INDIANAPOLIS — The Mercury took down the Fever by outscoring Indiana 55-34 in the second half to take a 101-82 win on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
All-Star center Brittney Griner was able to assert her interior dominance early and often against Indiana, as the center registered 36 points on 14-21 from the field and 8-13 from the free throw line. She also added 12 rebounds on the night.
“She’s one of the best in the world at her position,” said Fever head coach Pokey Chatman of the Mercury’s 6-foot, 9-inch center. “She’s one of those players that, you can send a double team, but if it’s really deep she doesn’t see it, she may feel it because she’s 6-8, but when she releases it she’s about 7-5, maybe 7-7. But you can’t compound that by sending her to the line… She’s tough for everyone. You can do everything right and she can still get her numbers.”
Phoenix also received contributions from guard Diana Taurasi who had a near triple-double with 22 points including 5-9 from beyond the arc, with eight rebounds and seven assists. Forward DeWanna Bonner added 14 points, which catapulted her to over 4,000 points in her WNBA career. She also added six assists and six rebounds in the victory.
Forward Candice Dupree had a season-high 23 points, moving her into ninth all-time on the WNBA’s scorers list, surpassing Becky Hammon. Dupree also leaped Fever great Tamika Catchings on the WNBA all-time made field goals list, where she now resides having made the third most FGs in league history.
Newly acquired guard Cappie Pondexter drew the second start of her stint with the Fever, dropping in 17 points on a variety of isolation sets and pull up jumpers over the Phoenix backcourt.
“We just did a good job of getting into those spots,” said Pondexter. “Those soft spots where me and Dupree could kind of play mismatch, play chess. We know that I could draw two off a screen and role, if not then I can pick and pop with her. I think that’s where we can be really successful. Pokey does a great job of setting up a lot of isolation plays off of players that can play a 2-man game.”
In her second appearance of the season off the bench, guard Tiffany Mitchell had 12 points for the Fever.
Griner and Bonner were the driving force for Phoenix in the first quarter, as the duo combined to shoot 7-10 from the field for 19 of the Mercury’s 26 first quarter points. Dupree and Vivians attempted to match the duo with an offensive showing of their own, as Dupree scored eight of Indiana’s first 10 points and Vivians scored seven straight for Indiana.
However, Bonner got in the final say of the quarter, as the 6-foot, 4-inch forward made three jumpers in the final minutes of the first to give Phoenix a 26-17 lead at the end of the quarter.
Taurasi opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and secured her second basket of the contest moments later on a driving layup. During this stretch, Phoenix took a 13-point lead, 34-21, which was their largest lead of the first half.
Indiana’s veterans answered back, as Erica Wheeler found her way into the paint for a layup, Tiffany Mitchell found a pair of second chance points, and Pondexter canned a 3-pointer to cut the Phoenix lead to just 34-28.
Griner would score the next four points for Phoenix before Indiana ended the quarter on a 18-6 run to seize their first lead since midway through the first quarter. Indiana’s comeback was led by Dupree, who had 14 first half points as Indiana took a 48-46 lead into halftime.
“Getting into the paint, attacking them,” said Dupree on what worked for Indiana in the second quarter. “We know how they were going to guard ball screens, so we were just trying to get [Brittney Griner] in as many ball screens as possible, probe their defense, kick the ball out, it was working for us.”
Phoenix stormed back to start the second half, as the Mercury used a combination of 3-pointers, of which they shot 5-10 in the third to retake the lead with a 30-21 advantage in the third quarter. Phoenix took a 76-69 lead into the final 10 minutes.
The Mercury applied even more heat in the fourth, taking as large as a game high 22-point lead in the game’s final minutes to secure the win on the road.
“We talked to the team about competing for 40 minutes,” said Chatman. “I thought for about maybe three quarters we did, I’m not talking about the first three, but within the 40-minute game, 30 minutes. Can’t do that with any team in this league, let alone a team that’s coming off three consecutive losses, with three All-Stars, and some Olympians.”
Indiana’s next matchup is with the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday afternoon (1:00 pm) at the Target Center.
Candice Dupree put up a season-high 23 points and pulled down nine boards as the Fever took on the Mercury.
In her second start with the Fever, Cappie Pondexter scored a season-high 17 points against the Mercury.