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Diana Taurasi Only Gets Better During Elimination Games

It’s a known fact that diamonds aren’t made without pressure. In basketball, there’s no more pressurized situation than an elimination game. Win or go home, it’s as simple as that. And for Diana Taurasi, the more pressure, the more her sparkling play shines on the court.

Throughout Taurasi’s well-documented and wildly successful career in the collegiate ranks, Phoenix, and on four Olympic teams, she’s seen more than her fair share of these kinds of games. Whether it’s the NCAA tournament, a WNBA Finals game, or a gold medal, the prize may change but the stakes always remain the same.

Between the NCAA Tournament, WNBA Playoffs, and the Olympics, DT’s played in 46 elimination games over the course of her basketball career; she hasn’t gone home 42 of those times. In total, Taurasi holds an overall record of 42-4, good enough for a staggering 91% win record. Although she’s been drenched in champagne, adorned in gold, or continuing the pursuit of such things more often than not, she’s also experienced the agonizing feeling of knowing that her season or tournament ends there, in that moment.

At the University of Connecticut, where Taurasi won three national championships, she finished her career 22-1 in NCAA tournament games. Her sole loss came in her freshmen year in the Final Four against Notre Dame.

Since being drafted by the Mercury with the first pick in the 2004 draft, Taurasi has played in 14 elimination games, going 11-3 in those contests, including an incredible 5-0 on the way to the Mercury’s 2009 WNBA championship.

As for the last time she was in a WNBA winner-take-all matchup, it might have been her best elimination game performance ever. A September 2nd, 2014 showdown with the Lynx for game three of the Western Conference Finals saw Taurasi drop 31 points on a scintillating 12-for-17 shooting from the field. She added seven assists and five rebounds en route to the victory that would propel them to the WNBA championship after a three game sweep of the Sky in the next round.

Taurasi’s all-encompassing production in elimination games with the Mercury are a big reason why she’s been so successful. In those 17 games she’s averaging 18.8 PPG on 48 percent shooting from the field (40 percent from three, 88 percent on free throws), 4.4 RPG, and 3.5 APG, all of which are right in line with her career numbers.

Still not picking Diana Taurasi first if you’re starting a team with one game on the line? Her 877 total points in the playoffs are the third most all-time. She’s 31 points from catching Lisa Leslie, and with her ability, that number could be reached in the team’s first-round matchup with the all-time playoff scoring leader, Tamika Catchings, and her Indiana Fever.

When it comes to the Olympics, Taurasi is a perfect 12-0 in elimination round games, a mark which has led her to capture a record-tying four gold medals. As a whole, the United States Women’s National Team hasn’t lost an elimination game, or any game for that matter, since the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

As the Mercury prepare for Wednesday, they do so knowing that as a result of the new playoff format they’re only assured one game, and it will be in Indiana. If they can win in Indianapolis, they’ll be forced to travel to Chicago and do it all over again, as another one-game series awaits them in the second round.

While this structure adds drama and heightens the willingness to play your best possible game night in and night out, it also will be uncharted waters for most in the W. For Taurasi, it’s familiar territory. She’s been playing in, and more importantly, winning, elimination games for the better part of past 15 years. Taurasi will not be fazed by the moment, in fact, she’s probably looking forward to it.

When it’s all said and done Diana Taurasi does her best work when the potential for not being able to work the next day is on the line.