Cunningham, Turner lead Mercury to 83-82 win over Liberty

  • Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham reacts after making a basket in the first round of the WNBA playoffs against the New York Liberty Thursday. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — Sophie Cunningham hit 6 of 9 3-pointers for a career-high 21 points and Brianna Turner made the winning free throw with less than a second to play, giving the Phoenix Mercury an 83-82 win over the New York Liberty in a first-round WNBA playoff game on Thursday night.

The upstart Liberty had tied the game on Betnijah Laney’s long 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left, but the Mercury got the ball to Turner underneath the basket on the ensuing inbounds play, forcing Sami Whitcomb to foul with 0.4 seconds remaining.

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Turner’s first free throw rimmed out but she calmly made the second, moving the fifth-seeded Mercury into the second round. Phoenix will play another single-elimination game at fourth-seeded Seattle on Sunday.

Sabrina Ionescu’s last-second heave didn’t come close for the eighth-seeded Liberty, who at 12-20 had the worst regular-season winning percentage of any playoff team in WNBA history.

Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix with 22 points and Brittney Griner had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Turner had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Laney led New York with 25 points, Natasha Howard had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Ionescu finished with 14 points and 11 assists.

Phoenix hit eight of its first 10 shots to race to an 11-point lead, but by the end of the first quarter the Liberty had cut the deficit to 24-23. New York surged ahead by as many as six before leading 41-37 at the half.

Cunningham kept the Mercury in the game with 12 points in the third quarter, but they couldn’t shake the Liberty.

SKY 81, WINGS 64

CHICAGO — Kahleah Copper scored 23 points, Candace Parker had a double-double and the Chicago Sky beat the Dallas Wings 81-64 in a first-round WNBA playoff game on Thursday night.

Parker finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the sixth-seeded Sky, who advance to a second-round game on Sunday against third-seeded Minnesota.

The seventh-seeded Wings were eliminated from the playoffs. The first two rounds are single elimination, with the league’s top two teams getting a bye into the semifinals, which are best-of-five.

Courtney Vandersloot had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists, nine in the fourth quarter after the Wings had cut a 21-point first-half deficit to 55-52 early in the period. Allie Quigley added 15 points for Chicago.

Arike Ogunbowale led Dallas with 22 points and Satou Sabally added 12.

Chicago led by as many as 21 points before settling for a 44-29 halftime advantage. Cooper had 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Parker had seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals.

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The Wings, who entered the game with less playoff experience combined than four different Chicago players, charged back in the third quarter, outscoring the Sky 21-11 behind Sabally’s eight points.

Allisha Gray’s close-range shot early in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to three and Ogunbowale’s 3-pointer with 4:22 left made it 68-62. But Dallas didn’t get any closer as Vandersloot scored seven points in a 13-1 closing run.

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