PHOENIX — Brittney Griner has raised her play this season and its made the Phoenix Mercury into first place in the Western Conference.
Griner scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Mercury to a 92-79 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday night, offsetting Maya Moore’s 36 points. The 6-foot-8 phenom has scored in double figures in 10 of the Mercury’s 11 games and has three double-doubles on the season.
“If she plays like that every single game, and I don’t expect her to because it’s just impossible during the WNBA season, she’s unstoppable,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said of Griner. “She’s hard to guard because she’s such a skilled post player.”
It was the second win in four days for the Mercury over the Lynx. Sunday’s victory ended a 10-game skid to their Western Conference rivals.
Diana Taurasi added 22 points and had 10 rebounds. She made five 3-pointers. Forward Candice Dupree finished with 19 points, the fifth straight game she has scored 18 or more.
Minnesota (9-4) has lost three of its last four despite Moore’s effort. The WNBA’s leading scorer posted 30 or more points for the sixth time in 2014, tying a franchise single season record.
“Without Maya we might have lost by 40,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I thought Phoenix’s defense was really locked in and focused on her and she still got 36. That’s pretty impressive.”
Lindsay Whalen added 22 points but the Lynx were outrebounded 41-22. Minnesota was without guard Seimone Augustus, the team’s second-leading scorer. Augustus was a late scratch from the lineup due to left knee pain.
The Mercury, which defeated the Lynx June 15 to snap a 10-game regular season losing streak in the overall series, scored a season high 52 points in the first half, many of those on layups and Griner’s putbacks and close-range shots. Phoenix is 6-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Phoenix led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter before Minnesota trimmed the deficit to five early in the fourth quarter on a Moore 3-pointer. Moore spotted up for a three from the top of the key with 3:30 to play in the game and the Lynx down 79-74, but missed the chance to make it a two-point game.
Taurasi’s 3-pointer seconds later was the pivotal basket of the game, as Phoenix ended the game on a 13-5 run.