A Decade of Diana: No. 3
By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: March 28, 2013
In celebration of Diana Taurasi being named as the X-Factor’s Favorite Mercury Player of All-Time, and coinciding with the superstar entering her 10th year with the Mercury in 2013, PhoenixMercury.com has launched a special tribute series entitled, “A Decade of Diana.” Every Thursday starting Feb. 7 for 10 weeks, we’ll relive Taurasi’s 10 best moments with the team since her arrival in 2004.
Taurasi Moment No. 3: September 8, 2007
Diana Taurasi makes no apologies for the way she plays the game.
And, to her credit, she shouldn’t. Not that she needed justification, but the 2007 WNBA Finals (most notably, Game 2) was a perfect example why.
The series was an archetypal match-up of a contrast in philosophies. Both teams were dynamic, but demonstrated said vibrancy in vastly different ways. The Shock featured a tough, gritty, in-your-face style of play while the Mercury personified the definition of running-and-gunning.
In Game 1, Taurasi missed a substantial portion of the game due to foul trouble, scoring 10 points in just 22 minutes as the Mercury fell to the Shock 108-100. At the time, many people strongly recommended she tone it down and play, in their words, “smarter.”
Likewise, the entire Phoenix Mercury team had been hearing a similar mantra all season long – that defense wins championships and sustaining a fast-paced game isn’t realistic in the playoffs, much less the Finals.
But there’s a difference between playing aggressive and being assertive.
Diana Taurasi is the latter.
That’s why, in Game 2, you just knew Taurasi was going to lead the Mercury to a convincing win. While showcasing practically her entire arsenal of moves offensively, she scored 30 points, hit seven 3-pointers, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out three assists in a huge 98-70 victory in Detroit.
Yet, for all of her dexterity on the offensive end of the floor, in this writer’s opinion, the most noteworthy moment of the game for Taurasi happened at the end of the third quarter.
Does anyone else remember a visibly passionate Taurasi being the first one off the bench to high-five and inspire her teammates as they were coming off the floor, even though the Mercury was nursing a seemingly insurmountable 79-51 lead?
Whether you remember or not doesn’t necessarily matter, but that moment was enormously significant in terms of setting the tone for the rest of the series.
In Taurasi's mind, the 28-point lead wasn’t enough. Not in a Finals game against the Detroit Shock, one of the great dynasties of the WNBA. Her message to the team was clear: now is not the time for a letdown if they want to be WNBA Champions.
It is that same mentality that has allowed Taurasi to flourish when her back is against the wall; the “lows” in life are never too low, and the “highs” are never too high. In fact, she uses adversity as a motivator. When the situation seems bleak, that’s when she plays the best – not because she has anything to prove to others, but because she has something to prove to herself.
You know the rest of the story; the Mercury went on to win their first WNBA Championship by defeating the Shock in five hard-fought games.
As fate would have it, the deciding Game 5 was a culmination of what they worked all season long for. Phoenix shot over 50 percent from the field, almost 40 percent from 3-point range and missed only one free throw all night (29-30). Moreover, they assisted on 25 of their 34 made baskets while turning the ball over just nine times in their 108-92 win.
Phoenix didn’t need Taurasi to score another 30 points in Game 5 like she did in Game 2. Instead, she led the team in blocked shots, rebounds (seven) and finished second in assists (six).
Didn’t matter to her. They won.
For Taurasi, that's all that has ever mattered.
A Decade of Diana
Visit PhoenixMercury.com on Thursday, April 4 for the No. 2 moment in “A Decade of Diana.”