Mercury fall to Sparks in Brittney Griner’s return

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix star Brittney Griner scored a team-high 18 points in her return to the WNBA, but the host Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Mercury 94-71 in the season opener for both teams on Friday.

Griner, playing for the first time after missing all of last season while detained in a Russian prison on drug-related charges, helped the Mercury race to an 11-point lead during the first quarter.

However, rookie first-round draft choice Zia Cooke triggered a 35-point second quarter that gave the Sparks control with a 13-point halftime lead. Los Angeles expanded the margin to 25 points in the third quarter.

Nneka Ogwumike scored 17, Chiney Ogwumike had 15, Lexie Brown and Cooke scored 14 each and Karlie Samuelson had 13 as Los Angeles won former Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller’s debut.

Moriah Jefferson logged 16 points, Diana Taurasi put up 15 and Sug Sutton had 10 for Phoenix. Griner added six rebounds and four blocked shots in 25 minutes. The Mercury committed 22 turnovers, and the Sparks gave the ball away just seven times.

Griner made her first two shots and added an assist, three defensive rebounds, an offensive rebound and a block during the first three minutes as the Mercury took a 9-0 lead.

Nneka Ogwumike’s layup produced the Sparks’ first points.

Phoenix led by 11 points twice before Brown and Samuelson made consecutive 3-pointers during a 10-run that trimmed the lead to one point. Taurasi’s layup with 4.1 seconds left gave the Mercury a 22-19 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Cooke’s three-point play started the second-quarter scoring and produced the first of three ties during the first three minutes of the period.

Los Angeles scored 24 points during the final 6 1/2 minutes of the second quarter to take a 54-41 halftime lead. Cooke finished the half with a team-high 14 points after making all five of her field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers.

–Field Level Media

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