Phoenix Mercury legend Diana Taurasi has been battling an ankle injury for nearly a month and only returned to action in the second round of the WNBA playoffs. But Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer wasn't interested in cutting her any slack. Speaking recently to the media he said, "Taurasi ain't hurt. C'mon, please, this is the playoffs ... She will cut your heart out in a second."
His words turned out to be prescient. With a brilliant throwback performance, Taurasi cut the Aces' hearts out and led the Mercury to a wire-to-wire 117-91 win to even their series at 1-1. Taurasi finished the night with 37 points and six rebounds on 10 of 13 from the field and 8 of 11 from 3-point land.
In the process, she set a playoff career high and made the second-most 3-pointers in a playoff game in WNBA history. Her previous playoff best of 34 points came back in 2014 against the Los Angeles Sparks. If you're a superstitious Phoenix fan looking for a good omen, that was the last time the Mercury have won a title.
"I only shot 11 [3-pointers]?" Taurasi joked postgame. "I just got some looks. Like I said, sometimes you just gotta get back to the basics. I went over some video yesterday with our video coordinators. It's just the basics, and sometimes propel you to shoot it well."
Whether it was the extra work in the film room, or simply feeling more comfortable on her ankle, this was the type of outing we've come to expect from Taurasi over the years. Even well into her career, there are still few players you would rather have on your side come playoff time.
"I mean it's tough," Taurasi said. "They're a tough team. Especially when you got Liz and Kiah Stokes and A'ja. They're big bodies, they're long. So I just tried to put a little bit more arc on the ball today, and it went in."
While this was by no means some sort of defensive showcase by the Aces, Taurasi's night also wasn't as nonchalant as she tried to make it sound. She was taking and making some truly difficult attempts, including many off the dribble from deep. It was a magnificent shooting display.
Thanks to Taurasi's historic night, the Mercury have tied this series at 1-1 and will now go back to Phoenix with the opportunity to finish the series at home. But winning Games 3 and 4 is going to be difficult against a talented Aces team ready to respond. In order to pull it off, the Mercury are going to need Taurasi to keep playing at this level.