Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart is out, and Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi is questionable for Sunday’s playoff game

4:03 p.m. ET

  • Mechelle


      Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, womens college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began reporting on women’s basketball in 1984 and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Seattle Storm striker Breanna Stewart won’t play in Sunday’s WNBA second-round playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury, the storm announced on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Mercury Guardian Diana Taurasi is being classified as questionable for the Seattle single-elimination game (3 p.m. ET on ABC).

The two US Olympic teammates and former league MVPs have been sidelined since early September, Stewart with a left foot injury and Taurasi with a left ankle injury.

Stewart, who reached average team highs this season with 20.3 points and 9.5 rebounds, last played on September 7th. Taurasi, who averaged 15.2 points and 4.9 assists, last played on September 6th. Stewart, 27, was the WNBA Finals MVP last year when Storm won the franchise’s fourth championship title, and she earned that honor when they won the championship in 2018.

“We practiced without [Stewart] and had a game without them the last time we played Phoenix, “said Seattle coach Noelle Quinn, referring to the Storm’s 94-85 win over the Mercury on September 17.” We prepared for it when if Diana would play but knowing how the team would play without her is an asset to us. I think the approach stays the same with our energy and commitment. “

Taurasi was limited to 16 games that season due to injuries and did not play in any of the three regular season games between Storm and Mercury. Seattle won the Series 2-1, with guard Jewell Loyd scoring 37 points in the September 17 victory.

As No. 4 seed, the Storm had a bye in the first round. 5th placed Phoenix beat No. 8 New York 83-82. The Mercury received a career high of 21 points from the guard Sophie Cunningham, including six 3-pointers that helped make up for Taurasi’s absence. But Taurasi’s experience – the three-time WNBA champion has played 61 playoff games in his career – is irreplaceable.

“Everything changes the minute Dee steps on the pitch,” said Taurasi’s longtime friend and fellow US Olympian, Storm Point Guard Sue Bird, a four-time league champion who has appeared in 53 career playoff games. “So we had to talk and think about two different Phoenix teams. But it’s good that we played them recently.”

Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello reiterated the same thing she said last week about Taurasi’s status on Saturday: the team will be giving her up until just before game time to decide if she’ll play.

“She will decide whether or not she thinks she can go,” said Brondello. “She deserves to give her as much time as possible. She knows whether she can help us or not. So I’ll leave it to her along with the medical staff.”

Seattle and Phoenix have had some epic playoff battles over the years. And with Bird approaching her 41st birthday in October and Taurasi turning 39 in June, there is always a feeling that the two will go together for as long as possible. Bird is in her 18th WNBA season and Taurasi is her 17th.

This season ends on Sunday for one of them.

“I can appreciate a rivalry. I can appreciate epic games over the course of players’ careers,” said Bird. “I appreciate the storylines and I love that this is the conversation. But as a player? No, you just go out there and it’s this one game that’s unique this year.”

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