Phoenix Mercury 100, Connecticut Sun 95 (OT) — Okay, let’s start with the three major things that happened here. ITEM #1: Phoenix led 30-13 at the end of the first quarter after briefly taking a 20 point lead late in the frame. ITEM #2: Phoenix built that lead up to as many as 22 in the second quarter before holding a 51-31 lead at halftime on a last second shot by Skylar Diggins-Smith.
ITEM #3, and this is the big one: Connecticut outscored Phoenix by 23 in the third quarter.
Helped by nine points from Marquette’s very own Natisha Hiedeman, the Sun ripped off a 33-10 quarter to grab a 64-61 lead with 10 minutes left in regulation.
The Sun had the lead more than the Mercury did in the fourth quarter, and five points from DeWanna Bonner in the final 10 seconds of regulation on either side of a Diana Taurasi turnover gave Connecticut an 89-86 lead with just 3.4 seconds left to go. Unfortunately, Diggins-Smith got this shot off:
And so, free basketball at IMG Academy.
Bonner’s free throws late in regulation would be the last lead of the game that Connecticut would hold. Kia Vaughn broke the ice on overtime to give Phoenix a two point lead, and that would be enough for them to be able to control the extra session and get the win. Taurasi hit a three with 1:46 to go to put Phoenix up three, and when Connecticut couldn’t answer with a bucket, Diggins-Smith extended the margin to five points with less than a minute to go.
Even after a big game against her long-time former team in the Sun’s last outing, Bonner was still apparently motivated for more here. She finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds, and still found time for three assists and a steal, too. Bonner was one of three Sun players with a double-double, as Alyssa Thomas (18 points, 17 rebounds) and Brionna Jones (12 points, 10 rebounds) got there, too. Hiedeman got the start after playing a big role in the win the other day against Phoenix when Jasmine Thomas went out with an injury, and she was a big reason why Connecticut made that comeback in the third. Hiedeman finished with 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting, and she added five rebounds, three assists, and a steal. I think I’ve said this before, but this one can clearly go into the record books as a candidate for Hiedeman’s best game in the WNBA.
Los Angeles Clippers 96, Denver Nuggets 85 — The NBA.com Lead Tracker for this game looks like a very fun rollercoaster. The Clippers built a double digit lead in the first quarter, held onto it for most of the second, and then in the back end and the start of the third, Denver came back to tie the game.
So LA just went ahead and built a new 15 point lead, and then Denver cut it to 10 heading into the the fourth quarter. That led to LA building their biggest lead of the game, 19 points at 86-67, when Paul George rained in a three-pointer with 7:17 to go. Denver would get it back below 10 one last time when Jamal Murray buried a three with 2:09 to go, but that would be the Nuggets’ final points until there was only 10 seconds left.
Am I making this game sound more exciting than it was? Well, after the Clips took that 19 point lead, yeah, I probably am. Oh well.
Kawhi Leonard led the way for Los Angeles as they took a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. Behind 10-for-22 shooting, Leonard finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four steals, and two blocks. And he took 10 minutes to rest on the bench, too!
Up Next: LA takes a swing at closing out the series on Friday. That game is, according to NBA.com, scheduled for a 5:30pm CT start on TNT. This is because 1) the game is in Florida so who cares what time it is on at relative to people attending it and 2) Game 7 between Boston and Toronto is getting the 8pm Central start in order to maximize the possible TV audience for the much bigger game. Can’t really argue with the thinking, Turner Sports.
Connecticut’s next game will wrap up the regular season for the Sun. They will need to beat Atlanta on Friday evening in order to finish at exactly .500 with a record of 11-11 this season. The Dream are just 6-14 this year, although they are still not eliminated from the playoffs as of this writing largely thanks to a 97-89 win over Chicago on Wednesday. The Sun won’t finish any lower than seventh place at this point, but they can still end up in a tie for sixth with Chicago. The two teams split their regular season set, so there’s a lot of finger crossing relative to the tiebreaking procedures, I think.
ANYWAY, the Connecticut/Atlanta game is set to start at 6pm Central, and it will be streamed on the WNBA’s Facebook page.