By Scott Mammoser
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Mercury showed the Connecticut Sun why it’s the hottest team in the WNBA, never trailing in an 84-77 victory on Thursday night. The Mercury won its fourth straight and for the 12th time in its past 14 games to retain its position in first place.
Meanwhile, the Sun fell to 10-8, but still tied with the Washington Mystics with the most wins in the Eastern Conference.
“We were a cohesive unit on both sides of the floor,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “We didn’t execute some of the plays. You have to remember, Angel (Robinson) hasn’t played with BG (Brittney Griner) much, and DB (DeWanna Bonner) hasn’t played much at the four, but we did play parts of the game where we executed well. We were locked in defensively. The last four minutes, they only scored three points, and we have done that all season long.”
Diana Taurasi and Griner, fourth and sixth in the league in scoring, scored 25 and 23 points to lead the Mercury, and Taurasi also passed Hall of Famer Tina Thompson with her 2,631st career made field goal during the contest.
“We kind of have to ignore it because in this league you can drop two in a row and be in sixth really quickly,” Taurasi said of the team’s current placing. “I’ve been saying all year, you can’t be too high or too low, just roll with the punches and play your best game and be focused.”
Sun rookie guard Lexie Brown cut a lead that was once 15 to a one-possession game with a three in the mid-fourth quarter. Leilani Mitchell answered with a three, only for Brown to respond with another one on the other end. Out of a Phoenix timeout, Morgan Tuck cut the lead to 73-72. DeWanna Bonner, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds, sank a trey from the corner to open a four-point lead that was never approached afterwards.
In the first game since 6-foot-5 starting power forward Sancho Lyttle was lost to the season with a torn ACL, Yvonne Turner entered the starting lineup for the second time in 2018. The 5-foot-10 Turner scored nine points, including a deep three that gave the Mercury its largest lead of the game in the late third quarter.
“We do everything to stay ready for whoever we play,” Turner said. “We’re always ready and come into practice every day to get ready.”
Turner was coming off of career highs in minutes (31), rebounds (nine) and assists (seven) in her past two games.
“We know what Yvonne can do,” Griner said. “She’s getting into her groove.”
Camille Little was also sidelined with an ankle injury, and Coach Brondello said she would return soon. Brondello also added that the team would be in search of a replacement for Lyttle later in the month once the salary cap allows it. Three Sun players tied for the team high with 11 points - Chiney Ogwumike, Rachel Banham and Jasmine Thomas.
The Mercury hits the road for the next four games, beginning at noon PT on Sunday in Atlanta. The next home game is at 7 p.m. on July 19 versus Las Vegas and Rookie of the Year candidate A’ja Wilson. The Sun will be at Las Vegas on Saturday night.
In addition, around the league on Thursday, Rebekkah Brunson grabbed her 3,317th rebound to pass Tamika Catchings as the league’s career rebounding leader in the Minnesota Lynx’s 83-72 win over the Los Angeles Sparks.