Brittney Griner bounced back from a poor performance and helped show why the Phoenix Mercury are such a dominant team.
Griner scored a career playoff-high 21 points, including a breakaway two-handed dunk, and Phoenix cruised to a 93-68 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 2 on Sunday night to complete a sweep in their Western Conference semifinals series.
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Penny Taylor scored 17 points and Candice Dupree had 16 points and eight rebounds as Phoenix, which had a league-record 29 wins during the regular season, advanced to a matchup against defending champion Minnesota in the West finals.
Griner bounced back from a 2-for-11 shooting effort in the opener to go 9 for 9 from the field, setting a WNBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss.
"I played (terrible) that game, and I didn’t help my team at all," Griner said of Game 1. "I definitely wanted to come out and establish myself down in the paint and help my team out. The coaches did a good job getting us ready and letting us know that we definitely needed to bring it here in L.A. I think we did that."
Griner’s dunk midway through the third quarter stretched Phoenix’s lead to 25 points. It was the second-year star’s fifth career dunk, giving her nearly half of the 11 dunks in WNBA history.
"That’s what I do," Griner joked. "I dunk."
Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello went over video with Griner after Game 1 on position, but said it was mostly a change in her mindset.
"I thought tonight she really established herself deep in the paint, and when she’s that deep it’s really hard for teams to bring that trap because she can go automatically into that shot," Brondello said. "For Brittney, I knew she was ready to go. She told me. For a young player, she’s mentally tough, and that’s a great attribute to her."
Griner’s effort helped overcame an off game from teammate Diana Taurasi, who finished with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting after scoring a playoff career-high 34-points in Game 1.
Candace Parker scored 21 points to lead the Sparks, and Nneka Ogwumike had 14 points and six rebounds. It was the third straight season the Sparks were eliminated on their home floor and the third time in six seasons they were eliminated by Phoenix.
It also was the end of a drama-filled season for the Sparks, who changed ownership in February and fired coach Carol Ross at the All-Star break. Their elimination came in front of owner Magic Johnson, who led the group that bought the team.
"Obviously we’re disappointed (with the loss)," Parker said. "We didn’t know where we were going to be in January. We didn’t know if we were going to have a team (or if) we were going to be in L.A. We had no idea. Rome isn’t built in a day. We realize that with this group coming in — they’ve built the (Los Angeles) Dodgers, and the Dodgers are doing well. We feel like they can do the same for us."
The Mercury never trailed and led 24-8 with 4:16 remaining in the first quarter. The lead was 21 late in the final minute of the second quarter before the Sparks cut it to 52-33 at halftime.
The Mercury led by double digits the entire second half.