It was déjà vu for the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky on Thursday night at the Phoenix Suns Arena, as the Mercury again ripped out the Sky’s hearts.
A technical foul on Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot was the story this time, as it led to a Skylar Diggins-Smith free throw that tied the game with 37.6 seconds remaining in the fourth, which forced overtime.
In OT, a Brittney Griner layup with 34.1 seconds to go and a Diggins-Smith free throw with 8.1 to go gave Phoenix a three-point lead. Vandersloot then missed an open look from three with 1.3 ticks remaining that would have tied it and the Mercury held on for the 77-74 win.
Diggins-Smith finished with 28 points, while Griner had 16, including her second dunk in the last three games, to go along with 12 rebounds.
The dunk came with 2:54 to go in the third and cut Phoenix’s deficit to two. Griner was trapped on the right baseline and didn’t have any space to hop out and put it off the glass or any time to think about doing a finger roll or floater, so she had to dunk and did it on the run with Allie Quigley closing out on her.
It wasn’t just any dunk.
Unfortunately for the Mercury, the Sky went on an 8-2 run to close out the third after the dunk and led 51-43 entering the fourth. Chicago went on to lead by 13 two minutes and 18 seconds into the final frame.
The progression of the game was eerily similar to the Mercury’s 84-83 win over the Sky on Tuesday, which came on a Kia Nurse buzzer-beating half-court shot in front of the Chicago’s home crowd. Phoenix led by 11 at halftime on Tuesday and by eight at halftime on Thursday. It then lost the third by 11 on Tuesday and by 16 on Thursday, only to see a miraculous comeback in both fourth quarters.
The Mercury closed Thursday’s regulation on a 19-6 run that featured an incredible 13 points from Diggins-Smith.
“I didn’t score in the third quarter,” Diggins-Smith said. “And I got a little tired and (head coach) Sandy (Brondello) kind of gave me a little break. … I know it’s important for me to have the ball in my hands. … Just was able to get into a little bit of a groove, get downhill, get out in transition a little bit and that’s how we really want to play.
And then great momentum plays obviously in the third with BG taking it baseline and throwing it down like that. I mean that’s different and we have to acknowledge that that’s different. Ain’t nobody doing that in our game.”
“She’s a winner,” Brondello said of Diggins-Smith. “I mean she’s just got this competitive nature and we needed every ounce of her heart tonight. … She’s just so crafty and she loves this moment. We put the ball in her hands, she gonna play defense, she’s gonna lead us, she’s gonna score. I’m just really really proud of her.”
Diggins-Smith missed on a very difficult finish at the basket with 2.7 seconds left in the fourth and Vandersloot then missed a very difficult fallaway shot from mid-range with 0.2 remaining.
Megan Walker, who has started the last four games for Phoenix, made a 3-pointer to tie it at 72 with 1:46 to play in overtime. Nurse (14 points) then made a short jumper in the lane to make it 74-72.
Walker finished with 11 points, while teammate Brianna Turner had eight to go along with nine boards, six assists and three blocks. Only five players scored for the Mercury.
Nine players scored for the Sky, with Kahleah Copper (eight rebounds, four assists) notching a team-high 14 points. Vandersloot was good for eight points and nine helpers, while Azurá Stevens had eight points and 10 boards in defeat.
Phoenix improve to 5-3 and has won three in a row. Chicago fell to 2-6 and has lost six in a row.