(photo via Twitter/PhoenixMercury)
Before the Olympic break, Brittney Griner spoke to the importance of how the high level of basketball in Tokyo will translate to their team’s performance in the second half of the WNBA season. With five members of the Phoenix Mercury representing their country in the Olympic tournament, this seemed like a good application for their players.
I asked Brittney (!!) how much playing in the Olympics in the middle of the W season helps for the second half: pic.twitter.com/nMZiSiCMxF— Crina Mustafa (@crinamm) June 22, 2021
In their first game back against the Atlanta Dream, the Mercury quickly jumped to a 16-point lead early in the first half. Griner had 8 of the Mercury’s first 12 points before she quieted down a bit in the second quarter. Skylar Diggins-Smith led the way with nine points and three assists before teammate Sophie Cunningham was able to make some key buckets. By the end of the first half, the Dream were able to score in transition and cut the lead to five.
Diggins-Smith continued to be the leader, getting the Mercury some easy buckets and drawing fouls.
The Atlanta Dream tried to hang around, but the Mercury were able to dial up a smothering defense and get some buckets to support their lead. Brittney Griner dominated with her size advantage on certain matchups, helping her muscle through on the offensive end after solid team defense led to a turnover. The Mercury gained momentum and that energy helped them close it out 92-81.
A small concern with Kia Nurse only shooting 2-6 was diminished when she made a clutch three near the end of the game. Overall, they shared the rock and their Olympians looked like they were still on Tokyo time (in the best way possible!). This is a good win for a Phoenix team that is trying to make a playoff push. With less than 10 games left until the end of the season, every single game counts.