Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith trade heated words in Mercury loss

Diana Taurusi and Skylar Diggins-Smith had to be separated after exchanging words during a timeout Tuesday. (Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury bench got heated Tuesday night during an 86-74 loss to the Las Vegas Aces.

During a media timeout, Skylar Diggins-Smith approached Diana Taurasi, who was sitting on the bench, and the two could be seen trading words. The players appeared agitated, and teammates stepped in to separate them.

At the time of the exchange, the Mercury were leading the Aces 38-32 in the second quarter.

Following the game, Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard addressed the conflict between the two, saying that she would call it “passion.”

“People play sports with a lot of passion. We’re not the first team to have any kind of arguments or disagreements on the bench,” she said. “You’ve seen it throughout the NBA this season and other leagues. The players, they play hard, they play with passion. This is their lives, the game that they love.

“There’s a lot going on, our team has even more going on with the [Brittney Griner] situation, too. That isn’t something that goes away for us.

The Mercury led by as many as 12 points in the first half, taking a 36-26 lead following a Megan Gustafson 3-pointer. But as the Aces chipped away at that lead, tensions rose. Las Vegas scored 21 of the next 28 points to take a four-point lead early in the second half and didn’t trail again in the game.

Kelsey Plum had 20 points as all five of the Aces’ starters were in double-digits. Jackie Young had 19 points and four rebounds while Chelsea Gray added 14 points and nine rebounds. A’ja Wilson had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double.

Tina Charles led the Mercury with 17 points and nine rebounds. Diggins-Smith had 10 points, four rebounds and six assists, while Taurasi added eight points.

With the loss, the Mercury are now off to a 2-2 start to the season.