Taurasi’s big shot not enough for Mercury to avoid playoff elimination
PHOENIX — Candace Parker’s driving layup with 2.9 seconds to play gave the Los Angeles Sparks an 89-87 win and three-game sweep of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA semifinals Sunday.
Parker finished with 21 points and 11 assists.
Brittney Griner missed a shot as time expired and the Sparks celebrated with shouts and embraces in front of their bench.
Odyssey Sims scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Chelsea Gray added 14 points for the defending champion Sparks, who advanced to their second straight WNBA Finals and fifth overall. They will face Minnesota in a rematch of last year’s championship, after the Lynx completed a sweep of Washington earlier Sunday.
Diana Taurasi had tied the game at 87 with a 3-pointer from the wing with 10.8 seconds left.
DIANA TAURASI pic.twitter.com/OQKsndgs6O
— wnba media elite (@jackhaveitall) September 17, 2017
After a timeout, Parker scored the go-ahead basket.
Taurasi’s 22 points led the Mercury while Griner added 18.
Leilani Mitchell’s steal and layup with 1:21 left brought the crowd to its feet and cut the Sparks’ lead to 85-82. Then Camille Little, who scored 18 points, stole an inbounds pass and drove for a layup to make the score 85-84 with 18.6 seconds to go.
Sims sank a pair of free throws with 14.1 seconds left before Taurasi’s shot tied it.
The Sparks trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter after Little’s 3 with 3:43 left, part of her 12 points in the opening 10 minutes.
The Mercury’s 30-21 lead in the second quarter disappeared with a pair of Parker steals, two free throws and a nifty assist to Sims for a layup, and Los Angeles took its largest lead of the half, 43-35, on Alana Beard’s jumper 36.3 seconds before halftime.
The Mercury’s top two players, Taurasi and Griner, combined to make only 3 of 19 shots in the first half as Phoenix scored only 13 second-quarter points.
Griner, at one point late in the third quarter, grabbed Parker in frustration for what she thought was a foul, and Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello was given technical. Taurasi was whistled for a technical seconds later.
NOT REALLY HER DAY
Ogwumike, the 2016 league MVP and the Sparks’ second-highest scorer in the series, was saddled with foul trouble early and finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Phoenix Suns big man Alan Williams, who purchased 300 tickets for fans to attend the game, sat courtside with his family. … Suns guard Devin Booker also attended. … Parker ran over to the scorer’s table and screamed her disapproval at an officials’ decision after the final shot of the first half, but what was originally ruled a technical foul was overturned.
Game of the WNBA Finals is next Sunday, when the Sparks will face Minnesota in Game 1.