UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Diana Taurasi turned 35 years old on June 11. But there also days when she's 25 all over again.
Fortunately for the announced crowd of 7,331 at Mohegan Sun Arena, Friday was one of those nights. When the former University of Connecticut star and four-time Olympic gold medalist wasn't complaining to the officials about calls or non-calls, she was busying torching the Connecticut Sun for 33 points. At the end, it wasn't enough as the Sun held on to edge Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury 93-92. And something that hasn't changed from 35 or 25 -- or any age, really -- she hates to lose.
"I still get pissed off during games, and I say that the day I stop getting pissed off is the day I will stop playing basketball," Taurasi said. "I think I'm going to be playing or a little bit longer."
At 35, she remains one of the best -- if not the best -- players in the world.
She is sixth in the WNBA in scoring at 19.3 points per game while also chipping in 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and has the Mercury (13-11) in fifth place in the overall league standings, two games behind the third-place Sun and one back of the fourth-place Washington Mystics. Phoenix visits Washington Sunday. The top four teams of the eight that qualify receive a first-round bye in the playoffs and a second-round home game.
"I'm not going to lie, there are days I feel 35," Taurasi said with a smile. "The challenges are physical and mental. When you've played so much basketball, coming to the gym is either fun or a chore. Right now to me it's still a lot of fun."
It's been a summer of transition for Taurasi and the Mercury.
Phoenix has nine players who are in their first year on the roster. While the Mercury look like a good bet to be in the playoffs, their position would be more secure if they were healthy. Center Brittney Griner was having a Most Valuable Player-type season but injured her left knee and right ankle in a game against the Minnesota Lynx on July 14. She hopes to return in about two weeks.
"It's frustrating because we were starting to roll a little bit before Brittney got hurt and obviously she's a big part of what we do," Taurasi said. "The way she was playing this year was just at a different level. We'll just try to hold down the fort until she gets back. I think we've done a pretty good job the last couple of games. People have stepped up a little bit, which will help us headed to the playoffs."
Taurasi was 12-for-18 from the floor Friday night and often controlled play as Taurasi does. Her final points on her final shot -- a spinning baseline jumper -- tied the game at 87 with 1:20 left brought a smile from her former college and United States national team coach Geno Auriemma, who had a front-row seat.
Another change for Taurasi is both professional and personal.
Taurasi is no longer playing alongside Australian veteran Penny Taylor, who retired after last season and serves as Phoenix's Director of Player Development and Performance. But they are together forever as Taurasi and Taylor were married in May.
"It's good!" Taurasi said of married life. "Once you get married it's a different kind of commitment. Penny and I have known each other for so long and been through so much stuff. It felt right."
"There are certain times on the court when you expect Penny to make this play and she's not there," she added. "She's on the coaching side now and enjoying that. It's different."
While Taurasi has always been a team-first player, some individual glory came her way on June 18.
When the Chino, California, native finished a drive to the basket in the second quarter of the Mercury's game against the Los Angeles Sparks at the Staples Center, she passed Tina Thompson's mark of 7,488 points to become the WNBA's all-time leading scorer. Her total is now 7,736.
The game was stopped and she was presented the ball but the look on Taurasi's face said it all. Phoenix was getting clobbered in what would end up being a 90-59 loss.
"We were down 20 and they give you this award and you want to kick the ball into the stands," Taurasi said. "I was close. I have a good left foot, just like Messi."
UConn fans know that well from her last act with the Huskies. After Maria Conlon tossed the ball into the air to start the celebration of the 2004 national championship, Taurasi one-timed it with her left foot deep into the New Orleans Arena stands.
At UConn, she did not finish as the all-time leader in scoring but as the all-time leader in assists, a mark that was broken in 2016 by Moriah Jefferson.
"You get a record like that and you sit back a little bit and consider yourself really lucky," Taurasi said. "I've been really lucky to play for Phoenix my whole career and with all these great players. I've been lucky more than anything.
"When I was in school, I wasn't a big scorer, more of a distributor. My first two years I played the point in the WNBA so I didn't score a lot of points. Once Paul Westhead got to Phoenix and moved me off the ball and said, 'No. We need you to generate offense,' that's when it kind of took off. It's cool when you get on a list with Tina Thompson, Tamika Catchings, these great players. It's definitely an honor."
So, what does Taurasi's future on the court hold?
Mostly speculation surrounds whether she'll try to get an unprecedented fifth Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo when she would be 38. Only Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, and Naismith Hall of Famers Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards have four.
"When you get to this point in your career, three months feels like two years," Taurasi said. "So I can easily say I want to be in my fifth Olympics, but every day I wake up and I realize all the things that you have to sacrifice at this age to play basketball. I will take it game by game and camp by camp."
A pool of United States players will assemble in the fall and Taurasi will meet with national team coach Dawn Staley and women's national team director Carol Callan then,
"I'll see what direction they want to go in," Taurasi said. "There eventually has to be a turnover of players with some young talent coming in, and we have plenty of that. It's really going to be a decision that we will make together."
Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello -- who is also Australia's national team coach -- would not be surprised to see Taurasi in Tokyo.
"There is no doubt about it that D has enough left," Brondello said. "I think she will go to the next Olympics without any hesitation. If she wants it, she will do it. It is always going to be D's choice. She still loves the game and is still playing at a high level. So I don't see why she couldn't play in another one."
Maybe Taurasi will bring Bird along with her to Tokyo in 2020. Maybe? The former UConn backcourt teamed up again last month as the starters for the Western Conference for the WNBA All-Star Game.
"We spent some time together at All-Stars and we were talking about all the times and all the basketball games we played together," Taurasi said. "That game in Seattle might be the last time we share a locker room. We just enjoy every time we're on the court.
"But I think we have aspirations to play a little bit longer," Taurasi added with a smile.
She is one for the ages.