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Mercury’s Taurasi keeps focus on championship ahead of Game 3

Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi, left, briefly embraces Seattle Storm's Sue Bird as Bird calls a timeout moments after Taurasi connected on a 3-point shot with seconds left in the second half in a WNBA basketball playoff semifinal, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Seattle. The shot sent the game into overtime and the Storm won 91-87. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Pressure is second nature for Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

Over the course of her 14-year career, the franchise cornerstone has been noted as one of the game’s most reliable clutch performers. Now facing elimination in the Western Conference Semifinals against the No. 1 seed Seattle Storm, Taurasi remains focused on the same goal that’s driven her all along: her fourth WNBA Championship.

“We lost our starting power forward Sancho Lyttle a month and a half ago to an ACL. Tonight we have another one, Steph Talbot, she’s out with the concussion protocol,” Taurasi said Friday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sport Station’s Bickley & Marotta “It’s those little things that, as a team, you have to overcome if you want to win a championship. We fought so hard to get to that fifth spot and those two elimination games so we’re a confident team.”

While adversity may scare the average player, Taurasi elevates her game in times of need. With a personal record of 13-0 in elimination games, she’s prepared to tackle the challenge head-on.

“We all know these games in the playoffs, whether its NBA or NFL — it’s whatever team comes out and balls out,” Taurasi said.

Taurasi’s had an excellent postseason run, putting up an average of 26.5 points, eight assists and four rebounds through four playoff games. Efficiency has been key to her success as she’s shot 52.2 percent from the field and a stellar 46.3 percent on 41 attempts from behind the arc. She leads the league in three-pointers made in the playoffs by 11.

In spite of her efforts, Taurasi and the Mercury find themselves backed against a wall. Seattle’s well-balanced rotation finished Game 3 with five players scoring in double-figures. The Storm, led by guard Sue Bird, managed to double the Mercury in free throw attempts with 26 in the game.

Returning home for the second portion of the series, Taurasi will continue the duel against her longtime friend Bird with an added chip on her shoulder.

“When we’re on the same team we fight like hell together and when we’re playing against each other, it’s like trying to beat your sister,” Taurasi said. “Who do you want to beat more than your brother or your little sister? Nobody.”

The competitive nature of the two legends is in full effect. Coming off of a miracle buzzer-beater to force overtime in Game 2, Taurasi has once again proven that she’s no stranger to the high intensity of the playoffs.

“You can’t be afraid of those moments and it’s taken me a while to get there,” Taurasi said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve put in the work so those last couple minutes, that’s the time to really show what you’re made out of. If your team sees that you’re scared, they’re going to play tight so I kind of relish those moments”

Game 3 will tip off at 7:00 PM MST at Talking Stick Resort Arena and will be shown on ESPNews.

Bickley & Marotta