The winless Mercury try to avoid their worst start in five seasons Saturday when they visit the injury-plagued Fever, who again will be without All-Star Katie Douglas.
Selected No. 1 overall in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-8 Griner has averaged team highs of 16.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks during Phoenix’s 0-3 start.
“She changes the game with the length of her body and the length of her arms,” Fever coach Lin Dunn told the team’s official website. “I think, long term, she’s going to have a huge impact on this game because of her size. And she’s very athletic.”
Indiana (1-2) is counting on 6-foot-1 Erlana Larkins to help slow down the former Baylor standout. Larkins is averaging 8.0 points and a team-best 9.3 boards.
“I’m up for it. I know my teammates are going to help me. I’m ready,” she said. “Strength. That’s what I have to use. That’s my best asset, to not let her get to where she likes to be, which is around the basket.”
Containing Griner could prove all the more crucial with Douglas expected to miss a second straight game due to a bulging disc in her lower back.
Douglas was certainly missed Wednesday in a 75-68 overtime loss at New York. Former WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings had 21 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists, but Indiana shot 36.6 percent and allowed the Liberty to shoot 48.0 percent.
The Fever were outscored 24-11 at the foul line, giving New York a whopping 29 attempts.
“We’re too good a defensive team to allow that to set us back,” Catchings said.
Set to face the defending champs, the Mercury are coming off losses to the WNBA’s previous two title winners. After staying close in Sunday’s 75-72 defeat at 2010 champion Seattle, Phoenix was blown out 99-79 at 2011 champion Minnesota on Thursday.
Phoenix, which has been outscored by an average of 15.0 points, hasn’t opened 0-4 since 2008. The Mercury are allowing an abysmal 92.0 points per game.
Since beating the Fever in the 2009 WNBA Finals, Phoenix has dropped five of six in the series and lost all three in Indiana, though Douglas averaged 25.0 points in those visits.