Phoenix and Washington rally to advance in WNBA playoffs
NEW YORK (AP) — Phoenix and Washington don’t have much time to rest after pulling off double-digit comebacks to advance in the WNBA playoffs.
Both teams open the semifinals on the road Tuesday night with the fifth-seeded Mercury visiting No. 2 Los Angeles and the sixth-seeded Mystics at No. 1 Minnesota.
The Mercury and Mystics needed big rallies to get to Tuesday night. They become the seventh and eighth teams to win on the road when they trailed by 14 or more points according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We really didn’t change that much up at the half,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said.
The Mystics were down by 14 to the New York Liberty in the second quarter before Kristi Toliver got going. She finished with a Mystics franchise playoff record 32 points, hitting nine 3-pointers. That’s the new WNBA mark for 3s in a postseason game.
“I’ve never witnessed something like that, but to be on court and be on the right side of it was unreal,” Elena Delle Donne said. “We just rode her wave today — she was unconscious, but that’s her. I mean, I grew up watching her. That was her in the national championship game (for Maryland), so when she’s going off like that, we just do all the other little things and let her go.”
Phoenix faced a 17-point deficit in Connecticut in the second quarter before rallying for the win.
“We called a timeout, and I think everyone was just searching for something,” Taurasi said about being down 17. “There comes a time in games if you are just going to lay down or fight back and try to get back into it. And at that moment, we said, ‘Lets’ just go back, take each possession, and try to do our best.′ And we did that.”
Here’s a look at a few other tidbits from those two series:
WELCOME BACK WHALEN: Lindsay Whalen missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a broken left hand, but a bye to the semifinals ensured she will be back in time for the playoffs. Surely there will be some rust, but just having her back will help the Lynx, who are in search of their fourth title in the past seven years.
MOVING TIME: The Lynx will play their playoff games at the University of Minnesota because of scheduling conflicts. Their normal home, Target Center, was shut down for the summer as its being upgraded in time for the Timberwolves to open their home schedule on Oct. 20. The Lynx played at the Xcel center during the regular season, but with preseason NHL starting soon it wasn’t available for the playoffs. So Minnesota turned to “The Barn,” one of the oldest arenas in the United States. Lynx owner Glen Taylor spent more than $1 million to bring some improvements to the building to accommodate the team and league, including air conditioning units that are generally not needed with the Gophers take the court in the fall.
FAMILIAR FOES: The Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks will be playing in the postseason for the fifth time. Phoenix has won three of the four previous meetings with the Sparks lone series win coming in 2000.
RARE REPEAT: The Los Angeles Sparks are going to try and accomplish something that hasn’t been done in the WNBA for 15 years — repeat as champions. The Sparks were the last team to win back-to-back titles doing so in 2001-02. They hadn’t won a championship since until last season.
“It’s a new recipe every year to win a championship,” Parker said Monday after practice. “The same thing isn’t going to work as it did last year, but I like our preparation and I like our experience.”
Los Angeles finished the season with a seven-game winning streak and are rested heading into the playoffs having not played in eight days.
TIP-INS: During the regular season 12 teams rallied from deficits of 14 or more points this season. The most-ever was 16 in 2011. A total of 19 teams have done it in the playoffs. ... Diana Taurasi improved to 11-0 in elimination games in the WNBA playoffs. ... For the second straight season the Mercury have advanced to the semifinals despite having to play in the first round of the playoffs. ... Minnesota and Los Angeles both went 3-0 this season against their respective WNBA semifinal opponents.
QUOTABLES: “I didn’t come here to be a passive, tentative player. I came here to dominate. To lead. And what better place to do it than Madison Square Garden? Just because you miss four shots — I’m 30 years old. Maybe if I was 23, my thought process would have been different, but I’ve kind of grown up since then.” — Kristi Toliver on her mentality after missing her first few shots.
AP Sports Writers Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this story.
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