Shey Peddy broke a tie with two free throws in the final seconds as the visiting Phoenix Mercury held off the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 on Friday night in front of a record crowd to advance to the WNBA Finals.
Peddy was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 4.8 seconds left and made two of three free throws to give the fifth-seeded Mercury an 86-84 lead. Brittney Griner, who put up a game-high 28 points, then blocked A’ja Wilson’s layup attempt and made one of two free throws for a three-point lead.
Kelsey Plum’s desperation three-pointer from the backcourt failed as time expired, ending the second-seeded Aces’ season in front of 9,680 fans – the most ever for a Las Vegas home game.
Diana Taurasi added 24 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter as the 39-year-old took over proceedings for Phoenix.
Peddy scored 15 and Skylar Diggins-Smith added 14 for the Mercury, who will host the sixth-seeded Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the Finals live on Sky Sports Arena’s red button from 8pm on Sunday.
Plum and Chelsea Gray scored 22 points each, Wilson had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Liz Cambage had 10 points and 11 rebounds to lead Las Vegas.
Taurasi made back-to-back three-pointers to lead a 12-point run at the start of the fourth quarter that gave the Mercury a 70-66 lead. Plum sank a layup for the Aces’ first points of the quarter after a four-minute drought, and she added a three-point play to swing it back to 75-73 in their favour.
In a back-and-forth encounter, Phoenix tied the score twice before Las Vegas once again took an 81-77 lead with 2:27 remaining.
Griner made two baskets and Taurasi added a triple to give Phoenix an 84-81 advantage with just over a minute to go before Gray levelled matters with a three-pointer of her own. Peddy and Griner then sealed a rematch of the 2014 Finals against the Chicago Sky from the free throw line.