2021 WNBA Playoffs second-round takeaways: Mercury sneak past Storm in overtime

Written by on September 26, 2021

There are many criticisms of the single-elimination playoff format the WNBA uses in the early rounds, but the upside is it can create games like the one we saw on Sunday. After a dramatic, back-and-forth contest, the Phoenix Mercury beat the Seattle Storm 85-80 in overtime in the second round. 

Brittney Griner went off for 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks on 11 of 17 from the field, while Skylar Diggins-Smith put up 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Veteran guard Diana Taurasi, who was questionable due to an ankle injury, added 14 points — five of which came in overtime.

The Mercury will now move on to the semifinals, where they’ll face either the Connecticut Sun or Las Vegas Aces. Meanwhile, this is the end of the road for the defending champion Seattle Storm, who were playing without injured superstar Breanna Stewart. 

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Griner delivers

Brittney Griner didn’t play poorly in the first round against the New York Liberty, but she didn’t put up big numbers because the Liberty were intent on keeping the ball out of her hands. While the Storm did send double teams her way, they didn’t lean all the way into the strategy of denying Griner.

As a result, the Mercury center put up one of the best playoff games of her career. She was a presence on both ends of the floor and finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Even more important was that when the Mercury needed a bucket down the stretch, she delivered, scoring eight of their final nine points in the fourth quarter. 

Griner has been playing at this level ever since she returned from the Olympics, where she starred for Team USA in their run to the gold medal. With her size and skill around the basket, she is arguably the biggest matchup problem in the league, and when she plays like this the Mercury can beat anyone. 

Turner’s sequence swings the game

Brianna Turner flies under the radar on a Mercury team with the likes of Griner, Diggins-Smith and Taurasi. But while she might not get the headlines, she’s still a key part of their success because of her defensive prowess and efficient finishing around the basket. 

Both of those traits shone through when it really mattered on Sunday. The Mercury were a little bit out of sorts at the beginning of overtime and trailed by three with just four minutes remaining. It looked like the deficit was about to be five as Ezi Magbegor went to the basket, but Turner had other ideas. She came out of nowhere for a massive rejection and the Mercury immediately capitalized with a Taurasi 3-pointer to tie the game. On the very next possession, Turner got free inside to put the Mercury in front.

That sequence swung the game in the Mercury’s favor and capped a terrific all-around game for Turner, who finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.

Current track