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Griner's career-high 27 sends Mercury over Lynx and into first place

Maya Moore scored 36, but the Mercury moved into first place with the win.
Maya Moore scored 36, but the Mercury moved into first place with the win.
Scott Mammoser

For the second time this week, the Phoenix Mercury took down the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, this time 92-79 Wednesday at home, with masterful performances from both teams’ elite players.

Brittney Griner led the Mercury (8-3) with a career-best 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting and equaled her personal mark of 18 rebounds, Diana Taurasi scored 22 with 10 rebounds and six assists, Candice Dupree scored 19 and DeWanna Bonner added 15.

Phoenix had won at Minnesota, 80-72, on Sunday, its first victory over the Lynx (9-4) since Aug. 9, 2011, a span of 10 regular season games. Not to mention, the Lynx swept the Mercury in the Western Conference Finals in 2011 and 2013. However, perennial All-Star Seimone Augustus sat out Wednesday’s game with knee soreness, Monica Wright was limited in minutes after debuting Sunday, and Rebekkah Brunson is still out with a knee injury.

Leading the WNBA with 22.7 points per game, Maya Moore scored the Lynx’s first seven points and had 19 at the half en route to 36, two points shy of her career high set earlier this season against Tulsa. In the absence of Augustus, Lindsay Whalen stepped up with 22 points, seven over her average.

After Moore opened the scoring, the Mercury went on a 7-0 run sparked with a Taurasi three, and Phoenix led 26-17 following the first quarter with Griner going 5-of-6 with 10 points and six boards.

“The last game with Minnesota I came out in the second really strong, and it was nice to put two halves together,” Griner said. “It worked tonight. It’s just what they gave me; I reacted to it and was able to score.”

The Lynx cut the gap to two in the second, but a Taurasi four-point play with 49.7 seconds left put the Mercury up by 10. Fouled while executing her three pointer, Taurasi recorded eight points in the second.

“I never take it that personal, I just focus on us,” Taurasi said of the rivalry with the Lynx. “If we do the right things and we come in focused and ready to go, we can’t worry about other teams.”

Phoenix now sits atop the league standings after 11 games for the first time since the inaugural 1997 season, as it shares the same record with East-leading Atlanta.

“It was a great team effort tonight,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “I think we had double the rebounds than what Minnesota had (41 to 22), and those extra possessions help, especially when you’re playing against the best teams. When we get boards on both ends of the floor, it certainly helps us execute and get those extra possessions that we want.”

The Mercury is back in action at 7 p.m. Friday versus Tulsa at US Airways Center, a team it is 1-1 against already this season. The Lynx returns to Minneapolis to play the Washington Mystics Friday.

“It’s great, obviously, we’ve had difficulty with them over the last few years, and to be able to manage that and be able to play the right way in order to beat them, we take it with a grain of salt, there’s a long way to go,” Mercury guard Penny Taylor said of defeating the Lynx and moving forward.

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