WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — The Phoenix Mercury are nearly completely healthy, and that’s opened up many more opportunities for Brittney Griner.
Griner had 29 points and 14 rebounds, Leilani Mitchell added a career-high 29 points and Phoenix beat the New York Liberty 95-82 on Tuesday night, moving the Mercury a step closer to the playoffs.
“I’m just hooping. Just trying to hoop every night the best I can. I’m feeling real comfortable out there. Not thinking, just letting it flow,” Griner said.
Phoenix’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot was reduced to one. The Liberty were eliminated from postseason contention.
Diana Taurasi, who was playing her second game since returning from a hamstring injury, had only two points, missing all seven of her shots. She did have 10 assists and four rebounds for the Mercury (14-15).
“Anytime you can add a player like Diana, the team will get better. Her legs aren’t under her, but you can see how she creates easier looks with her passing ability and leadership,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.
Phoenix, which had 11 of its 12 players healthy for one of the first times this season, got a scare when Griner went down holding her knee in the first quarter. After a few moments, she skipped off the court and was tended to on the bench. She re-entered the game in the second quarter.
“It was knee to knee. My body went one way and my knee went the other way,” Griner said.
Griner finished the first half with 19 points as Phoenix led 49-46 at the break. New York led 63-59 in the third quarter before Camille Little scored seven straight points for the Mercury. The teams traded the lead with the Liberty taking their final one of the game on Kia Nurse’s 3-pointer with 2:12 left in the third. Phoenix scored the final eight points of the quarter, including the last four by Mitchell.
“Griner’s playing her tail off,” Liberty coach Katie Smith said. “Griner’s a tough matchup. We gave her a couple easy looks. She’s going to hit some shots over you. Griner we can have 29, Leilani we can’t.”
New York (9-21) couldn’t get much closer in the final quarter.
“We competed, but again it’s similar to the whole season. We compete, but too many mistakes,” Smith said. “We have these little gaps and they jump out to the lead and that’s all she wrote.”
Amanda Zahui B. and Bria Hartley each scored 18 points for the Liberty, who were playing in front of owner Joe Tsai. He was sitting courtside.
Mercury: At Atlanta on Thursday night.
Liberty: Host Connecticut on Friday night.