Mercury Pull Past Sparks 70-65

Phoenix Mercury pull past LA Sparks 70-65 Friday night

Phoenix Mercury pull past LA Sparks 70-65 Friday night

By: Kayla Mortellaro 

PHOENIX— A game that had no baring on the outcome of the Mercury’s 2015 playoff seeding, ended up meaning a lot for the franchise.

The Mercury pulled past the Sparks 70-65 Friday night and evened the series 2-2 with LA on the season. With the win, the Mercury notched their second consecutive 20-win season and the fifth time in the 19-year history of the franchise.

U.S. Airways Center was rocking with 12,296 fans, finishing the season with a final attendance of 169,077, the fourth most in the team’s 19 years.

Friday night the Mercury was lifted by guard Monique Currie’s play as she had her best game as a member of the team, scoring a game-high 22 points.

“It felt great,” Currie said after the game. “Sandy has been telling me to be aggressive and look for my shot and I was able to do that today. There is a lot of talent on this team and I think sometimes I kind of defer to those guys, because we have a lot of good scorers.”

The Mercury also received a big offensive contribution from Brittney Griner. Griner scored 16 points, pulled down five rebounds, had two blocks, and her night also included a dunk (second on the season and seventh of her career). {Griner Dunk courtesy of @PhoenixMercury with Tom Leander and Ann Meyers Drysdale on the call} 

“I think she has done a real good job,” Brondello said of Griner. “She missed a few chippys [chip shots] there, but she is still learning the game, she’s going to keep getting better and better. I was happy with her intent to try to get the ball deep in the paint.”

In addition, Candice Dupree had 12 points and nine rebounds while DeWanna Bonner added nine points and three rebounds.

The Sparks (14-20) leading scorer was Jennifer Hamson with 12 points and Ana Dabovic added 10. LA was without Erin Phillips, Marianna Tolo, and Candace Parker on the night. Team injuries and Parker sitting out the first-half of the season have been an issue for LA all year. Despite the setbacks, the team has risen to the occasion and fought for the fourth seed in the western conference playoffs.

“I don’t know if you’ve followed us all year long, but we’ve had a ton of people out and if you just look at our stats and games played by people, and that doesn’t even include Erin Phillips who hasn’t played since July; we just have to keep focused,” Sparks head coach Brian Agler said. “You just have to say, ‘we are going to focus on the people who are here.’ That’s sort of the been our approach all year.”

For the Mercury (20-13), the coaching staff is not placing too much emphasis on the game against the Sparks. Instead, the staff and team are looking forward to the final regular season game against Tulsa on Sunday and the first round of the playoffs, also against Tulsa on September 17.

“I want to get on to Tulsa and make sure we have a good showing, we are playing them in the playoffs and just get ready for next Thursday,” Brondello said. “We just want to stay healthy but sometimes you have to focus on what you’re doing to prevent those injuries as well.”

Bonner, who has been a leader for Phoenix all season long, has experience in the playoffs and she knows the mindset the team needs to have to be successful.

“To win; protect home court,” Bonner said. “We know how important that first game is; that’s usually your make or break game right there, so we have to come out with great energy, a mindset to kill them in the first five to 10 minutes because we can’t let them build confidence. It’ll help that a couple of us have been to the playoffs before. “They [Tulsa Shock] haven’t been to the playoffs, we’ll be ready.”

The makeup of this year’s Mercury roster is much different than last year’s WNBA Championship winning team. Yet the Mercury find themselves in a position to track down another title. To help with their quest, the team has added new pieces. And Currie is one of those players who is in her first year with the Mercury. Currie has been to the playoffs before but never made it out of the first-round. As a starter for the Mercury, as a play-maker, as a veteran, she is going to be counted on and is relishing her opportunity.

“It’s been a great experience here so far,” Currie said. “The organization is great, the support here is amazing. I think our fans give us a ton of energy and that helps a lot- so going into the playoffs, I know that’ll be huge. I’m just looking forward to playing with the team that’s capable of winning a championship.”

Round One of the Western Conference Playoffs:

Tulsa Shock vs. Phoenix Mercury

Game One: Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m. at US Airways Center TV: ESPN 2.

Game Two: Saturday, September 19 at 6 p.m. at BOK Center TV: NBA TV

Game Three (if necessary): Monday, September 21 at 7 p.m. at US Airways Center TV: NBA TV