There will be no battle of elite centers sequel on Sunday in St. Paul, Minn.
Brittney Griner, Phoenix’s star center, will miss three to four weeks after being injured Friday in the fourth quarter of the Mercury’s 88-71 home loss to the Minnesota Lynx.
The two teams meet again on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
Griner, the WNBA’s leading scorer (22.3 points per game), sustained “a left knee bone bruise and a right ankle sprain,” according to the team’s website.
Griner left the game with 8:49 left. She had 15 points and four rebounds for the Mercury.
Angel Robinson is expected to replace Griner in the starting lineup. The 6-foot-6 Robinson had eight rebounds in her debut, a June 30 loss to Minnesota.
“I love rebounding and defense,” Robinson told the paper. “We have a great offensive team with BG (Griner) and Diana Taurasi. It’s just do your part and don’t overdo it.”
“All the post players have to step up,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello told the Arizona Republic. “No one person is going to replace Brittney. We need all three of them to bring different looks and rebounding every single game. It’s a great opportunity for Angel. She’s still trying to find her feet and get more integrated into our system. That will happen the more court time she gets.
“I believe in this team. We have enough depth, but we’re replacing a pretty special player. The next few games will tell. These girls will compete hard. Hopefully we can hang in there until BG gets back. That’s all we can do.”
Friday’s loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Mercury (11-7), who had not lost since the previous matchup with the Lynx.
Minnesota’s elite center, Sylvia Fowles, had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
“The physicality that she receives every night, the attention that she’s going to draw because of how well she’s playing, it’s much harder than it even appears for you to keep your head in those situations,” teammate Maya Moore said of Fowles, according to the Star Tribune. “We always try to be there for her and remind her, ‘It’s going to come, it’s going to come.’ That’s just a testament of who she is.”
The Lynx (14-2) bounced back from their second loss of the season — a 100-76 thrashing at Chicago that came on the heels of their showdown win over the Los Angeles Sparks, who beat Minnesota in last season’s WNBA Finals.
“After our disappointing effort last weekend, we just got back to the basics,” Moore told the Star Tribune, “and really just … reminded ourselves of who we are in some of the staples on defense.”
Minnesota now has nine straight wins against Phoenix. The Lynx hold a two-game advantage in the Western Conference over second-place Los Angeles, with the Mercury another two games back in third.
Both teams play Wednesday — Phoenix at home against Indiana, Minnesota hosting Dallas — prior to next weekend’s All-Star break.