Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree were too much for the Mystics, as the duo dominated from the outset, to the point of not having to play in the fourth quarter.
Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner led the Mercury to their 10th winning season as a franchise with dominant performances in a 73-53 win against the Mystics.
The 20-point win came not even a week after the Mystics handed Phoenix a 71-63 loss in Washington last Friday.
“We shouldn’t have lost that game in Washington,” Mercury forward Dupree said. “I think we gave it away—too many turnovers, just not playing smart of the defensive end. So we jumped on them early, opened the lead a little bit going into the half and then in the third quarter I think we went on a 21-7 run, so we probably had our best third quarter all season.”
“They were more aggressive today,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said of Phoenix. “I thought their defense was a little bit more active today than it was when we played them last week; that was probably the biggest part of it.”
Phoenix (18-13) outscored Washington (16-13) 21-7 in the third quarter and built as much as a 27-point lead. The takeover began late in the second quarter as the Mercury put together a 15-2 run.
Dupree, who finished with 18 points, and Griner, who added 16, throttled that run. Dupree finished 8-of-9 from the floor.
The Mercury excelled from the floor, shooting 55.4 percent on 31-of-56 while the Mystics finished 31.1 percent. Phoenix shot as high as 61.3 percent during its hot third quarter.
But it was their defense that was the game changer.
“It’s how we need to play, it’s how we execute it,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said of her team’s defensive effort. “Maybe everyone just focuses a little more and that’s what it comes down to—we haven’t changed a lot of things. I thought we did a good job trapping. I thought our rotation was exceptional. We just played good team defense. To be the best team you have to play great defense.”
Griner said it was that team defense that fueled the offensive end. Phoenix’s success came mostly from inside per usual, outscoring Washington 42-14 in the paint. The Mystics also tallied 21 assists on 31 field goals.
“It was not a good game for us. They were just way more aggressive than us and they wanted it more,” Mystics forward Emma Meesseman said. “They showed us that there are never two games that are the same. We won the first one and they showed us that we have to keep our feet on the ground and re-focus.”
Meesseman and LaToya Sanders each had 10 points for the Mystics. Stefanie Dolson was held to just two points and Ivory Latta eight.
Tayler Hill returned for the Mystics from an ankle injury and finished with three points. Kara Lawson remained inactive with a back injury.
The Mercury trail conference leader Minnesota by 2.5 games and lead Tulsa by two games in the race to clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Mystics need just one win to clinch a playoff berth.