Brittney Griner posted her sixth double-double of the season as the Phoenix Mercury set a new WNBA wins record with a 78-65 victory over the Seattle Storm in the final day of the regular season on Aug. 17.
Griner, who got engaged with a Tulsa Shock forward Gloria Johnson recently, finished the night with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Mercury earned its 29th win of the season. With the victory, Phoenix (29-5) topped the previous record shared by Los Angeles (28-4 in both 2000 and 2001) and Seattle (28-6 in 2010).
Candice Dupree added 16 points while Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips each contributed 11 points apiece. Diana Taurausi, the team’s leading scorer, was limited to two shots and just three points.
The key to Phoenix’s success, according to first-year coach Sandy Brondello, was switching the team’s mindset from offense to defense.
"I never look at wins and losses when I take over a team like that. It was more about getting the team together where I thought we needed to be (in order) to be successful," Brondello said. "It was team chemistry. And it was buying into playing defense first and playing out of there on the offensive end, which is something new for this franchise.
"They bought in and really embraced what we wanted to do."
Phoenix scored the first six points of the game and led throughout the contest. Lading 56-48 heading into the fourth quarter, the Mercury extended the margin to 12 with 8:40 left. Seattle didn't closer than nine after that.
Phoenix shot 54 percent from the field (30 of 66), marking the 18th time in that they topped the 50 percent mark. Their season percentage of 48.4 was a league record, breaking the old record of 47.4 set by Minnesota last year. The Storm hit just 37 percent (25 of 68) and finished with fewer than 70 points for the 18th time.
Crystal Langhorne scored 16 points to lead Seattle (12-22) which will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2003, and the first time during coach Brian Agler's seven-year tenure with the Storm.
"It's sort of uncharted territory for us," Agler said. "We can debate about why it happened. But just being (in this situation) was not easy. That being said, we talked about it in the locker room. We don't like being here, so we have to come back hungrier next year, so at this time a year from now, we're finding a way to get ourselves in the playoffs."
News broke of Griner's engagement to Johnson on Aug. 15.
"Yeah, I'm off the market. I became a very happy person," Griner said followig the Mercury’s 76-69 victory over Los Angeles on Aug. 16. "It was a good day, and today was a good day because we got the win. "
Griner appeared to have proposed to Johnson and both posted it on social media, with Griner showing a photo of her on one knee with a ring in her hand in front of Johnson on her Instagram account.
In the post, Griner wrote: "Last Night was a Night to Remember(,) I became the happiest person on this earth! (almost pass out but when that one word came out I came back to life) Me and my baby (at)missvol25 are in it for Life!"
Johnson also had a photo on her Instagram account of Griner lying in bed with an engagement ring resting on her shoulder.
After a somewhat disappointing rookie season, Griner showed great improvement during her sophomore campaign. She currently is in the running for Most Valuable of the Year. She averages 15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots.
14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds
Phoenix will open the playoffs on Aug. 22, at home against the Los Angeles Sparks (16-18) at the U.S. Airways Center. The other two games of the three game series will be Aug. 24 in L. A., and Aug. 26 at Phoenix.
The Mercury swept their five games from the Sparks this season, with two of those wins coming via blowouts while the three victories were by five points each.