Mercury-Shock Preview

Mercury-Shock Preview

Published Sep. 18, 2015 3:03 p.m. ET

If the Phoenix Mercury can execute this formula throughout the postseason, a second straight WNBA title could be a very realistic goal.

Looking to duplicate the suffocating defensive and efficient offensive performances that gave them a blowout in Game 1, the Mercury head to Tulsa looking to put away the Shock in the Western Conference semifinals Saturday night.

After receiving the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year trophy prior to the game, Brittany Griner delivered 11 blocks - a league playoff record - along with 18 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes to lead the Mercury to an 88-55 rout Thursday.

Griner, who led the league in blocks with 105, broke her own single-game postseason record and shot 5 for 7 from the field and 8 for 9 on free throws. Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner and reserve Leilani Mitchell (12 points, team-high six assists) also scored in double figures for the Mercury, who shot 54.8 percent while limiting the Shock to 26.0.


''We are hitting our peak at the right time and that's what you want going into the playoffs, feeling good about yourself,'' coach Sandy Brondello said. ''It all starts with defense with me.''

Phoenix's bench also delivered 32 points in extended action, allowing Griner and the other starters plenty of rest before Game 2.

"I think our team is really deep and we have a lot of people that can come in and contribute," Mitchell told the Mercury's official website. "Today, everyone played to their strengths and did their job and we need to keep that up throughout the playoffs."

Tulsa, which trailed by 30 at halftime, will have to find a way to neutralize Griner's effectiveness in the paint in order to get back into the series.

No one has a bigger role to play in doing that than Shock starting center and two-time defending league rebounding champion Courtney Paris, who went 1 of 5 from the field for three points, grabbed seven rebounds - more than two below her average - and committed three fouls Thursday.

She'll need to be more active - and perhaps physical - against Griner on Saturday.

''We just have to shoot the ball better,'' Tulsa coach Fred Williams said. ''Brittney was just on rhythm. She's a hard guard for any team in this league and we know that. So we just have to continue to find ways to get her away from the rim.''

Odyssey Sims led Tulsa with 18 points but went 7 of 21 from the field. Jordan Hooper shot 3 of 10 (14 points and six rebounds) and Plenette Pierson went 5 of 16 (10 points, six boards).

Williams' team also needs to be better on the glass, as it was outrebounded 43-37.

If there's a source of optimism for the Shock as they look to avoid elimination, it might stem from their home court. Tulsa took two of three from Phoenix there this year, most recently closing out their regular season schedule with a 91-87 home victory over the Mercury on Sunday.

Phoenix hasn't lost a first-round playoff series since 2000 and is 10-1 in playoff series after winning the first game.