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Diana Taurasi reaches historic scoring milestone in Mercury's win over Dream

Diana Taurasi is a once-in-a-lifetime player for the Phoenix Mercury.

Few nights in her 19-year career put that into perspective better than Thursday.

Every shot inched closer to history.

The overtures of the fans holding their breath and cheering whenever Taurasi had the ball. The instant embrace from the entire Mercury bench when Taurasi made her 10,000th career point.

Taurasi ended the journey done by no other player at 8:24 in the third quarter in typical fashion with a 3-pointer.

“I always say we take her for granted because we always expect this from her. She’s been great for so long and she’s a proven winner,” interim head coach Nikki Blue said. “To be this good and continue to set these milestones and win championships and gold medals, we are in the midst of greatness. I hope that young players embrace this and basketball fans really appreciate watching and being in this time of Diana Taurasi.”

The Taurasi-led Mercury triumphed with a 91-71 win over the Atlanta Dream at Footprint Center.

Taurasi showed levels she hadn’t put on in years as she recorded her first 40-point game since 2010 with 42 points.

Age proved to be a number for Taurasi as she became the oldest basketball player to score 40 points in history.

“This is what happens. Tomorrow I’ll feel like I’m 50,” Taurasi said.

In a game that highlighted Taurasi’s achievements, the Mercury (7-19) rose to the occasion and scored a season-high 91 points.

“It was a cool night. We couldn’t have written this better for our fans and for our city,” Taurasi said. “I didn’t feel great going to the game. We just had two tough games on the road and we’re not having the season that we want. But hopefully, moments like this can turn around our team and morale. I’m really thankful for my teammates because moments like this, it’s everyone’s moment. They really came with me and they wanted me to do it with me. It would’ve been terrible if I had scored 17 tonight.”

Moriah Jefferson had the assist to Taurasi's 10,000th point and had four assists in the game.

Taurasi reaches 10,000th point

In the most fitting way to reach the milestone, Diana Taurasi banked a 28-foot 3-pointer at 8:23 in the third quarter to secure her 10,000th career point.

Taurasi is now the first player in WNBA history to reach the milestone.

With only eight points remaining ahead of the second half, Taurasi made quick work and went inside for a layup at 9:47.

She then started to find her touch at the 3 and nailed a buzzer-beater to keep the momentum going before landing her milestone shot.

Taurasi gets within single digits of record

It was a slower start for Diana Taurasi in the second quarter, but Taurasi drew within single digits of a historic scoring mark by the end the first half.

Taurasi finished the first half with 10 points and is eight points away from being the first player to score 10,000 career points.

More: Diana Taurasi becomes immortal with 10,000 career points

However, it hasn't been a cakewalk for Taurasi against the Atlanta Dream.

Taurasi has opted for scoring in the paint in the second quarter and has been met with challenges. Dream guard Danielle Robinson was all over Taurasi in her defensive assignment in the paint, but Taurasi sunk a seven-foot layup at 3:08 in the second quarter.

Taurasi gets off to a hot start

Every possession by Taurasi garners cheers from the crowd as everyone is reminded that tonight could be the night she sets a scoring milestone.

Taurasi is double-teamed by the Dream, but manages to move through the defenders alongside the perimeter for a 23-foot jumper to move within 15 points of the record.

The Dream have been tough defensively for Taurasi, allowing others to score on the Mercury.

After Megan Gustafson sparks the offense, the Mercury go on a 9-0 run that is punctuated by Taurasi's driving layup.

Taurasi finishes the first quarter with five points and is 13 points shy of setting the record.

Mercury bring in goat petting zoo

With Diana Taurasi 18 points away from securing 10,000 career points, the Mercury pulled out the stops ahead of the game with a goat petting zoo next to the court.

The Mercury did the same thing when she broke Tina Thompson’s all-time scoring record of 7,488 in 2017.

Taurasi has long been called the GOAT, which stands for greatest of all time, and has even received an award from the league of the same name.

All the pomp has not distracted the Mercury from its game plan against the Atlanta Dream.

“It’s not really tough because she needs to score points,” interim head coach Nikki Blue said. “I was hoping that she’d break it the other night, but hopefully she’ll come out tonight and do a good job. I know our team is rallying behind her. To be here and witness this is truly special and we’re blessed and honored to be a part of a special night.”

Moriah Jefferson will be the starting point guard alongside Taurasi at shooting guard. The prospect of being the one to assist her on the record-breaking shot isn't lost on her.

“I want to give her the ball," Jefferson said. "But if it doesn’t happen and it’s someone else, I’m going to be just happy. Dee is the GOAT and it’s going to be exciting to be able to play with her on this night.”

Taurasi's 29 points in Tuesday's road game against the Indiana Pacers set the stage for her record to be set while at home. The Mercury will have a four-game homestand at Footprint Center.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diana Taurasi reaches 10,000 career points