WNBA Playoffs: Diana Taurasi and Phoenix Claim Title Over Indiana

(Guru's note: While the Guru is coping with a major crisis on his laptop, the previous model has been brought to life and made operational until hopefully the issue can be resolved without serious data loss, though most important files are backed up on thumb drives. Here is the AP coverage of the championship to which the Guru adds it's been a pretty good run so far for Mercury exec and Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale since she left the broadcast booth to join Phoenix three years ago. Two titles in three seasons. Also amazing time off this season between title game and start of college practice -- all of seven days.) -- Mel

By Bob Baum

AP Sports Writer

 

 

PHOENIX (AP) — Diana Taurasi has just about everything any WNBA player would want — league MVP, finals MVP and a championship.

A season she called "up and down" had a magnificent conclusion.

Taurasi scored 26 points Friday night and the Mercury held off the tenacious Indiana Fever 94-86 in the deciding Game 5 of the WNBA finals.

"It's been a humbling summer, throughout," she said. "You know, the last month it's been an incredible high, from the MVP to the championship. But rewind 2½ months ago and I was probably as low as I can get."

She was referring to her July 2 driving under the influence arrest. She had a blood-alcohol level of .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit. Taurasi has spoke openly about how the incident changed her life.

"I used it to make myself better in areas you guys will never understand," she said.

The Mercury won their second championship in three years, and both were accomplished with a core of three players as talented as any in the game — Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor.

Each of them played a crucial role in Game 5.

Pondexter scored 24 points and Taylor made two critical free throws with 37.7 seconds left for the Mercury, who won the last two games to take the intense series.

"This is what we do, we make big plays," Taurasi said, holding a towel over her head in the champagne-drenched locker room. "We have people that step up and love to live the moment. It's a great team, great team."

When it was over, the three hugged in elation, and Taylor — the Australian who joined the team Aug. 1 after reconstructive ankle surgery — broke down in tears.

"I was only here from half the season but it was a long half and it's been a hard half," she said. "Just the build-up of that emotion of wanting to do so well, and wanting to do well for your teammates, wanting to win every game and it's just a release right now that we have been able to do it,"

Tammy Sutton-Brown scored 22 points, and Jessica Davenport had a career-high 18 for Indiana in its first finals appearance. Tamika Catchings added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Fever.

"I thought we played about as well as we could play," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "I thought there were a couple of times that we missed some shots that maybe could have helped us win a championship, but they didn't fall."

Sutton-Brown pointed to the crucial home loss in Game 4.

"We had an opportunity to close it out at home, and we let that one slip away," she said, "but I think we came out and fought hard tonight. Phoenix is a great team. I think it was a great series. It was great for the WNBA."

Indiana rallied from 10 down in the second half to tie it at 80 on Sutton-Brown's layup with 4:29 to play, then Tangela Smith made two 3-pointers, her only field goals of the night, to put the Mercury ahead for good.

Her second, after Davenport scored for Indiana, put Phoenix ahead 86-82 with 3:34 to go.

Pondexter's 9-footer made it 88-82 with 2:22 left, but the Fever — who had led the series 2-1 — weren't finished. Davenport's inside basket cut it to 88-84, then Catchings' rebound basket made it 88-86 with 2:07 to play.

On the Mercury's next possession, Taylor took the ball and drove the lane into a crowd of defenders. Davenport was called for the foul, and Taylor's two free throws made it 90-86. Two free throws apiece from DeWanna Bonner and Taurasi provided the final margin.

Taylor added 14 points and Bonner 13 for Phoenix. Katie Douglas had her second straight rough shooting night. The Indiana star was 4 of 14 for 13 points after going 2 of 14 in Game 4. The Mercury made 10 of 17 3s.

Phoenix won it with the super-speed style that then-coach Paul Westhead used in 2007 and Corey Gaines — an assistant under Westhead — adopted when he took over.

"When I first started coaching in the WNBA coach Westhead, who is my mentor — who we owe this championship to as much as him being here right now — he told me, 'We're going to coach the players as players, not women, ball players'" Gaines said. "And it's funny how they embraced it because they enjoyed being treated that way. Instead of being treated as women basketball players, we treat them as ball players."

After a cold-shooting first quarter, the Mercury turned it on with one of their best 10 minutes of the season, shooting a finals record 76.5 percent (13 of 17) — and they even missed their last two shots — in a second-quarter blitz.

Taurasi, after struggling with her shot against Catchings' defense in the first four games, was 5 for 5 in a 13-point second quarter, three of them 3-pointers.

Attendance for the five games was a finals record 82,018, winding up with three consecutive sellouts. It helped that Phoenix Suns co-captains purchased all the tickets in the upper bowl for Friday's game and gave them away.


 

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