WNBA: Improved Mercury set for back-to-back vs. Lynx
Having emerged from a long losing streak that came to an end earlier this month, the Phoenix Mercury will play host to the slumping Minnesota Lynx for the first game of a home-and-home series between the teams.
Phoenix (6-10) comes into Tuesday’s matchup having regrouped from a seven-game losing skid May 17-June 3, winning four of its six games since. The Mercury dropped their last outing, however, 93-88 at Dallas on Friday in the finale of a four-game road swing.
Tina Charles scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the loss, while Skylar Diggins-Smith went for 21 points and 10 assists, but the duo could not lead Phoenix out of a deep first-half hole.
The Mercury’s ongoing issues with depth were reflected in the Wings’ 12-5 run to end the game. Teaira McCowan played a critical role for the Wings with 18 points in 25 minutes off the bench, pacing the Dallas reserves, who had 23 total points.
Phoenix got just nine points total from its reserves — all from Shey Peddy. No other Mercury back-up played more than three minutes.
Phoenix continues to play without Brittney Griner, the seven-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion, who has been detained in Russia since February. Members of the Mercury met with State Department officials during the team’s road trip to discuss the process of having Griner released and returned to the U.S.
“We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives,” the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi said in a statement. “We want (Griner) to come home as soon as possible; it’s No. 1 on our list.”
While Griner’s absence leaves a void on the court, and while her safety weighs on her teammates’ minds, competition continues. Next up for Phoenix are two games against last-place Minnesota.
The Lynx (3-13) dropped their fifth straight game Sunday in a 96-95 heartbreaker against league-leading Las Vegas. The loss was Minnesota’s third straight by four points or fewer and second in a row by one possession.
Minnesota coughed up a second-half lead of 14 points but rallied from down five in the closing moments to have a chance at forcing overtime.
Jessica Shepard scored on the final play, but her buzzer-beating basket was a 2-pointer, while Minnesota needed a 3-pointer to extend the contest.
“Jess feels bad about that, but she played a hell of a game,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “If not for her 22 (points) and 19 (rebounds) we’re not in the game.
Shepard complimented 23 points and seven assists from Moriah Jefferson. Shepard has helped fill the void of former MVP Sylvia Fowles, who is out indefinitely with a right knee injury.
–Field Level Media