PHOENIX (AP) — Chicago scratched Brittney Griner across the eyelid, chipped one of her teeth and bloodied her lip.
Staggered by the blows, Phoenix’s lanky center fought back the best way she knows how; by scoring and swatting shots.
Now the Mercury are on the verge of delivering the knockout blow after finishing off the most lopsided game in WNBA Finals history.
Griner shook off two blows to the face to finish with 19 points, Diana Taurasi added 18 and the Mercury made it two straight routs in the WNBA Finals with a 97-68 win over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night.
“That’s pretty amazing how mature Brittney is to handle something like that because she did get pretty hurt,” Taurasi said. “For her to keep her focus and not let herself get rattled and consumed by that, shows a lot of maturity. I know I couldn’t have done that.”
The underdog Sky were far more aggressive after being blown out in Game 1, fighting Phoenix for every inch while battering Griner in the first half.
Griner and her teammates shrugged it off, running away from Chicago with a 15-2 run in the second quarter and grabbing a firm hold on the best-of-five series.
Phoenix set a finals record by shooting 58 percent in the opener and almost topped it, hitting 56 percent from the floor after missing five shots in the final minute.
The Mercury outscored Chicago 52-24 in the paint and had all five starters score in double figures.
Taurasi keyed the big first-half run, DeWanna Bonner finished with 15 points and Penny Taylor added 14. Griner anchored the defense, blocking four shots after setting a finals record with eight in the opener.
Elena Delle Donne led the Sky with 22 points after playing 11 minutes in Game 1 due to lower-back pain.
Game 3 is Friday in Chicago, where the Sky will have to find some way of slowing the rising Mercury or the series will be over.
“We have to stop the bleeding a lot faster and we can’t make as many mental mistakes because they make you pay for them,” Delle Donne said. “We have a lot of things to clean up.”
Game 1 was a blowout from the opening tip, the Mercury racing out to a 22-point halftime lead as Griner swatted Chicago’s shots and Candice Dupree hit her first 10 shots.
The Sky were much more aggressive at the start of Game 2, pressuring the Mercury into mistakes and tough shots while taking their first lead of the series.
Even better news for Chicago, Delle Donne’s cranky back appeared to be in decent shape. Last season’s WNBA Rookie of the Year moved freely and had 12 points in the first half.
The Sky couldn’t sustain it, no matter how much they knocked Griner around.
The league’s defensive player of the year went down hard midway through the first quarter, when Sylvia Fowles inadvertently hit her on the right eye while fighting for a rebound.
Griner lay on the floor for several seconds and appeared to have trouble seeing before going to the bench with a scratch across her eyelid.
She returned to the game, but got hit again late in the second quarter, this time an elbow to the face by Sasha Goodlett.
Griner tossed aside her chipped tooth, spit blood behind the basket, hit two free throws and dropped in another shot at the rim on Phoenix’s next possession.
“To her credit, BG is tough as nails,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.
While Griner was getting beat up, Taurasi put on a show.
She hit a long 3-pointer and scored on a three-point play during the 15-2 run, and then added another 3 from the corner for 13 points in the quarter. Taurasi had 16 in the half and Phoenix led 51-36 after Erin Phillips scored on a three-point play in transition with 0.5 seconds left.
So much for Chicago’s extra effort.
The Sky never recovered from Phoenix’s big run, falling into a huge hole in the series.
“There were just so many horrible sequences,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “You can’t do that against any team, let alone the best team in the league in the finals. We never gave ourselves a chance.”
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.