Tulsa, Okla. (Sports Network with additional reporting by Full Court's Lee Michaelson) - Diana Taurasi finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to guide the Phoenix Mercury past the Tulsa Shock, 108-103, in overtime on Sunday. It was the highest scoring game for the Shock since the franchise relocated to Tulsa in 2010.</p>
Taurasi notched 21 of those points in the second half after a sluggish start that saw her connect on just three of her nine field-goal attempts for eight points in the first 20 minutes. DeWanna Bonner added 23 points and Candice Dupree finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Mercury, winners in three straight. Brittney Griner added 16 points, five rebounds and a franchise-record-tying five blocks in just 23 minutes on the floor. Charde Houston finished with 10 points in the win, all but two of them in the first half. "Charde kept us alive in the first half," said Mercury head coach Cory Gaines afterward.
Glory Johnson led the way for the Shock a personal-best 32 points and 15 rebounds, including 12 offensive boards -- all career highs -- and Riquna Williams, only recently returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion, added 28 points for the Shock, who have dropped seven of their first eight games to open the season. Despite that 1-7 record, several of those losses have been quite close, including two overtime losses -- one on the road to the Los Angeles Sparks and tonight's defeat by the Mercury.
Skylar Diggins pitched in with 22 points and eight assists in the setback. Indeed, the rookie's play was instrumental in forcing the game to extra minutes. Phoenix led 80-74 following Bonner's trey with 7:20 left, but Tulsa scored seven straight points to capture the lead.
The Mercury countered with a 5-0 run of their own moments later. With Tulsa down five and a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation and her dad watching the Father's Day game from the stands, Diggins picked off an errant pass by the Mercury's DeWanna Bonner and dropped in a layup to pull the Shock within three. Bonner answered with a layup at the other end, but Diggins dished to Williams for a three-pointer and, on the following possession, to Johnson for two, to knot the score at 88.
Taurasi, who was a near-perfect nine-of-10 from the charity stripe, put the Mercury back on top with four consecutive makes at the line. With just eight seconds to go, Diggins banked one in from five feet out, and Powell quickly fouled Taurasi to stop the clock. Taurasi missed the first and made the second, opening the door for Williams' three-point buzzer beater to tie the score at 93, forcing the game to overtime.
Williams knocked down a jumper at the start of the bonus period to put the Shock up 95-93, but the Mercury opened a 13-6 swing to go up 105-101 with 10.5 seconds left.
Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws with 5.7 ticks showing and Tulsa quickly fouled Taurasi, who buried a pair to seal the win.
Taurasi, who is second only to Cynthia Cooper in the WNBA's all-time scoring annals at 20.6 points per game, is best known for her ability to take an opponent off the dribble or to pull up on a dime and bury the dagger. But she told Full Court that whether at the high school, college or pro level, the importance of free-throw shooting cannot be overemphasized. She won't end a workout without knocking down at least 10 in a row, and often intersperses free-throw practices between other elements of her workouts. "I missed one tonight," she said, "and it could have cost us the game." True enough, but without Taurasi's nine makes at the stripe, there would have been great celebration in Tulsa tonight.
|Brittney Griner (No. 42) tied a Phoenix Mercury franchise record with five blocks on the night, including this attempt by Tulsa's Glory Johnson. A sixth apparent swat was ruled a foul. (Photo by Lee MIchaelson)|