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Diana Taurasi doubtful as Mercury head to playoffs

The Phoenix Mercury prepare for their first-round playoff game against the Chicago Sky. The Mercury last faced the Sky on September 1 in a game that ended 105-78 in favor of the Sky. (Photo by Sarah Farrell/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Mercury did not have the season they envisioned, but they are ready to show they are better than where they finished in the standings.

“In our minds we know we shouldn’t have been an eighth (seed), but that’s what happened,” center Brittney Griner said. “That’s what we dealt out and we’re just going to have to prove why we shouldn’t have been an eight (seed), why we probably should’ve won some of those games we lost.”

Their 15-19 record earned them the eighth and final spot in the WNBA playoffs, despite numerous injuries and suspensions.

The Mercury are expected to play tonight’s game against the Chicago Sky without star guard Diana Taurasi.

“At this stage, I don’t envision Diana playing,” coach Sandy Brondello said.

Without Taurasi, the Mercury will rely on their other 10 players to help them advance in the playoffs.

“We don’t want our season to end and I think that’s motivation enough,” Brondello said. “We know it won’t be easy. We’re going to need everyone on the same page for every single possession.”

If the Mercury advance beyond the Sky, Brondello hopes Taurasi will be ready to play.

The Mercury will not be satisfied with just making the playoffs and hope to do some damage once the playoffs start.

“We expect more of ourselves, but we know anyone can beat anyone in this league,” Brondello said. “We know we just have to make sure we have a good game and come out focused and we’re playing together as a team.”

Since the Mercury is the eighth seed, they will have to travel on the road for their single-elimination game against the Sky. If they advance beyond that, they will travel to Los Angeles to face the Sparks.

The Mercury have struggled on the road this season, finishing with a 6-11 record away from Talking Stick Resort Arena.

August’s Western Conference Player of the Month, Griner admitted the team is usually more comfortable as a higher seed and knows every game will be tough, especially because they will be on the road.

“Remember the team that went into other people’s home courts last year and the year before that and got wins,” Griner said.” Remember that mentality. I think we will, I think we do.”

The WNBA implemented a new playoff format in 2016, with the first two rounds of the playoffs being single-elimination games and the semifinals and finals being a best-of-five series.

Since the implementation of this new format, the Mercury have thrived as a lower seed and hope to continue their string of single-elimination game success. In the past three postseasons, the Mercury advanced past the two elimination games and fell short in the semifinals.

“We need to find that grit, that motivation to wanting to keep playing. That’s all the end of the seasons is,” Taurasi said. “Do you want to keep coming back? Do you want to keep coming and competing? We’ll see if we want to do that.”

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