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Griner, Mercury fight back from 17-point deficit, force Game 5

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) is guarded by Seattle Storm's Sami Whitcomb (33) and Natasha Howard as she tries to drive to the basket during the first half of Game 4 of a WNBA basketball semifinals playoff game, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

PHOENIX — Brittney Griner scored with 14.1 seconds to play then prevented Breanna Stewart from getting a shot off before the buzzer as the Phoenix Mercury rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Seattle Storm 86-84 on Sunday and force a deciding Game 5 of their WNBA semifinal series.

Griner had 29 points and 12 rebounds and DeWanna Bonner scored 21 of her 27 in the second half.

Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said moving Bonner to the small forward position helped start a comeback.

“She’s been great for us at the four, but I moved her to the three and put the ball in her hands and she got aggressive,” Brondello said. “she’s so dynamic on reversals when she’s on the attack and gets to the basket she can finish.”

Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Seattle. Diana Taurasi, who had 16 points, is 13-0 in her WNBA playoff career in winner-take-all games.

The Mercury are the first team in WNBA history to force a game 5 after falling behind 2-0 in a series.

The other semifinal series, between Atlanta and Washington, also has gone to a Game 5.

The Storm, who dropped both games in Phoenix after winning two at home, lost Sue Bird with a broken nose with 4:23 left in the third quarter when she took an accidental elbow to the face from teammate Breanna Stewart.

Stewart, the WNBA’s MVP, led Seattle with 22 points.

Griner’s winning basket came after Bonner missed and Phoenix’s Camille Little grabbed the rebound. Little got the ball to Griner, who scored. The Storm worked the ball to Stewart at the end but she couldn’t get a shot off against the 6-foot-8 Griner’s defense.

“I had just fouled Stewie on the three, so I knew I had to do something to make it up,” Griner said. “She drove, I just stayed there, kept my hands up high, and she got underneath the goal. That was it basically.”

Phoenix trailed by 17 in the first half, 16 early in the second and still was down 69-57 after Stewart sank a 19-footer with 1:27 left in the third quarter. But the Mercury responded with a 13-2 run. Taurasi sank a 3 with 3.6 seconds left to cut the lead to 71-66 entering the fourth quarter and Bonner’s basket sliced the deficit to 71-70 with 8:40 to play.

Griner’s basket tied it at 76-76 and Bonner’s two free throws put Phoenix up 78-76 with 5:29 to play, the Mercury’s first lead since the game’s opening moments.

Seattle had rolled to a 31-16 lead after one quarter, the Storm’s highest-scoring quarter in their postseason history.

TIP-INS

Storm: Seattle shot 72 percent in the first quarter (13-of-18), including 3-pointers by four different players. … Seattle won the WNBA title in 2004 and 2010.

Mercury: Taurasi is 50-7 in elimination games including the WNBA, Olympics and NCAA competition.

UP NEXT

The teams meet Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the deciding Game 5.

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