Taurasi Does it All in Mercury Win

By Matt Paulson
East Valley Tribune
July 9, 2008

In a league-sponsored TV commercial which played frequently Tuesday during the cable broadcast of the Mercury game, guard Diana Taurasi says, “When the pressure is on, so am I.”

The 15,499 fans on hand at US Airways Center for a matinee with the Houston Comets missed out on hearing Taurasi’s words, but witnessed actions which delivered the same message.

In the game’s final 43 seconds, Taurasi hit a goahead 3-pointer, blocked a shot by the tallest player on the court and outleaped one of the WNBA’s legends on a jump ball to secure Phoenix’s 99-94 come-frombehind victory.

With the win, which ended a two-game slide, the Mercury (9-9) got back to .500 and leapfrogged Houston (9-10) to move from sixth into a tie for fourth in the Western Conference. Five players scored in double figures for Phoenix, which trailed by as many as 14 points and eight in the final quarter.

“This was very important for us to get this win,” said forward Le’coe Willingham, who grabbed the crucial offensive rebound, which eventually led to Taurasi’s 3-pointer. “It was tough for us out there, but we had the mental stability to keep our heads the entire time and make those tough plays when we needed it.”

Taurasi, who became the player fastest to 3,000 career points in WNBA history during the game, led the rally with 15 fourth-quarter points to finish with 30, her fifth game with at least that many points this year. Cappie Pondexter contributed 22 points, Tangela Smith added 17, Kelly Miller finished with 13 and Kelly Mazzante had 10.

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“Everybody had a big (game) today,” coach Corey Gaines said.

But nobody stood taller than Taurasi. Her game-winning shot came after a missed free throw by Pondexter, which could have given Phoenix a 91-90 lead.

“That was supposed to go in,” Pondexter said, “but you know, it was meant to be because Le’coe got the biggest rebound of the game.”

Willingham then passed the ball out to Pondexter, who found a wide-open Taurasi. Taurasi said she knew the shot was good the moment it left her hand.

“I let it go and I was like, 'If that doesn’t go in I should retire from basketball,’ ” she said.

On the ensuing possession, the 6-footer blocked a shot in the lane by 6-5 Michelle Snow, recovered the ball and found a streaking Pondexter for a layup.

After Houston cut the lead to 97-94, Taurasi outleaped 6-2 Tina Thompson (23 points) on a jump ball at the Comets’ free-throw line with 2.5 seconds remaining to give Phoenix a victory-preserving possession.

Notes: Mercury guard Diana Taurasi on Tuesday became the player quickest to 3,000 career points in WNBA history.

Diana Taurasi 151
Lauren Jackson 162
Chamique Holdsclaw 165
Katie Smith 167
Lisa Leslie 172

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.