CHICAGO -- Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said Friday that she didn't initially realize the person she pushed in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky was a referee.
Taurasi, speaking before Game 3 at Wintrust Arena, said she first realized there was an issue when teammate Shey Peddy on Thursday morning told her it had become a hot topic on social media.
When Taurasi saw the replay, she thought of the league, "Oh yeah, they're probably going to do something."
Bethany Donaphin, head of WNBA league operations, ended up fining Taurasi $2,500 for making inappropriate contact with a game official.
The incident happened with 5 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter of the Mercury's 91-86 win over the Sky at Phoenix's Footprint Center on Wednesday. Phoenix's Sophie Cunningham missed a shot and then grabbed the loose-ball rebound after she had fallen to the court. Chicago's Kahleah Copper went to tie up the ball, and her arms wrapped around Cunningham's neck as Copper, too, fell.
Cunningham jerked her arm back, and words appeared to be exchanged, after which Copper got up and stood over Cunningham. Official Tiara Cruse came in to grab Copper and pull her back, as did Courtney Vandersloot, Copper's teammate. Taurasi came running in at the same time and pushed Cruse to get to Cunningham, who was still on the ground. The official looked at Taurasi and briefly held her back with her arm before allowing her to help Cunningham up.
The officials reviewed the play, and a common foul was called on Copper. Nothing was called at the time against Taurasi for her contact with the official.
"I didn't even know it was a ref," Taurasi said Friday. "I just saw legs on top of Sophie and was trying to get everyone off Sophie."
The WNBA rulebook states that a player or coach who makes intentional physical contact with an official will automatically be suspended without pay for one game and that a fine and/or longer suspension could result if circumstances so dictate.
As for the social media calls for her to be suspended, Taurasi said, "When Twitter speaks, the league has to make a decision. They reviewed it [during the game], and they didn't call anything. I wasn't even in the scuffle."
Added Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello: "Diana went in to help her teammate. That's what you do, don't you, in heated moments like that? I don't even think she knew it was the referee. It's not intentional. She felt like Sophie needed help."
Chicago coach James Wade was upset Wednesday that his team shot just four free throws in the game. But of Taurasi's fine, he said, "I have no comment. Whatever happens between Diana and the league is between those two. I don't want to step in that."