy came 1-of-2 off the line.
Phoenix builds the four-point lead with a 13-5 run that began when a Chicago DeShields three-pointer from Chicago was removed from the board as it came to buzz.
In the third, Parker scored seven points on a 9-0 Chicago run that took the score from 44-42 Phoenix to 51-44 Sky. Vandersloot scored two tries and a midfield shot in the rest of the third, helping Sky maintain a six-point lead in the fourth.
Chicago took a 30-22 lead before Diggins-Smith from the right corner made a heavily contested try over Stefanie Dolson, who followed Cunningham with a try that drove the crowd crazy. Turner then leveled the game with a lineup.
The Sky took their biggest lead in the first quarter at 21-12 after a 6-0 run with an Allie Quigley midfield, a copper lineup and a Parker bucket.
Parker finished with the solid line of 13 points, nine boards, three assists and two steals. Quigley missed her first seven three-point attempts, but finished 3-out-5 and bagged 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Copper had 15 points and nine boards, while Azurá Stevens had nine and nine.
Chicago turned the ball over six times more than the Mercury, and head coach James Wade criticized his team for taking clumsy tries several times. The Sky made 25 attempts at regulation; they averaged 21.2 attempts in the regular season. However, the Sky also scored 50 points in the paint.
The Sky again could not take advantage of DeShield’s attacking talents. She played just 10 minutes and 11 seconds and was 1-of-2 off the field with two points.
The series is now moving to Wintrust Arena in Chicago, where a sold-out crowd will attend for Game 3.