Facing elimination from the WNBA playoffs, both the Phoenix Mercury and Washington Mystics rallied Sunday to win their semifinal match ups and force decisive fifth games, which will send the winners to the Finals.
The Mercury edged the Storm, 86-84, and the Mystics routed the Dream, 97-76.
Phoenix engineered their comeback in the second half, erasing a 17-point deficit with both scoring and lockdown defense. Seattle point guard Sue Bird went out of the game in the second quarter with a broken nose, and the team stuttered in her absence, unable to quell the momentum of their hosts.
On their final timeout with 10 seconds remaining, Bird drew up the Storm’s last play, but Seattle didn’t get a shot off before time expired.
Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 29 points and 12 rebounds, and DeWanna Bonner’s 27 points made nine games in a row with 20-plus points. Breanna Stewart led four from Seattle in double figures, with 22 points.
Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said the key to the win was moving Bonner from the power forward to the small forward position late in the game.
“She’s been great for us at the four, but I moved her to the three and put the ball in her hands and she got aggressive,” Brondello said. “Not every play was run for her, but she’s so dynamic on reversals (that) when she’s on the attack and gets to the basket, she can finish. I think that was big for us.”
The Storm begun with a 2-0 series lead. The deciding game will be in Seattle Tuesday.
In Washington D.C., the Mystics were re-energized by the return of All-Star Elena Delle Donne, who went out in game three with a left knee bone bruise. She was questionable for game four, but scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 34 minutes of play. Kristi Toliver had 22 points and rookie Ariel Atkins, 19.
Four Atlanta players had 12 points and two others scored 11 points each in the loss.
Toliver said Delle Donne’s presence was huge for the team.
“Whether Delle’s on crutches, it doesn’t matter. If she’s on the floor, they have to respect her and honor her,” Toliver said. “That just changes everything for everyone. I’m happy that she was able to get going, especially in the second half. Feeling good. Legs were under her. I’m just really happy to have her back.”
The series moves back to Atlanta Tuesday, with an 8 p.m. ET start.
The game in Seattle begins at 7 p.m. PT.