The Phoenix Mercury’s big three came up bigger than ever Friday night, assuring a first-round home playoff game.

Center Brittney Griner, guard Diana Taurasi and forward DeWanna Bonner had eye-popping double-doubles in a 104-95 win over Atlanta at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Griner had 33 points and tied her career-rebounding high with 18. Taurasi scored 27 and for the second game in a row had a career-best 14 assists. Bonner put in 21 points and, in her 300th WNBA game, had a career-high 16 boards.

The Mercury (19-14) needed all of that plus 16 points from guard Briann January to put away the second-place Dream (22-11), who lost for the first time in seven games and the first in four since forward Angel McCoughtry suffered a season-ending knee injury Aug. 7.

“There’s crazy numbers going up right now,” said Griner, who was just three points off her career-scoring high. “I’m just glad I’m able to be a part of it and kind of make history right here with those two great players beside me.”

“It’s pretty insane,” Taurasi added. “You definitely don’t see it in college or the WNBA. The NBA has 1,000 possessions in one game, so those numbers are all just inflated and gaudy. But to do this in a 40-minute game is pretty impressive.”

Depending on regular-season finale results Sunday, the Mercury will finish fifth or sixth in eight-team playoff seeding. They will host a single-elimination, first-round playoff game against Minnesota or Dallas on Tuesday at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena due to a concert conflict at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Dallas will finish in eighth place and play the fifth-seeded team, which could be the Mercury, in the first round. 

Phoenix closes at home against New York on Sunday. It could finish in a fourth-place tie with Los Angeles and Connecticut but would lose that three-way tiebreaker and finish fifth. If LA loses to Connecticut on Sunday and Phoenix wins, the Mercury also are the fifth seed. If Phoenix and LA lose on Sunday, the Sparks are the fifth seed and the Mercury sixth.

The Mercury beat Seattle in a first-round playoff game at ASU last year and went on to reach the final four for a fifth consecutive year. 

“It’s great not to have to get on a plane Monday and have to fly cross country,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’re with our home fans. We struggled at home a little bit this year, but we’re playing much better now, and you see the energy of the crowd, that certainly helps us.”


Coach Sandy Brondello on Mercury clinching first-round home playoff game.
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports

A crowd of 11,177 cheered the Mercury to their third consecutive win, among them the ASU women’s basketball team supporting January, its second-year assistant coach.

The game was tied at 82 early in the fourth quarter when the Mercury scored six straight points, including a Taurasi 3-pointer with a hand in her face.

The Dream got no closer than within four points over the final five minutes in losing the rubber game of the three-game season series against the Mercury.

Five Dream players scored in double figures led by guard Alex Bentley with 24 and guard Tiffany Hayes with 21. 

The Mercury led 42-29 in rebounding and 29-14 in assists. 

Atlanta starting guard Brittney Sykes drew two technical fouls and an ejection at 8:26 of the third quarter with the Dream leading 51-50. Sykes left with 11 points.

The Mercury fed off that momentum for a 19-11 run to lead 69-62 and were up 79-76 going into the fourth quarter.

Phoenix pieced together a nine-point run late in the second quarter to lead 47-38 but gave most of that back in the final two minutes and finished up 50-47 at halftime.

Tammy Jo Shults, one of the first U.S. Navy fighter pilots, was honored at halftime with the Mercury’s annual Woman of Inspiration award.

Phoenix led by five points (22-17) in the first quarter and 25-23 going into the second. The Dream’s largest first-half lead was three points in the second quarter.

Bonner plays 300th game

The Mercury made more history Friday night with Bonner playing in her 300th franchise game, second behind only Taurasi (431).

Taurasi, Bonner and Griner set a record for the most combined points by three teammates in WNBA history. They eclipsed the Mercury trio of Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Le’coe Williams, who combined for 1,842 points in 2008. Phoenix trios, all including Taurasi, hold the top five spots in this category.

Taurasi reached 100 3-pointers for the season, second best in WNBA history behind her 121 in 2006. The 36-year-old is on pace to lead the league in 3s for a ninth time. She also moved past Swin Cash into eighth in WNBA career minutes played. 

Griner reached 3,000 career points, joining Taurasi, Bonner, Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree as the only players to score that many for the Mercury.

Up next

The Mercury will close the regular season with a fifth consecutive home game at 3 p.m. Sunday against the New York Liberty, 7-25 going into Friday at Seattle.