The 1927 New York Yankees. The 1985 Chicago Bears. The 2014 Phoenix Mercury.
Three of the greatest and most complete teams of all-time, the 2014 Phoenix Mercury rank among the legendary “Murders’ Row” and “Monsters of the Midway” with arguably the most unstoppable lineup the WNBA has ever seen. From their lockdown defense to their high-powered offense, the Mercury’s record-breaking season guided them to the franchise’s third championship.
You can’t talk about the GOAT of teams without the GOAT herself, Diana Taurasi. Seeking her third WNBA championship, Taurasi led the team in scoring (16.2 points per game) and assists (5.6 per game) as she guided one of the most balanced and lethal offenses the league has ever seen. She earned her seventh All-Star selection of her career while being named to an astonishing 10th All-WNBA Team (now 13).
Penny Taylor may have been nearing the end of her career, but her play on the hardwood didn’t seem to notice. The sharp-shooting three-time All-Star spaced the floor in a “pick-your-poison” from deep backcourt with Taurasi. Taylor was clearly a major factor when on the court as the Mercury went 30-2 throughout the regular season and postseason with Taylor in the starting lineup.
Earning her fourth All-Star selection and first in a Mercury uniform, Candice Dupree was second on the team in scoring (14.5 points per game), second in field goal percentage (53.3 percent), second in rebounds (7.6 per game) and third in assists (2.4 per game) as she contributed in nearly all phases of the game. Dupree set a WNBA Finals record by connecting on her first ten shots in Game 1 as her efficient inside scoring was the perfect complement to the outside shooting of Taurasi and Taylor.
After being named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year throughout her first three seasons, DeWanna Bonner’s unique ability for her size made her an ultimate weapon for the Mercury. Whether playing low in the post or stretching the court from deep, Bonner gave Head Coach Sandy Brondello a versatile talent to place anywhere throughout her gameplan. Bonner led the team with 49 steals during the regular season, including two games with at least four as she ranked among the top 10 in the league in steals.
The anchor of the team was none other than the first overall pick from the season prior, Brittney Griner. In what was just her second season in the league, Griner had already proven to be the most frightening force in the paint, leading both seasons in blocks (now seven straight seasons) as she earned herself the 2014 WNBA All-Defensive Player and her first All-WNBA First Team selection. She dominated inside on both ends of the court with 15.6 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game and a ridiculous 3.8 blocks per game.
Highly-decorated global basketball star and former WNBA player, Sandy Brondello, was named the ninth Head Coach of the Mercury on Nov. 15, 2013. To say she started her first season as Head Coach in the WNBA hot would be putting in lightly. Brondello became just the second coach in franchise history to begin 2-0 as the Mercury took off on a scoring 17-3 start. She tied Los Angeles’ Michael Cooper for the best 20-game start to begin a head coaching tenure in WNBA history before ultimately earning the 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year award.
THE RECORD-BREAKING SEASON
The Mercury roster had six WNBA Championship rings among them, the greatest player of all-time, the most unstoppable force in the paint and array of talent throughout the supporting cast. There was one goal in mind: bring a third championship to The Valley.
The regular season seemed like a cake walk for the stacked Mercury roster as the team went full force on a nightly basis, finishing the season with a 29-5 record, the most wins in WNBA history. No team was close to matching the talent or effort displayed by the Mercury as Phoenix won 19 of those 29 games by double-digits, including five by 20-plus.
The best offensive and defensive ratings in the league, the Mercury led the WNBA in points (2840), field goal percentage (48.4 percent) and blocks (205) while finishing second in both assists (661) and three-point shooting (35.0 percent).
The Mercury caught their rhythm right out of the gates to begin the season and never looked back. A 16-game winning streak was the second longest streak in WNBA history as Phoenix led for 532 minutes and 59 seconds of 640 minutes during the streak (83.3 percent of game action).
The Mercury clinched home court advantage throughout the 2014 WNBA Playoffs and the X-Factor would continue to play a crucial role for the team as the Mercury went 16-1 at home during the regular season.
First round was against the Los Angeles Sparks and it wasn’t long until the team was making history yet again. In Game 2, Griner recorded the first dunk in WNBA Playoff history, bringing her total to five career dunks (with only six other combined dunks in league history). But that was only part of what made her Game 2 performance so special.
Griner shot a perfect nine-of-nine from the field for 21 points and set the WNBA record for the most shots without a miss in playoff history. Griner led the way to a dominating 25-point win as the Mercury swept the Sparks in the best-of-three series and advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
The Mercury had advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season and sixth time in the last eight years as they tipped-off against the Minnesota Lynx. Griner once again led the way for the Mercury in Game 1 with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks as all five starters scored in double-digits in the 14-point victory.
The only slip-up of the entire postseason came in Game 2 against the Lynx, as Maya Moore’s 32 points led to a five-point Minnesota win as the Mercury struggled from beyond the arc. Coming back home in a winner-take-all scenario, the Mercury felt confident with the X-Factor on their side. Taurasi dominated with 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) to go along with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, a block and a steal as the Mercury won by 18 and advanced to their third WNBA Finals.
After taking care of both best-of-three series with a 4-1 record, the Mercury tipped-off against the Chicago Sky. The Sky knocked-off the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in the first round as they proved to be better than their record and not a team to take lightly. Unfortunately for them, the Mercury were playing at a level practically unseen in professional sports.
The Mercury completely shut down the Sky’s offense in Game 1, holding them to just 62 points with only two players scoring in double-digits. Griner proved why she was named the Defensive Player of the Year with a jaw-dropping 8 blocks to go along with her 12 points and 7 rebounds. Dupree led the way offensively with 26 points as Taurasi notched a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists. The Mercury displayed one of the most dominating wins in WNBA Finals history with a 21-points victory.
Well, that was until Game 2.
As if Game 1 wasn’t embarrassing enough for the Sky, the Mercury took it to an entirely different level in Game 2. A completely balanced offensive attack saw all five of the Mercury starters score in double-digits, with three additional players off the bench scoring at least five. Griner led the way with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks with Taurasi just behind her with 19 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds. Taylor was a swiss army knife in Game 2 as she seemed to impact all phases of the game, finishing with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.
After a 21-point victory in Game 1, the Mercury upped that to a 29-point win in Game 2 as they were just one win away from completing the series sweep and clinching their third WNBA Championship.
After tallying 12 blocks in the first two games and proving to be a mismatch for the Sky, the Mercury were without Griner for Game 2 due to an eye injury as her presence inside was replaced by Ewelina Kobryn. Kobryn averaged just 6.9 minutes in 20 games player for the Mercury that season, but would be forced to play crucial time on the biggest stage. Kobryn managed to hold her own in the paint as the versatility of the weapons around her allowed Coach Brondello to adjust the gameplan needed to complete to the sweep.
In what was by far the closest and most thrilling game of the series, the Mercury traveled to Chicago for Game 3. The Sky gave the Mercury a run for their money as Elena Della Donne and Sylvia Fowles combined for 43 points with Allie Quigley adding 19 points of her own off the bench.
By the end of the third quarter, the Mercury found themselves down by two for their latest deficit of the series. It was 63-61 and the Mercury were going to need to give it all they had if they planned on clinching the series in three games.
Enter Diana “The GOAT” Taurasi.
The Sky had done a decent job slowing down Taurasi throughout the first three quarters, holding her to just 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, but that effort was all-for-not as Taurasi was destined to have one of the greatest individual performances basketball has ever seen.
With a mix of inside scoring, outside shots and converting at the free throw line, Taurasi was virtually unstoppable for the final ten minutes of the game. After 10 points in the first three quarters, Taurasi erupted for 14 in the final frame, including a running one-hander with 14.3 seconds left to secure the win and complete the series sweep with an 87-82 victory.
Taurasi earned her second-career WNBA Finals MVP after averaging 20.3 points per game as the Mercury were once again atop the basketball world, clinching their third WNBA Championship in seven years.
RE-AIR OF GAME 3 OF WNBA FINALS
Want to re-live Taurasi’s Game 3 heroics? In partnership with the Mercury’s exclusive broadcast partner, FOX Sports Arizona, four of the Mercury’s most iconic games in franchise history will air once more beginning May 19. Replay the excitement of the Mercury’s three WNBA championships, including the 2014 title-clincher Game 3 at Chicago on May 19 at 7 p.m., with re-runs on May 20 at 2:30 p.m. and May 22 at 4:30 p.m.