12:44 AM ET
- Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women's college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women's basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
A day after blowing a fourth quarter lead while facing elimination in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals, the Phoenix Mercury players addressed what went wrong after deciding not to speak to the media immediately following Sunday's result.
"We've been so good at the end of games that we thought we were gonna pull it out, because that's just what we do," Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi said Monday of the 80-74 loss to the Chicago Sky, which prevented a Game 5 back in Phoenix on Tuesday. "And it didn't work out that way. I think at one point, all five of us missed a layup.
"So the magic slipped away from our hands pretty quickly and reality hit, and we were a pretty devastated team."
Taurasi addressed the team not speaking to the media on Sunday, saying they "just had to take a minute." Asked about a door to the Mercury's locker room at Wintrust Arena being damaged after the game, Taurasi said, "There were a lot of doors in there."
Taurasi, 39, reiterated what she said Saturday about taking time over the next few months to decide if she will return for an 18th WNBA season in 2022. She was limited to 16 regular-season games this year because of sternum, ankle and foot injuries.
"I'm probably the only person in WNBA history that had a fractured sternum," Taurasi said. "I hadn't rolled an ankle since high school. So it's a little bit of everything, right? Bad luck, age, wear and tear. So we'll see where I go from here. For as fun as it's been on the court, off the court it's been quite a battle."
Taurasi was hoping that 2021 could bring her fourth WNBA title, but still felt it was one of her best experiences.
"I'm just as proud to be on this team as on those championship teams," she said. "I've never seen a team really fight this hard ever. And I've been obviously on a lot of good teams. I've been on some OK teams, but this team had a grit that just was incredible. I really enjoyed it."
Fellow guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said of falling short of the championship, "It hurt like hell. It does nothing but drive me. I thought the camaraderie of this group was unmatched to teams I've been on in the past. We've got of overcomers on this team."
Diggins-Smith said it meant a lot to her to win a gold medal in the Olympics this year in terms of her confidence going forward.
"It was a lifelong dream of mine," Diggins-Smith said. "Even though I didn't get to play that much, I took a lot from that experience and it really motivated me coming back to the WNBA to really make a push with this team.
"This year was a big part of my maturation process and my journey in this league. Really turning the corner and getting a taste of what it's like to make a deep playoff run."
Taurasi, Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner were all Olympians, and Griner was also an MVP candidate this season. She had 28 points in leading the Mercury in Game 4 and averaged 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in the postseason.
Griner, who turned 31 on Monday, will be headed to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia in the WNBA's offseason, and plans to return even better for 2022. One of her personal goals is to win the WNBA's MVP award in her career.
"That means I'm really firing on all cylinders," said Griner, who added she also would like to add to the two Defensive Player of the Year awards she already has.
"That's an area where I'm being a critic of myself. That's somewhere I can definitely get better. As far as my leadership role, just use my voice a little bit more. I feel like this year I was definitely the most vocal I've ever been. So just doing that more and keeping it cool on the court."