Canadians may still be waiting on a Toronto or Vancouver WNBA expansion team, but the Phoenix Mercury have given the north something to root for in the meantime.
Hamilton, Ont. native Kia Nurse is competing in her first-ever playoff run, headed to the semi-finals after an 85-80 overtime win against Seattle in the second round of the knockout stage on Sunday.
From the free throw line, the guard scored the final two points with 15 seconds left, solidifying the victory for Phoenix.
“She was big for us,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said after the game Sunday. “We’re missing free throws and it’s like, ‘OK, next one up. Who’s next?’ And Kia made some big free throws at the end. So, really happy for her.”
While the rest of her team was 54.2 per cent at the free throw line, the 25-year-old went four-for-four.
Nurse finished Sunday’s game with 12 points and four rebounds after averaging 9.5 points and 3.6 boards through regular season.
The Storm got a front-row seat for her career-high when she sunk 28 points against them in July.
In the first round of playoffs on Thursday she recorded eight points and six rebounds over New York, her previous team. The Liberty drafted the former Connecticut Husky at 10th overall in 2018 and traded her to the Mercury heading into the 2021 season.
“She’s been really big for us defensively,” said Brondello. “We brought her in as a shooter. She plays her role; she’s always playing hard. I think her defence has gotten better, to be quite honest. She’s really brought into what we want to do there and she competes.”
Before coming to Phoenix, Nurse was a star for the Liberty, where she averaged a team-best 12.2 points per game and a team-high 27.5 minutes per game.
In just her second year with the league, Nurse was named a WNBA All-Star, becoming the third Canadian to achieve the honour. She was voted a starter in the game, as well as a participant in the 3-point contest.
The guard is one of three Canadians in the WNBA this year, a trio that includes Minnesota Lynx’s Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa. All three were on the Canadian national team this past summer, ranked fourth in FIBA heading into the Tokyo Olympics, but falling short of a quarterfinal berth.
Nurse will compete alongside icons Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and WNBA all-time scoring leader Diana Taurasi on Tuesday when the Phoenix Mercury tip off against Las Vegas Aces in Game One of the semi-finals at 10 p.m. ET.