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Mercury make statement with 2nd WNBA semifinals rout of Aces; take 2-1 series lead

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Anytime, anywhere, all wins by the Phoenix Mercury.

Brianna Turner turned it up for Game 3, scoring a career-high 23 points to go along with 17 rebounds, to lead the No. 5-seeded Mercury to a 87-60 win over the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces on Sunday at Arizona State’s Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona, for a 2-1 semifinals lead in the best-of-five series.

Turner’s previous career high was 17 points, which she matched in the first half Sunday.

“Just get to an open spot; we have really great guards always finding me for lobs. D [Taurasi], Sky [Diggins-Smith], I love playing with them. BG [Griner], she’s a great passer, too, so a lot of credit to my teammates for just finding me in good scenarios,” Turner said of her performance in a postgame interview with Holly Rowe.

Brittney Griner added a double-double for the Mercury with 18 points and 11 rebounds. She also had three blocks.

It was Diana Taurasi who picked up right where she left off after her 37-point Game 2 performance, no sign of the injuries that hampered her earlier in the season, to keep the Mercury humming.

Taurasi drilled two deep 3-pointers as part of a 11-0 Mercury run to start the game. Phoenix never looked back in its second straight wire-to-wire win. Taurasi finished with nine points and six assists.

The Aces looked out of sorts for the second straight game. Their defense allowed the Mercury to shoot 44.3% from the field. Phoenix also had a season-high 58 rebounds.

Liz Cambage started Game 3, her first start after playing off the bench since returning from a bout with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. She led the Aces with 13 points. Dearica Hamby added 10 points and seven boards. 

A’ja Wilson again didn’t have much of an impact in the game, scoring eight points with six rebounds.

Phoenix’s Sophie Cunningham did not play in the second half because of a left calf strain. Her availability for Game 4 is unknown.

Phoenix's Diana Taurasi attempts to pass the ball around Las Vegas' Jackie Young Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Arizona State's Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona, on Oct. 3, 2021. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix's Diana Taurasi attempts to pass the ball around Las Vegas' Jackie Young Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA semifinals at Arizona State's Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Arizona, on Oct. 3, 2021. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Mercury on verge of making history 

The Mercury are one win away from a berth in the WNBA Finals. If they make it, it would be the first time a team not seeded in the top three has advanced to the championship series. 

The No. 6 Chicago Sky also could accomplish this feat. The Sky have a 2-1 series lead on the No. 1 Connecticut Sun after a thrilling 86-83 win Sunday.

Phoenix has won three WNBA championships, in 2007, 2009 and 2014, and last made the Finals in 2014.

The Mercury’s dominant play in the semifinals hasn’t caught up to bettors yet, though. Phoenix still has the longest odds to win the WNBA championship, per BetMGM, at +750. The Sky have the second-longest odds at +550. The Sun are the favorites at +110, followed by the Aces at +200.

Dawn Staley: Aces ‘won’t win’ without A’ja Wilson

After the first half, with 2020 MVP Wilson scoring only two points, her college coach, Dawn Staley, tweeted her thoughts on the Aces’ slow start.

“I don’t know what must happen but what I do know is someone or some “ones” must get @_ajawilson22 in a place to carry her team…..won’t win without her contribution,” Staley tweeted.

Wilson was 1 of 7 from the field in the first half with one rebound. She scored 15 points in Game 1 and 12 points in Game 2, but wasn’t a huge factor in either game.

‘Road warrior’ Mercury finally go home

The Mercury will finally play at their home arena, the Footprint Center, in this postseason. Game 4 is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN.

The Phoenix Suns’ preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers was moved up to 6 p.m. ET Wednesday to make way for the WNBA semifinal game. Both games will be played on the Mercury’s court.

The Mercury have been a different kind of road warriors during the playoffs.

They won a first-round, single-elimination game at 7,000-fan capacity GCU Arena on the Antelopes’ court. After three true road games, they returned to Phoenix but were bumped from their arena for Disney on Ice on Sunday.

Game 3 was played at Arizona State’s 14,000-seat Desert Financial Arena. The court featured Phoenix Mercury branding on the baselines and WNBA-sponsor Google logos but the majority of the court was ASU, Pac-12 and arena branding. The game was nationally telecast on ABC.

The Mercury got a boost from Suns point guard Chris Paul, who purchased 500 tickets for fans on a first-come, first-serve basis for Sunday’s game.

If necessary, Game 5 is Friday in Las Vegas on ESPN2. Tip time is TBD.