September 15, 2020
Brianna Turner holds the key to victory for the Mercury
The center was vital in both Phoenix wins over Washington this year
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PALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 9: Brianna Turner #21 of the Phoenix Mercury shoots the ball against the Connecticut Sun on September 9, 2020 at Feld EntertainmentCenter in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via GettyImages)
Brianna Turner has shown she can be dominant. Not just in the WNBA, but specifically against the Phoenix Mercury’s first-round playoff opponent. Does she need to be if the Mercury are to take the single-elimination game against the Washington Mystics on Tuesday?
“I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Turner said. “We know we have to execute the scouting report, know who their obviously go-to players are…. Obviously, it’s a playoff game, too, but we need to make sure we’re playing our game and not getting ahead of ourselves.”
The need for pressure may be lessened by the fact that the Mercury swept the Mystics in both of their two meetings this season. Turner was especially dominant in the first matchup, but it didn’t mean the team had an easy time of things.
On Aug. 23, Turner set what was then a career high when she grabbed 17 boards against Washington. She threw in nine points, three assists and three blocks for one of her strongest outings of the season.
Phoenix needed every bit of her contribution. The Mercury squeaked out a one-point victory that day to pull back to .500 and kick off a six-game winning streak.
After the league sat out a day to focus on social justice, the two teams matched up again in their next game five days later. Turner wasn’t as dominant, but her team was. The Mercury blew out the Mystics 94-72 that day even though their developing second-year player had a relatively limited six points and seven rebounds.
For the only time since Brittney Griner left the bubble for personal reasons, Turner was not the team’s leading rebounder. Fellow second-year player Alanna Smith took the honors that day with nine boards.
Turner isn’t going to let last year’s playoff experience get into her head, either. The Mercury limped into the 2019 playoffs without Diana Taurasi. Griner was injured during the first half of the match-up against the Chicago Sky, and the team fell apart in the second half.
Phoenix went out in the first round for the first time since the WNBA changed its playoff format.
“The season’s a lot different from last season — circumstances, teams,” Turner said. “So, regardless of what happened last year, we know how we want to come out this year.”
The Mercury announced on Monday that Griner would not return for the playoffs. But with Brianna Turner in place, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.