By: Kayla Mortellaro
Brittney Griner led the charge for the Phoenix Mercury as they stormed past the Los Angeles Sparks to advance to the WNBA Western Conference Finals.
The Mercury defeated the Sparks 93-68 to earn the right to face the Minnesota Lynx, defending WNBA Champions on August 29 at 7 p.m. at U.S. Airways Arena.
Griner had a historic performance shooting 9 of 9 from the field and becoming the first player to dunk in a WNBA playoff game. The dunk came in the third quarter on a loose ball that Griner stole to go coast-to-coast for the slam.
Phoenix started the game with an aggressive mentality on both offense and defense. Griner lead the way with 21 points, Penny Taylor contributed 17 points and Diana Taurasi had nine points with seven assists. Arguably the most consistent player on the team, Candice Dupree complimented the stars with a 16 point performance.
Head coach Sandy Brondello gave her thoughts on Sunday night’s performance. She said,
We made some adjustments from game one that were effective tonight. We are a defensive team first but we want to run out of our defense.”
Overall, the Mercury played to the championship caliber level that fans have become accustomed to seeing. The performance came at a much-needed time to be a good building block and preparation for the Lynx.
The Lynx have won two of the last three WNBA titles and have won nine straight playoff games. Maya Moore and the Minnesota squad match-up the best against the Mercury, ultimately posing the biggest threat to the team advancing. Moore set a WNBA record this season for scoring 30 or more points in four-consecutive games, with one of those games being a 48 point performance.
Minnesota snapped the Mercury’s 16-game winning streak this season but the last time these two teams met, Phoenix squeaked out the victory 82-80.
Brondello will get her team focused and prepared for the upcoming three-game conference finals series, more than likely focusing on defense and fundamentals. She knows just how tough of a challenge this playoff series will be against the Lynx.
Veteran guard, Taurasi feels good about having Brondello at the helm of this team and trusts her guidance to get them ready for the challenge ahead. Taurasi said about Brondello,
I’ve never seen someone so prepared. Everyone’s always on the same page. Makes our job easier.”
And Brondello knows what page the team is on, ending this season with a championship ring. After the game, she was asked about the Lynx and said,
They’re a great team. They’re the champions. We are trying to get what they have.”