“Sometimes, you just gotta win ugly, and that’s what it’s gonna come down to,” says Brittney Griner, forward of the Phoenix Mercury. As was the case when they faced the Dallas Wings in their second straight tilt with their inter-conference counterpart. The two teams came down the wire again in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, July 20th, and it was the same outcome, with Phoenix narrowing out the Wings, 70-66.
But as 6-time All-Star Griner puts it, “The focus was the same.” Even though Griner got into early foul trouble, the Mercury knew they had their hands full against one of the leagues top rebounding teams. Dallas outrebounded Phoenix 42-35 in the paint and nearly came away with the win within the final minutes. Brian Agler, head coach for the Wings stated: “60-70 percent of the games are determined in the last 2 minutes.”
One of the most significant differences came at the free-throw line, with the Mercury taking the advantage 29 times at the stripe opposed to Dallas’ 14. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get to the free-throw line more.” said coach Agler. While the pace of the game was more of a back and forth battle with neither team taking the lead any more significant than 7, it shows that smaller mistakes can pay the price, and that includes free throws and discipline. “We got more calls than they did, but it didn’t really change how we play,” said Griner, who finished with a game-high 17 points. The focus was the same for the Mercury, as they now sit above 500 with a 9-8 record nearing the All-Star break.
Griner, a 7-year vet, and an All-Star yet again, stated that it was an honor being picked for the 6th straight year to represent the Western Conference in Las Vegas for the 2019 All-Star Game. With one of Mercury’s stars, Diana Taurasi, being out with an injury, it was essential to have a seasoned veteran in the lineup that can step up to the task and deliver. Griner did just that. “I need her to come back.” chuckled Griner as she talked about Taurasi’s injury.