PHOENIX — The stakes could not be higher for the Phoenix Mercury as they look to secure a playoff spot in their final game of the regular season on Sunday against the Chicago Sky.
The three-time WNBA Champions will be fighting for their playoff lives on their home floor but for a group that's had to overcome so much throughout the season, this adversity is nothing new.
"The whole point of playing sports is to play for something and tomorrow we have a lot to play for," Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said. "I think that's exciting for everyone in this gym, for the coaching staff, for our fans, for the whole organization."
The Mercury will be without All-Star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith who is missing Sunday's game against the Chicago Sky due to personal reasons and Taurasi remains sidelined with a quad strain.
It's been almost two weeks since Taurasi sustained the injury and she said her timetable to return to the court is three to four weeks.
"The timing's not great. Obviously, I'm going to try to push the envelope as much as I can on my end to get back on the court," Taurasi said. "It's tough watching. You want to be out there, obviously. The WNBA's tough because you have an eight-month offseason and then these four months go by really quick. If you have an injury at the wrong time or an extended injury, the season's pretty much gone. So, it's been frustrating in that sense but I'm proud of this group."
The 40-year-old said she'll take time in the offseason to evaluate if she'll return in 2023. Last month, Taurasi watched her good friend, Sue Bird, celebrated during her final regular season game in Phoenix but DT admitted she'd feel uncomfortable being honored by every WNBA team in a farewell season.
"At this point in my career nothing matters but being in position to win a title," Taurasi said. "I still think at 40 and after playing all these years I still feel like I can get better... And I still like to come and compete and be in the gym."
For now, Taurasi's doing what she can to help her teammates extend the season into the playoffs. Watching the game from the bench has provided Taurasi with a fresh perspective on the game but don't expect "Coach D" to become a thing in the near future.
"Diana Taurasi’s a basketball player as long as she wants to be a basketball player and I want to keep her on the court as long as possible," first-year head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. "She has tremendous knowledge of the game and she's going to do everything she can to help her team. Her energy, her enthusiasm and her commitment to our team hasn't wavered all year."
The Mercury (15-20) are one of four teams battling it out for the final two WNBA playoff spots. Tip-off against the Sky is set for 2 p.m. at Footprint Center.
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