Griner's Career Night Powers Mercury
Looking to pick up some momentum on the first game of their annual “Circus Trip,” the Mercury faced a tough, gritty Silver Stars team in San Antonio Tuesday.
Though it was an up and down game for both teams, the Mercury found a way to gut out the win, 83-77. Phoenix (5-4) has now won five of its last six games. In their last three games, the Mercury has held opponents to just 79.6 points and 39 percent shooting.
Both the Mercury’s offense and defense looked brilliant in flashes today, as evidenced by the second quarter where the Mercury out-scored the Silver Stars by 16 and held San Antonio to just seven points in the period.
Always a resilient team, San Antonio shot their way back into the game in the third quarter out-scoring Phoenix 23-10. Still, a 30-point fourth quarter from the Mercury was too much for the Silver Stars to handle in the end.
"It was a tough game,” said Head Coach Corey Gaines. “We had to grind it out. San Antonio is a great team. We shot a lot of threes and took a lot of chances but that is what you have to do when you’re small. Interesting game for us because it is something we can build on."
In the return to her home state of Texas, Brittney Griner finished with the best game of her young career. While still playing limited minutes, but looking increasingly comfortable, Griner tallied 26 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in just 27 minutes of play. The 6-8 rookie now has amassed four or more blocks in five games this season.
"I had a lot of people out there tonight including a lot of Baylor fans and that meant a lot,” said Griner after the game. “When you play in front of friends and family, especially with my mom being here tonight since she does not make a lot of my games, I had to put a show on for her."
Perhaps a better sign, the team looked for her in the post when their collective shots weren’t falling from outside – and she kept delivering.
“We just had to grind it out,” added Griner. “Fourth quarter is grind time so we just had to work through whatever came our way. I felt like we did a good job of pushing through their runs. We’re learning each other.
“In the beginning you have to get used to playing with one another so we are trying to get the flow and learning each other's strengths and weaknesses to put each other in good situations."
Not to be overlooked, Diana Taurasi flirted with another triple-double scoring 18 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out eight assists. She struggled a bit with her outside shot, but made up for it by getting to the foul line (Taurasi shot a team-high seven free-throws).
As a team, the Mercury out-rebounded San Antonio 49-29 and forced the Silver Stars into 36 percent shooting. Additionally, Phoenix assisted on 17 of the team’s 29 field goals. But even though the Silver Stars forced the Mercury into 14 turnovers and shot nearly 40 percent from the three-point line, the Mercury found a way to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
"That 0-3 start was a big wake up call for us because we knew we had a lot of talent on this team,” said Taurasi. “We learned that if we do not put that talent to something bigger than yourself it does not really matter. The team took a step back and everyone has been contributing.
“Tonight was a complete team effort."
Despite tallying more turnovers than the Silver Stars (14-7), the Mercury dominated the boards tonight, 49-29. Additionally, San Antonio took 15 more shots than Phoenix tonight, but the Mercury held the Silver Stars to just 36 percent shooting from the floor.
Quote of the Night: Silver Stars Head Coach Dan Hughes on Brittney Griner
“She’s a real factor in the half court. Because what we were doing in a lot of cases was able to take the ball out of some of their hands, but her hard dives at her size was a real factor. She’s able to be a big target for them. You look at them in the half court and you have (Diana) Taurasi, (DeWanna) Bonner, (Candice) Dupree and now what they added is another interior scorer.”