SEATTLE -- Everything seemed to go the Storm's way.
The Storm was up 18 points at home and Phoenix played the final six minutes of this series-clinching Western Conference semifinal without star guard Diana Taurasi.
Sue Bird tied the score with a running midrange jumper with 14 seconds remaining and Mercury forward Penny Taylor missed a short jumper on the ensuing possession.
But then, the end of the Monday's game -- and the Storm's bid to repeat as WNBA champions -- came swiftly.
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Phoenix forward Candice Dupree, the Game 2 star, emerged from a scrum beneath the rim with the basketball and sank a six-footer with 1.9 seconds remaining that gave the Mercury a wild 77-75 victory.
Game over. Season over.
"It's very difficult because the season is over and kind of just the way it happened," Bird said. "Very quickly. All of a sudden the buzzer is going off. There's this wait-a-minute moment.
"This is one of those things that doesn't set in until a day or two days. Right now it just feels like we have a game in two days. We must. It's kind of that feeling. Obviously we don't."
This wasn't how the season was supposed to end. Not with the core of Seattle's team returning for the defending champions and not after the Storm worked hard this season to secure home-court advantage in the first round.
Seattle entered the game with a 16-2 record at home and it had won 11 of 13 games against Phoenix the past two years.
"There were a lot of things tonight that was just very uncharacteristic about our team," coach Brian Agler said. "Missing free throws. We'd make plays and we wouldn't convert.
"It was very tough. It was something -- not that we disrespect Phoenix or anybody else in this league -- but we didn't expect to be in this situation right now. We thought we could win. We did a lot of good things tonight, but sometimes things aren't meant to be. And that was sort of how this game was. It wasn't meant to be tonight."
Seattle led by as many as 18 points (32-14) in the second quarter, but Phoenix cut the margin to 39-30 at halftime.
The Mercury made it all the way back when Dupree sank a layup to tie the score at 48 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Bird capped a frenetic period with a three-pointer as time expired that gave Seattle a 57-54 lead to start the fourth quarter.
The final frame included three lead changes and the score was tied six times.
Seattle appeared like it could take control of the game when Taurasi (19 points) fouled out with 6:38 remaining. Phoenix led 60-59 at that point.
Jackson tied the score at 73 with 1:38 left and Bird knotted the score at 75 with a jumper.
That's when Dupree converted an improbable game-winner.
Without a timeout, Bird rushed the ball down court, but the Storm never got off a shot as time expired and the frenzied crowd of 8,589 at KeyArena went silent.
The Storm will lament its poor free-throw shooting. Seattle converted 11 of 20 foul shots while Phoenix was 22 of 23 at the line.
Agler acknowledged the Storm tired near the end and had difficulty against Phoenix's 2-3 zone in the second half.
"It got us stagnant," he said. "In all honesty, I thought at times we had some open shots and missed, but if you're missing open shots I guess it's effective."
Bird scored a game-high 22 points, Tanisha Wright had 17 and Swin Cash had nine points and 10 rebounds.
Dupree led Phoenix with 20 points and Penny Taylor chipped in 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
After finishing with 18 points, Jackson broke down briefly at a postgame news conference when asked about her injured hip.
"It's numb like the rest of me right now," she said. "My hip is nothing in comparison to how I feel emotionally.
"The same can be said for every one of my teammates. Everyone fought so hard this season to get in this position to have this third game at home and we didn't capitalize on it."