By the Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Chelsea Gray scored a season-high 24 points and Candace Parker had 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists to help the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Phoenix Mercury 78-75 on Sunday.
Parker hit a free throw midway through the second quarter to become the 20th player in WNBA history to score 5,000 career points.
Her jumper gave the Sparks (17-11) a 6-4 lead and they led the rest of the way. Her layup with four minutes left in the first half capped a 17-2 run and gave the Sparks a 17-point advantage and Nneka Ogwumike’s 3-pointer made it 45-30 early in the third quarter.
Diana Taurasi, who had four fouls in the first half, hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to ignite a 10-2 run that pulled the Mercury (16-13) within one when Briann January made a 3 with 8:29 to play and Leilani Mitchell’s 3-pointer trimmed their deficit to 74-72 with 1:21 remaining. Gray hit a jumper and, after DeWanna Bonner hit three free throws for Phoenix, added two free throws with 12 seconds left to cap the scoring.
Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 22 points. Bonner added 20 points and nine rebounds.
Mercury at Los Angeles Sparks
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Staples Center.
TV: NBA TV.
Outlook: The Mercury (16-12) play Los Angeles (16-11) for the first time since May 27 with a chance to even the season series. The long-time rivals also play Aug. 12 in Phoenix. They are fighting for a playoff tiebreaker edge and for third place in the WNBA behind Seattle and Atlanta. … The Mercury broke a four-game losing streak Wednesday, winning 104-93 at Las Vegas. F Stephanie Talbot made her second start of the season, contributing eight points and four rebounds. … The Sparks dominated 79-57 over Minnesota on Thursday with F Nneka Ogwumike back in the lineup after being out with illness since July 15. C Candace Parker had her ninth double-double in the dominating win over the defending WNBA champion Lynx and G Chelsea Gray added 18 points and 9 assists.
Taurasi, Griner shine as Mercury break skid with win over Aces
LAS VEGAS – Diana Taurasi scored 37 points, Brittney Griner had 25 points and 11 rebounds and the Phoenix Mercury beat the Las Vegas Aces 104-93 on Wednesday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
DeWanna Bonner added 20 points and 14 rebounds for Phoenix (16-12), which had lost seven of its last eight games. The Mercury moved into a fourth-place tie in the playoff standings with Los Angeles and Washington.
Phoenix had its lead trimmed to 77-74 after Las Vegas scored seven of the first nine fourth-quarter points. But Taurasi and Briann January made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for a 98-85 lead with 3:23 to go.
Griner had 18 points, four rebounds and two blocks in the first half and Taurasi also scored 18 points – with 11 straight makes at the free-throw line. Taurasi finished 17 of 18 at the stripe matching her career best in both categories. Griner made 9 of 14 from the line as Phoenix shot 82.9 percent.
A’ja Wilson scored 20 of her 29 points in the first half for Las Vegas (12-14). Kayla McBride had 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. The Aces were just 33-of-84 shooting (39 percent) from the field, including 2 of 11 from 3-point range.
Storm dominate to extend Mercury’s losing streak
July 31, 2018
Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner completed an entire Phoenix Mercury game together for the first time in 12 days on Tuesday night.
Even their full presence could not reverse the Mercury’s fortunes. Not when the opponent was the WNBA-leading Seattle Storm, who blew open a still-competitive game in the third quarter for a 102-91 win at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Storm went 5-of-10 from 3-point range in the third quarter, increasing their nine-point halftime lead to as many as 22 and going into the fourth quarter up 81-61.
Taurasi and Griner combined for 45 points and DeWanna Bonner, the Mercury’s other All-Star, added 14. But it was not enough to avert a fourth straight loss and seventh in the past eight games.
“That’s a great team,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “They’ve got so many weapons. They’ve got the best point guard (Sue Bird) to ever play the game and (Natasha) Howard impacting and (Jewell) Loyd always plays great against.
“But it’s a lot of stuff with us. We can’t let teams score 102 points. We’ve got to get better at playing defense, it’s just simple as that. We’ve got to fight harder, be more assertive. We just gave them wide-open looks through our mistakes, over rotations, slow to get into help. This is a very smart team and they’ve got multiple scorers. We have to get better if we want to go far in the playoffs.”
In the previous two games, Taurasi was ejected with two technical fouls then suspended for reaching the league technical limit and Griner was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul.
Phoenix fell to 15-12 (sixth in playoff standings) and faces another game Wednesday at surging Las Vegas. Seattle improved to 20-7, three fewer losses than any other team in the league and 3.5 games ahead of second-place Atlanta.
The game included six All-Stars, five of whom were on the same team over the weekend, and both All-Star coaches. But Seattle dominated in the last of three regular meetings to take the season series 2-1.
“We’ve just got to play defense,” Griner said. “We’ve all got to be behind the ball. It’s on us. I wish I had the answer to tell you because then we could do it on the court. I don’t know what it is. Maybe not work on offense in practice and just do defense.”
Opponents have scored 100 or more points against Phoenix in three of the past seven games and 91 in another. Seattle shot 54.1 percent and 50 percent (11-of-22) from 3-point and led 36-32 in rebounding.
Loyd went 5-of-7 from 3-point to lead the Storm with 29 points with plenty of scoring help from Breanna Stewart (16), Howard (15 plus 10 rebounds) and Alysha Clark (13).
“When she’s thinking offensive-minded, she’s one of the hardest players to stop in the league,” Mercury guard Briann January said of Loyd. “When she gets comfortable and she gets in a rhythm, it’s almost impossible to stop her. When we go up against her next time, because we want to meet them again, we have to make her a little more uncomfortable and we can’t give her open looks to get her heated up then the basket grows and she’s making everything.”
Seattle led much of the first half by five points or less until a 9-2 run in the final two minutes to lead 53-44 at halftime.
Taurasi came out firing from the start, scoring 14 first-quarter points as the Mercury led 24-23. It was Griner’s turn in the second quarter, scoring 11 of 13 points in a four-plus-minute stretch to keep Phoenix within two (44-42) before the Storm’s late burst that included five point from Loyd.
Forward Devereaux Peters, signed Sunday, made her Mercury debut.
Taurasi on suspension
Taurasi played in her first Mercury game since being ejected against Minnesota on July 21 after drawing her sixth and seventh technical fouls of the season. She was suspended for a game on July 25 because of reaching the WNBA technical foul limit then played in the WNBA All-Star Game last Saturday.
“All I know is when I get thrown out of a game and I get a technical, I take it on the chin,” Taurasi said. “I pay my fine and I earned it. I would just like the same amount of respect when they make a blatant clear mistake to have the same respect for our league and for our players. But their pride gets in the way and that’s obviously a big point of contention between the players and the league right now that hasn’t been able to be figured out for 20 years now. I can’t waste my mind on that. I really focus on playing and this stretch run.”
On her seventh technical foul, she said, “I was running away from fire and tripped on my own feet. I don’t know if she thought I was trying to roll on the ground and make a scene. But I know if I’m trying to get kicked out of the game, I’m sure as hell going to own it more than running away and tripping on my own feet as history shows.”
If she draws two more technicals, Taurasi would be suspended for another game, which happened in 2013. She also was suspended for one game in 2016 and one in 2017 for a flagrant 2 foul.
“We can’t worry about what the officials are doing,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re playing at a level where we stay level-headed and stay in games and not let little things take us out of what we want to do. We’ve just experienced that. We’ve lived in that so let’s go beyond that now and do it by actions, not by words.”
The Mercury play at Las Vegas (12-13) on Wednesday in their third back-to-back of the season. They also traveled to face the Aces in the second game of a back-to-back in June, winning 92-80. Phoenix leads 2-1 in the season series, also winning 96-79 on June 8 and losing 85-82 on July 19.
Mercury at Las Vegas Aces
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas.
TV: NBA TV.
Outlook: The Mercury (15-12) play at Las Vegas (12-13) on Wednesday in their third back-to-back of the season. They also traveled to face the Aces in the second game of a back-to-back in June, winning 92-80. Phoenix leads 2-1 in the season series, also winning 96-79 on June 8 and losing 85-82 on July 19. … The Aces have won six of their past seven games to put themselves into playoff contention. Rookie C A’ja Wilson is averaging 20 points, sixth-best in the league going into Tuesday.
Taurasi believes Phoenix Mercury can regain winning ways
July 30, 2018
Diana Taurasi believes the Phoenix Mercury can get back to their level of play in June when they won eight straight and were 11-2 overall.
At minimum, the Mercury likely need to go .500 over their final eight regular-season games starting Tuesday to ensure a sixth consecutive WNBA playoff appearance.
“We use everything that happened in those first 26 games to our advantage,” Taurasi said Monday. “By this time of the season, we should have everything figured out. Now it’s about application. You want to come and put it to work because what things work, what don’t work, how to approach things. And we know when we don’t come with the right approach, what’s most likely to happen. Nothing is going to be a surprise anymore.”
Actually, there is the unknown of what 6-2 forward Devereaux Peters brings to the table to help reverse a 1-6 slide leading into the WNBA All-Star Game this past weekend.
Peters has played five seasons in the WNBA including on two Minnesota Lynx championship teams and with current Mercury guard Briann January in Indiana in 2016. But how it goes with the Mercury, where she initially will back up Camille Little, remains to be seen.
“I actually love Phoenix as a city, I’ve always wanted to move here,” Peters said. “I have a lot of friends here so I’m excited to have the opportunity to play this season.”
Peters was in training camp with the Washington Mystics before being waived just before the season began. She was signed by the Mercury to fill a need given Sancho Lyttle’s season-ending knee injury on June 30. The signing was delayed until General Manager Jim Pitman could fit the addition under the salary cap.
“I’ve been working out because I have to prepare for overseas regardless,” Peters said. “I was enjoying the fact I had a summer off. This is an opportunity we don’t really get that often. While it sucks to not be on a team, it also was nice to get a break and spend time with my family and see friends and do things I haven’t been able to do in 10-plus years.”
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello is looking for Peters to set screens, defend and rebound, and it wouldn’t hurt if she hits an occasional outside shot.
“She has veteran experience, that helps,” Brondello said. “She’s picked up the offense pretty well. She understands defensive concepts. She has championship experience too. She’s just the kind of player we need and hopefully she’ll be a good fit for us.”
The Mercury will have 11 players available against Seattle on Tuesday for the first time since Lyttle’s injury, a major difference from their last game on July 25 when they played most of the second half with seven players and were without Taurasi (suspension) and center Brittney Griner, who was ejected.
“With the addition of Dev and Lelani (Mitchell) coming back and a couple of days to clear your mind, we’ll come back with a fresher outlook,” Taurasi said. “We’re ready to get back on the court and play our best basketball.”
The Mercury closed 6-4 after the Olympics in 2016 and 4-4 after Griner returned from injury in 2017, advancing to the WNBA playoff semifinals both years. Even though a 14-5 start has turned into 15-11, Taurasi expects a championship push out of a veteran team.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we have that potential in us,” Taurasi said. “Basketball is a game of making plays, making shots, big performances. It’s about (everyone) doing more, and that doesn’t necessarily means scoring more points. It’s the energy, being locked in, coming to practice and getting things right the first time. The margin of error gets smaller and smaller.”
Seattle Storm at Mercury
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Outlook: The Mercury (15-11) have lost six of their past seven games, falling to fifth in WNBA playoff standings. They are on a three-game losing streak for the third time this season but have yet to lose four straight. … Phoenix won 87-82 at Seattle on May 20 and lost 87-71 at home to the Storm on May 23 so this is a playoff tiebreaker game if the two are tied at the end of the regular season. … The Storm (19-7) are 8-2 in July to lead the WNBA by 2.5 games over second-place Atlanta. F Breanna Stewart leads the WNBA in scoring at 22.8 ppg and is fifth in rebounding (8.2 pg). G Sue Bird is second in league assists (7.3 pg) and recently became the WNBA career leader in games played.