It had to be in the back of minds the entire game. Diana Taurasi, coming off a six-turnover Game 1 loss, had yet to make an impact.
In the first minutes of overtime, it hit hard. Taurasi opened the frame with a four-point play and protected a slim lead late with a steal and critical save that lifted the Phoenix Mercury to a 91-86 win at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Wednesday night.
The WNBA Finals, a best-of-five series, head to the home of the Chicago Sky tied at 1-1.
Stand up Phoenix !!!!!! pic.twitter.com/cQanpALUYv
— Hannah Withiam (@HannahWithiam) October 14, 2021
Taurasi scored eight of her game-total 20 points in overtime and hit the 3-pointer with 1:34 that proved the game-winning points after the Sky's quick five points gave them a one-point lead.
Diggins-Smith scored 13 points with 12 assists and seven rebounds, while Griner led all scorers with 29 points, adding nine rebounds and two blocks. Shey Peddy scored 10 points off the bench.
Game 3 is at a sold-out Wintrust Arena in Chicago on Friday (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Courtney Vandersloot forces OT, leads Sky
Phoenix took the 70-69 lead on an and-1 by none other than Griner, their go-to player all night. Quigley answered for Chicago with a 3-pointer in the corner off of classic Sky ball movement and momentum appeared to be swinging to them after a missed Mercury 3. But Candace Parker, who rebounded it and took it down the court, was stripped by Brianna Turner, who completed the bucket on the other end to tie it again, 72-72.
Griner and Vandersloot traded layups and the Sky failed to rebound multiple Mercury misses until Griner hit yet another shot on a massive night. Peddy added a bucket to go up by four.
Kahleah Copper, who paced the Sky in Game 1, put back a rebound and added the free throw to come within one with 14.7 seconds on the clock. They fouled Peddy, who missed the first of two.
Vandersloot tied it on a drive to the basket and Phoenix couldn't get a final shot as the inbound pass tipped off Griner's hands to Parker.
— WNBA (@WNBA) October 14, 2021
Vandersloot was phenomenal for the Sky, which struggled from 3-point range and in getting to the free-throw line in the first half. The point guard had a 20-point, 14-assist double-double with five steals and three rebounds. It is the first 20-point, 14-assist game in WNBA Finals history, per Her Hoop Stats.
Quigley added 19 points, but was 3-for-12 from 3-point range. Copper had 15 points with nine rebounds and Parker added 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Chicago had 19 turnovers to Phoenix's 13. It was a problem for both, but proved costly for Chicago in the end.
Chicago's third quarter
Chicago created separation with a 9-0 run in the third quarter that ultimately gave a 63-57 lead going into the fourth quarter. They won the quarter by the same six-point margin that determined each of the four regulation periods.
Trailing by four after Taurasi's third bucket of the night, Parker drilled a 3-pointer on an assist by Vandersloot. Quigley made both free throws, the first attempts of the night for the Sky, and Parker added a deep two and alley-oop from Vandersloot again.
It gave Chicago a 51-46 lead at the 5:44 mark and the sides began trading buckets to the six-point Sky lead by the fourth.
They were able to keep the distance until a Griner 6-footer and Taurasi warmed up with back-to-back 3-pointers for a one-point lead. It helped that a 3-pointer by Diamond DeShields was taken away after review ahead of the comeback. It was ruled a shot clock violation by a sliver plays later, bringing the then-nine-point lead down to six. It was a tight battle from then on out.
Brittney Griner carries Mercury
Phoenix fed Griner for its first 10 points of the game that was only broken by a Peddy layup on a Chicago turnover. The streak included an arena-shattering dunk from the trail blazing center who nearly did it again later in the game, but recognized the shot clock was too low. It was the first WNBA Finals dunk in league history.
The run by Griner was enough time for Sophie Cunningham to get hot with two 3-pointers by the quarter's end and the Mercury trailed, 26-20.
The chippiness hit a peak midway through the second half on a chaotic sequence that culminated with Copper and Cunningham battling on the floor for a rebound. Cunningham had it on the ground and kept moving it around while Copper tried for the ball and snagged her arm around Cunningham's neck.
As officials and teammates ran in, Copper stood over Cunningham and they jarred. A common foul was called on the play.
2021 WNBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Sky 91, Mercury 77
Game 2: Mercury 91, Sky 86 (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 3: Mercury at Sky, 9 p.m. ET Friday (ESPN2)
Game 4: Mercury at Sky, 3 p.m. ET Oct. 17 (ESPN)
Game 5: Sky at Mercury, 9 p.m. ET Oct. 19 (ESPN2) (if necessary)