WNBA: Trip to Finals at stake as Mercury visit Aces

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The Las Vegas Aces will host the Phoenix Mercury in a winner-take-all semifinal playoff series finale Friday night.

The Game 5 winner will open the best-of-five WNBA Finals at home Sunday against the Chicago Sky.

“Athletes live for moments like this,” Aces guard Chelsea Gray said. “That’s why basketball is so cool. You’re able to play a series like this. The tides can change really fast.”

The tides have changed dramatically a couple of times already. Second-seeded Las Vegas took a 96-90 victory on its home court in Game 1.

Fifth-seeded Phoenix bounced back to take homecourt advantage away with a 117-91 victory in Game 2 and rolled at home in Game 3, 87-60. On Wednesday night, the Aces fought off elimination with a 93-76 road romp.

“We’ve got to show up for work and we just didn’t show up in a lot of ways,” Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said of Game 4. “Credit to them, but I think that was on us.”

The latest turnaround began with what Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer called a “somber” review of his team’s lethargic effort in Game 3.

“You never want to lose based on energy,” Aces guard Kelsey Plum said. “As a pro, it’s embarrassing.”

The Aces quickly overcame an 11-2 deficit, grabbed a three-point halftime lead and took command with a 24-0 run early in the third quarter Wednesday night.

The Mercury will be short-handed in the backcourt again Friday. Starting guard Kia Nurse has been ruled out after sustaining a right knee injury just 39 seconds into Wednesday’s game. Key reserve Sophie Cunningham (calf strain) did not play in Game 4 and is listed as questionable for Friday.

“It hurt us big time,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said of the two absences. “They are the players that give us that toughness and energy. We’ve got to weather the storm a little bit better and stay together. We’ve got to fight a little bit more.”

–Field Level Media

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