The Phoenix Mercury are at their best when they have a third scorer to complement DeWanna Bonner and Britney Griner. Whether that could be Diana Taurasi for Friday night's game against the Indiana Fever is yet to be determined, but they may have found another option in Leilani Mitchell.
The Mercury (3-5) are still waiting on Taurasi - the WNBA's all-time leading scorer - to make her season debut after undergoing back surgery in April. She has been practicing with the team the past two weeks but was held out of Sunday's 82-72 win over Los Angeles as the medical staff continued to take a cautious approach with the 37-year-old.
Enter Mitchell, who was cut by the Mercury last month to stay under the cap but then re-signed to provide depth for the expected departure of Yvonne Turner to play for Hungary in the EuroBasket tournament in Serbia. Mitchell got her first start Sunday and responded with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the Mercury improved to 3-0 when they have at least three scorers reach double figures.
"She controls the tempo of the game, she understands everything I want to run," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello told the Arizona Republic. "She created offense just by pushing the ball and running. She's crafty."
Mitchell is averaging 11.8 points while shooting 47.2 percent (17 for 36) from 3-point range. Taurasi's status for this game is unknown after taking a leave of absence Tuesday and Wednesday for personal reasons. Bonner and Griner, who combined for 29 points and 16 rebounds, continue to be 1-2 in scoring for Phoenix.
Bonner is averaging a league-high 20.9 points while Griner is contributing 16.4 per contest. The duo totaled 51 points in Phoenix's 94-87 win at Indiana on June 9 in which Mitchell chipped in 17 off the bench and shot 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Indiana (5-7) is opening a set of games on back-to-back nights and trying to avoid a third straight loss. The Fever were again denied in their bid to match their 2018 win total with Tuesday's 78-74 loss to Minnesota.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 17 points as Indiana made a furious second-half rally to erase a 22-point deficit - the largest comeback in club history - but the Fever were unable to sustain the charge as the Lynx regrouped and regained control with a 10-0 burst in a 4:09 span of the fourth quarter.
"You get tired of the same song and dance," Mitchell told the Indianapolis Star while refusing to use the team's logistical travel issues as an excuse. "You get tired of coming out flat, finishing the first half flat and having to play catch up is tough."
Erica Wheeler added 13 points and rookie Teaira McCowan chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds. McCowan, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, had all sorts of issues trying to guard Griner in the first meeting as the Mercury center hit 11 of 21 shots. McCowan, though, has averaged 9.8 points and 10.4 rebounds in her last five games while recording a pair of double-doubles.