Sky rout Phoenix in Griner's debut
PHOENIX — Elena Della Donne outplayed double-dunking Brittney Griner and had the third-best rookie debut in WNBA history, scoring 22 points to lead the Chicago Sky to a 102-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury on Monday.
The No. 2 overall pick behind Griner in this year's draft, Delle Donne had 16 points by halftime as the Sky raced out to a 24-point lead. She added eight rebounds and finished only behind Candace Parker's 34-point debut for Los Angeles in 2008 and the 25 Cynthia Cooper scored for Houston in 1997.
Griner became the third WNBA player to dunk and first to do it twice in one game. She had 17 points and eight rebounds, but was limited to two points in nine minutes because of fouls as Chicago built its big first-half lead.
The only other WNBA players to dunk during a game were Parker, who did it twice, and Lisa Leslie.
Epiphanny Prince had 26 points and five assists for the Sky.
Diana Taurasi had 18 points and four assists, and Candice Dupree added 15 points for Phoenix.
Griner came into the WNBA with expectations unlike any other player in league history.
With a wingspan of 7-foot-4 and agility more like a much smaller player, Griner blocked more shots than anyone in NCAA history, man or woman, and changed the below-the-rim perception of women's basketball with 18 dunks.
Griner turned a national spotlight toward the WNBA and the Mercury in particular, adding a big piece to a team already loaded with stars like Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Dupree.
Griner's debut had downtown Phoenix buzzing with people and created an atmosphere inside US Airways Center like it was a playoff game.
Griner got off to a good start, racing past Chicago's Sylvia Fowles for a tip-in on the game's first possession and swatting Prince on a drive to the basket.
Delle Donne was the better player after that.
Griner didn't take another shot in the first half after picking up her third foul with 2 1-2 minutes left in the first quarter and sat the rest of the way.
Delle Donne showed off her versatility, scoring on drives, pull-up jumpers and a couple of 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer, to score 16 points by halftime.
Phoenix also had no answer for Prince, who hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range and had 14 points by halftime.
Chicago, taking advantage of Phoenix's shoddy defense and poor rebounding, hit 23 of 39 shots — 6 of 10 from the arc — and turning six offensive rebounds into 11 points for a 56-32 halftime lead.
The Mercury started to play better in the third quarter.
Griner scored on a three-point play with a turnaround to start the second half and swatted a shot in the post by Delle Donne. She scored again inside after missing an attempted skyhook — a shot she learned from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — and Bonner hit a 3-pointer that cut Chicago's lead to 64-52 with 2 minutes left in the quarter.
It turned out to be too big of a hole to come back from.
Prince hit a couple more 3-pointers — one set up by a wicked crossover — and the Sky led 74-52 headed into the fourth quarter.
Griner brought the crowd to its feet with a one-handed dunk early in the fourth quarter and threw down a vicious two-hander — hanging on the rim for effect — after a turnover late, but Chicago was up by more than 20 at the time.
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