A night after their defense confused the L.A. Sparks, the Chicago Sky never really found an answer to stop Phoenix Mercury forward Candice Dupree.
During a dominant third quarter for the Mercury, Dupree had 8 of her season-high tying 26 points to help blow the game open en route to an 87-69 win.
Dupree's points came in her typically smooth fashion: a combination of well-timed cuts to the basket, pick and rolls, and using the sweet touch on her jumper to find a opportunistic scoring opportunities within the flow of the game. She added a season-high 14 rebounds to the box score to help keep a sputtering Sky offense from getting second chance scoring opportunities. While Dupree led the attack on the interior, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor combined to score 29 points, including two threes apiece and 11-for-12 combined free throw shooting.
Yet it was the Mercury's defense in the third quarter that was especially noteworthy, which also frames Brittney Griner's impact that doesn't quite show up in the box score.
Chicago struggled to get anything going in the paint offensively during the third quarter, shooting just 6-for-18 (33.3%) from the field while star center Sylvia Fowles had just one shot. Unable to drive to the basket at all, the Sky also went without a free throw in the third quarter. And really, the Sky's inability to get to the line much at all helps tell the story of the game: they had just 8 attempts the entire game, 6 of which came in the fourth quarter when there was little doubt about the outcome of the game.
Brittney Griner has 2pts... On the other hand she has dominated the glass w/10rebs (all legit rebounds) & locking down the paint.
— Kristofer Habbas (@Kris_Habbas) July 3, 2014
Griner finished the game with just four points to go with 11 rebounds, but her game-high plus/minus rating of +20 reflects her role in scaring the Sky from venturing close to the basket. And with many fans focusing in on Sky rookie point guard Jamierra Faulkner after she lit up a disoriented Sparks defense for a season-high 27 points last night, Griner's presence was big in keeping her from going off again: the rookie had just 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting as she was forced to take a number of jumpers and contested shots in the paint. Allie Quigley picked up some of the scoring slack for the Sky with 16 points as 6-for-11 shooting, but it wasn't enough to overcome what transpired in the third quarter.
The Chicago Sky should be credited for keeping tonight's game in Phoenix within six at halftime, given that they were playing the back end of a road back to back and still without starters Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot. But the Mercury really are just this talented: even when Griner isn't able to score, the fact that the Mercury were able to hold Fowles to just seven points on 3-for-5 shooting, keep the Sky's guards from causing problems on the interior, all while shooting 41.2% from the three point line shows how talented this team is.