Mercury rout Aces for 2nd consecutive win, take control of series
6th-seeded Sky 1 win away from 2nd trip to WNBA finals after beating Sun
The Phoenix Mercury have three of the best players in the WNBA, each one capable of taking over a game.
But this team goes deeper than Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Brianna Turner proved it in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals.
Turner had 23 points and 17 rebounds while Las Vegas focused on stopping Taurasi, leading the Mercury to an 87-60 win over the Aces on Sunday and a 2-1 lead in the series.
"A lot of teams have been leaving her open and then it's about her making plays," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. "We got her in some great positions near the basket. She's just gaining confidence."
WATCH | Turner, Griner step up to lead Mercury past Aces:
The Mercury got off to another fast start and never let up, winning a second straight rout as members of the NBA's Phoenix Suns cheered from the front row of Arizona State's Desert Financial Arena.
Turner was the catalyst at both ends, shooting 9 of 14 while frustrating Aces star A'Ja Wilson on defence.
Griner did her part, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Taurasi couldn't get the shots to fall after a career playoff-high 37 points in Game 2, but had six assists and four rebounds.
The Mercury were just as good on the defensive end and dominated the glass, finishing with a WNBA playoff-record 58 rebounds — 29 more than Las Vegas.
Now Phoenix is within one win of reaching the WNBA Finals for the first time since winning the 2014 title. Game 4 is Wednesday in downtown Phoenix.
"These two games are the best we've played all season, at least consecutively," said Mercury guard Shey Peddy, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. "We were moving the ball well."
Las Vegas had a better defensive performance than it did in a blowout loss in Game 2.
'Offensively, we stunk'
The offence was disjointed.
The Aces struggled against Phoenix's pressure and to get open shots to fall, shooting 31 per cent and 2 of 14 from the 3-point arc. The Mercury also blocked six shots, including three by Griner.
Liz Cambage led the Aces with 13 points.
"Offensively, we stunk," Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. "They played very hard on defence — a good share of the credit goes that way — but we just didn't have it offensive-wise today."
The series shifted across the desert to the Valley of the Sun, though not to the Mercury's home arena. The Footprint Center had previously booked Disney on Ice, so the Mercury were forced to play their first home game of the WNBA semifinals at Arizona State.
Phoenix got off to a fast start in Game 2 — a record 68 first-half points — and kicked off Game 3 with 11 straight points. Taurasi got it started with two early 3s and Turner took it from there, scoring 17 first-half points.
Phoenix led 46-31 at halftime turned to Griner early in the second half. She delivered, scoring on a series of shots inside to extend the Mercury's lead to 68-44 late in the third quarter — well on their way to another lopsided victory.
Copper helps Sky take down Sun for commanding series lead
Kahleah Copper flexed after getting fouled on a basket late in Sunday's WNBA semifinal.
Her teammates latched onto the energy to keep an improbable postseason run going. Copper scored 26 points and Allie Quigley added 21 to help the Chicago Sky edge the top-seeded Connecticut Sun 86-83 in Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals on Sunday.
The sixth-seeded Sky finished the regular season .500 and 10 games behind the Sun but can win the best-of-five series and secure the franchise's second trip to the league finals with a victory at home Wednesday.
WATCH l Sky defeat top-seeded Sun in Game 3:
Copper completed the three-point play and made a running layup to cap a 9-0 run midway through the final period to give the hosts the lead for good. She struck a pose after making the first basket.
"When she's like this; it's over," Sky centre Candace Parker said of her teammate. "We remember the big plays, but it's those and some."
Copper was 5 for 7 from the floor and always seemed to come up with a big basket when the Sky needed it. The energy seemed to filter its way into the crowd of 7,421 as Chicago survived a dramatic final few seconds.
Down 84-83, the Sun had a chance to go ahead in the final seconds when Briann January got behind the defence on a breakaway, but missed the layup.
DeWanna Bonner scored 22 points to lead the Sun, who also got 18 from Alyssa Thomas.
"They got some loose balls tonight and they were a little tougher down the stretch," Bonner said. "Right now, `What if we made that shot?,' `What if we got that rebound?' is all we're thinking about."
Copper made a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the first half to give the Sky a 37-35 edge at the break.
"I was just aggressive from the beginning," Copper said. "I think it's important to bring that confidence. I'm just trying to do whatever I can do out there."
Azura Stevens had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Parker added 10 points and 11 boards for the Sky, who are seeking their first finals appearance since 2014.
Chicago forces 16 turnovers
The Sun appeared to get its offence untracked in the second quarter but didn't show the same kind of precision in the final period and a half and finished with 16 turnovers. Sky coach James Wade thought his team deserved some of the credit.
"We were able to stay five-on-five a little bit more," he said, "just paying more attention to Bonner. She's an amazing player and we know we have our hands full with her. We made sure we knew where she was."
Bonner was slow getting up after a rough collision with Diamond DeShields on a layup attempt late in the first half. She stayed in the game, however, and made both free throws. DeShields was assessed a flagrant 1 personal foul after a video review of the play.
Connecticut's Jonquel Jones, this season's league MVP, finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks after being held to just four points in the Sun's 79-68 game 2 victory. The Sky, however, held her to just one field goal on two tries in the final period Sunday.
"There's a lot of attention to her," Miller said. "The challenge is to get JJ touches where she can score."