The GOAT speaks
With 2:32 left in the game, Alyssa Thomas made a layup to tie the game at 86 points. According to Taurasi, it was around this point in the game that Phoenix made a critical choice.
“I think we relish these moments when it’s really up to you if you want to keep playing. Do you want to come back tomorrow and go to Seattle and play the best team in the league?”
It sounds quite simple. It’s not, yet it is. One does not decide to win a 13th decisive WNBA Playoff game in the last two minutes. It takes countless hours of practice, training, recovery, game minutes, film sessions, and more.
However, all the work leading up to the last two minutes is not only to be physically prepared. It also helps push out the doubt. Sometimes it takes a teammate getting in your face, sometimes it takes an opponent ever so slightly provoking you. Sometimes, it comes from a big play. Phoenix had all of those things Thursday.
The Thomas layup at the 2:32 mark was the last of the Connecticut Sun season.
“In the last two minutes, our experience showed,” Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello told the media after the 96-86 road victory. The Connecticut Sun held both Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner under 10 points. The Mercury trailed 44-40 at the half. At halftime, both Brondello and DeWanna Bonner spoke to their star center.
“I keep reminding her, ‘The only person who can stop you is you,'” said Brondello. According to Griner, Bonner’s pep talk was a bit more direct.
“She kinda got on me,” said Griner. The 6’4″ forward got in the grill of her 6’9″ center and told her to stop being passive. “I did what she said.”
The result was a 19-point performance down the stretch, including a critical block on Sun hot hand Courtney Willams.
The Mercury took an 88-86 lead at the 2:10 mark of the fourth quarter. The next Sun possession was the definitive turning point in the game.
The speedy Courtney Willams danced just outside the paint, trying to catch Griner off balance and to take advantage of the mismatch. Willaims drove the lane and attempted to go up and under, but Griner tracked it all the way.