Rising Mercury look to stay hot against Fever

National Sports

The Phoenix Mercury clinched a playoff spot on Saturday with an 87-65 win at the Indiana Fever.

Next on their agenda: Climbing into the top four seeds for the upcoming playoffs.

Phoenix (17-10) tries to take another step in that direction Monday night when it finishes its two-game series with Indiana (6-20) in Indianapolis.

The Mercury are just a game behind Seattle for fourth place and have two games in hand on the Storm. They also have a head-to-head meeting with Seattle on Sept. 17 — their penultimate game of the year — that could propel them into a better seeding.

Phoenix used a huge third quarter Saturday to win its eighth straight game. Trailing the Fever 44-40 at halftime, it uncorked a 36-9 surge that decided the game. Brittney Griner pumped in a game-high 22 points, while Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse each scored 14.

What’s more, the Mercury added another piece that could help them in the playoffs when Bria Hartley played for the first time in more than a year. Hartley hit a 3-pointer and committed a turnover in eight-plus minutes.

Hartley averaged 14.6 points and 4.5 assists last year before suffering a torn ACL on Aug. 28, 2020. Her return means Phoenix now has its projected core roster whole for the first time this year.

“Another handler out there that can finish plays,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said of Hartley, per the Arizona Republic. “That will be a good asset for us as we move forward.”

Meanwhile, Indiana (6-20) will probably need to win the rest of its games and get a lot of help to sneak into the eighth and final playoff spot. A more realistic goal for the Fever is to leave the league’s worst record with Atlanta, which is also 6-20.

Indiana received 18 points from Kelsey Mitchell and 17 from Tiffany Mitchell on Saturday, but shot only 36.4 percent from the field and coughed up 15 turnovers.

–Field Level Media

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