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Mercury fans and most WNBA observers expected Phoenix to win Game 2 at home. Heart of champion and all that.
When the game was close through the first period ,it was still at a Mercury pace and looking good. When the Mercury went on a 22-9 run in the second quarter and built a 15-point lead, it was looking better. With about five minutes to play and a 13-point Phoenix lead, it seemed like a Game 3 in Seattle was all but assured.
What happened next, in retrospect, wasn't nearly as unexpected as it might seem.
In fact, the Seattle Storm coming back late and the Phoenix Mercury losing their focus was par for the course for both teams, proving once again the old adage that who you are in the regular season matters when it comes time for the playoffs.
You are who you are: Mercury = inconsistent. Storm = resilient.
For the Mercury, that inconsistency means ... well, let's let Penny Taylor explain what that means.
"We lost focus on some important plays," Taylor said. "They got offensive rebounds. We weren't putting it in on our end. I feel like we weren't attacking the basket to try and get a few of those foul calls back that they were getting. We were taking more jump shots, which it's easy for them to not call fouls. We let it slip away. We relaxed, maybe lost focus."
She then went on to put what happened today in context of the season.
"And this is a little bit what we've done all season. Inconsistency. We've started not doing things and then we had phases where we were going really well and won a few games in a row and then let it slip away again. It's been that kind of year and tonight was sort of an indication of the kind of year we've had."
Just so you don't think that's only one girl's opinion, Diana Taurasi said basically the same thing.
"That's been the story line of our season. When we're tuned in we're really good, and little by little, we just lose focus," the 9-for-15 shooting super star said.
"We had chances to win but we just didn't get it done. Not just tonight but throughout the whole year. We've been pretty inconsistent as a team and individuals and it shows in games like this."
It wasn't just the end of the game either. The Storm finished the game 22-9 in the final two minutes of each quarter combined. You are who you are.
On the other side, coming from behind, trusting each other, showing resiliency was exactly how Seattle amassed a 28-6 record. WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson talked about that.
"There's been numerous times this year that we've been down in the final quarter and been able to sort of work our way back in to the game. That's just the confidence that we have in each other. They relaxed a little bit I think and we just took advantage of the opportunities that we got," Jackson said, acknowledging both her own team's history of fighting back as well as recognizing that the Mercury let them back in the game.
Where do the Mercury go from here?
Taylor again points out the team's struggles with end of game situations and the inability to close teams out.
"There were more games this year than we ever had with last-second plays and last-minute losing by a couple of points and three points and under. That's something we have to fix next year. Whatever Corey (Gaines) feels we need to do to fix that is really something we need to work on," Taylor said.
She added that regular season play effecting post season play.
"You can't expect things to just turn around. Everyone felt good in the San Antonio series, we really stepped it up and we took it into this series, but they (Seattle) are a better team," Taylor said.
It's a bit too soon to say for sure but two things stand out.
The first is the lackadaisical play of Tangela Smith.
She had some good moments both in the season and in this series but her 3-for-10 shooting today and inconsistent energy can't be ignored even though you never want to pin a loss on one player.
Smith also gets the blame for not switching the screen on the final play that resulted in Sue Bird getting an open look for the game-wining three. Here's a break-down of the play.
I asked Smith, an unrestricted free agent after this season, if she plans on returning to the league she's given 12 years to - she didn't answer.
Smith wasn't the only one but her play at the end of this game was also indicative of what we saw all season and yet she ended up with 36 minutes in the while Kara Braxton only played 13.
Asked why Braxton played so few minutes when her size could have helped close what ended up as a 38-29 Storm rebounding advantage, Gaines gave kind of a non-answer.
"I've got to watch the game again. Off-hand we've won games where we've got out-rebounded. Some teams it may be a big key. We've won championships getting out-rebounded," he said.
The second is losing Cappie Pondexter.
When the trade happened the one thing that we worried the team would miss would be Pondexter's ability to create and make big shots late in a game. If you are going to be an offensive-oriented team who doesn't rely on a defense-first philosophy then you need that.
Candice Dupree did a great job once she adjusted to the team and the team got used to playing with her, but at the end of the day (game) the lack of a slasher to create a shot late in the clock was missed.
Bonner and Taylor not right
DeWanna Bonner obviously didn't play her best ball this postseason or really since about the middle of the year. She looks tired and lacking the pep in her step and that incredible energy she's known for.
Maybe that's a sophomore wall and her body and mind adjusting to the rigors of being away from home on a year-round basketball schedule. Or maybe she's playing through an injury or illness we don't know about. Either way, her six points and two rebounds in 21 minutes were very un-Bonner like.
Lets hope she bounces back strong next summer. The Mercury clearly missed what she can bring.
Penny Taylor (eight pointss, four rebounds, two assists) also didn't have her best stuff, but in this case, it's pretty clear why: She injured her left shoulder in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in Seattle and didn't practice in the two days since.
She reportedly couldn't lift her hand above shoulder-height and may (not confirmed) have received an injection in the shoulder prior to the game.
Taylor wouldn't use her shoulder as an excuse, although today it probably would have been warranted.
"I wouldn't say it effected me at all today, it's just part of it. Sometimes you've got things going on, I'm sure everyone does. I'm sure they have a few of them. Today it was the shoulder, but it's been something all year. Nothing I couldn't play with," the tough Aussie said.
Penny claimed to have full use of the shoulder during the game and said it only bothered her at the free throw line (she missed two) because the tape tightened things up.
Meek to the rescue
What makes certain players great is their ability to step up into the void and Temeka Johnson did that today. She's by far the smallest player on the court (which is how Sue Bird got a critical blocked shot), but Meek sensed the moment in Game 2 and rose to the occasion.
Johnson finished with 15 points (playoff career high) and 12 assists (ties career high). She was aggressive when she needed to be and recognized that the defense was going to sag off of her and deny some of her passes to Dupree.
Gaines obviously wanted to attack Bird on the pick and roll which lead to the assists and allowed Taurasi to play off the ball and drain those 3s (seven of them which ties a career playoff high).
"We did everything we wanted to do except win, but I think it came down to getting stops and we didn't get them when we needed to, Seattle came out on top," Johnson said after the game.
Not much more to say beyond that, is there?
Good luck to the Seattle Storm and their fans. They deserved the sweep.
All photos by Ryan Malone
Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Sue Bird's three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter lifted the Seattle Storm into the WNBA Finals with a 91-88 win over defending champion Phoenix Mercury in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Swin Cash finished with a team-best 23 points and 2010 WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson went for 20 points and eight rebounds for the Storm, who outscored the Mercury 30-17 in the fourth quarter to advance to the Finals where they will face either Atlanta or New York. Bird ended with 16 points and eight assists.
Diana Taurasi led all scorers with 28 points for Phoenix, but missed a potential game-tying three-pointer as time expired. Candice Dupree chipped in with 17 points in defeat.
Trailing 88-76 with 3:21 remaining, Cash's three-point play ignited a 15-0 run. A Jackson jumper and three-point play sandwiched around a pair of free throws from Camille Little got Seattle to within two, 88-86, with 1:15 left.
Taurasi's jumper on the Mercury's next possession was off the mark and Cash evened it with a layup on a nice feed from Bird with 36.2 seconds on the clock. After a Phoenix timeout, Temeka Johnson's short jumper spun out and the Storm called a timeout do draw up a final play.
With the shot clock winding down, Bird took the pass from Tanisha Wright well beyond the three-point arc and drilled it for a 91-88 game. Following a 20- second timeout by Phoenix, Taurasi's contested three wouldn't fall, allowing Seattle to prevail.
The Mercury held a 24-22 lead after the opening 12 minutes and they built their advantage to 48-40 at the half. Tangela Smith knocked down a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the third quarter to put Phoenix up by double digits, 71-61, heading into the fourth.
"Do it again in 2010"
That's the Phoenix Mercury marketing slogan for this year's playoff run and today it will be tested for the first time as the playoff run that so far is only three-games deep is facing it's first elimination battle.
It's a position the Mercury are familiar with and not all that concerned about. The first game in Seattle is easily ignored between Taurasi's fluke poor shooting game and the generally flat play from both sides.
Look for the Mercury to play with a little more pep in their step and a little less zone in their D.
Game time is noon, Arizona. The game will be broadcast on ABC TV.
When Diana Taurasi goes 2-for-15 shooting and finishes with six turnovers and six fouls and only one assist then you know the Mercury are going to have a hard time winning.
She was aggressive early attacking the paint but the Storm made a concerted effort to put several defenders in front of her. Taurasi clearly was looking for calls that didn't come and it seemed to impact the rest of her game.
Taurasi accepted responsibility for her poor game.
"I couldn't make a shot," she said. "I never blame the defense on missing shots. I had some really good looks, which I usually knock down, but tonight they didn't go down. Hopefully on Sunday I can get it together a little bit."
There's little doubt that Taurasi will bounce back with a better showing on Sunday for Game 2.
Overall, the poor shooting from both teams was some what understandable given the long layoff but there were two decisions from Mercury coach Corey Gaines that were ... interesting.
The Mercury defense has improved considerable this season and especially late in the summer. Despite better rotations and improved aggressiveness, Gaines went almost exclusively to his rover zone in the first half. The result was a passive look from the Phoenix team and 47 points allowed in the first twenty minutes.
Lauren Jackson was able to get open for shots both inside and out and scored 17 of her game total 23 points in the opening two periods.
In the second half, Gaines went back to the man-to-man defense we've seen more of recently and it was much more effective. The Storm were held to 35 points on 38 percent shooting in the final two periods.
The second interesting decision was how little Gaines used his best lineup which consists of DeWanna Bonner on the floor instead of undersized point guard Temeka Johnson. Bonner finished with only 22 minutes compared to 32 for Johnson. DeWanna certainly didn't look as sharp as we've seen her and perhaps she's dealing with an unreported injury or illness.
Kara Braxton was effective in her floor time as well finishing with a well-deserved +1 while all the Mercury starters where in the minus. Braxton was able to score against Lauren Jackson in the post on several occasions and was and efficient 5-for-7 from the field in her limited minutes (13:42).
Box score anomaly
Some interesting findings looking at the box score from this game:
Looking at these numbers it's hard to understand how this game wasn't closer. The big difference was at the line.
Seattle, WA (Sports Network) – League MVP Lauren Jackson finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds, leading the Seattle Storm to an 82-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Jackson was named the WNBA’s MVP earlier Thursday, winning the award for a third time. Additionally, Storm coach Brian Agler was named the Coach of the Year on Thursday.
Jackson validated her honor with her performance, which fueled the Storm as they took the first contest of this best-of-three series. Game 2 is set for Sunday in Phoenix.
Svetlana Abrosimova added 16 points for Seattle, which is in the West finals for the first time since 2004, when the Storm went on to win the title. Seattle had swept the Los Angeles Sparks in the West semis.
Penny Taylor had 16 points and six assists for the Mercury, the defending league champions who swept San Antonio in their semifinal series. Candice Dupree added 15 points and 11 boards, but Diana Taurasi shot just 2-of-15 and scored nine points in the loss.
Free throws were a big difference in the contest, as Seattle made 20-of-29 while Phoenix sank 11-of-17.
The Storm jumped out to a big lead, as two Abrosimova foul shots gave them a 17-3 lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter. Seattle led 23-14 moving to the second and continued to play in front, taking a 47-33 advantage into halftime.
Dupree poured in nine points in the third quarter, when the Mercury trimmed their deficit. A Temeka Johnson three-pointer with a minute to go had Phoenix within 59-55, but Seattle scored the next five points to take a nine-point lead into the final frame.
Phoenix was within 74-67 after a Kara Braxton layup with 4:23 to play, but Jackson and Swin Cash answered with a pair of free throws each to effectively seal the victory.
One of the funny things about basketball is the dynamic that goes on between doing your thing and focusing on your own team versus adjusting and reacting to what your opponent's strengths and weaknesses are.
We love to talk about adjustments that coaches make, especially in the playoffs, but the reality is that winning teams are trying to force their will on the other side. They want to play within their comfort zone and make the other guy react to it and get out of theirs.
The Phoenix Suns were given a lot of credit for employing (with some success) a zone defense against the LA Lakers in the NBA Western Conference Finals, but the reality is they were forced into that because they had no other options for stopping the better team. You will rarely see the team that's playing from it's heels win a series.
When things get really fun is when you have two stubborn and confident coaches who understand this and are dead-set convinced that they've got the right plan. It's that battle of wills that makes playoff basketball so great and it's why a series is always more fun than a single game tournament.
Mercury coach Corey Gaines certainly isn't expecting any surprises from the Seattle Storm.
"Nope, seen it all. Unless he comes out with a 1-3-1 press, which I would love, or a 2-2-1 old John Wooden full court press," Gaines joked before leaving Phoenix for tonight's Game 1 in Seattle.
Storm coach Brian Agler is one of the best basketball minds around. He understands the game as well as anyone and gets the most out of his players and Gaines understands that as well.
"He does his things, we do our thing. I don't think he's going to change from that," he said.
Gaines is ready for that as well. He doesn't expect Agler to change things up at all, in fact he's hoping he doesn't, "Hopefully what we do makes them do something we're used to seeing. It's about us."
And so the chess match begins.
Gaines and his team feel like they know how the Storm will react to different situations are are prepared for that. If Agler adjusts and changes his plan to throw off the Mercury he's also playing out of his own team's comfort zone. The same of course, is true going the other way.
In the end, the team with the most options -- which is a result of having better talent and being well prepared -- will win.
Shark Week started Monday for the Phoenix Mercury. That's the kind of killer instinct that coach Corey Gaines thinks his team is playing with now that "money time" is here.
"They're veteran players and they've got the taste of the championship, they've got the taste of the playoffs and they know what has to be done. I think that helps them and they kind of thrive and they kind of feed off of it. It's like a bunch of sharks -- once they taste that blood they start going ... they're being very aggressive right now," Gaines said.
It's going to take another level of hunger and focus for the 15-19 Mercury to win one on the road against the Seattle Storm team who went undefeated on their floor this season.
The Mercury don't worry much about that stuff, though; they are a confident team right now and think that they are peaking at the right time. They defied odds by becoming the first team to win a WNBA championship on the road in 2007 and, as Economics major Corey Gaines points out, after losing all five games to the Storm this season, the percentages are in their favor now.
Here's a nice break down of the five games the teams played this season.
Of course, the Seattle Storm have plenty of championship experience on their team, as well, and are chomping at the bit to get back to the WNBA Finals. The combination of talent, desire, confidence and heart should make this a fantastic series. Diana Taurasi thinks so.
"For the fans, I think it's something that's going to be fun to watch and as a player, you always want to go against the best and right now they're the best team," Taurasi said. "This is one where you'd like it to go five games or seven games, but three it is. (Maybe) two, who knows."
The Seattle Storm have a strong combination on the offensive end that will be difficult for the Mercury to stop, but it's a doable task for the improved Phoenix defense.
The Storm have one of, if not the, best
post basketball players in the world (Lauren Jackson). They have a top flight point guard in Sue Bird who controls the team and, like a Steve Nash, can both score and distribute and knows exactly when to do each. They have Swin Cash, a fantastic veteran perimeter player who shoots lights out, can attack off the dribble, runs the lane and gets clean-up points.
Off the bench, they bring a number of shooters and, with starters Camille Little and Tanisha Wright, they can nail the open look if you leave them alone to focus on Jackson. In fact, every one of their top-eight rotation players shot over 35 percent from three this year and that includes the 6-foot-5 Jackson.
Side note: A game we like to play sometimes is comparing WNBA players to NBA players. There is no comparison for Jackson and how she impacts the game. She defends the paint and rebounds like Dwight Howard. She has face-up and back-to-the-basket skill like Tim Duncan. She's mobile like a healthy Kevin Garnett and she can stretch the floor like Channing Frye. She might just be the perfect basketball player.
When you are facing a team with such a dominant post player as Jackson, you are faced with the option of keeping the ball out of her hands by double-teaming early or you can stay home on the shooters and live with the consequences.
The Mercury claim they will do both, but something Coach Gaines said gives us a little hint that he might be leaning more in one direction.
"It's funny -- if you watch that LA series with Seattle, they doubled Lauren Jackson and she still got her points," Gaines said.
The plan he laid out is to give her different looks and change up things so she can't get comfortable. The key is to make her think and also (perhaps more so) make her play defense.
Run her legs off
The Mercury feel that they can take Lauren's legs away by making her get out in transition and forcing her to work on the defensive side of the ball.
"When you make a team run back, that takes a lot out of you. It may not show up in the first quarter, but at the end of the game, it shows up on your legs," Gaines said.
Lauren played 36.5 minutes per game in Seattle's 2-0 first round series win over the LA Sparks. The fact that Jackson had to play so many minutes to beat a team that had no post presence of its own speaks volumes about the lack of depth up front.
Jackson is smart and knows how to avoid picking up fouls, but she needs to be on the court for the Storm to win and the Mercury will certainly try and take advantage of that in the series.
Banging with Brax
Kara Braxton gives the Mercury another option to throw at Jackson. Her size and strength will force Lauren out on the perimeter more, which takes away the Storm's biggest offensive weapon, along with their best rebounder.
Braxton is going to have to step up her game, however.
"We need her to be more aggressive defensively. We need her to do more and I told her that other day," Diana Taurasi said about her big new teammate. "She's too big, too good, too strong to let anyone get on the block on her."
Sue Bird is a special kind of defensive challenge. She can drive and finish, dish the ball, hit spot-up or pull-up shots and generally is the engine of the Seattle offense. Other than Sue and Swin Cash (and to a less degree, Tanisha Wright) the Storm won't put the ball on the deck too much which means the defensive game plan on the perimeter will focus on taking Sue out of her comfort zone.
Once again, that task will likely fall mainly on the narrow shoulders of DeWanna Bonner. Bonner proved all season and again in the playoffs against Becky Hammon, that her combination of size, speed and tenacity can and will bother shorter gaurds.
Assistant coach Julie Hairgrove explained that starting point guard Temeka Johnson will pressure Sue and be aggressive with her on-ball defense. You can't allow Bird space to get comfortable. The Mercury will use Bonner extensively and perhaps Taurasi as well to change things up.
"You have to mix it up on them. Sue's a very smart point guard, you can't always do the same thing on her. You've got to throw different schemes at her just so she doesn't feel comfortable the whole night," Hairgrove said.
Help the helpers
The Mercury defense (yes, they play defense despite Taurasi's on-camera sarcasm) has improved this season in large part to the increased focus on rotations and using different schemes in different situations.
Penny Taylor explained how that's developed.
"Corey's really mixed it up for us this year and it took us a little while to be focused enough to get those things down because it really takes focus," She said. "The game moves so fast that's not always easy to know who's setting the screen, who's coming off of it and we've done that well in the last few weeks."
Taylor specifically thinks the team has gotten better defending the second and third attack at the basket. The rotations are better because the team knows each other better and can react more quickly based on who needs more help on penetration, who's closing out to the ball, and with overall communication.
There's also a strong incentive to play good defense and because this is still the Phoenix Mercury and that carrot is still an open shot.
"When we get all those things done there's a prize at the end of it because once we get that rebound and run, and we've been running so hard, once you know you might get an open layup, we've been running hard with four or five of us down the court so it's a real incentive and we've got that really down well now," Taylor said.
Aggression is the name of the game for the Mercury. In the San Antonio series it impressed playoff newbie Candice Dupree.
"We came out physical from the beginning and it was a fast-paced game for almost the entire 40 minutes so as long as we do that and just be aggressive we should be OK," Dupree said.
That aggression means getting into the passing lanes to try and generate steals but only in some situations. The Mercury defenders don't ever want to leave Jackson or Bird (and probably Cash) and they need to be smart about taking chance so they don't lose containment.
The physicality will be part of this series for sure. The Mercury have been getting into foul trouble a bit by slapping at the ball but Candice Dupree sees no reason to change that.
"We're not going to let anybody take away from our aggressiveness. You've got six fouls, why not use them," Dupree said.
Rebound and run
The Storm finished this season +6.5 in rebounding differential while the Mercury were -1.9 so on paper this seems like a huge advantage for Seattle. But the Mercury went into the WBNA Finals last year with a similar deficit to the Indiana Fever but ended their five-game epic series slightly ahead in total rebounds.
The importance of rebounding the ball was stressed by Coach Gaines,
"For us, if we get the board and they're crashing it's going to be a fast break for us and if we don't foul them or they don't get that second shot we're gone and it really puts a lot of pressure on their defense."
What he's saying is that his team's ability to run the floor forces opponents to be less aggressive on the offensive glass. Teams either give up fast-break points or they dominate the second chance point category. It is very hard to do both.
The Mercury also have decent size at every position except their starting center and in certain lineup situations with Braxton and Smith on the floor together with Taurasi, Taylor and Bonner are much bigger over all.
It is next to impossible to keep Jackson off the defensive glass since she will stay near the rim on defense but offensively, at least when Braxton is in the game, Jackson will be out of position for put-backs.
In the end, the rebounding battle will come down to intensity and will and some lucky breaks.
The Seattle Storm are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They play solid team defense, mix up their schemes, and generally play as smart and hard on that end of the floor as any team out there. With Lauren Jackson patrolling the paint they can afford to be a bit more aggressive and rarely need to double the post.
The Mercury, however, are the best offensive team in the league by far and are markedly better than last year's championship team now that they emphasize more paint scoring with Dupree and Braxton and with Taurasi and Taylor also able to get more drives in the half-court.
Phoenix can still run as well (or better) than anyone but their offense this year is much less dependent on the long-ball and better suited to the slower, defensive struggles you see in the postseason.
Would you like some roll with that pick?
The Mercury will look to pick and roll extensively with Dupree attacking Lauren Jackson. By setting screens well away from the basket, they can pull Jackson out of the paint at times and most importantly force her to work hard on almost every defensive possession. There's no way that Dupree can attack Jackson in the post on her own but when she rolls or slips off screens she will force a smaller player to rotate over or make Jackson quickly retreat back.
The Storm also like to switch the pick and roll which again pulls Jackson out of paint and out of position to rebound and forces her to guard either Tuarasi or Taylor on the wing. Lauren is mobile enough to handle that assignment at times but the more the Mercury attack her the more energy she uses.
The switch also creates a mismatch in the paint for Dupree against one of the smaller Storm forwards like Cash or Abrasimova. I would put my money on Candice in those situations.
Kara Braxton should have a big role to play in this series and if she's able to be effective and stay on the floor for 20 to 25 minutes it will mean good things for the Mercury.
Braxton should certainly be in the game anytime Jackson is not and even if that's a few minutes here and there she can do damage against either Willingham or Ashley Robinson.
With Jackson on the floor, the Mercury will still use Braxton to attack her in the post.
"With her (Braxton) now they really do have to come and double because their four's (power forwards) are too small. If they put Lauren on her that means Lauren's going to take a couple of shots down low and it's not like Braxton's going to ease up. She's going to have to body her," Coach Hairgrove said.
The Mercury play Braxton with both Dupree and Smith. Dupree is a better rebounder but can't stretch the floor quite as well as Smith and the combination of Braxton, Smith and Bonner is significantly taller than any lineup the Storm will use.
We've touched on the Mercury big lineup of Taurasi at point with Bonner and Taylor on the wings and Dupree and Smith up front. This is the Mercury's best lineup on both ends of the floor and I would expect to see it more if the game is close.
Not only does this lineup give the Mercury more opportunity to switch ball-screens on the perimeter without creating a mismatch but it gives them a height advantage on the glass.
This might also be the team's best half-court offensive unit as well. With Taurasi running point teams are forced to respect her ability to shoot any time she comes off a screen and that opens the lane for Dupree. It also forces Sue Bird to be overmatched in any individual assignment.
"Sue's a good defender. She's an intelligent player, she plays the angles," Gaines said. "Maybe she's not great one-on-one but team defense - they're a great team defensive team. That's what they play anyway, they don't play one-on-one defense."
The Storm have been bothered this season by bigger guards and most recently the Minnesota combination of Whalen and Wright were effective. They repeatedly attacked Bird with whoever she was guarding.
Isolating the problem
The Mercury are known for their fantastic passing and ball movement. It's something Storm coach Brian Agler will certainly be prepared for and have his team ready to rotate and try and get steals.
To counter this, the Mercury could choose to use more isolation sets. Between Taurasi, Taylor and Bonner, they have three solid options for attacking from the wing with strong slashing moves.
This isn't a staple of the Mercury offense although we saw it quite frequently in the early weeks of the season. The ability is there is the situation warrants.
Everyone thinks this will be a great series and it absolutely should be. At the same time, there's really nothing that might happen that would surprise me. We could have three overtime games or we could see one team put the hammer down and win by double-digits.
These teams are both too good and the gap between a close game and a comfortable win isn't all that big. A couple bad breaks, some foul trouble to the wrong player and really anything can happen.
The keys for the Mercury to avoid being on the wrong end of that are:
In the end, the Storm have more holes in their roster, less playoff experience on their bench and of course, they don't have Diana Taurasi. Mercury in 3.
Conference Finals vs. Seattle
Thursday, September 2 7 p.m. (NBATV) Key Arena (Seattle)
Sunday, September 5 12 p.m. (ABC) US Airways Center
Wednesday, September 8* 7 p.m. (NBATV) Key Arena (Seattle)
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