UNCASVILLE, Conn. — When it comes to winner-take-all games in the WNBA playoffs, Diana Taurasi takes them all.
Taurasi put on quite a show in a single-elimination matchup Thursday night, helping the Phoenix Mercury advance to the semifinals by scoring 27 points in a win at Connecticut.
The victory made Taurasi a perfect 13-0 in postseason games that decide which team advances to the next round and who goes home. That's right, she's never lost a deciding Game 3 or 5, or even a one-and-done. She's won seven of those decisive contests on the road, too.
"It's just, at the end of the day: do you want to keep playing?" Taurasi said before the game. "Do you want to keep playing? As a team, do you want to come out here tonight, try to win the game, so you can get on a plane and go to wherever it is, and keep the season going, and keep playing. You know, I want to keep playing. I worked hard this offseason, I think as a group we've worked really hard."
It sounds like a simple enough philosophy, yet no one can match her success at it.
"If I had the answer, I'd gladly tell you," the former UConn star said. "A lot of it is luck. A lot of it is having great teammates. You don't do it alone in this sport. We relish these moments where it's up to you if you want to keep playing."
Next up, for Taurasi and her team is a best-of-five series against Seattle.
At 36, Taurasi is enjoying one of the best seasons of her career both from a scoring and passing standpoint — she averaged nearly 21 points per game, third best in the league. She began these playoffs by scoring 25 in a one-game elimination win over Dallas.
"She amazes me really every single day, to be able to do what she continues to do at such a high level at her age is amazing," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. "When we need her to score, she scores, when we need her to get us into our sets and make the appropriate play, she does it."
Taurasi was instrumental in the Mercury's 96-86 win over Connecticut, yet didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter. She only scored two points in the period, on free throws. But she came up with a big rebound late in the game over 6-foot-5 Jonquel Jones.
Taurasi also made sure to get the ball to Brittney Griner so the star Phoenix star center could score.
"In that fourth quarter, I'm not even sure that she took a shot," Brondello marveled afterward. "It shows a lot about her and her competitiveness. She will do whatever it takes to win and I don't know if I have seen anyone with the will to win bigger that what hers is and she is so critical for our success. I have no words for Diana and it just shows, too, locked in defensively and she gets the rebound over Jonquel in a key moment of the game, she wanted to win."
Taurasi admitted she had a little extra incentive against Connecticut
Sun guard Courtney Williams had posted an Instagram photo before Thursday night's contest of her celebrating while Taurasi looked dejected. During the game, the Sun's Jasmine Thomas clapped after Taurasi was whistled for a foul.
The ending was more familiar — Taurasi and her team eliminated Connecticut from the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
"You can post Instagram pictures, you can clap in people's faces," she said. "That's not going to get you a win, though."