WNBA Finals: On Friday night, the Las Vegas Aces will face the Phoenix Mercury in a winner-take-all semi-final finale.
The winner of Game 5 will face the Chicago Sky in the first game of the best-of-five WNBA Finals on Sunday evening at home.
“This is what athletes live for,” Aces guard Chelsea Gray said. “That is why basketball is so appealing. You can play a series like this. The tides can alter quite quickly.”
The tides have already altered substantially a couple of times. Second-seeded Las Vegas won Game 1 96-90 at home, but fifth-seeded Phoenix responded by stealing homecourt advantage with 117-91 wins in Game 2 and a dominant 87-60 triumph in Game 3.
However, the Aces avoided elimination with a 93-76 away win on Wednesday night.
“We have to show up for work, and we just didn’t show up in a lot of ways in Game 4,” Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said. “They deserve credit, but I believe that was our fault.”
The most recent reversal began with what Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer described as a “sombre” analysis of his team’s sluggish performance in Game 3.
“You never want to lose on energy,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum explained. “It’s embarrassing for me like a pro.”
The Aces swiftly recovered an 11-2 hole, established a three-point halftime lead, and took possession with a 24-0 third-quarter outburst Wednesday night.
The Mercury will once again be shorthanded in the backcourt. Kia Nurse, the starting guard, has been declared out after suffering a right knee injury 39 seconds into Game 4. To make matters worse, important reserve Sophie Cunningham (calf strain) missed Game 4 and is listed as questionable for Friday.
The two absences “harmed us a lot,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “They are the players who provide us with the tenacity and energy. We need to be able to withstand the storm a little better and stay together. We need to fight a little harder.”
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