No. 7 seed Sun crush Sparks, Lynx survive Diana Taurasi to reach WNBA semifinals

·6 min read

The Minnesota Lynx withstood any late-game heroics by their opponent and the Connecticut Sun dominated as both advanced to the WNBA semifinals in their respective second-round games on Thursday night.

The No. 4 Lynx, which outlasted Diana Taurasi and her Phoenix Mercury, will play the No. 2 Seattle Storm. The seventh-seeded Sun dominated the Los Angeles Sparks and are back in the best-of-five series to play the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces. The semifinals begin Sunday on ESPN and ABC.

Sun jump out to early lead, dominate Sparks

PALMETTO, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 17: DeWanna Bonner #24 and Briann January #20 of the Connecticut Sun react after Essence Carson scored a three point basket during the third quarter of Game One of their Second Round playoff against the Los Angeles Sparks at Feld Entertainment Center on September 17, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
DeWanna Bonner and Briann January of the Connecticut Sun react after Essence Carson scored a 3-pointer during the third quarter. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

From 0-5 to the semis. The Connecticut Sun were firing on all cylinders on Thursday evening to fly by the Los Angeles Sparks, 73-59, in the second round. The Sparks were without Nneka Ogwumike, who was out due to a migraine. The former MVP averaged 17.2 points against the Sun in six games over the past two years.

It was difficult from the tip for the Sparks as the Sun dominated, keeping the Sparks to a season-low eight points in the first quarter and riding it out for a 39-23 lead at half. The Sun shot 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6 of 11) in the first half and were 41.7 percent overall.

Though the Sparks cut the deficit to 10 points, they struggled to get anything more going and scored 0.58 points per play in the first 20 minutes, per Her Hoop Stats. They shot 33.3 percent over the course of the game, including going 2-for-18 from behind the 3-point arc.

It was more evenly matched throughout the final three quarters, but the damage was done and the Sun defense kept point guard Chelsea Gray from getting anything going. She was scoreless in the first, adding only two rebounds to the stat sheet, and finished with four points on 2-of-9 shooting with two rebounds and zero assists. It contributed to the Los Angeles offense looking stagnant and listless.

DeWanna Bonner, who joined in free agency, led the Sun through the first half and was on triple-double watch with 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists. She finished at 17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. In the postgame interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe, she said the fact no one picked them to win motivated the Sun.

Alyssa Thomas, playing through torn labrums as well as a hand issue, added 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. All five starters were in double digits.

The game was a rematch of the 2019 semifinals that the Sun swept in three games and Candace Parker told reporters ahead of the game she would be lying if she said that wasn’t on her mind. The veteran continued to look at the top of her game as an MVP candidate with 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. She had more than a third of her team’s offensive output.

Seimone Augustus scored 10 as the only other Sparks player to score in double digits.

Lynx survive Diana Taurasi’s 28-point performance

The Phoenix Mercury almost did it again. But the Minnesota Lynx put up a strong defense and the Mercury’s final shot bounced off the basket to give the Lynx a 80-79 victory in the second round.

The No. 4 Lynx advance to the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs and will play the Seattle Storm.

Damiris Dantas scored a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds. Crystal Dangerfield, named the Rookie of the Year hours earlier, scored 17 despite having only two at halftime.

Diana Taurasi was the Mercury’s engine with a game-high 28 points. She added nine rebounds and was fired up after getting a technical late in the first half. Her four-point play with 3:17 remaining brought the Mercury within one, but they were never able to overcome it after entering the quarter tied, 60-60.

The Mercury had the ball with less than 15 seconds left, but turned it over on the baseline when the Lynx doubled Skylar Diggins-Smith. She tried to go over them and Brianna Turner stepped out of bounds attempting to save the tip. They had another shot after missed Lynx free throws with six seconds left, but the Mercury couldn’t set anything up and a last-second Diggins-Smith shot bounced long.

Turner had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. But it was a tough scoring night for Diggins-Smith, who finished with eight points and six assists. Kia Vaughn was the only other player to score in double digits; she had 10 with eight rebounds. The Mercury were also hurt by not having the size of Brittney Griner, who left the bubble weeks ago for personal reasons.

Taurasi lifted the Mercury in the first half with 16 points and five assists for a nine-point lead. Her technical was for arguing a non-call by the official that let the Lynx take a 35-34 lead on the free throw. It was on the heels of Shey Peddy taking a hard hit to the face on a rebound attempt.

Peddy, who had the fake-out and winning buzzer-beater in the first round, was looked at by Mercury trainers and went through concussion protocol with the league medical staff, ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe said on the broadcast. She returned for a short while after the half, but did not make it back to the game.

The Mercury controlled the rest of the quarter, speeding out to a 46-37 lead at the half. They were able to keep Dangerfield quiet as well as 2019 Rookie of the Year winner Napheesa Collier, who finished with seven points, nine rebounds and six assists. She averaged 16.1 this season. Sylvia Fowles played in her first game back since a calf injury five weeks ago and showed some rust. She scored six in about 20 minutes on the floor.

The Mercury came out fast after playing Tuesday night. They went on a 15-2 run to go up, 21-9, early in the first. The Lynx, who had been off for five days, clawed back to make it a one-point game, 24-23, by the break behind Dantas’ 10 points and five rebounds.

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