Storm out of playoffs after loss to Mercury

Storm out of playoffs after loss to Mercury
Seattle Storm's Sue Bird reacts to a call on her against the Phoenix Mercury during the second half of the decisive Game 3 in a first-round WNBA playoff basketball series, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, in Seattle. The Mercury won 77-75. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE (AP) - With time running out in regulation, Candice Dupree knew she had to be quick when the ball came to her.

Dupree's putback with 1.9 seconds remaining lifted Phoenix to a 77-75 victory over the Seattle Storm in Game 3 on Monday night, sending the Mercury to the Western Conference finals.

"Everybody was tipping the ball around and it just so happened to land in my hands," Dupree said. "Put it back up as soon as I could."

Dupree finished with 20 points, Penny Taylor had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Diana Taurasi also scored 19 to help Phoenix advance to the conference finals for the third straight year, and fourth in the last five.

The Mercury will face the winner of Tuesday night's Game 3 between San Antonio and top-seeded Minnesota.

After losing the opener 80-61 in Seattle, Phoenix tied the series at home with 92-83 win at home on Saturday night.

"Coming back to Seattle, we knew what it was going to be like," Taylor said. "We started off a little sluggish, obviously getting down by quite a bit. No one really panicked. Diana got us going. (Candice) got us going with some easy ones and from there we just fought really."

Sue Bird scored 22 points to lead defending champion Seattle, which led by 18 points early on. Lauren Jackson had 18 points, Tanisha Wright added 17 and Swin Cash had nine points and 10 rebounds.

Bird tied the score at 75 with 10.5 seconds remaining. Taylor then drove off the inbounds play and missed. A scramble for the rebound ensued and Dupree eventually put the ball in from the center of the lane.

The Storm, out of timeouts, did not get off a final shot.

Jackson tied it at 73-all with a 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining. Taylor countered with a driving score to give Phoenix a 75-73 lead, forcing Seattle to take a timeout with 29.4 seconds remaining.

"It just see-sawed," Bird said.

The Mercury took its first lead at 60-59 with 6:56 to go when Dupree hit a jumper.

Taurasi fouled out and was whistled for a technical with 6:38 remaining. Just 6 seconds later, Storm forward Camille Little fouled out.

Phoenix rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit and tied the score at 48-all when Dupree picked up a loose ball and put it with about 3½ minutes to go in the third quarter.

Seattle's foul trouble also mounted in the quarter as Wright was called for her fifth and Little committed her fourth. Each had to go to the bench early.

A 3-pointer by Bird right before the end of the third quarter gave Seattle a 57-54 lead.

Seattle went on an 8-0 run to start the second quarter and expanded its lead to 24-9 after Bird scored a fastbreak layup. Phoenix called timeout, but it hardly slowed the Storm.

Jackson's three-point play with 7:09 to go in the first half pushed the lead to 29-11.

"We got off to a great start," Bird said. "Really played to our strengths."

Shortly after, Phoenix shifted its approach. Taurasi was moved to point guard enabling the Mercury to play a much bigger lineup. They also began to play more zone defense and began chipping away.

"We didn't want to get beat inside," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "They were trying to throw the ball to Lauren (Jackson) the whole game."

After turning the ball over nine times in the first quarter, the Mercury turned it over once in the second and trailed 39-30 at halftime.

It was a ragged start for both teams. Little scored the first basket with 7:24 left in the opening quarter. Seattle missed four shots and turned the ball over twice before scoring. Phoenix took 2:59 to score.

Phoenix was unable to run in the opening quarter, scoring just two fastbreak points. The Storm outscored the Mercury 20-9, holding it to just 27.3 percent shooting and establishing the pace it wanted.

In the end, Seattle's season slipped away.

"All of a sudden the buzzer's going off and there's this wait-a-minute moment," Bird said. "This is one of those things that doesn't set in until a day, two days, a week.

"Right now, it just feels like we have a game in two days, we must. Obviously we don't."