The Phoenix Mercury, going into today's game, were finally beginning to play like the team everyone had expected them to be. The Storm, on the other hand, need no introduction. Leading the league with a 17-2 record and riding a seven-game win streak prior to today's contest, the story was already written. The WNBA's reigning champion with a chip on its shoulder vs. everyone's favorite to take home the trophy this year. It was the perfect setting for a game of epic proportions, and epic it was.
We came into the game expecting a fight, and we left finding an instant classic. Three overtimes. More ties and lead changes than I've ever witnessed. Determination and grit in every possession. Clutch shots galore. Nobody wanted to lose this game, but when all was said and done, the Storm came away victorious.
"Sometimes there are good losses," commented Mercury head coach Corey Gaines. "We'll take it as a good loss. They fought hard and didn't quit when we were down 10; that's a good loss."
Diana Taurasi didn't quite feel the same way. "You lose the game, but it doesn't really matter if you go into ten overtimes. I don't know what to say."
On the other side of things, the Storm were extremely impressed with the way the team was able to overcome their early misfirings and claw their way back into the game. "I think that's just the character of our team. That's how we've played all season, no matter what's happening out there," said All-Star point guard Sue Bird. "We don't stop."
While the Mercury may have come out on the losing side of today's battle, it's not all bad. From the beginning of the season until the All-Star break, the team has only seen flashes of rounding back into its championship form. Those flashes seem to be coming around more and more often. Prior to today's game, the Mercury entered the All-Star break by snapping a six-game losing skid and winning the final two games heading into the weekend.
Also of note, post-All-Star break is when teams really start to lock in their rotations and find what will bring them the most success in the postseason. Said Penny Taylor of the game, "I think what you can take away is that it's a team we're going to face in the playoffs. We've shown them that we're not going to lay down and die and we fought really hard. Hopefully we can get better before we play this team again."
Temeka Johnson also chimed in. "It's not just [sending a message to] Seattle. We try to prove that every night when we go out and face any opponent we play against. We just try to get better every game and everyday at practice."
- Diana Taurasi had a very Taurasi-like line with 44 points (16/33 shooting, 4/11 3-pointers), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. She turned the ball over 5 times, but also played 49 and a half minutes in the extended game.
- Candice Dupree had yet another double-double in the loss, hitting 50% of her shots (9/18 shooting) for 18 points and 14 rebounds. She leads the team in double-doubles this season with 5, and has 33 to her name in her career.
- DeWanna Bonner, 2009's Sixth Woman of the Year, scored 18 points on 7-12 shooting, her sixth 15+ performance this season.
- The Mercury move to 3-3 at home and 5-4 overall when leading at the half. The team also falls to 1-11 when allowing 90 or more points.
- Tangela Smith shot the ball, but didn't shoot it well. She finished the game with a line of 5 points on 1/10 shooting with 6 rebound and 5 fouls in 41 minutes.
- The Mercury were outrebounded by the Storm 57 to 42. The Storm also dished out more assists than the Mercury (26 to 18) and shot better from three point land (11/28 to 8/28).
This was one of those games where the time ran out. I feel like if there was a minute on that clock, I'm sure they would've tied it and it would've gone back and forth again. Luckily for us, the time ran out.
On clutch plays throughout the game:
There were some amazing plays, just some huge plays to put us in that position to win the game. Everyone stepped up and everyone made sure that they were giving everything to try and get that win. So many ridiculous plays in one game, those were probably the most amazing and clutch plays I've seen. It was just a lot of people stepping up, really exciting basketball.
On how the game ranks historically, for her:
Pretty high, but obviously the loss dampers it a little. I don't know how many times I've gone into triple overtime in the end. I think it's just a great display of basketball from two great teams.
Mercury Coach Corey Gaines
On how close the team is to being where he wants:
They're close. We'll get closer, too. We can always get better. They got a little rest there, and they'll get more rest. By the end of the season, we'll get a lot of rest. We'll be ready.
On gaining experience against Seattle:
The true test will come in the playoffs. We will meet in the playoffs. It will be good; it will be good for the WNBA. They're a good team. They're number one.
Next Game: The Mercury will host the Tulsa Shock on July 17th at 7:00PM.