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Mercury's Brittney Griner, Kahleah Copper prove too much for Storm in 87-78 loss

Percy Allen, The Seattle Times on

Published in Basketball

Two weeks ago, the Seattle Storm and Ezi Magbegor dominated a short-handed Phoenix Mercury team that was missing perennial WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, who sat out the first 10 games of the season due to a foot injury.

On Sunday afternoon, the delayed Magbegor-Griner matchup took center stage during the ABC telecast in a battle between two of the league's top post players.

This time, the Mercury came out on top 87-78 and received a monster performance from Griner who finished with a season-high 28 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

It was the third straight game the 6-foot-9 Mercury star scored at least 24 points.

"I've been playing against BG since I was 13," Storm forward Nneka Ogwumike said. "Her size has always been an issue. The evolution of her skill set, which she displayed today, makes it difficult for us to stop her."

Kahleah Copper, who scored a game-high 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting, made it difficult for the Storm to give Magbegor much defensive help versus Griner, who connected on 10-of-15 shots, canned all seven of her free throws and made her first three-pointer of the season.

"She's capable of impacting the game offensively because she's played at a high level for so long," coach Noelle Quinn said when asked about Griner. "Her height and size gives us some trouble because she's able to alter shots and block shots. She's a heckuva player, an Olympian and one of the best in the world."

Copper and Griner outscored the Storm's quartet of stars: Ogwumike (15 points and 11 rebounds), Magbegor (14 points and eight rebounds), Jewell Loyd (14 points) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (14 points, eight rebounds and six assists).

Backup forward Jordan Horston added 12 points and five steals for Seattle, which fell to 9-5.

"The thing that we can learn is, when you go into a difficult environment against a really good basketball team you can't start the game giving up — it felt like they made every basket," Quinn said. "We have to have a different mindset when we're on the road."

In front of 9,444 at Footprint Center, the Storm never got going Sunday and fell behind 23-11 late in the first quarter after Diana Taurasi's three-pointer.

Then Copper dropped Seattle into a 40-23 hole following another three-pointer in the second period.

It was a miserable first-half shooting performance for the Storm, who converted 29.3% of their field goals, including two of 13 three-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Mercury, which led 47-33 at the break, shot 53.1% from the field and made six of 11 three-pointers.

"They came out and they were aggressive and they were making their shots," Ogwumike said. "We were trying to stick to our game plan. Our shots weren't really falling the way we wanted them to, but we wanted to keep going.

 

"By the time we were able to get ourselves in the game, it was difficult to get those stops. ... They're a team that has a lot of great scorers. So, we have to stop that early."

Phoenix pushed its advantage to 66-45 late in the third quarter when Seattle momentarily seized momentum and went on a 24-9 run.

Diggins-Smith capped the spurt with a three-pointer midway in the fourth quarter that trimmed the Mercury's lead to 75-69.

On the ensuing play, Griner converted a three-point play and Copper scored seven straight points for Phoenix, which extended its lead to 85-71 with 1:24 minutes left.

Taurasi, who won her 300th game, added 13 points for the Mercury, which improved to 7-7.

"Today we let our offense dictate our temperament," Quinn said. "I don't think we started the game with a defensive mindset and physicality and presence that's needed to play against a team that has really good three-point shooting.

"Offensively, we didn't move the ball enough and find great shots. In the second half, we found a groove."

Phoenix shot 50% from the field while Seattle was 38.7%, including five of 26 on three-pointers.

Loyd, who was 0 for 6 from downtown, has made just 3-of-27 shots from long range in the past four games. She's shooting 25% on three-pointers this season — her lowest percentage since her rookie year in 2015.

"We know how deadly she can be when she catches fire," Quinn said. "When she's in a groove, she's damn near unstoppable. So, just kind of finding some comfort for her. Getting her some touches in the middle of the floor. ... She's a professional scorer. The law of averages, she'll come back and get going. She's going to get in the gym and get her feel for the game. She'll be OK."

Seattle wraps up its three-game road trip on Wednesday against the Las Vegas Aces.

Note:

— Storm backup center Mercedes Russell missed Sunday's game due to illness.


(c)2024 The Seattle Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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