Mercury beat Sparks 78-77 on Griner’s late basket
Posted at: 09/23/2013 11:35 PM
By BETH HARRIS
(AP) LOS ANGELES - Brittney Griner hit a turnaround jumper with 4.9 seconds left, lifting the Phoenix Mercury to a 78-77 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Monday night in the deciding Game 3 of their WNBA playoff series.
Candice Dupree scored 22 points, Dewanna Bonner added 19, and Diana Taurasi had 18 points and 10 assists while improving to 6-0 in career elimination games with the Mercury.
Phoenix advanced to the Western Conference finals against top-seeded Minnesota. Game 1 is Thursday.
Kristi Toliver led the Sparks with 22 points. WNBA MVP Candace Parker added 18 points, and Nneka Ogwumike had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
After Parker gave the Sparks just their second lead of the fourth on a layup with 7 seconds to go, Griner responded with the winning basket for the Mercury.
Parker missed a fling from the wing after getting trapped in the right corner as time expired, dashing her hopes of adding her first WNBA championship to her collection of NCAA titles and Olympic gold medals.
Both teams shot poorly in the fourth quarter, when they each went more than 2 minutes without scoring.
Taurasi found Jasmine James down low for a layin that extended the Mercury’s lead to 76-73 with 1:15 left. Lindsey Harding got fouled and made both to draw the Sparks within one point.
Bonner missed a 3-pointer and after a timeout, Parker’s layup put the Sparks ahead 77-76.
The Mercury clinched their fifth conference finals appearance and fourth in the last five years.
Phoenix saw most of its seven-point lead evaporate in the third, when Griner picked up her fourth foul and sat the rest of the period. Toliver’s jumper beat the buzzer to leave the Sparks trailing 66-64 heading into the fourth.
The Sparks came in 0-for-21 from 3-point range in the series, and they finished the game 2 of 16.
The Mercury rallied from eight points down to lead 42-40 at halftime. Griner picked up her third foul and Taurasi got her second in the final 1:30 of the second quarter. Dupree, Taurasi and Bonner combined to score all of the Mercury’s 23 points in the second, when they shot 73 percent.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)