Brittney Griner increased her career high in scoring for the second game in three nights and Diana Taurasi dished a personal-best 12 assists, as the first-place Phoenix Mercury (9-3) defeated the Tulsa Shock, 91-80, Friday at US Airways Center.
The second-year center Griner continues to improve and impress each game, and performed an encore to her 27 points and 18 rebounds from Wednesday’s win over Minnesota with 28 points and six blocks, which matches the most shots she’s ever denied.
“She’s a great rim protector,” Taurasi said of Griner. “She lets us have the ability to put a little more pressure on the guards, knowing that Brittney is back there pretty much holding it down. This year she just kind of has figured it out where she can be effective on both ends, and it’s been amazing.”
Maybe most impressive about Griner Friday were two forced shot-clock violations on Tulsa (4-7), the first of which ending on a ferocious block of Skylar Diggins.
“Anytime we get a shot clock violation that’s big,” Griner said, “especially for me because I take a lot of pride in that, blocked shots are my favorite part of the game, so blocking it and they get a shot clock violation that’s pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, Taurasi – arguably the greatest point guard in history- dropped more dimes than she ever had before in a Mercury uniform to complement her 14 points, Penny Taylor scored 19- her most in three years, and Candice Dupree added 12 points and a team-high six rebounds.
“We've got a little bit more poise about ourselves, and our intensity goes to another little, and that’s good, that’s what you need to do,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said of her team’s resiliency. “You get the momentum back basically.”
The Mercury led after a tight first quarter, 27-23, and after being up by as many as 11 in the second, the Shock closed it to 45-38. At halftime, Griner was 7-for-8 with 14 points, Glory Johnson was 6-of-8 with 12 for Tulsa, and Taylor had already scored 11. On the night, Griner shot 12-of-15 from the floor.
Johnson (20 and 11) and Courtney Paris (15 and 15) each recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds for the Shock, while Diggins had 12 points and seven assists. Tulsa outrebounded the Mercury 42-29 as a team.
This is not the Tulsa team that has been a perennial doormat since relocating from Detroit in 2010. The Shock began the season 0-5, before rolling off a four-game winning streak that came to an end Thursday night in Los Angeles. Diggins is fifth in the league with 18.9 points and fourth with 5.5 assists per game, similar numbers to Taurasi. Paris leads the WNBA in field goal percentage (.657) and is second in rebounding (10.6 rpg), Jennifer Lacy is second in three-point shooting at 52 percent, and Odyssey Sims is near the top of all of the rookie leader categories.
“Going into the fourth I felt that we had our opportunities with free throws and they didn’t go down for us, which could have cut it to a three or four point ball game,” said Shock coach Fred Williams, in his first season after taking Atlanta to the Finals last year.
The Mercury now has a week off before playing at Indiana at 4 p.m. June 27, and after its fourth and final meeting with the Shock, June 29 in Tulsa, it returns home to play Chicago at 7 p.m. July 2. The Shock is at Chicago Sunday at 10 a.m. PT on ESPN2.