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Recap: Dominant defense leads Mercury past Dream for final playoff spot

It wasn’t pretty, but the Phoenix Mercury were able to hold off the Atlanta Dream, clinching the final playoff spot in the process. Meanwhile, rookie phenom Arike Ogunbowale made history in a Dallas Wings victory and Candice Dupree continued to climb the all-time leader boards.

Phoenix Mercury v Atlanta Dream
Mercury center Brittney Griner continued her strong play in August, scoring a game-high 21 points and blocking four shots.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Mercury entered Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Dream with a simple task: win and you’re in. The eighth and final spot in the upcoming WNBA postseason was still up for grabs, and while Phoenix was the overwhelming statistical favorite to eventually get it, they could make it a sure thing by beating Atlanta.

A sluggish first quarter set the tone for what would be a low-scoring game. The Mercury eventually prevailed 65-58 despite turning the ball over 19 times and allowing 17 offensive rebounds. Brittney Griner once again led the way for Phoenix, recording 21 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Meanwhile, Diana Taurasi was held scoreless in 26 minutes of action, though she did lead the team with 8 assists.

As for the Dream, it was another night of offensive struggles in a season chock full of them. Per WNBA Stats, Atlanta’s effective field goal percentage of 29.2 percent was the lowest single-game eFG% this season. The Dream’s frontcourt had a particularly rough go of it: Elizabeth Williams and Jessica Breland combined to shoot just 1-of-22 from the field.

As a result of the game, Phoenix is now officially in the playoffs. The Mercury currently sit at 15-15 and are in a position to move up before the regular season ends. Check out the WNBA standings here.

Up next

The Mercury will play the Sky in Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 6:00 p.m. ET (League Pass).

The Dream will head to Seattle to play the Storm on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET (NBA TV).

Thursday’s other action

Los Angeles Sparks 87, Indiana Fever 83

The Sparks were able to overcome a 36-9 disparity in free throw attempts thanks to a career-high 30 points from Chelsea Gray. Rookie Teaira McCowan recorded her third consecutive game of at least 20 points and at least 10 rebounds for Indiana, while Candice Dupree moved into second place all-time in career field goals made.

Dallas Wings 88, Chicago Sky 83

The Wings dressed just eight healthy players in this one, but that didn’t matter to Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 35 points for the second time this season. Ogunbowale’s 35-point, 6-assist, 5-rebound effort was the first such performance by a WNBA rookie since Candace Parker did it back in 2008. As a team, the Wings shot 6-for-13 from three-point range, while Chicago made just 3-of-18, which proved to be the deciding factor.