Jewell Loyd scored 22 points in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 37 as the Seattle Storm clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 94-85 victory against the visiting Phoenix Mercury on Friday night.
Ezi Magbegor added 15 points and Mercedes Russell had 14 as the defending WNBA champion Storm (21-11) clinched at least the No. 4 seed despite playing without star forward Breanna Stewart, who was sidelined for the second consecutive game by a foot injury.
Brittney Griner had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Shey Peddy added 17 in place of injured Diana Taurasi and Kia Nurse had 13 to lead the Mercury (19-12). Phoenix, which concludes the regular season at home against Las Vegas on Sunday, missed an opportunity to move past Seattle as it lost its second straight after 10 straight wins.
Griner's basket started the third-quarter scoring and pulled the Mercury within 61-49, but they went nearly four minutes without another field goal.
The Storm increased the lead to 16 points before Kia Vaughn's basket ended the drought.
Seattle led by 16 on five more occasions, the last coming at 77-61 at the end of the period.
Magbegor made three consecutive layups as the Storm seemed to take command with an 85-63 lead.
Phoenix charged back to get within 89-85 with 1:05 left, but Loyd answered with a three-point play.
Loyd scored 22 of Seattle's first 24 points as the Storm took a 24-13 lead.
Brianna Turner made consecutive baskets for the Mercury before Sue Bird answered with a 3-pointer.
Phoenix scored the final four points to cut the deficit to 33-26 at the end of the period.
The Mercury kept chipping away as Skylar Diggins-Smith's 3-pointer pulled them within 40-36.
Stephanie Talbot answered with five straight points before Phoenix twice closed within five points.
The Storm rebuilt the lead to 53-43 on Talbot's 3-pointer and Loyd made three free throws to give them a 61-47 halftime lead.
--Field Level Media