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‘Hats off to Diana’: Taurasi drops a playoff career-high in Mercury’s blowout win

Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Another day, another record broken by WNBA legend Diana Taurasi.

Multiple records, actually.

The Phoenix Mercury point guard registered two playoff career-highs – 37 points and eight 3-pointers – to lead the Mercury to a 117-91 win over the Las Vegas Aces in Game 2 of the semifinals on Thursday.

Her 17 points in the opening 20 minutes, combined with Brittney Griner’s 18, helped the Mercury secure the WNBA postseason record for first-half points with 68. They also matched the league’s playoff best for first-quarter points with 37.

Let’s not forget Taurasi is still doing it all on an injured left ankle.

“Hats off to Diana, to be quite honest,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said after the game. “To have 37 points and the way that she shot the ball; a player that’s been out for three weeks. She hasn’t practiced with us at all. Still has pain, doesn’t even do a shootaround. She just plays. I mean that says a lot about her as a player.

“I’ve seen many great games from Diana, but none as big as this one in a situation where she hasn’t been able to train and not 100 percent, so credit to her.”

Brondello isn’t concerned about the status of Taurasi’s injury as they head into Game 3 on Sunday.

“She’s not 100 percent, but she hasn’t gotten worse,” the coach said nonchalantly, later adding, “She’s mentally tough.”

Taurasi played 27 minutes on Thursday, going 76 percent from the field and 72 percent from the 3-point line. Her efforts helped Phoenix, as a team, shoot 77 percent from the field and 70 percent from 3 by the end of the first half.

It wasn’t just Taurasi’s shooting that was on display Thursday night. With six rebounds, the 39-year-old passed Lindsay Whalen’s 278 boards to rank 15th on the WNBA’s all-time playoff rebounds list.

“When you have big games like this, you just enjoy them, and you feel a lot better when you come out with the win,” said Taurasi, who gave credit to teammates Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith for their contributions.

Griner contributed 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting and seven rebounds Thursday, while Diggins-Smith had 17 points.

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer emphasized that the upcoming semifinal games are only going to get harder for Las Vegas, especially when going up against Taurasi and Griner.

“When Taurasi’s hot like that, they’re very, very difficult,” Laimbeer said following Game 2.

The former UConn Husky played her first game in nearly three weeks during the second round of playoffs when she helped Phoenix to an 85-80 win over the Seattle Storm in a single-elimination game. She followed that up with 20 points in the Mercury’s first game against the Aces on Tuesday.

Phoenix and Las Vegas meet for Game 3 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, looking to break their 1-1 series tie.