Taurasi closes in on history, Merc fall to defending champion Sparks, 89-87

PHOENIX—On the day before her birthday, Diana Taurasi inched closer to history. Taurasi, who turns 35 on Sunday, scored 27 points and passed Tamika Catchings for second on the WNBA’s all-time field goals made list.

“Big birthday tomorrow,” Taurasi said. “35, I’ve been really lucky to be here for a long time.”

Taurasi now trails only Tina Thompson. Taurasi is just 29  points away from becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, trailing only Tina Thompson. Now, while she might be 29 POINTS away from Thompson, she’s 240 made field goals away, because a lot of Taurasi’s points have come from the 3-pt line.

People mention how good LeBron is for his age, 32. Taurasi will be 35 and she’s still arguably the best player in the WNBA.

“She’s a special player,” Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello said of Taurasi. “That’s why I say she’s the greatest player of all time, because of what she can do in those big moments, she makes plays. She makes shots. She had a great game tonight,” Brondello said.

The first quarter was a mess. The Merc got off to a 9-0 lead, but ten fouls were called on the Mercury in the first quarter alone, and it allowed the Sparks to claw their way back into the game and establish a 19-18 lead after one.

Taurasi led all Phoenix scorers with 11 points at halftime. WNBA leading scorer Brittney Griner (24.1 ppg) had seven at the half.

The Mercury are ignoring the one sure-fire way to dominate the game, which is to feed the ball to Brittney Griner. She’s bigger and stronger than any other player on the court. She needs to use and abuse that to her advantage each game. If they double her up, pass it out to the wide open teammate.  It’s just like LeBron. I’m not comparing Griner to LeBron, at all, just simply saying they could use her in the same capacity that the Cavs use LeBron. Or the same capacity that LeBron uses himself, considering he practically is a player-coach. Griner is averaging 31 and 10 over the last couple games. Feed her the ball.

“I thought we ran a little bit away from our aggressiveness in parts through the game, which really hurt us, particularly on Gray,” Brondello said. “We showed glimpses of what we’re capable of, getting back into games, but we’ve got to be a bit more consistent in executing our scout.”

“Today was a little disappointing because I thought we had the energy and I thought we did a lot of good things to win the game, but they showed why they’re the defending champs. They made some big plays at the end of the game. When it’s two good teams, it comes down to posession play and getting stops, and we just didn’t do enough of that,” Taurasi said.

Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 24 points and dished out eight assists as well.

Down by four going into the fourth, the Merc and the Sparks traded blows up to the last seconds of the game. Candace Parker hit a HUGE three to make it 87-82 Sparks with :47 left in the game. Taurasi was fouled, getting the game back within three with :39 left. The Sparks’ Alana Beard missed a free throw at the other end, allowing Taurasi to bang home a three to make it a one-point game with five seconds remaining. Chelsea Gray missed a free throw on the next possession, with four seconds left on the clock, enough for a final Merc possession. Taurasi wasn’t able to channel her inner Steph Curry and couldn’t make the deep three near the logo to win the game.

Streakin: Britney Griner has scored 10+ points in 14 straight games. Her career-long is 15.

Up Next: The Merc take on the Chicago Sky Friday at 7 p.m.

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