PHOENIX (AP) Even short-handed the Atlanta Dream gave the Phoenix Mercury all they could handle for three quarters. Then Diana Taurasi took over.
Brittney Griner led the Mercury with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots as Phoenix rallied to beat Atlanta 75-67 on Tuesday night.
Taurasi had nine of her 14 points in the fourth quarter for Phoenix (24-4), which has won 17 of 18 and set a franchise mark for wins in a season.
”She went into the zone, and when she goes in that zone, there’s no stopping her,” Griner said of her teammate. ”You can try whatever you want, but I mean, y’all see it every time, you can’t.”
After starting slow, Taurasi stepped up in the fourth quarter.
”I pretty much didn’t do anything the whole game, so I said, `I gotta help a little bit today,”’ Taurasi said. ”So it was a great collective effort today.”
Angel McCoughtry scored 19 points for Atlanta (17-11), which has lost six of the last eight.
”We had to dig deep to get away with that,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. ”Third quarter was very average but we responded in the fourth so that’s what really matters, closing out games.”
Candice Dupree added 16 points and six rebounds for the Mercury, who used an 11-3 start in the fourth quarter to erase a 51-47 deficit going into the final period.
”They got more aggressive, they got more pressure on the ball,” Brondello said. ”So we were playing on our back foot and not our front foot, being aggressive, which is what were doing in the first half and that’s what got us that lead.”
Atlanta rookie Shoni Schimmel, who won the WNBA All-Star Game MVP in the same arena on July 19, scored 13 points and had five assists off the bench. The US Airways Center crowd of 12,346, more than 3,000 more than the average, had plenty of fans of the Native American guard. Arizona has nearly 300,000 people who identified themselves in the last census as American Indian.
”It’s something about this gym, she loves it,” Atlanta assistant coach Karleen Thompson said. ”Not to mention the crowd, I mean everywhere we go, it’s great. It’s just great for the league.”
Head coach Michael Cooper did not make the trip while he continues to recover from tongue cancer treatment.
”I feel like we’re in a good position, we’re a great team, and I think people are underestimating us right now,” McCoughtry said. ”But that’s good so we can come out in the playoffs and do our damage.”
Penny Taylor added 13 points and eight assists for the Mercury, who have won a franchise-best 13 straight at home.
Atlanta went on a 16-2 run over the final 6:40 of the third quarter to take a 51-47 lead into the fourth. Phoenix was just 3-for-14 in the quarter and were outrebounded 15-5. Phoenix’s six points in the quarter were the fewest in a period all season.
”There are definitely things we want to clean up going into the postseason but we still have a long way to go,” Taurasi said. ”We have six games to really hone in on what we want to do and make sure we stay on top of the ladder. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Dupree had 16 points and five rebounds to lead Phoenix to a 41-29 lead at the break.
Griner’s nine blocks gave her 112 for the season, the third-best season total in league history with six games to play. She is just two shy of the single season record.
Tuesday’s game was the first of a four-game, six-day road trip.
The 2007 and 2009 Mercury teams went 23-11 during the regular season to set the franchise mark for wins.