Story by Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas
It was an exciting finish in the Phoenix Mercury season opener and who else would it be other than Diani Taurasi to seal the game? Taurasi drilled a clutch three-pointer with one second left hand the Minnesota Lynx a heartbreaking 77-75 defeat.
Yesterday the GMs in the league voted for the player they’d want to take the last shot.
They were right. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/CbQSTEGIVV
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) May 15, 2021
“I’d never underestimate Diana, trust me,” head coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s been playing this game for a long time and you know she’s the GOAT…It’s just a great player making a great shot.”
This was a rematch of last year’s second round of the playoffs playoffs, where the Lynx came out on top, giving the Mercury some added fuel to beat them this time around.
“I wanted to beat them because they beat us, so that game has been in my mind rent-free,” guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said. “I wanted to come out here and get a big win and set the tone for the season. Huge game opening up with Minnesota, having to play them on the road.”
Both teams got off to a shaky start with shooting, but the Mercury started to find their rhythm heading into the second quarter. They shot 31.6 percent from the field at the end of the first, while holding the Lynx to only 21.1 percent.
The first half was all Mercury, as they went into the locker room with a 33-24 lead. However, it was a back and forth battle in the second half as the Lynx came out strong, improving their shooting to 40.3 percent in the paint and 85.7 from the free-throw line.
Minnesota’s Kayla McBride scored 17 points in her first game with her new team, and teammate Aerial Powers added in 18.
In her return to the Phoenix lineup, Brittney Griner ended the night with a double-double, racking up 17 points and 12 rebounds. Diggins-Smith was also aggressive in the paint, which gave her success. She dropped 18 in the season opener.
In her first game with the Mercury, Kia Nurse shined offensively with 10 points, while Taurasi added 14. The Mercury out-rebounded the Lynx 42-36, which was an important factor in the win. Brianna Turner had 10 rebounds, along with 13 points. All five starters ended the night in double-figures.
“It’s good when you see everybody crashing the boards and getting in there and getting a second chance and taking away second chances for them,” Griner said. “I mean that’s where I feel like games are won – having a good defensive presence, and being big on the boards.”
The Mercury will stay on the road and face the Connecticut Sun at 4 p.m. local time on Sunday.