PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Mercury are finding their fast-and-furious rhythm, which could mean trouble for the rest of the WNBA.
Back to the mindset of any open shot is a good one, the Mercury raced past a second straight opponent, using a flurry of 3-pointers and layups to pull away from the Los Angeles Sparks for a 97-81 victory Friday night.
Diana Taurasi had 34 points while filling up the stat sheet, and DeWanna Bonner added 23 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re going to go back and do what we do best, and that’s organized chaos,” Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. “That’s all that is.”
Coming off its first win, Phoenix played without forward Candice Dupree (suspension) and had to limit rookie center Brittney Griner’s minutes after she sat out the last game with a sprained left knee.
The Mercury made up for it by hitting the accelerator, using their up-tempo style to run away with a second straight double-digit victory after opening the season 0-3.
Charde Houston had 15 points and Griner finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes for the fun-and-gun Mercury.
“It’s not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery, it’s not making borsch, it’s just basketball,” said Taurasi, who added seven assists and six rebounds. “We had a lot of people play well.”
The Sparks kept up with Phoenix in the first half, taking advantage of Griner’s limited minutes by getting into the lane and grabbing offensive rebounds.
Once the Mercury got rolling, Los Angeles didn’t have an answer with Alana Beard on the bench due to a sore hamstring.
Kristi Toliver scored 18 points, Candace Parker added 15 and Nneke Ogwumike had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Sparks, who held a long team meeting after the game.
“I’m disappointed with the loss, but I’m more disappointed with the way we played,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of fight, we didn’t handle adversity well and we were not resilient. It’s disappointing to not just lose, but lose in that way.”
The Mercury struggled to get in a groove with Griner early in the season, losing their first three games as they tried to find ways to get the ball into their 6-foot-8 center.
With Griner out last Saturday due to a sprained knee, Phoenix reverted to its run-and-gun style against Indiana and beat the defending WNBA champions by 15 behind Taurasi’s 26 points.
Seeing the success his team had with playing fast, Gaines decided to stick with the up-tempo style, even with Griner back in the starting lineup.
The Mercury did run, too, putting up shots as soon as they got an open look, rarely working the shot clock down.
They had to do it without much help from Griner, though.
She opened with a bucket inside and blocked a shot, then sat down after three minutes. Griner started the second quarter and quickly went back to the bench, finishing the first half with four points and two blocks in 5:39.
Taurasi made up for her absence, scoring 15 points, while Bonner added 12 for the aggressive Mercury.
“When you watch a lot of sports, it’s the team that goes and gets it,” Taurasi said. “If you wait around thinking stuff’s just going to get done on its own, it rarely turns out well. Today, we had a group of people go and get it, and it looked good.”
Problem for the Mercury in the first half was that the Sparks were able to keep up by taking advantage of Griner’s absence.
Slashing into the lane and snaring offensive rebounds without much resistance, Los Angeles led 50-48 at halftime. Ogwumike and Parker had 11 points each, Toliver had 10 and the Sparks scored 12 second-chance points in the half.
Phoenix started to pull away in third quarter behind its defense, which led to easy baskets at the other end.
Hounding the Sparks even after Griner went back to the bench, the Mercury pressured the Sparks into difficult shots and turnovers. Using the misses and mistakes as fuel, the Mercury raced out on the break, scoring on layups and pulling up for 3-pointers during and 11-2 run to go up 74-64 lead after three quarters.
The Mercury poured it on to open the fourth quarter, with Taurasi and Houston hitting 3-pointers during a 9-2 run that put them up 83-69, the game out of reach and the Sparks into a funk.
“We’re trying to find who we are,” Ross said. “We can’t keep moving the way we are. We have to have a different personality and be tougher.”