The Phoenix Mercury are hoping Brittney Griner can have a bigger role in this matchup with Seattle after playing limited minutes in her return from injury last week against the Storm.
Of course, if Diana Taurasi again gets frustrated by Seattle’s defense and the Mercury can’t defend the perimeter, Griner’s presence might not make much difference.
The Mercury try to avenge last week’s defeat and avoid a fourth straight loss to the Storm on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
After missing five games due to a sprained left knee, Griner returned Thursday in Seattle but was limited to about four minutes per quarter. She ended up playing 18 and finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four blocks in an 88-79 loss.
Her minutes were bumped up to 30 on Sunday in an 82-76 win over Atlanta, Phoenix’s first in four games.
“I’m excited to be back on the court,” said Griner, who had nine points, four rebounds and three blocked shots. “I’m happy to be in front of the home crowd. I am just happy to play.”
Diana Taurasi had a team-high 28 points and DeWanna Bonner added 23 for the Mercury (10-10), who snapped a three-game home skid in the opener of a season-high five-game homestand.
“It is always good to protect home court, especially in the second half of the season,” Griner said. “To get this win, we just want to build from it now.”
To win consecutive games at home for the first time in a month, the Mercury will need to end their struggles against Seattle.
The Storm (8-11) have won 14 of 16 in the series and have used strong perimeter shooting and tough defense on Taurasi to take both meetings this season.
Seattle shot 11 for 26 on 3-pointers in last week’s meeting and made eight of 19 from beyond the arc in a 75-72 home win June 2. Shekinna Stricklen is 5 of 12 on 3s and Temeka Johnson 4 of 8 in the two games against Phoenix – the second-worst team in the league at defending the 3-pointer at 34.7 percent.
Taurasi is the league’s leading scorer at 22.1 points per game, but she has struggled mightily against the Storm. The All-Star finished with 10 points and shot 3 of 10 before fouling out with 2:59 remaining last week, and had 10 points and five fouls in the first meeting.
The Storm are coming off a disappointing showing in a 90-72 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. They turned the ball over 21 times and trailed by as many as 31.
Stricklen had a career-high 24 points and went 10 of 17 from the field but the rest of the starters scored 35 and shot 11 of 31.
“I feel like we can do better,” forward Tina Thompson said. “Not to take anything away from Minnesota, but I just think our intensity at times and just kind of how we were attacking their offense and getting away from our game plan at times put us in a position that we weren’t effective.”