Kia Nurse makes solid Mercury debut as Taurasi's late dagger topples Lynx
Sabrina Ionescu's game-winning 3-pointer lifts Liberty over Fever; Sun, Wings also win
Diana Taurasi made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to give the Phoenix Mercury a 77-75 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.
The 38-year-old Taurasi made just two of her first 12 field goals before hitting the winner in the opener for both teams.
The officials stopped play after Taurasi's basket because the clock inadvertently stopped at 6.8 seconds when Minnesota turned it over. Following a lengthy delay, the Lynx inbounded it at half court but were not able to get off a shot before the buzzer.
Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix with 18 points. Brittney Griner had 17 points and 12 rebounds for her 42nd career double-double, tying former Mercury star DeWanna Bonner for the most in franchise history.
WATCH | Taurasi sends Mercury soaring past Lynx:
Brianna Turner added 13 points and 10 rebounds, Taurasi finished with 14 points and Hamilton's Kia Nurse, in her first game with Phoenix, had 10.
Canada's Natalie Achonwa scored two points and added three rebounds in her Lynx debut, while Canadian teammate Bridget Carleton was held scoreless.
DT's clutch triple proves to be enough to seal the game! 🙌 <a href="https://twitter.com/DianaTaurasi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DianaTaurasi</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CountIt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CountIt</a> <a href="https://t.co/cuok16MAYk">pic.twitter.com/cuok16MAYk</a>—@WNBA
Griner tipped in her own miss just before the halftime buzzer to give Phoenix a 33-24 lead. She had 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in the first half, and Diggins-Smith added eight points as the Mercury led by as many as 11. Kayla McBride led Minnesota with nine points.
Minnesota opened the second half by outscoring Phoenix 17-6 to take a 41-39 lead.
Aerial Powers, in her first game with Minnesota, scored 18 points. McBride, a fellow newcomer, and Crystal Dangerfield, the 2020 rookie of the year, added 17 points apiece. Sylvia Fowles scored 11 points to move into 17th place on the WNBA's career list, and she also had 11 rebounds.
Ionescu makes electric start to season
Sabrina Ionescu had a dream that she would hit a winning shot in her New York City debut.
That dream became reality when Ionescu made a 3-pointer from the wing with less than a second remaining to give the New York Liberty a 90-87 victory over the Indiana Fever on Friday night in the WNBA's season opener.
"I 100 per cent had a vision of hitting a game-winner," said Ionescu, who was wearing mentor Kobe Bryant's Lakers jersey in the postgame press conference. "We were tied walking into the huddle and I was smiling. It was too good to be true. ... I was ready for the moment."
The No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft scored 25 points in her first game in nearly 10 months after injuring her ankle three contests into her rookie season that was played in Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the game on the line, she got the ball near the wing and hit the deep shot to give the Liberty the lead with 0.4 seconds left. Indiana couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer on the other end.
WATCH | Ionescu's dagger gives Liberty the win:
Ionescu also had 11 assists and six rebounds in her Barclays Center debut. The former Oregon star scored the final eight points for New York, which trailed 86-82 with 39.7 seconds left. Ionescu hit a 3-pointer from the wing and then made two free throws with 21.8 seconds remaining to tie it at 87.
"She has a pretty special way of rising to the moment. You get to see it every day in practice," Liberty coach Walt Hopkins said. "Those big time situations is where she shines, it's what she lives for. I'm pretty excited she's on my team."
After a timeout, Indiana worked the clock down before Kelsey Mitchell was called for a traveling violation with 5.8 seconds left setting up Ionescu's winner with her family watching in the arena. She ran across the court with her arms waving to the crowd after the ball went through the net.
The Liberty signed Laney as a free agent in the off-season. The league's Most Improved Player last year made her presence felt right away scoring 11 points in the first quarter and had 20 at the half when the game was tied at 47.
"She was pretty fantastic, I was asked before the game, who was the surprise people should look out for and I said Betnijah," Hopkins said. 'She's a really special addition for us."
The game tipped off the WNBA's 25th season and was the Liberty's second regular season game ever at their new home Barclays Center. They played a game against Seattle in the 2019 regular season at the arena.
"Everyone has a little bit of jitters tonight. It's an exciting time, it's the 25th year. we've invested a lot in this process and our team and what we're trying to accomplish," Fever coach Marianne Stanley said before the game. "Once the ball is tossed for the opening tip people will be able to settle in."
Wings crush Sparks
Allisha Gray scored 23 points, No. 1 overall pick Charli Collier had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Dallas beat the new-look Los Angeles Sparks 94-71 for coach Vickie Johnson's first victory with the Wings.
Collier, a rookie from Texas, was 4 of 6 from the field in her debut and fellow top-five pick Chelsea Dungee played the final two minutes for the Wings. Awak Kuier, the No. 2 selection in Dallas' busy draft, did not play.
Arike Ogunbowale added 17 points, Marina Mabrey had 11 and Isabelle Harrison 10 for Dallas, which shot 53.1 per cent from the field. Kayla Thornton grabbed 11 rebounds.
Los Angeles did not have Candace Parker, a former league MVP, on its roster for the first time since 2007. Parker, another No. 1 overall pick, headed home to Chicago in the off-season after playing her entire 13-year career in Los Angeles.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 18 points and Chiney Ogwumike added 12 for Los Angeles. Kristi Toliver scored 11 points and moved into 16th place for WNBA career assists. Nia Coffey added 10 points.
Sun shoot past Dream
Jonquel Jones had 26 points and eight rebounds, DeWanna Bonner added 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists and the Connecticut Sun beat Atlanta 78-67 to spoil the Dream's inaugural game at the Gateway Center.
Jones, playing in her first game for Connecticut in 582 days after opting out last season, scored all 16 of her first-half points in the first quarter to help the Sun build a 22-17 advantage. Connecticut led 43-33 at the break.
Natisha Hiedeman added nine points for Connecticut, which will be without star Alyssa Thomas all season after she injured an Achilles tendon playing overseas. Bonner made four of Connecticut's 10 3-pointers, and Jones and Hiedeman each added two.
Connecticut dominated the paint, outrebounding Atlanta 42-26.
Odyssey Sims and Courtney Williams each scored 14 points for Atlanta, which was without Tiffany Hayes. Tianna Hawkins added 11 points and Chennedy Carter, who picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, had 10 points. Aari McDonald, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, was held to one point in 16 minutes.
The Dream struggled from the field, going 23 for 64 (35.9 per cent), in interim coach Mike Petersen's first game at the helm.