PHOENIX — Guard Diana Taurasi had every reason to claim fatigue took a toll on her after the Phoenix Mercury’s 91-77 loss Sunday to the Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. After all, the Mercury finished a tough five-game semifinal series at Las Vegas on Friday night, followed by the birth of Taurasi and wife Penny Taylor’s daughter at 4:34 a.m. Saturday back here in Phoenix.
But Taurasi didn’t cite weariness in explaining her season-high six turnovers.
“I was pretty pathetic with the basketball today. That’s on me,” Taurasi said. “We can’t turn the ball over like that, especially not in the Finals. This was just me being a bad basketball player. We’ll adjust some things and hopefully will be in better position to get out of those traps.”
Taurasi had 17 points and three rebounds, but Phoenix’s 18 turnovers were an issue, especially with an offense as good as Chicago’s. Six Sky players scored in double figures, led by Kahleah Copper with 21 points.
Chicago won its semifinal series 3-1 over Connecticut, so the Sky have played one fewer game than the Mercury, and they did look to be the fresher of the teams Sunday. The Mercury got off to a good start, leading 25-20 after the first quarter, but then were outscored 26-10 in the second quarter.
“We’re not tired. We’re just getting our ass kicked right now,” Taurasi told ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude during the game.
But as a parent of a newborn and a 3-year-old, Taurasi knows that the more tired a kid gets, the more they’ll insist, “I’m not tired!”
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said her team was clearly dealing with fatigue, but also a really good Sky team. Chicago went 16-16 during the regular season, but that hasn’t been the Sky fans have seen in the playoffs, where they are now 6-1.
Taurasi, 39, is seeking her fourth WNBA title and first since Phoenix beat Chicago in the 2014 Finals. Injuries limited her to 16 of the Mercury’s 32 regular-season games, and she missed the first-round playoff game against New York.
But she also has had some big performances, including 37 points in a semifinal Game 2 victory over Las Vegas and 24 in the “baby game” victory that clinched the series against the Aces. Now the Mercury have to rest up and figure out how best to avoid a repeat of this Wednesday.
Again, “rest” is a key word.
“Yeah, it’s been a pretty eventful last two days,” Taurasi said. “I’m just really proud of this group. What we got done in Vegas was no easy feat. And then obviously flying home and getting the best win ever: a healthy daughter and a healthy wife.
“But all that aside, I’m just really focused on what’s next. We know we have to play better. We know we have to be better individually and collectively. It’s a really, really good team we’re playing.”