When Brittney Griner made her last shot of Game 4 of the WNBA semifinals – a floater that gave the Mercury an 86-84 lead over the Seattle Storm – she knew there was still work to be done.

With 14 seconds left in Sunday’s game, Seattle went with a simple, tried-and-true strategy to win the game and the series: Get the ball to Breanna Stewart, the league’s MVP.

“We knew the ball was going to (Stewart) at the end of the game,” Griner said. “We knew we had to play defense and couldn’t foul her.”

The initial plan for the Mercury was to have either of their light-footed forwards, Camille Little or DeWanna Bonner, guard the nimble, polished Stewart. But Griner came out to the perimeter too early and was switched onto Stewart.

“That was a mess-up, but it was the best mess-up ever,” Bonner said. “It was one of those, ‘No, no, no, BG, not yet – oh yeah, yeah, yeah, BG.’ “


Mercury coach Sandy Brondello discusses protecting home court, DeWanna Bonner and Sue Bird’s broken nose after Sunday’s Game 4 win over Seattle.
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports

Fortunately for Phoenix, the early switch took Seattle out of its play call, forcing Stewart to drive. Griner was back in her element under the basket. Her 7-3 wingspan was so disruptive that Stewart couldn’t even get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

The Mercury won the game and extended their season.

“The initial play we wanted to run broke down early,” Stewart said. “We just decided to go on the fly. Being under the basket with (Griner) on you is tough, but I should have gotten a shot off.”

The closing sequence was just a component of one of Griner’s finest postseason performances. She scored 29 points – her new playoff record – and grabbed 12 rebounds on an efficient 12-of-18 shooting performance.  

The Mercury have now won four elimination games this postseason and will try to win a fifth on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Seattle.

“We don’t like having to do it, but we play really well in single-elimination games,” Griner said. “Whatever it takes to win a championship, that’s what we’re going to do.”