Taurasi defies injury with playoff career-high 37


Practice? No need. Shootaround? Meh.

Because while Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi’s injured left ankle has limited her mobility and non-game-day availability, her shooting stroke has not suffered a bit. Taurasi scored a playoff career-high 37 points to lead Phoenix to a 117-91 victory over the Aces to even their WNBA semifinal series at a game apiece.

And at 39, the 17th-year WNBA veteran became the oldest player to record a 30-point game, regular season or postseason, in league history.

“As you get older, you want to be in practice and you want to be in rhythm, but that’s when you’ve really got to lock in and kind of lean on your experiences that you’ve had in this league for a long time,” said Taurasi, who was 10-of-13 from the field, including 8-of-11 from 3-point range.

“When you have games like this, you just enjoy them and they feel a lot better when you come out with the win.”

It was also her record eighth 30-point playoff game.

“When you get long in the tooth, like I am, you have to take advantage of these situations,” she said. “And I don’t mean go out there and try to get 40 or 35, but be really locked in and be in the moment, and that’s what I’m trying to do every single time we get together right now. Because these moments don’t come very often.”

Taurasi missed the Mercury’s Round 1 playoff win against the New York Liberty with the ankle injury and scored 14 points in Phoenix’s Round 2 overtime win against the Seattle Storm.

She added 20 points in the Mercury’s Game 1 loss to Las Vegas despite being obviously hobbled. But Aces coach Bill Laimbeer insisted after that game that she was not hurt — in a manner of speaking.

“This is the playoffs — nobody’s hurt,” he said at the time. “I’ve been there and done that. All my friends have been there and done that. There’s no sympathy factor in the playoffs.

“And she will not give any quarter, either. Make sure of that one, OK? She will cut your heart out in a second. So, she’s not hurt. We’re going to play her as though she’s full speed and ready to go and everything like that. That’s how we do business. If we think otherwise, we put ourselves at a disadvantage.”

It did not matter in Game 2, not with center Brittney Griner dominating early — 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks in the first quarter — and Taurasi putting on her shooting clinic late.

While Taurasi’s eight 3-pointers were the second-most made in a playoff game in postseason history, she was also 7-of-8 (5-of-6 on 3-pointers) on contested field goal attempts.

Taurasi was 6-for-6 and scored 20 points while guarded by WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Kelsey Plum and 3-of-5 for 10 points while guarded by Chelsea Gray.

Game 3 is Sunday in Arizona.

“She’s not 100 percent, but she hasn’t gotten worse, and that’s the most important thing for us right now,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “Just get her ready for the next game. And what makes Diana special, we know she’s mentally tough, and I don’t think there’s any other player built like her in that department.

“She still has pain. … She just plays. It says a lot about her as a player, doesn’t it? I’ve seen many great games from Diana, but none as big as this one in the situations where she hasn’t been able to train and is not 100%. So, credit to her, and it’s fun to watch.”

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