Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi and Co. affected by travel fatigue in WNBA Semifinals Game 1 loss to Sparks

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Brittney Griner
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Brittney Griner /

From the tip of Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, one thing was very clear: Brittney Griner was exhausted. Beneath her eyes was the characteristic dark luggage of a person running short on sleep.

Her teammate, Diana Taurasi, did not sport telling bags under her eyes, but her shot was nowhere to be found. The future Hall of Famer shot just 2-of-10 from the field for 6 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes of play. In short, Diana Taurasi did not play like Diana Taurasi.

Whereas Griner’s fatigue showed on her face, Taurasi’s showed in 35-year-old legs that have played across the planet now lacking their needed spring.

Postgame interviews confirmed that the Duo That Makes Phoenix Go had been beleaguered by a brutal, 12-hour travel day on Monday. After knocking off the Sun in Connecticut, the Mercury had “a layover in Houston and … bus rides to and from the airports.”

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Griner was eager to get some food in her belly and her head on a pillow.

Taurasi, for her part, joked that the team could have ventured across the world in the time it took them to get from Connecticut to California. “It was a long trip … I think we could have went to Madrid, to Pisa, to Egypt,” Taurasi said.

Jokes aside, sleep deprivation and travel across time zones can have detrimental effects on the human body, including:

  • decrease in mental alertness
  • changes to mood and emotional well-being
  • instability of hormones that control hunger and metabolism
  • decrease in reaction time
  • increase in proclivity to accidents and injuries

Thankfully, the team survived its sleep-deprived play without any catastrophic mishaps — well, except for the strange non-call/review/call sequence by the refs that handed Griner her sixth foul of the night and an early trip to the bench.

But the loss did not leave Phoenix discouraged. The Mercury had a strong first half to draw on and, despite a dismal second half, they were not blown out of the arena. It should be interesting to see what effects fuel and sleep will have on Griner and Taurasi in Game 2.