Phoenix, AZ -- In a state that’s notoriously hot, the Phoenix Mercury continued to bring the heat Friday night against the Chicago Sky. The arena was filled with anticipation and boasted a colorful energy, in celebration of Pride Night and with the hope of witnessing a historical moment.
In a night most thought would be focused on Diana Taurasi, the spotlight was on Brittney Griner who lead the Mercury to capture the “W” with 27 points.
The battle in the desert began in a back and forth fashion with six lead changes early in the first quarter. Both teams were parched in their search for momentum, and the Mercury were the first to quench their thirst.
By the end of the first quarter, they were able to establish some separation with a 21-16 lead over the Sky. Griner and Stephanie Talbot combined for 10 points to steer the Mercury into the lead.
Taurasi scored just three points in the first quarter, noticeably not making an added effort to break the record. Prior to last night’s game, when Taurasi was asked about possibly breaking the record she had said that she wanted it to come “organically” and feel “normal and real”. Post-game, she reaffirmed those feelings.
“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’ll come,” said Taurasi.
In the second quarter, Phoenix increased its lead to 13. Taurasi racked up another six points leaving her only 20 points shy of surpassing Tina Thompson’s record set in 2010.
As the Sky started to chip away at the Mercury’s lead early in the third period, Taurasi quickly froze their momentum with her dynamic passes and timely assists to Talbot and Griner. Chicago continued to trail the Mercury in the third frame, 66-56.
Allie Quigley was the standout for the Sky with 19 points and carried the momentum for her team throughout the first half.
Coach Brondello believes the Mercury’s defense is improving but still needs “tidying up”.
“Just making sure every shot is contested, I thought we could have defended Quigley better in that first half,” said Brondello.
At 6’9 Griner’s height wasn’t the only reason the crowd was focused on her -- she relentlessly drove to the basket and continued to draw fouls throughout the game. Griner played a key role in keeping the Phoenix’s momentum alive and posted another double-double on the season.
As the game neared the end, the Sky’s frustration and desperation continued to grow. Cappie Pondexter drew her fourth foul with less than a minute left in the game; one she felt shouldn’t have been called. Pondexter expressed her disapproval of the call, and in turn was ejected.
Looking ahead, Taurasi will most likely surpass Tina Thompson’s record this Sunday against the Sparks in Los Angeles.
“Going home my parents will be there, my family, I’m sure a lot of Phoenix fans will travel so that’ll be nice too,” said Taurasi, “If it happens there.”
The Phoenix Mercury move to 6-4, while the Chicago Sky fall to 2-8.