Shekinna Stricklen had a breakthrough before the break, with rookie-season highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds, as the Seattle Storm entered the WNBA Olympics intermission with an easy 83-64 over the injury-riddled Mercury Thursday night in Phoenix.
After a slow start as the No. 2 pick in the draft from the University of Tennessee, Stricklen helped fill the void left by the injured Anne Wauters and Tina Thompson, and the absent Lauren Jackson, training with Australia for the Olympics.
"It was very difficult," Stricklen said post-game of her transition for the pros. "I wasn't myself. I was thinking a lot. I hope to be a lot more confident in second half.
"At Tennessee, I was used to doing a lot of things. Here is different, coming off the bench, making hustle plays. I'm getting used to it."
Katie Smith led the Storm, which dominated throughout, with 19 points. Sue Bird, who now joins the U.S. team heading to London, had nine points and nine assists. In her past two games, Bird had 17 assists and no turnovers.
The Storm, which blew out Phoenix Sunday at KeyArena, shot 46 percent from the field and held the Mercury to a season-low six points in the third quarter. Missing star Diana Taurasi for most of the season, the Mercury lost its sixth in a row to drop to 4-15.
After starting 1-7, the Storm won eight of its past 11 to reach the break 9-10 and fourth in the Western Conference, which almost assures Seattle of the West's final playoff spot because the Mercury and Tulsa Shock, the last two teams, are terrible.
While Bird and Jackson cavort in London, the Storm will have a month off before returning to WNBA play Aug. 16 at KeyArena, where Lauren Jackson rejoins the Storm for the first time this season.