DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree both scored 22 as the Phoenix Mercury pulled away in the final two minutes from the Connecticut Sun, 76-68, Saturday, after a highly competitive game.
Phoenix (15-13) continues to juggle with Seattle (15-14) for the third and fourth seeds in the Western Conference. Connecticut (7-22) meanwhile is now eliminated from playoff contention a year after falling to Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“One of the things we have to get in our head is this team has a target on its back,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said. “Rightfully so, we have good players. I want us to think that every night, we are going to get everyone’s best shot. Probably the biggest difference between professional basketball and college basketball is everybody has good players and records can be deceiving.”
The Mercury pouced on a nine-point lead in the first quarter, but the Sun came all the way back to tie it at 30-30 on a Mistie Bass layup with two minutes in the half.
Tan White put the Sun up on the next possession; then trailing by two, White sank a 27 footer at the buzzer to give Connecticut a 37-36 lead. White, who finished with 14, continued out of the break, hitting another three for the second half’s first points.
Midway through the third, with Connecticut up one, Bonner layed in one, then hit a three to give Phoenix a five-point edge. Bonner would have nine of her points in the third and would hit another critical three with 4:20 remaining in the game to give the Mercury a 65-64 lead.
With a 69-66 Phoenix lead, Brittney Griner posted one over Tina Charles to create a five-point advantage. Renee Montgomery missed a three on a possession that the Sun had to score on with a minute remaining. Charles fouled DianaTaurasi, and the league’s second-leading scorer iced the second of two from the line. Dupree scored in the paint with 30 seconds left for an eight-point lead, and the Sun was set.
“I just told them, I do not care if we win by one point, but we need to get the win and take care of the ball,” said Dupree who also had nine rebounds. “We extended our lead a little bit and were capable of getting the win.”
Sun center and reigning MVP Tina Charles grabbed seven rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 13 to go along with 16 points, her 17th double-double of the year. She collected 25 and 13 in the Mercury’s 89-70 win in June.
“I was more focused, when we played her earlier in the season, I guess I was still getting used to everything,” said Griner, who recorded six points, eight boards and four blocks, of the matchup with Charles.
Taurasi scored 10 with eight dimes, seven rebounds, and tied her career-high with five blocks. Before the game she was presented with a ring for winning the gold medal in London last year from USA Basketball’s Carol Callan.
Kelsey Griffin also swiped a career-high six steals for the Sun, and Iziane Castro Marques scored 11 points.
The Mercury hosts the San Antonio Silver Stars at 7 p.m. Friday, before embarking on a three-game East Coast road swing. Next, the Sun will host the Mystics on Friday.
“We need to win out on our home court, and win all of them on the road, that would be love,” Griner said. “I don’t care who our opponent is because when it’s time to go, we’ll take care of business.”