Diamond DeShields looked over through a swarm of Dallas Wings defenders and hesitated. Then found her target and jumped to sail a gem of a pass to Shey Peddy as Peddy fell down to sink her fourth 3-pointer of the game.
The connection between the two was an illustration of how the night went for the Mercury with both Peddy and DeShields finding magic at the basket and lifting the team to an 86-74 victory over the Wings Friday night at Footprint Center.
“This is an extremely resilient group and I would never count them out in any situation. There were very resolved in the locker room to come back out and fight,” Nygaard said. “We couldn’t count on anything this season to go our way at any moment. We can only count on us. That’s what we saw.”
Coming into the game, the Mercury’s postseason hopes were hanging on a thread with a potential loss and a win from the Minnesota Lynx being the final nail in the coffin. But with the Lynx’s loss to Seattle during the game, the Mercury wasn’t out of contention.
Regardless of the news from Minnesota, the Mercury (15-20) were still in a must-win situation against the Wings with it being the first of its two final games.
“You got to control what you got to control and we knew that coming into the game tonight that the only thing was just winning and taking care of business. We knew there were a lot of other factors that our playoff berth would be contingent on and still would be contingent on. We had to take care of business here in Phoenix in order for those things to play out in our favor,” DeShields said.
Playing without star guards Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith has shown its challenges for the Mercury and it was an undertaking from the Mercury’s core given the success those two had against the Wings this season.
Instead, the all-around effort carried the Mercury to a level that Wednesday’s loss didn’t see.
Down by only four points after the first half, the Mercury dominated the first five minutes of the third quarter with a 13-5 run. DeShields was leading the charge in the quarter, putting up 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. By the time the dust had settled in the third quarter, the Mercury outscored the Wings, 28-14.
Brianna Turner not only cut down on Wings center Teaira McCowan’s effectiveness with McCowan only scoring seven points in the game, but Turner found ways to become an offensive contributor. Turner managed eight points, all on assisted plays, and dished out six assists.
It helps the Mercury’s chances of making the playoffs when Peddy is clicking as the team’s facilitator. Peddy had a productive first half where all five of the Mercury’s starters scored four or more points. Peddy commanded the floor with three assists, including setting up center Brianna Turner with a slick backdoor pass at 5:35 in the second quarter. Peddy carried on her efforts to score 18 points with a career high eight assists.
“I love to see her out there having fun and getting those little steals that sneaks up on defenders. I think when she’s doing that, she’s really found her groove and her rhythm in the game. It’s just fun to watch,” DeShields said.
Jennie Simms hit her career high in scoring with 14 points and sunk of the 11 3-pointers made by the Mercury. Peddy and Sophie Cunningham were scorching at the 3 in different parts of the game and both finished with four 3-pointers each. The Mercury shot 50 percent and held the dangerous Wings guards to 42.9 percent from the 3.
Wings guard Marina Mabrey was poised for yet another big game with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in the first quarter. However, Peddy and the rest of the Mercury’s defense locked in on her and she missed all six shot attempts and was only allowed two points in the following three quarters.
With a shot for the postseason still around, it all comes down to Chicago Sky at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Footprint Center to know if the Mercury will move on.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mercury keep WNBA playoff hopes alive in win over Dallas Wings