Behind Taurasi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner, who combined for 72 points, the Mercury rallied from a 17-point deficit Sunday to defeat the top-seeded Storm 86-84, forcing a decisive Game 5 in their WNBA semifinal series Tuesday night in Seattle.
“We protected our house, that was our goal,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re just very excited that we get to play a fifth game. Obviously, it’s on Seattle’s home court, but we have played well away from home this year. We’ll go in there and put on a good showing and may the best team win.”
The Mercury became the first team in league history to force a Game 5 after dropping the first two games of a series. The Storm suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season.
“It’s been a very equal series, which you would expect because the teams are so familiar with each other,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “But we worked all year to get a chance to play Game 5 at home, so we’ll value that.”
Storm point guard Sue Bird left Sunday’s game with 4:23 left in the first half after suffering a broken nose, the result of an inadvertent elbow from teammate Breanna Stewart, the league’s MVP. It was the fifth time Bird has broken her nose in her pro career.
“She’s obviously the brain of that team and she kind of makes them go,” Taurasi said of Bird, her former UConn teammate. “It was a matter of just buckling down and knowing if we didn’t play well, the season was going to be over. They brought their best effort; I think we did, too. It comes down to making a couple of plays at the end of the game and we did that [Sunday].”
The Mercury have done that all series. They’ve outscored the Storm 94-47 in the fourth quarter of the first four games.
The Storm had a 16-point lead in the opener and a 17-point lead in Game 2, both in Seattle, before holding on for 91-87 victories, the latter in overtime.
“These series, they are a grind because you’re seeing the same people, the same plays, and it becomes a mind game. … The momentum seems to be in their favor, and we’re going to have to figure out how to switch that back to us,” said Bird, who vowed to play in Game 5, albeit likely with a facemask.
GAMEDAY! Who will book trips to the #WNBAFinals??
Find out tonight with BACK-TO-BACK winner-take-all Semifinals Game 5s! #WNBAPlayoffs
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 4, 2018