WASHINGTON (AP) — With her team tied at halftime and struggling to rebound, Brittney Griner got some specific orders.
“Don’t worry about your shot,” Griner said coach Sandy Brondello told her. “Just go get boards.”
Griner eventually did both, scoring 14 of her 20 points and grabbing six of her seven rebounds after halftime as the Phoenix Mercury pulled away to an 81-66 victory over the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.
Diana Taurasi added 13 points and 10 assists in her first double-double of the year for Phoenix (6-2), which has won two straight and is 2-1 so far on a five-game road trip.
Candice Dupree scored 18 points and DeWanna Bonner added 14 for the Mercury, who were outrebounded 24-12 in the first half three days after a double-overtime victory at San Antonio.
“These are the games you have to grind out,” said Taurasi, who came within one of her career-high assist total. “These are games that when you look back on when you’re in the playoffs, you can take something from the game when you’re not playing well and you can find a way to turn it around and get going.”
Emma Meesseman scored a career-high 14 points for Washington (4-5), which has lost three straight and its last two at home.
No other player scored in double figures for the Mystics, who are now just 2-4 at Verizon Center but 2-1 on the road.
“Fortunately we’ve been lucky to get some wins on the road,” said Monique Currie, who scored nine points. “But we’ve got to take care of home and we’ve got to figure out how to win in front of our fans.”
The Mystics also need to solve their third-quarter woes, after getting outscored there for the seventh straight game. Dupree and Griner each hit two baskets as the Mercury opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take a 47-37 lead.
Washington coach Mike Thibault responded by calling timeout and temporarily substituting all five players on the floor with 5:45 left in the third.
“Message delivered,” Thibault said of the move. “We’ll see if it’s received the right way.”
The Mystics answered with their own 9-2 run to close within 58-53, keyed by Currie’s 3-pointer and then 20-foot jumper.
But the Mercury quickly pushed their lead to 12 again, with Dupree’s leaner making it 66-54, and then led by at least eight the rest of the way.
Thibault hinted dissatisfaction with officiating after the game, saying “Phoenix is really good, and apparently they don’t foul.”
Taurasi, whose team committed 11 fouls to Washington’s 19, had a different take.
“I think we were attacking a little bit more to the hoop,” she said. “This league, usually, the aggressor gets the call, that’s just the bottom line.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.