Mercury-Storm Preview

The Associated Press

The injury-plagued Phoenix Mercury have labored with star rookie Brittney Griner out, and it's unclear if she will return in their first game back from the All-Star break.

With help from an inspired Tina Thompson, the Seattle Storm are hoping they're finally coming together after struggling for much of the first half without two of their top players.

The Storm will try to secure their second win streak of the season as they host the Mercury on Thursday night.

Griner has missed Phoenix's past five contests due to a sprained left knee and sat out Saturday's All-Star game. After an 81-69 loss in Minnesota last Wednesday, coach Corey Gaines expressed hope that the 6-foot-8 center would return this week.

"I think we will come back with my big healthy and ready to play," Gaines said.

Gaines, though, got some bad news last week on Penny Taylor. The Australian forward might have to sit out the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on her right knee.

Forward Lynetta Kizer has been dealing with a strained left knee, and it's unknown if she can help Phoenix (9-9) earn just its second win in seven games Thursday. A healthier Mercury won five straight and eight of nine before that difficult stretch.

Seattle (7-10) has dealt with two high-profile absences - three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird - but wrapped up the first half with its second win in four games, 73-66 at Los Angeles last Thursday.

Tina Thompson's 23 points helped put the Storm in position to seek back-to-back victories for the first time since a three-game win streak June 16-21. The WNBA's all-time leading scorer, who appeared in a record ninth All-Star game after replacing Griner, is set to retire at the end of this season.

"She's sort of got a rejuvenated energy now sort of being the leader in a lot of ways on our team," coach Brian Agler said. "She came back in a lot better shape this year than she was a year ago. I was happy. Inside, I think she was looking forward to coming back and playing one last time."

Thompson scored just seven points in Seattle's only matchup with the Mercury this season, but she also grabbed a team-best six rebounds in a 75-72 win June 2. Tanisha Wright led the way with 20 points as Seattle rallied from an early 11-point deficit.

Griner scored 17 but also drew a technical foul for spiking the ball late in the game and a flagrant one in the third quarter. Candice Dupree led the Mercury with 18 points while league scoring leader Diana Taurasi (22.4 ppg) had one of her worst games, fouling out with 10 points.

Taurasi will be back after serving a one-game suspension last Wednesday for picking up her seventh technical foul.

These teams meet again Tuesday in Phoenix.

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