Brittney Griner leaves the game late with an ankle injury, which Mercury hopes is not too serious, has a sobering effect on Phoenix 106-79 victory over the New York Liberty Wednesday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Griner scored 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the win, while Skylar Diggins-Smith (27 points, five assists) and Diana Taurasi (21 points, nine assists) were also phenomenal. Brianna Turner added 10 points, 15 boards and two blocks to the winning streak.
With 3:50 left in the first quarter, Griner got behind the Liberty defense, catching a long pass from Taurasi and throwing down a dunk while on the run. The slap makes the score 21-10 Mercury and Phoenix would lead by as much as 21 in the frame.
With 5:16 left in the fourth, New York’s Rebecca Allen made a triple that cut it to 12 and Natasha Howard followed it up by hiding the ball on a bad pass from Diggins-Smith to Griner in the wicket. DiDi Richards picked up the loose ball and the Liberty would get a 3-on-1 transition before Diggins-Smith Richards sensibly attacked to kill New York’s momentum. Betnijah Laney would still rattle a midfield home run for the Liberty in subsequent possession to cut it to 89-79, but the Mercury ended the game on an impressive 17-0 run to avoid major disappointment.
The win was Phoenix’s fifth consecutive series, as it is only the first place finish in Connecticut Sun (six wins in a row) for the longest current winning streak in the WNBA. The Mercury (14-10) ended the first half of the season with an 82-75 loss to the Seattle Storm in third place, but have been unbeaten since returning from the Olympic break. The Liberty is the best team they defeated during the series.
The Mercury is currently in fifth place, two games ahead of the sixth Chicago Sky and only one game behind fourth place Minnesota Lynx, which is two games worse than the Mercury since the halftime.
Laney finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and five helpers in a defeat. Phoenix outscored New York 54-20 in the paint and shot 56.6 percent from the field. The Liberty made another three-pointer than the Mercury, but Phoenix was 12-on-25 (48 percent) compared to New York’s effort of 36.1 percent.
The Liberty fell to 11-15 and is now tied with the Dallas Wings and Los Angeles Sparks for seventh place. They have the draw over Dallas and LA, so they stay in the playoff position, but cut it off.
New York was without Sami Whitcomb in this game. The league’s most popular three-point shooter is out for 10 to 14 days with an ankle injury.
The two teams will meet again in the next match for both on Friday at 20:00 ET at Barclays (CBS Sports Network).
The Liberty loss led the Las Vegas Aces to clinch the playoffs.