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Taurasi helps Mercury advance to semifinals, beat Liberty

NEW YORK — Diana Taurasi scored 30 points and Brittney Griner added 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to help the eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury beat the No. 3 New York Liberty 101-94 on Saturday night.

The Mercury will head to Minnesota for the semifinals, which is a five-game series as opposed to the single elimination games that Phoenix won in the opening two rounds of the postseason. Taurasi improved her record to 13-3 in WNBA elimination games in her storied career, including a 6-0 mark on the road.

Just as they did during their first-round playoff game, Phoenix players Mistie Bass and Kelsey Bone kneeled during the playing of the national anthem . Liberty guard Brittany Boyd sat on the bench with her head bowed. She also did that in the regular-season home finale Sept. 13.

With Phoenix clinging to a two-point lead early in the fourth quarter Taurasi scored five straight points in a 10-2 run that gave them an 84-76 advantage. New York refused to quit, hitting back-to-back 3s to get within 84-82. But that’s as close as the Liberty could get as they came up empty on the next few possessions. New York trailed 90-86 with 1:29 left before Taurasi hit a 3-pointer from the wing, pumping her fists at midcourt after it swished through the net that virtually sealed the victory.

Phoenix was in control in the first half as the Mercury led by 15 points in the second quarter thanks to the play of Penny Taylor, who finished with 20 points. Trailing 52-41 at the break, the Liberty opened the second half on a 13-2 run capped by Tina Charles’ 3-pointer to tie it at 54. They trailed 68-67 after three quarters and the game was tied at 74 after Epiphanny Prince’s 3-pointer with 7:23 left in the final period.

Tanisha Wright scored 21 points and Tina Charles added 19 to lead New York. The loss also marked the end of Swin Cash’s career. The 15-year WNBA player announced during the season that she would retire after the Liberty’s season ended.

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