Griner-less Mercury fall to Fever, 81-77

PHOENIX—Wednesday afternoon basketball. Mercury vs the Fever. Phoenix without Britney Griner, she’s sidelined with an ankle sprain and won’t return until after the All-Star Break. The Merc entered the game with a three-game home winning streak.

First quarter, Taurasi was on fire, scored eleven of the Mercury’s first fifteen points. Griner sidelined, so somebody’s got to crash the boards and early on it was Angel Robinson. Robinson grabbed four first quarter rebounds for Phoenix. Robinson is 6’6. The Fever’s starting center, Natalie Achonwa is 6’4. Griner is 6’9 and would’ve had a feast if she was healthy. “She’s probably the one player in the WNBA that’s irreplaceable,” Taurasi said of Griner.

Three minutes left in the first, Robinson underneath the basket, can’t get it to go, would’ve made it 17-10. That’s where the Mercury is missing Griner. Former Merc Candice Dupree connected on the following possession, she scored eight in the first. About a minute left in the first, Erica Wheeler’s trey goes down; Fever take the lead. 21-18 Fever after one.

Key takeaway here is that Griner’s absence is disastrous news for the Mercury. DeWanna Bonner out for the year due to pregnancy, and if that wasn’t already enough, now Griner is out. She’s one of the best in the WNBA.

Second quarter, Fever up three, Tiffany Mitchell from downtown, bang. 24-18 Fever. Phoenix led by seven early on, trailed by eight with eight minutes left in the second. That’s a fourteen point swing. They wisely took a timeout. The timeout seemed to work; Leilani Mitchell hit a three right out of the gate. Mo Curry, between the legs, step-back, splash. The Merc eventually regained the lead going into the second half, up 39-38. Taurasi had 19 at halftime.

Third quarter, both teams battled back and forth, exchanging leads. Taurasi with 31 going into the fourth, Fever up 65-63. Five minutes left, Fever up 73-72. Dupree balled out, Fever up five with three and a half minutes to go. Two point game, 1:30 to go, Mo Currie couldn’t connect. 79-77, Fever. Briann January hit a clutch shot for the Fever, 81-77. A couple fouls and made free throws, and it was 84-77 Fever with :22 left. The Merc didn’t have enough time to come back and win. Your final score: Fever-81, Mercury-77.

Taurasi finished with 34 points.

“I dont think we were physically tough enough,” Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello said. “We didn’t execute the way we wanted to. Too many breakdowns defensively. Offensively, we just missed too many shots.”

“They deserved to win today,” Taurasi said. “I don’t think we did enough things defensively to swing things our way. Give credit to Indiana, they played well.”

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