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Sky’s ‘inconsistencies,’ lack of disciple defensively creates loss to Phoenix

While Diana Taurasi wasn’t her usual self, Brittney Griner picked up the slack, scoring 27 points for the Phoenix Mercury in an 86-75 win over the Chicago Sky Friday night.

Barry Gossage - NBAE

Phoenix, AZ -- History will have to wait, but fortunately, the Phoenix Mercury didn’t need a historical night to pick up a victory.

Diana Taurasi scored 15 points, leaving her 14 shy of the all-time WNBA scoring record, but Brittney Griner had a monster night herself, scoring 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the free throw line to give the Phoenix Mercury (6-4) an 86-75 over the foul-plagued Chicago Sky (2-8) Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

While Phoenix secured the win, it wasn’t as dominating as the score may look. Chicago didn’t help themselves, with multiple players in foul trouble and their leading scorer Cappie Pondexter getting ejected late in the game. Chicago allowed 39 free throws in the game, something that Cappie Pondexter credited as a momentum killer for the Sky.

“At the end of the day, when you put a team on the free throw line that many times, it’s hard to kind of gain the momentum because the clock is always stopping. So, we just have got to do a better job coming out the next game. Brittney was aggressive and when she’s aggressive like that it’s hard for anyone to stop her, not just us. She’s a game changer. Kudos to her, I think she definitely got a lot better this year,” Pondexter said.

Griner set the tone early for Phoenix, getting two quick rebounds within the first 30 seconds of the game before Leilani Mitchell scored the first points of the game on a driving layup. Chicago responded right away with a Tamera Young three-pointer, and both teams would play tug-of-war through the quarter to establish dominance.

Phoenix ultimately won that fight, leading 21-16 at the end of the first.

The Mercury wasted no time trying to get Taurasi involved in the second quarter, making sure she got the ball as often as possible. Within the first minute, she got two shots off (missing both) and got to the line on a delay of game by Chicago. However, the majority of scoring in the period came from Camille Little and Emma Cannon, with Little scoring all of her seven points in the frame to send Phoenix into halftime with a 45-32 lead.

Chicago didn’t hesitate to get its offense going in the third, with Jessica Breland scoring four quick points. Yet, for all the leads Chicago cut into, the foul trouble followed. Within the first two minutes of the quarter, Stefanie Dolson committed her fourth foul, limiting her effectiveness. Breland scored 10 points in the quarter, but the Sky would go into the final quarter trailing, 66-56.

The beginning of the final frame was not friendly to Chicago at all. Not even 20 seconds into the quarter, Imani Boyette committed her fifth foul of the game, forcing head coach Amber Stocks to switch back to Dolson, who was already in foul trouble.

Phoenix, in particular, Griner, took advantage of Chicago’s over-aggressiveness and went to work. Griner got to the line often, scoring 12 points overall in the quarter.

The big story of the quarter, though, occurred with 46 seconds left in the game. Cappie Pondexter committed her fourth foul with Chicago only down five. Pondexter didn’t agree with the call, and earned herself a double technical, getting ejected from the game.

Diana Taurasi got the call to the line, making both technical free throws as well as the two from the original foul call, giving Phoenix an 84-75 lead that sealed the deal. Taurasi was fouled again at the end of the game, making both free throws to cap off the victory for Phoenix.

Besides Griner’s 27 points and nine rebounds, Taurasi (15 on 9-of-10 FT) and Leilani Mitchell (10) scored in double figures for the Mercury, who overall went 28-of-39 from the free throw line.

Allie Quigley led the Chicago Sky with 19 points, with Jessica Breland (18) and Pondexter (13) also scoring in double digits for the Sky. Boyette, despite her five fouls, nearly had herself a double-double, getting nine points and 10 rebounds.

While Quigley had a great game, she still felt that the team as a whole has work to do as far as consistency.

“Just inconsistencies. When it’s time to turn it up and turn it to another level we just haven’t done that. So, we’ve just got to find a way to do that,” Quigley said.

Chicago will take their act back home on Sunday, where they will host the Indiana Fever (5-6) at Allstate Arena.

Phoenix will look for revenge and history when they visit the Los Angeles Sparks (7-3) on Sunday afternoon. Not only will they be looking to avenge their 89-87 loss on June 10, but Taurasi will have a chance to become the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. Taurasi currently has 7,475 points, only 14 behind Tina Thompson (7,489).

However, Taurasi herself seemed to shake off any rush to break the record, suggesting that when it eventually happens, it will happen.

“I’m not chasing it, when it comes it comes. I’m not just going to go out there and try to get points to break the record. If you play basketball long enough and you do it the right way it will come. When it does I will be happy and if it doesn’t come then you know it’s cool.”