Diana Taurasi’s hiatus along with Brittney Griner’s suspension and subsequent return garnered the majority of headlines for the defending champion Phoenix Mercury.
DeWanna Bonner, meanwhile, has been putting up big numbers all along.
Bonner and the Mercury look to stay hot Friday night against the host Seattle Storm in the opener of a home-and-home set.
Taurasi is taking this season off for rest after guiding Phoenix (6-5) to another WNBA title, and the club was further hampered by Griner’s seven-game suspension over an offseason domestic violence incident involving former partner Glory Johnson of Tulsa.
Bonner took her role as the first option in stride during Griner’s absence and has continued to shine. She ranks third in the league at 18.4 points per game after netting 22 in Sunday’s 94-91 overtime win over Los Angeles for her sixth 20-point performance.
Candice Dupree added 21 and assisted on Leilani Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in the extra session as Phoenix won its third straight contest. Griner finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Griner is averaging 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks to help the Mercury win three of four since her return.
"(We’re) getting better," coach Sandy Brondello said. "The addition of (Griner) certainly helps us. We’re taking better high-percentage shots and we’ve been trying to just play faster. We need our defense to start our offense, but we weren’t really getting enough offense in that early transition phase. We’re still working on it, but we’ve made steps forward."
Griner still was serving her suspension when Bonner scored a season-high 23 in an 84-72 win at Seattle on June 21 – one of four double-digit defeats for the Storm (3-10) during a dismal 1-8 stretch.
Seattle surrendered 24 points on a season-high 23 turnovers in Wednesday’s 88-65 loss to Indiana to finish winless on a three-game trip. Jewell Loyd, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, scored a team-high 15 off the bench and is averaging 13.6 in her last five.
Sue Bird had six points while hitting 2 of 8 from the field, though, and Crystal Langhorne scored eight. The Storm averaged just 62.0 points on the trip.
"I think just overall we’ve run out of gas," coach Jenny Boucek told the team’s official website. "We’ve been on the road a lot, haven’t had a chance to rest or practice in a while. We played against a really good team that’s playing really well. Just didn’t have enough to battle them."
Langhorne had 13 points in the first meeting with the Mercury, while Bird and Alysha Clark finished with 11 apiece.
Phoenix, which hosts Seattle on Sunday, has won the last six matchups by an average of 15.8 points.