PHOENIX -- What kind of craziness was this? Phoenix's Diana Taurasi was scoreless entering the fourth quarter of a potential elimination game? Seattle had a chance to sweep, but Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd combined were 1-of-18 from the field? One of the stars of the game for the Mercury was Vonnie Turner, who had scored in double figures only three times previously this season?
It was a weird, wild game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday. When it was over, the fifth-seeded Mercury lived to see another day after an 86-66 victory in Game 3 of their WNBA semifinal series with the top-seeded Storm.
"I think it was just one of those nights," Bird said, shaking her head. "For whatever reason, shots didn't drop. The most unfortunate thing is it happened during a playoff game."
Bird went scoreless -- that hadn't happened in the postseason since 2004. That year turned out fine, though, as the Storm won the franchise's first championship. Seattle wants another crack at that this year, but the Mercury showed Friday that they weren't going to step aside easily.
"I loved our fight," Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.
Taurasi started the game 0-for-8 from the field, although she hit her last three shots to finish with eight points. But she never got too frustrated, even though so much was on the line with the Mercury trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five series.
"A game like this early in my career would have just been a disaster, where I'd get caught up on shot-making," Taurasi said. "But now, it's more than that. I know there are so many facets of the game you can affect without putting points up. It's not always your turn. Tonight, it was great to see Vonnie do what she did."
Turner, a 5-foot-10 guard, is a scoring whiz overseas, but it took until last year for her to stick on a WNBA roster, playing her rookie season at age 29. She had started seven regular-season games in her two-year WNBA career and five playoff games (all last year) before getting the starting call for Friday. She replaced forward Stephanie Talbot (concussion) in the lineup.
Turner responded with the best game she has played in the WNBA. She had career highs in points (19) and minutes (38), and career playoff highs in rebounds (seven), assists (six) and steals (three). Plus, Turner's defense also was part of the reason Bird and Loyd struggled.
"We knew when we put her in the starting lineup, she'd be fine," Taurasi said of Turner. "There was no sense of, 'Oh, I hope Vonnie plays well.' We knew she would. And when she plays with that reckless abandon, she can make some great plays. She's just so confident because she works so hard."
Turner said Brondello told her to just not overthink things Friday.
"The thing about the WNBA is you always have to stay ready -- whether you play one minute or 40 minutes," Turner said. "I just always make sure I'm doing what I need to do, and when I have to step up, I need to step up."
While the Mercury couldn't have expected Turner to come up so big, DeWanna Bonner's latest stat-stuffer was no surprise. We've seen these kinds of epic performances a lot from her before, and Friday was another one: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 11-of-18 shooting. Bonner, who gave birth to twins last year, had a stellar regular season (17.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG) and is tearing it up in the playoffs (25.4, 12.4)
Bonner acknowledges returning to playing shape is the most difficult thing she has done, but she has made it look easy.
"DeWanna has always been a special player," Brondello said. "She just continues to impress me. She makes big plays. And she can defend anyone when she's locked in."
Also not to be overlooked was Phoenix center Brittney Griner, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
"I thought we were good in the games in Seattle, but we weren't great," Brondello said of the Mercury's two losses there, both by the score of 91-87. "We had too many breakdowns, sometimes just because of fatigue, and not finishing plays. Tonight we were very locked in, and that was the difference."
The good news for the Storm is that even with Bird and Loyd (two points) essentially shut down scoring-wise -- although Bird had 11 assists -- they got good minutes from starter Natasha Howard (19 points, 10 rebounds) and off the bench from Jordin Canada and Crystal Langhorne, who combined for 22 points. Breanna Stewart had 15 points and 11 rebounds, but she was 7 of 23 from the field, contributing to Seattle's 36.7 percent shooting.
Bird was chagrined that she didn't play better to help the Storm get a sweep, but added that she needed to put it out of her mind and turn the page quickly, looking toward Game 4 here Sunday (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET).
"I don't think this had anything to do with X's and O's," Bird said. "I think it was an intensity level that they had and we didn't. They started out with it, and of course it's going to go up and down throughout the game, but we never matched it."