PHOENIX (AP) — Old Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” Bill Laimbeer and his New York Liberty tried to rough up the streaking Phoenix Mercury – with little success.
Brittney Griner scored 18 points and the Mercury tied the second-longest winning streak in WNBA history with their 15th straight victory, beating the Laimbeer-coached Liberty 78-63 on Saturday night.
“That `Bad Boy’ stuff, that’s dead in the water,” Mercury star Diani Taurasi said. “That doesn’t work anymore. That’s such `80s basketball, but I guess they keep it rolling like that.
“The physicality of the game is something we know is part of it. On occasion, we will look to get more physical, that’s fine, we just have to stick to what we are doing on a nightly basis.”
Griner got her first flagrant-1 foul in the fourth quarter. Phoenix responded with a 10-0 run to put the game away.
“They are going to try a lot of things, they are going to try to play physical, they are going to try and get in our heads, get us mad,” Griner said. “Keep a cool head and a hot game, keep playing like we did, just get the win.”
The Mercury (21-3) matched the 1998 Houston Comets with the victory and are three short of the league mark set by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001.
Griner also had eight rebounds and six blocks, and Taurasi added 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds for Phoenix, which clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Tina Charles had 20 points and seven rebounds to lead New York (10-14). The Liberty had won three in a row and six of their last eight.
“We played out of our game, it wasn’t our normal game,” Laimbeer said. “We just, for whatever reason, quick shooting, taking shots we don’t normally shoot, going one-on-one, not getting any offense. In the second half, we ran our stuff, got good looks. They just didn’t go in.”
Phoenix had a 20-point lead and was ahead by at least seven after the first quarter.
The Mercury held Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter to 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting. New York got within nine going into the final period but missed its first three shots in the fourth.
“We were just missing shots, we were all playing against Griner, we know what she’s capable of and we know that they’re a long team,” Pondexter said.
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello echoed her stars’ comments about staying mentally focused.
“Once we got our composure, we limited them to one shot per possession helps us get out and then we can execute on offense,” Brondello said.
New York made just 27 of 83 attempts from the field, including 1 of 12 from beyond the arc.
“We’re built on defense and we made a team shoot 32 percent on 83 shots, but just executing when we needed to,” Brondello said.
The have won by an average of 13.2 points during the winning streak.
Candice Dupree added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Penny Taylor had 10 points for Phoenix, which used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to open up a close game.
New York cut it to 25-20 early in the second, but the Mercury outscored the Liberty 22-10 the rest of the half as New York missed 11 of 15 shots during a key stretch.
New York used a 10-0 run of its own in the third quarter to get back in the game. Plenette Pierson’s free throw after Taurasi was hit with a technical foul cut the lead to 55-48 with three minutes left in the period. Phoenix led 60-51 going into the final quarter.
Phoenix has shot better than 50 percent in the last six games, making 31 of 60 on Saturday. That six-game run is a WNBA record, according to the team.
All five starters have led the team in scoring over the last five games and it has been the same starting lineup during the streak.
The Mercury’s last loss was a 96-95 setback at Connecticut on June 12.
Griner has 94 blocks on the season for a 3.9 average. The league season record is 114, set by Margo Dydek in 1998 for Utah.