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Analysis: Brittney Griner block party 500

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The Phoenix Mercury center hit a major milestone in last night’s win against the Minnesota Lynx. Meanwhile, the Aces got their first-ever WNBA win and the Sun remain undefeated.

WNBA

The Phoenix Mercury not only stopped a three-game losing streak last night, they did so in Minnesota against the 2017 WNBA champs, the Lynx, with Brittney Griner hitting a historic milestone in WNBA and NBA history.

Griner had three blocks for the game and entered the annals of WNBA history as the woman to get to 500 career blocks the fastest. But the 6-foot-9 defensive specialist did not stop there. Her 500th career block puts her fourth overall among the fastest players ever — that’s for the NBA and WNBA — to reach that milestone.

The two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year did it in 153 games — tied with Alonzo Mourning.

Why Phoenix won

The win in this battle between struggling powerhouses could have gone to either team, as the game was tied eight times and there were 12 lead changes. But the Mercury sealed the deal because its stars played like stars.

Diana Taurasi returned to form and led the way with a game-high 29 points. She nailed 15 of those points from beyond the arc. In addition to the three blocks, Griner scored 21 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, while DeWanna Bonner reminded everyone why she is considered the most versatile player in the world: 24 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists.

Sancho Lyttle’s 8 rebounds and Camille Little’s 5 rebounds is the type of defensive effort this team needs to have a chance at a decent chance at another championship.

In addition to snapping a three-game losing skid, the Mercury also broke a 13-game losing streak against the Lynx, winning its first matchup against Minnesota since August 2015. Before last night, the Mercury had not won in Minnesota since 2014.

The 95-85 victory was the 100th for Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello.

Why Minnesota lost

Although the Lynx didn’t clench the victory, Minnesota fans should undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief that the team’s most dominant players competed last night in a fashion they recognize, with multiple players in double-digit scoring.

Maya Moore played like Maya Moore: 25 points. Sylvia Fowles played like Big Syl for a solid double-double: 16 points and 11 rebounds. Rebekkah Brunson neared double-double territory with 10 points and 9 rebounds, while usual cohort, Seimone Augustus, contributed 12 points.

But Minnesota lost this one because the only areas of the box score where they bested Phoenix was in turnovers and personal fouls. The Lynx had 13 turnovers (to the Mercury’s 10) and 23 personal fouls (to the Mercury’s 19). It is not just that the team collected a lot of fouls, but a matter of which players picked them up.

Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen each had five fouls for the game, which undoubtedly interrupted the team’s rhythm. But most concerning for Minnesota should be Whalen’s uncharacteristically low production overall. Against Phoenix, she finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists (with the 5 personal fouls and 1 turnover).

A bright spot for Minnesota is that Tanisha Wright scored 15 points off the bench. But perhaps success moving forward depends on Whalen returning to Whalen form or the Lynx relying more on Danielle Robinson at the guard position.

The Lynx are now ranked ninth in the standings — ahead of only the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty (who each have one win so far this season), and the Indiana Fever (who remain winless).


Other game results

Sun (4-0) vs. Sky (2-3)

The Sun won this one with killer play by Alex Bentley and Jonquel Jones, who each scored 20 points off the bench. But current Player of Week Alyssa Thomas turned in a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double and two other players were in double figures.

Final score: 110-72

Aces (1-4) vs. Mystics (5-2)

It was the A’ja Wilson show in Las Vegas and an unsurprising case of tired legs for the Mystics.

Final score: 85-73