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Shock-Mercury Preview

AP - Sports

After losing two of their best players to injury, the slumping Phoenix Mercury could be in for an even rougher road ahead.

Corey Gaines, however, won't be around to see it.

Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner are uncertain to be available as the Mercury host the Tulsa Shock on Friday night in their first game since Gaines was fired as coach and general manager.

Phoenix (10-11) went into this season with high expectations after adding Griner to a roster that featured star players Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree. The Mercury, though, have a one-half game lead over Seattle for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, and Gaines was relieved of his roles on Thursday.

Former University of Arizona coach Russ Pennell will serve as interim coach and President and CEO Amber Cox will be interim GM.

Phoenix was dealt an enormous blow in an 80-65 loss to the Storm on Tuesday, losing Griner to an ankle injury and Bonner to a sprained right knee. Both players were hurt in the third quarter, when the Mercury were outscored 30-17.

Griner is averaging 13.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and a league-leading 3.0 blocks, while Bonner is averaging 16.1 points and 6.6 boards to rank second on the team in both categories.

WNBA leading scorer Taurasi (21.4 points per game), limited to nine points and 2-of-11 shooting Tuesday, will likely be asked to carry an even bigger load. Backup guard Jasmine James, though, knows others will also need to contribute.

"That's what the players on the bench are there for, to be ready to come in when you have injuries like that," James said. "The main thing is to stay ready and when you get in take advantage of those minutes and try to be as productive as possible. It stinks that we had those injuries because those are players we definitely need in the game.

"We just have to go back to the drawing board and try to come back on Friday and bounce back from it."

Despite their rash of injuries, the Mercury, losers of seven of nine, would appear to have a pair of favorable matchups with back-to-back home games against the West-worst Shock (7-15). Tulsa has been especially bad on the road, where it has dropped nine of 11.

The Shock opened a four-game trip with a 69-65 loss to San Antonio on Sunday. Glory Johnson had 19 points and 11 rebounds while Elizabeth Cambage scored 16, but no one else reached double figures.

Tulsa committed 22 turnovers and was outscored 22-15 in the first quarter.

"We've got to find out how to get going early in the game, and obviously get better at that spot and come to play," coach Gary Kloppenburg said.

The Shock dropped this season's only matchup with the Mercury, 108-103 in overtime June 16. Johnson had a season-high 32 points and 15 boards but Phoenix shot 50.0 percent and held a 20-9 edge in transition.

Taurasi had 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while Bonner scored 23. Griner added 16 points and a season high-tying five blocks.

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