Following Brittney Griner’s sentencing in Russia to nine years in prison Thursday, WNBA players, coaches and fans locked arms and tried to send the American basketball star strength during a moment of silence.
“Nobody wanted to even play today,” Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who scored 16 points to lead the Mercury. “How are you supposed to approach the game and court with a clear mind? The whole group is crying before the game. You try to honour her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not. Right now we still got to try and keep her spirit alive. Honour her spirit.”
The Mercury watched the verdict together in the morning right before the team had their pregame shoot-around.
“I mean it’s like you’re waiting for a bomb to drop watching it seeing her behind bars,” Mercury guard Diamond DeShields said.
Diggins added that it was “a helpless feeling. It’s heavy.”
42 second moment of silence for Brittney Griner🧡 <a href=”https://t.co/JblA02BiJP”>pic.twitter.com/JblA02BiJP</a>
“Obviously it’s devastating,” said DeShields. “You can’t say anything other than that. I know personally I’m really proud to be part of this group and the way they showed up and came out and played. We approached the game tonight with a heavy heart as we have every game this season.”
Sun coach Curt Miller wore a “WE ARE BG” t-shirt.
Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and a eight-time WNBA all-star, was convicted of drug possession and smuggling by Judge Anna Sotnikova.
She was sentenced for nearly a decade in a politically charged case that could lead to a high-stakes prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.
Griner showed little emotion to the sentence, but her lawyers said later she was “very upset, very stressed.”
Two teams, one mission: Bring her home 💜<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreeBG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FreeBG</a>|<a href=”https://twitter.com/PhoenixMercury?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@PhoenixMercury</a> <a href=”https://t.co/JbULLNahYa”>pic.twitter.com/JbULLNahYa</a>
U.S. President Joe Biden denounced as “unacceptable” the verdict and sentence, which came amid soaring tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine. Griner had told the court she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil when she flew to Moscow to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.
While her short-handed WNBA team played without her on the road, Jonquel Jones had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Brionna Jones added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Sun.
Phoenix (13-19) was also without Diana Taurasi, who didn’t play due to a leg injury, for the first time this season.
Courtney Williams scored 11 points and Alyssa Thomas had nine points, 13 rebounds and six assists for Connecticut (22-10). The Sun also beat Phoenix 87-63 on Tuesday.
McCowan leads Wings to last-second victory over Aces
Teaira McCowan made a go-ahead layup with 11.4 seconds left to help the Dallas Wings beat the Las Vegas Aces 82-80 on Thursday night.
Kelsey Plum sank a 3-pointer with 1:11 left to pull Las Vegas to 80-78 and after a Dallas miss, Chelsea Gray made a jumper from the free-throw line to tie it at 80. Dallas guard Tyasha Harris dribbled down the clock before driving into the lane and finding a wide open McCowan under the basket with 11.4 seconds remaining.
LOUD! NOISES! <a href=”https://t.co/Ws6WtiLxPk”>pic.twitter.com/Ws6WtiLxPk</a>
Las Vegas struggled to get into its offence and called a timeout with 3.8 seconds to go. Then Gray found a wide open A’ja Wilson in the paint, but her layup rolled off the rim as time expired.
McCowan finished with 21 points and a season-high 16 rebounds for Dallas (15-16), which was without leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale for a second straight game. Marina Mabrey and Harris each scored 15 points.
Gray made five 3-pointers and scored a season-high 28 points for Las Vegas (22-10), which lost consecutive games for just the third time this season. Jackie Young scored 19 points, Plum had 15 points and seven assists, and Wilson had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Players from Las Vegas and Dallas locked arms before the game to honour Griner.
We Are BG 🧡 <a href=”https://t.co/LbOt0JIgPl”>pic.twitter.com/LbOt0JIgPl</a>