Third quarter run keys Mercury victory against rivalby Fabian Ardaya on Jun. 14, 2013, under Phoenix Mercury
Phoenix, Ariz.– After a rough start to the season it seems as if, even for a seven minute stretch, the Phoenix Mercury found the correct offense flow with Brittney Griner Friday night, beating the Los Angeles Sparks 97-81.
The Mercury certainly had a load of help from their star guard Diana Taurasi, who chipped in 34 points to go with six rebounds and seven assists. Taurasi seemed relieved to get the win, and was proud of her teammates’ performance.
“We had a lot of people play well,” she said. “We’ve had some things change a little bit. Roles have changed. Every time we get comfortable there’s a curveball.”
It seems as if the Mercury found a sense of consistency throughout the game as if progressed. The game was very tightly contested in the early going, despite the Sparks out-rebounding the Mercury throughout the entire first half. The Sparks were able to pull in 21 rebounds (eight offensive) in the first half compared to 16 (three offensive) for the Mercury.
A scary moment occurred in the second quarter as an errant elbow by Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike struck Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner in the face. DeWanna Bonner lay on the ground for a couple minutes, but resumed play. Ogwumike was assessed a Flagrant-1 foul for the play. Bonner would play well the rest of the way, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Once Mercury center Brittney Griner finally got into a groove in the second half, the rebounding battle evened out, and the game became one-sided. Griner played past he three minute quarter minutes cap, and the Mercury went on a run that took them from down three to up 11. The Mercury would outscore the Sparks by a score of 26-14 in the third quarter, which would prove to be a turning point in the game.
The momentum carried into the fourth, as the Mercury spread their lead even more, eventually winning 97-81, having outscored the Sparks 49-31 in the second half.
Taurasi was impressed by Griner’s performance despite her playing just limited minutes.
“Maybe being out and watching a little bit, helped her (Brittney Griner),” she said. “When you’re in the game everything’s happening so fast. You step aside and watch how things develop, I think it helped her (Brittney Griner).”
Having Griner perform the way that she did was vital to the Mercury’s third quarter run, suggests Mercury head coach Corey Gaines.
“Brittney came in and, we didn’t call any plays for her, she just got her stuff off of just playing,” he said.
Griner said that she wanted to keep things simple in the game, focusing on doing one thing well.
“Defense. That’s all I thought about. Blocking shots every time somebody drove, trying to keep them off the boards,” she said. “We weren’t thinking about going outside or inside. We flow, if you’ve got the hot hand, give them the ball. It felt good, like it was just flowing. I wasn’t trying to do too much. It was just in synch.”
Despite missing star players Candace Dupree (suspension) and Penny Taylor (resting left knee; injured last season with torn ACL), Gaines was optimistic for the future and confident that his offense will continue to perform like it did Friday night.
“I think that once we get back into the groove we’ll be alright,” he said. “It’s not something that works all the time but there’s always a spot in the game when you get into a groove, and then it’s 15 points just like that.”
NOTE: The Phoenix Mercury (2-3) now play at the Tulsa Shock on Sunday, followed by hosting the Minnesota Lynx next Wednesday, June 19th.
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