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Snail-paced start by Indiana catapults Griner, Mercury

Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner have the returned after the break and have the Phoenix Mercury playing more to the potential many foresaw in them before the season started.

WNBA: Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis, IN — Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury took the sixth place spot in the league, and knocked down the Indiana Fever to seventh place after beating Indiana at home on Tuesday night.

No one made it rain in the first 20 minutes of the game.

In the first half, Indiana and Phoenix both outplayed each other's defenses, but the shots weren’t falling. On offense, Indiana played fast paced. As soon as they got the rebound, they took off and made quick, smart passes, but they struggled to make a basket. The Fever didn’t make a field goal until nearly eight minutes in.

The Mercury was aggressive on defense and outscored Indiana. But got into early foul trouble, and it gave the Fever a way to stay alive; they shot nine of 10 from the foul line.

Although Indiana’s shooting accuracy improved at the end of the first, it disintegrated again at the start of the second. The Mercury outscored Indiana 19-12.

This time around it was Phoenix that got the chance to build their score from the foul line early in the second quarter. Indiana had two big fouls early in the quarter, and the Mercury capitalized on the mistakes.

Both teams struggled with three-pointers in the first half, but Taurasi banged in back to back shots from beyond the arc that stretched the Mercury’s lead 26-18 with 6:30 left.

The Fever heated back up with 4:21 left when Erlana Larkins leaped up for a big rebound, and passed it out to Shenise Johnson. She nailed a fadeaway jump shot to put life back into Indiana.

Then on the Mercury’s following possession Briann January stole the ball from Penny Taylor, and threw a long pass to Lynetta Kizer. She bounded through the paint and for a layup to get within two points of Phoenix, 26-24.

However, the Fever could not keep up with Brittney Griner and the Mercury. Griner took command and dominated on both ends of the floor. She led both teams with 10 points and six rebounds in the first half. Phoenix finished the half on top 33-26.

When both teams came out of the locker room, they went shot for shot. Indiana cut the deficit to four after Tamika Catchings drove through the paint, got the layup and drew the foul from Taylor. After sinking her free throws, it was Larkins’ turn. She was also fouled by Taylor, and her free throws made the score 40-36 with 7:03 remaining.

Griner had the perfect answer: a cutting layup shot that set the tone for the rest of the quarter. The Mercury challenged Griner the entire half, but she managed to escape and kept up her dominating play. With 15 seconds left Griner effortlessly reached up for a jump hook to increase Phoenix’s lead to nine. At the end of the third quarter, the Mercury led 55-46.

The last matchup between these teams Indiana had a hot fourth quarter and ran away with the game. Taurasi made sure that was not the case tonight.

She surged in the final quarter for Phoenix. If her hands were on the ball, it went in the basket. At the start of the fourth Taurasi drove through the paint for a layup. Nearly one minute later she made a pull-up jumper that bumped her team’s lead to double digits. On the following possession, she drained a three-point shot.

When the fever fouled Taurasi, and she made all three of her free throws. She racked up 10 points within less than five minutes. Taurasi stayed hot, and the Mercury led 67-52 with 5:50 left in the game.

After a turnaround jump shot by Taylor, Taurasi made another three to claim control over Indiana. Phoenix got revenge and beat the Fever 79-65.

Griner and Taurasi combined for 39 of the Mercury’s total points with 20 and 19 each. The explosive fourth quarter performance by Taurasi, and the steady dominance from Griner gave Phoenix its first win over the Fever this season.

Their next game is Friday, September 2nd against the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Indiana shot a season-low 33% from the field and only had two players score in double digits. The Fever’s continue their home stand on Thursday, September 1st against the New York Liberty.