2018 WNBA Playoffs: Same foe, same fate for Phoenix
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Once again, the Connecticut Sun played host to the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the WNBA Playoffs. And, once again, Diana Taurasi and company eliminated the fourth-seeded Sun.
The Connecticut crowd of 7,858 that roared for the former UConn Husky guard before tip-off was stunned to silence as a fired-up Taurasi celebrated yet another single-elimination game win. In what was her 13th winner-take-all victory against no defeats, Taurasi scored 27 points.
Connecticut falls short
Leading up to the playoffs, Curt Miller and his team her extremely proud of their success, especially overcoming their own adversities. “[Last year] we advance to the second round, but we technically didn’t win a playoff game … the next progression is advancing in the playoffs,” Miller said to High Post Hoops after the 96-79 win over Minnesota on August 17. “You can’t talk about semifinals and finals series’ until you can advance through the first or second round.”
After a win against the Los Angeles Sparks on August 19, Miller said, “Not often do you get second chances and we’ll have a second chance at this very same thing as when we got eliminated last year.
Like last year, the Connecticut Sun had a lead heading into the half. Last year, the Sun lead the Mercury 50-43. Connecticut once had a 17-point lead on Taurasi and company, but could not shut the door. The Sun were eliminated with an 88-83 Phoenix win. Like last year, the Sun couldn’t maintain the advantage against the Mercury Thursday night.
“It was a high-level, well-played game,” said Miller in the postgame press conference. “I thought we did a ton of really, really good things and put ourselves in a position at halftime to be able to pull out this game.” However, Phoenix made adjustments and Connecticut could not sustain pressure on the Big Three: Taurasi, Griner, and Bonner. The trio combined for 77 of the 96 Mercury points.
“Disappointed,” was one of the first words Jasmine Thomas uttered when asked how she was feeling after the loss. “I know how bad we wanted it, I know how much we talked about it. We really made it a goal to be back in this position again and were accepting of that challenge and we wanted it.”
This loss to the same team in similar fashion stings. The Sun’s leading scorer on Thursday, Courtney Williams, sat dispirited during the postgame press conference. She matched the 27 points of Griner and Taurasi to tie for the third most playoff points in franchise history (Katie Douglas ’12, Deanna Nolan ’06, Betty Lennox ’04). However, her individual performance wasn’t enough for her team to advance.
“It’s very frustrating, being out there and playing as hard as we [were] playing and to come up short again against the same team,” said Williams. “But, just gotta take it for what it is, watch more film, and like Jas[mine] said, get better in the offseason and come back a stronger team.”
It seems clear is the hunger for this Connecticut team is growing. Eventually, the Sun will no longer lack playoff experience. However, is a second-round single elimination game enough experience to get over the hump?
Nobody knows what it takes to win better than Taurasi, but she also did so in an era where all playoff teams played series. While Taurasi continues to thrive in elimination games, Phoenix has yet to advance past the semifinals in the new WNBA Playoffs format.