The Phoenix Mercury fell one miracle short, losing to the Connecticut Sun in the final seconds of overtime Sunday afternoon, 96-95. The loss is Phoenix's fifth over their last six games, and drops the team to fourth in the Western Conference standings.
The game started out well enough for the Mercury, who jumped to an early 26-21 lead after the first period while sporting their pink uniforms in celebration of breast cancer survivors. But Connecticut continued stayed close, regaining the lead late in the second quarter on two Renee Montgomery free throws. Phoenix responded with a strong final two minutes of the half, recapturing the lead with a 8-2 run highlighted by a spectacular crosscourt pass from Temeka Johnson to Penny Taylor for an easy layup.
Unfortunately, the Mercury failed to carry that momentum into the third quarter, as Asjiha Jones burst out of the gate with seven straight Connecticut points that tied the game. Led by stifling defense and Jones' offensive assault, the Sun regained control, ending the third quarter on a 15-3 run that included 11 unanswered points over the final 3:25.
"We has a lull where we couldn't score the ball," Mercury head coach Coery Gaines said after the game. "It wasn't that we weren't trying; we just couldn't hit a shot."
Down five entering into the fourth quarter, Phoenix quickly rediscovered their groove, tying up the game on Temeka Johnson's three-pointer two minutes in.
With the score knotted up and the stretch run in sight, a furious rally erupted within the U.S. Airways Center. Diana Taurasi caught fire, nailing back-to-back threes to regain the Phoenix lead, only to be immediately answered by a Tina Charles bank shot and a Kara Lawson long range trey. DeWanna Bonner answered right back with a trey of her own, that was quickly rebuked by Renee Montgomery's three that put the Sun back in the lead, 83-80.
Despite two sloppy turnovers and an inexcusable foul late in the shot clock to send Montgomery to the line, Phoenix remained within striking distance as the clock wound down. After regaining possession, a Candace Dupree layup assisted by Taurasi narrowed the gap to two with just a minute left.
On the other end of the court Dupree's smothering defense forced Jones to throw an errant pass that gave Phoenix a chance to tie the game. The frantic ensuing possession became impossibly dramatic, as the Mercury missed four consecutive shots, before losing the ball -- and possession -- out of bounds.
Down two with 3.9 seconds left and Connecticut with the ball, the situation looked dire.
The Phoenix Mercury needed a miracle, and DeWanna Bonner delivered. To the delirious roars of the crowd, the 23-year-old stole the ensuing inbounds bounce pass intended for Kalana Greene, running in for the tying layup as the clock hit zero.
"I said to only throw to Kalana if she's wide open, which she was, but you can't throw a bounce pass," Sun head coach Mike Thibault explained. "You have to throw a chest pass so it doesn't hang because Bonner's got such long arms... to throw it there wasn't wrong. The way we threw it was wrong."
On the heels of the team's furious fourth quarter rally, the Mercury entered the overtime period brimming with confidence. After trading baskets back-and-forth, Bonner hit yet another big shot, nailing a 22-foot three-pointer that put the Mercury ahead 95-92 with a minute left.
However, Phoenix's luck soon ran out, as Jones hit a 17-foot jump shot to close the deficit to one, before Tina Charles sunk her game-winning jumper with five seconds remaining on the clock. Diana Taurasi's desperate attempt in the final seconds fell short, and the Mercury dropped their second overtime game of the season. Phoenix has now lost three straight to Connecticut.
"We played a tough game. They are a really good team," Taurasi said. "[The game] probably shouldn't have been that close because I thought we were playing at a pretty good level. We played really hard. But you can play as hard as you want; if you play stupid, it doesn't matter."
DeWanna Bonner finished with 11 boards, and three steals, to go with her 24 points -- 20 of which came in the second half -- to single handedly outscore the Connecticut bench. It was her second double-double of the WNBA season.
"I'm definitely trying to give my team a boost," Bonner said. "But it's nothing if you didn't get a win. Nothing came out of it. I was just trying to hustle and win the game for my team. We needed it and we'll bounce back."
Mercury captain Diana Taurasi led all scorers with 29 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Tina Charles led the way for the Sun, pouring in 23 points and 17 rebounds for her sixth consecutive double-double.
Renee Montgomery had one of her best games of the season, finishing with 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting, including five from behind the arc.
Next on the schedule the Mercury host their rivals, the Minnesota Lynx, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the U.S. Airways Center.