The Seattle Storm opened up a big first-half lead and never looked back, defeating the Phoenix Mercury 82-70 on Tuesday in the first of three road games to wrap up the regular season.
Natasha Howard got things started with 11 first-quarter points, and the Storm shot nearly 58 percent in the period. Seattle scored 25 points in each of the first two quarters and led 50-35 at the halftime break.
Brittney Griner was the only Mercury player consistently lighting up the scoreboard in the first half, with 14 total points and 10 in the second quarter. DeWanna Bonner scored all seven of her points in the first quarter, finishing in single digits for the third time in four games.
Phoenix woke up considerably in the second half, outscoring Seattle 35-32 and outshooting them 52 percent to 35.2 percent. But the Mercury still never broke 20 points in a quarter and allowed the Storm to make nine 3-pointers overall, spread fairly evenly across each quarter.
Howard’s 22 points and 12 rebounds led the Storm, and Alysha Clark added 17 points. Jordin Canada notched her second career double-double, scoring 10 points to go with 10 assists.
For the Mercury, Griner’s 22 points and seven rebounds led the way. Brianna Turner was the only other Phoenix player to score in double figures, adding 10 points and six rebounds.
The Storm remain in the hunt to open the playoffs at home, as Tuesday’s win moved them into sixth place (after a tiebreaker with the Minnesota Lynx). The fifth and sixth seeds host first-round, single-elimination games.
Meanwhile, the Mercury locked up the eight-seed with the loss.
Seattle announced before the game that Sue Bird would not be returning in 2019 after having knee surgery in May. She expects to be ready for the 2020 season and the Olympics.
The Storm visit the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday, Sept. 5 (10 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
The Mercury host the Minnesota Lynx on Friday, Sept. 6 (10 p.m. ET, WNBA League Pass).
Tuesday’s other action
Washington Mystics 93, New York Liberty 77
The Mystics starters were unstoppable, scoring all but seven of the team’s points in a 93-77 rout of the Liberty. Elena Delle Donne’s 30 points and 10 rebounds led the way for Washington. Ariel Atkins added 23 points. Marine Johannès led the Liberty with her second straight 20-point outing, putting up a career-high 22 points.
Up next: Both teams are back in action on Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. ET. The Mystics host the Dallas Wings (Twitter) and the Liberty host the Indiana Fever (WNBA League Pass).
Los Angeles Sparks 70, Atlanta Dream 60
Although the Dream led big early, they weren’t able to hold onto that momentum as the Sparks went on to win 70-60. The Sparks were led by double-doubles from Candace Parker (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Chiney Ogwumike (17 points, 10 rebounds). For the Dream, Elizabeth Williams and Alex Bentley scored 15 points apiece.
Up next: Both teams are back in action on Thursday, Sept. 5. The Dream host the Las Vegas Aces (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network) and the Sparks host the Seattle Storm (10 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).