CHICAGO -- Prior to Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA Finals on Friday night, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi addressed the $2,500 fine she received from the league for making "inappropriate contact" with an official during the team's win over the Chicago Sky in Game 2 of the Finals.
"We were coming out to the bus the next morning, and Shey Peddy of all people -- the most petty person ever -- she goes, 'They're trying to kick you out of the whole series.' I was like, 'Over what? That's the least I've complained in years in a game,'" Taurasi said. "Then I saw it and was like, 'Oh yeah, they're probably gonna do something.' I didn't even know it was the ref though."
Taurasi said a fine was a reasonable punishment, but also took a dig at the league's decision-making process
"When Twitter speaks, the league has to make decisions, right?" Taurasi said. "Yeah, that's fine. I'm used to giving donations. I felt like it's been a while. It's for a good cause."
Midway through the second quarter of Game 2, Taurasi secured a defensive rebound and tossed an outlet pass ahead to Sophie Cunningham who was streaking towards the basket on the other end. It was a perfect feed, but Cunningham couldn't complete the layup, which led to a bizarre incident that is still being discussed.
In the ensuing scramble for the loose ball, Cunningham collided with Sky guard Kahleah Copper. Despite being on the ground, Cunningham was able to secure possession, and Copper was called for a foul. Cunningham took offense to Copper's physicality, and the two got into it a little bit as the whistle blew.
Initially, the main focus was whether Copper's foul crossed the line. She did make contact with Cunningham's neck area in the process of lunging for the ball, but after going to the monitor to review for a hostile act, the referees determined the play was just a common foul.
That appeared to be the end of it, but after the game many fans and media members started discussing Taurasi's role in the incident. As you can see in the very end of this clip, Taurasi comes in late and pushes the referee, who is trying to separate Cunningham and Copper.
The audio is a bit messed up on this replay, but here you can see Taurasi moving the ref out of the way from the opposite angle.
Although Taurasi's actions weren't egregious, you simply cannot make contact with a referee like that during a game. She might have gotten away with it in the moment, but a response was always coming from the league once reviewed the replays. The only question was whether it would be a fine or a suspension.
The league decided it would just be the former, and rightfully so. Taurasi shouldn't have done what she did, but suspending her for Game 3 and potentially ruining what is on course to be a terrific Finals would have been far too harsh. No one wants to see this matchup swing in that manner, and a fine was punishment enough.
That means Taurasi will be ready to go for a pivotal Game 3 in Chicago on Friday night. With the best-of-five series tied at 1-1, whichever team finds a way to win Game 3 will take full control and move within one win of a championship.