Phoenix Mercury earn third WNBA title, defeating Chicago Sky 87-82
Phoenix earned their third WNBA Championship by defeating Chicago 87-82 Friday night at UIC Pavilion in the Windy City. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi was named WNBA Finals MVP for the second time in her career (2009). She finished the game with 24 points and five assists, including 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“Diana Taurasi is just amazing,” said Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello about the MVP. “I keep talking about the best player in the world and it’s because she does so many things to help the team. She’s a great leader and she’ll lead through action or she’ll lead though constructive criticism or motivation. Whatever it takes, that’s what she’ll do.”
The win made the franchise one of only three in the 18-year history of the WNBA to win three titles and ended a historic season by the team. They amassed a league-record 29 regular season wins, enjoying a win streak of 16 games that was the second-longest in WNBA history. The Mercury posted an overall home record of 21-1 and ended the season winning the last 20 games at US Airways Center.
While the Mercury routed the Sky in the first two games of the best-of-five series in contests at US Airways Center in Phoenix, game three came down to the wire. With Mercury center Brittney Griner sidelined the Sky took advantage of the open lane, scoring 18 of their 22 first quarter points in the paint and the remaining four from the free throw line.
“Well, it’s the kind of game I would expect in this third game,” said Brondello about the close contest. Obviously, not having Brittney Griner really changed how we played a little bit.”
The Sky’s one-two punch, led by Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne, combined for 16 points in the first quarter. The teams were deadlocked at 22 after the first ten minutes of action. After the first half, the Mercury held a slim 45-43 lead.
Chicago shot 46.7 percent from the field in the third quarter to regain the lead. With an assist at the three-minute mark in the third quarter, Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot gained her 11th assist, tying a WNBA Finals record. A step-back jumper from Quigley sparked a 9-2 run over the final two minutes to give the Sky a 63-61 lead at the end of the third.
Phoenix forced two shot clock violations in the midst of a 9-4 run that gave the Mercury a 72-67 lead with 5:51 lead in the fourth quarter. But the Sky battled back with a 9-5 run of their own to cut the Mercury lead to one point with less than three minutes remaining. After a gritty defensive stop, Allie Quigley raced down court and nailed a pull-up jumper with less than 35 seconds left to tie the game at 82.
Following a Phoenix timeout Diana Taurasi connected on a three-point play. Chicago had a chance to tie, but an three point attempt by Delle Donne in the closing seconds fell short allowing the Mercury to escape with the 87-82 victory.
In spite of the loss, Sky coach Pokey Chatman had praise for her team.
“I want to start off by saying that I am proud of my team in terms of what they accomplished this year,” said Chatman. “Yes, it stings right now. We didn’t have the showing that we wanted but I want to credit a team that when they had a man down, their All-Star players stepped up. I thought we went back and forth and there were some crucial times in there were we had opportunities to separate and they would come back with an and-one.”
Brondello had no doubt the Mercury would end up on top.
“Well, I knew it was going to be a tight game, but I always had confidence that we would close out because that’s what we’ve done all season long. There’s a reason we’re 29-5. We did have some close games, believe it or not, and we executed when it mattered and obviously we have the best player in the world, Diana Taurasi. And regardless what happens before, when you put the ball in her hand at crunch time, she makes it happen.”
- Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello, the WNBA Coach of the Year, became the first coach in franchise history to win the award. She also became the first former WNBA player to win a WNBA Championship as a head coach.
- Mercury center Brittney Griner was named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, also a first for a Mercury player.
- Candice Dupree scored 24 points and dished out a team-high six assists for Phoenix.
- 2014 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Allie Quigley delivered 19 points, including 10 in the second half. Quigley also grabbed five rebounds.