The Phoenix Mercury seized control early and survived a late charge to extend their winning streak to five games with a 106-79 rout of the host New York Liberty on Wednesday night.
Star center Brittney Griner collected 26 points and nine rebounds before injuring an ankle in the final minutes.
The seven-time All Star was injured when she defended a shot by New York’s DiDi Richards with 1:38 remaining. Richards missed the shot, Griner was hurt while jostling for the rebound and fell on Richards’ foot.
After staying down for a few minutes, Griner was helped to the locker room by two teammates.
The 2019 scoring champion’s injury marred an otherwise outstanding showing for Phoenix (14-10), which closed out its ninth win in 12 games by scoring the final 17 points over the last four-plus minutes.
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Griner went 11 of 17 from the field as the Mercury shot 56.6 percent overall. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith followed up a superb 25-point performance on Saturday to lead all scorers with 27 after hitting 10 of 16 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
Diana Taurasi contributed 21 points and nine assists for the Mercury.
Betnijah Laney scored 20 points and Richards added 14, but the Liberty (11-15) lost for the fourth time in five games since the Olympic break.
New York shot 37.8 percent overall, missed 23 of 36 3-point attempts and received subpar performances from Rebecca Allen (12 points), Sabrina Ionescu (10) and Natasha Howard (seven), who were a combined 9 of 40 from the field.
Despite this, New York ended the third with an 18-6 run to get within 82-69. They were within 89-79 on a jumper by Laney with 4:43 left in the game before Phoenix surged ahead again.
Diggins-Smith scored 12 and combined with Griner to shoot 8 of 8 from the floor as the Mercury made 15 of 20 shots, including all 13 tries inside the 3-point line and held a 35-19 lead after a blistering start in the opening quarter.
New York scored the first seven points of the second to get within 35-26 on a jumper by Laney with 8:13 remaining.
Phoenix countered by taking a 48-33 lead on Griner’s reverse layup with 3:34 left, but Howard’s 3-pointer made it 48-38 with 2:30 left before the Mercury held a 55-42 lead at halftime.
The Liberty’s defeat allowed the second-place Las Vegas Aces (17-7) to clinch a playoff berth.
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