Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had to be separated after a heated exchange their coach blamed on 'passion'

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Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had to be separated after a heated exchange their coach blamed on 'passion'
Phoenix Mercury teammates Skylar Diggins-Smith (left) and Diana Taurasi.Ethan Miller/Getty Images
  • Phoenix Mercury teammates Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi fought on the bench Tuesday night.
  • The WNBA superstars had to be physically separated as cameras caught part of their altercation.
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Tensions flared as the Phoenix Mercury took on the red-hot Las Vegas Aces in Sin City Tuesday night.

But the drama was restricted to just one side's bench.

Mercury teammates Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi — two of women's basketball's biggest stars with a combined 15 WNBA All-Star nods between them — clashed for the whole world to see during the first half of Phoenix's blowout loss against A'ja Wilson and the Aces. At the time, the Mercury owned a five-point lead, but the score didn't stop a visibly frustrated Diggins-Smith from bursting out of her chair to confront her partner in the backcourt.

Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had to be separated after a heated exchange their coach blamed on 'passion'
Diggins-Smith.AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

While it's unclear what either guard said, it was obvious that Taurasi — a WNBA legend as the league's all-time leading scorer — grew increasingly angry as the conversation progressed. She eventually jumped up from her seat as well, seemingly shouting in Diggins-Smith's face until teammates and even head coach Vanessa Nygaard physically intervened.

Other clips of the heated mid-timeout exchange show the pair continuing to bicker across the bench even after they were pulled apart.

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Though Phoenix boasted a four-point advantage heading into the locker room, the Mercury relinquished that lead just a few minutes into the third quarter and never got it back. Neither Taurasi nor Diggins-Smith addressed the media following the 86-74 loss, but Nygaard chalked the duo's squabble up to "passion" during her postgame press conference.

"People play sports with a lot of passion," the first-year coach said. "We're not the first team to have any kind of arguments or disagreements on the bench. We've seen that throughout the NBA season and in other leagues."

Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had to be separated after a heated exchange their coach blamed on 'passion'
Taurasi.AP Photo/Paul Beaty

"The players, they play hard, they play with passion, this is their lives, this is the game that they love, and there's a lot going on," she continued. "Our team has even more going on with the BG situation, too. That isn't something that goes away for us."

"So, yeah, I would call it passion," Nygaard added.

But Diggins-Smith wasn't finished expressing her passion after the buzzer sounded. Later in the evening, she appears to have tweeted and subsequently deleted a cryptic message stating, "I'm strong enough to be the villain!"

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On Wednesday, she retweeted a post from retired NFL wide receiver Tim Brown that read: "Be careful what you tolerate. You are teaching people how to treat you."

Diggins-Smith liked another tweet that suggested Taurasi "is running her mouth to the wrong person." She also liked a post that noted both she and Taurasi are "humans like the rest of us" and that sometimes we all "get into with the people you care about."

Diggins-Smith, Taurasi, and their teammates will head back to Phoenix for a Thursday-night matchup against the Dallas Wings. The Mercury will then head back to Vegas on Saturday to face the Aces for the third time in six games.

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