The worst thing the Phoenix Mercury can do in the fifth and deciding game of their WNBA semifinal series is assume it’s Taurasi time.

Yes, Diana Taurasi is 13-0 in WNBA winner-take-all games over her 14-year career. But she won none of those games on her own and is smart enough to know that the path to 14-0 on Tuesday could go through her fellow All-Stars DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner.

In Games 3-4, those that the Mercury won at home to force Game 5, Taurasi averaged a modest 12 points, well under Bonner’s 27 and Griner’s 25. When Seattle won Games 1-2, Taurasi averaged 26.5 points with Bonner adding 24 and Griner 18. 

The conclusion to draw is not that the Mercury won’t win Game 5 with Taurasi scoring big. Rather that her more valuable role could be as a playmaker, especially when it comes to having the 6-9 Griner fully engaged and dominant down low against a team that tops out with 6-4 Breanna Stewart.

Game 4 ended with Griner looming over Stewart underneath the Storm basket and the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player opting to attempt a pass as time expired instead of trying to draw a foul.

Stewart admitted to her mistake after the Mercury’s 86-84 win that had as much to do with Seattle point guard Sue Bird missing the final 24 minutes after taking an elbow from Stewart that broke her nose for the fifth time in her 16-year pro career.

Needless to say, there are countless story lines going into Game 5.

Taurasi and Bird were college teammates at Connecticut, where Stewart also played so there’s that history.

The Mercury have won three WNBA titles (2007, 2009, 2014) and the Storm two (2004, 2010). Both are hungry for another. Some believe the winner of Game 5 will prevail in a best-of-five WNBA Finals over the winner of Tuesday’s other semifinal Game 5 between Atlanta and Washington, neither of which has won a championship.

The Finals will begin Thursday at the higher-seeded team, which won’t be Phoenix as the lowest seed of the semifinalists.

But back to Taurasi, who raised an eyebrow of acknowledgment when asked about Game 5 being the kind of game for which she lives.

“They’re great games to play in,” she said. “You try to bring your best game as a team, as an individual. You try to play your best basketball and hopefully it’s good enough. 

“This series I obviously scored a little bit more in these last two games. Alysha (Clark) has done a great job of not helping much (off Taurasi) and staying connected. So we have to exploit other areas that in these two games we got to a little bit more. If it’s scoring, passing, getting us into offense, whatever it is.”

Seattle won Games 1-2 by the same score, 91-87, with the second requiring overtime. The Mercury broke away in the fourth quarter of Game 3 to win 86-66 despite playing without starting forward Stephanie Talbot due to a concussion.

Then in Game 4, like the first two games, Phoenix fell behind by double digits before 6-4 Bonner shifted to small forward and Camille Little came in at power forward guarding Stewart. Bonner ignited offensively on the way to her ninth consecutive 20-point game, combining with Griner for 56 points to even the series.

The Mercury have scored twice as much as Seattle in the fourth quarters combined (94-47) although that’s mitigated somewhat by the Storm’s 12-8 edge in Game 2’s overtime.

“They’ve got some real offensive weapons and when they’re playing at a high level and very assertive, they’re hard to stop,” Seattle coach Dan Hughes said. “That’s just a reality of playoff basketball. I don’t think anything is going to be easy. We’re learning about that. Sue has experience but beyond that we as a group are kind of learning some lessons.”

Bird is going to play wearing a face mask in Game 5 after tests showed no concussion symptoms. Talbot will be out for a third straight game so Yvonne Turner, one of stars of Game 3, will remain in the Mercury starting lineup.

The Mercury played their first road game at Seattle on May 20 so this in some ways brings the season full circle. They already have won four playoff elimination games (vs. Dallas, Connecticut, twice vs. Seattle) to get to the verge of returning to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2014.

“We protected our house,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re just very excited we get to play a fifth game. Obviously it’s on Seattle’s home court, but we’ve played well away from home this year (11-6 in the regular season). So we’ll go in there and hopefully put on a good showing and may the best team win.”

Tuesday’s game

Mercury at Seattle Storm

When: 7 p.m.

Where: KeyArena, Seattle.


Outlook: In addition to being 13-0 in WNBA playoff winner-take-all games, Mercury G Diana Taurasi is 19-5 in overall playoff elimination games. Phoenix is a combined 10-of-45 (22.2 percent) from 3-point in the past two games vs. Seattle, yet managed to win both. The Mercury forced 14 turnovers in Game 4 leading to 23 points and scored 52 points in the paint. … Seattle has lost consecutive games for the first time all season. The No. 1-seeded Storm won the regular season with a 26-8 record, six games better than Phoenix (20-14). … Mercury C Brittney Griner had a career playoff-high 29 points in Game 4 and tied her career playoff rebound record (12). She has put up three consecutive double-doubles in the series after an off performance (13 points and four boards) in Game 1.