Griner helps Mercury beat Sparks for 28th win
PHOENIX (AP) It's already been a special weekend for Brittney Griner, and if things go well on Sunday, that's just a bonus.
The All-Star center celebrated her Instagram-publicized engagement with a strong performance, scoring a team-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the Phoenix Mercury's 76-69 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night that tied the WNBA record for wins.
News broke of Griner's engagement to Tulsa Shock star Glory Johnson on Friday night and Griner had a wide smile when asked about it.
''Yeah, I'm off the market. I became a very happy person,'' Griner said. ''It was a good day, and today was a good day because we got the win. ''
The Mercury (28-5), who close the regular season at Seattle on Sunday night, matched the wins mark previously accomplished by Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001, and the Storm in 2010. Phoenix also extended its franchise-record home winning streak to 15 games.
''We're going to go into Seattle and (try to) win that game,'' Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. ''We're going to go for the record. Now that we've gotten this far, might as well.''
Candice Dupree scored 10 points and reserve forward Mistie Bass had 10 points and 11 rebounds as the Mercury back-ups combined for 32 points. Brondello was able to give her starters the entire fourth quarter off.
Sparks All-Star Candace Parker did not play after scoring 24 points Friday night against Seattle. She left the US Airways Center with an ice wrap around her left knee.
Jantel Lavender led Los Angeles (16-18) with 22 points. The Sparks, third in the Western Conference, can drop to the No. 4 seed if San Antonio beats Chicago on Sunday in its finale.
The Mercury trailed for only 18 seconds of the game, at 7-6 in the first quarter, before scoring the next 10 points. Phoenix led by 14 at the end of the period were up 52-32 at halftime.
The Sparks pulled to 61-50 after consecutive Mercury turnovers and Lindsey Harding's free throw to end the third quarter. Los Angeles cut it to 70-67 on Armintie Herrington's layup with 46 seconds to go.
But the Mercury had built up enough of a lead to prevent a full comeback, despite the Sparks' late rally.
''You're up by 20, there's no use drilling our starters into the ground,'' Brondello said. ''We won in the end.''
The Mercury open the WNBA playoffs on Friday at home against either the Sparks or Stars. Los Angeles lost all five games to Phoenix in the regular season. A loss by San Antonio on Sunday will give the Sparks the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup with defending champion Minnesota, which won three of four against Los Angeles.
''The bottom line is, everybody's beatable,'' Sparks coach Penny Toler said. ''(The Mercury) do put their shoes on like everyone else, right?''