It was fun early, but ended ugly as the Mercury lost to the reigning champs.
A lot of positives and learning will come of this game. Despite the lopsided score, the Mercury can come home with some moral victories. Sure, the 105-83 loss to the Lynx is probably not the way Coach Gaines envisioned his season starting, but he also didn't anticipate playing without star guard Diana Taurasi.
At a practice the day before the game Taurasi suffered a hip flexor that kept her out of the game. The team did not want to start the season allowing a minor injury to become a bigger injury risking the season.
Without Taurasi the Mercury sent out the starting line-up of Samantha Prahalis (rookie), Charde Houston, Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner, and Nakia Sanford. The group got out to an impressive start raining three's early with an even first quarter, 20-20.
A big part of the early surge was Houston and her shooting. She was on fire from three early scoring off of the catch every time she touched the ball. In the first quarter she went 3-5 from deep (5-11 for the game) as she finished just two points shy of her career high with 24 points for the game. Houston carried the load offensively, but seemed to be a bit of a black hole on offense. When she caught the ball -- in most cases -- the ball went up at the rim. It was effective for about 10 minutes until the Lynx took over the game.
Coach Gaines had to be pleased with the play of his rookie point guard. Prahalis was in control for most of the game amassing turnovers primarily because her teammates got her the ball in bad positions on the inbounds. The Mercury finished with 17 total turnovers as a team and most of those came after the Lynx scored and, they were inbounding the ball. Too many times the team passed the ball directly to the wrong jersey or putting the ball-handler in a double-team position.
Those turnovers compounded the issue helping the Lynx pile on the points getting up by 20+ points for most of the second half.
Aside from turnovers, rebounding was a low point for the Mercury. They were outrebounded by 12 for the game and that was the exact number of offensive rebounds by the Lynx. Even when the team was able to get a stop they would give up an offensive rebound and a score.
A lot of good came from this game in particular with Houston's shooting, Prahalis' overall play, and team shooting from three. Factor in the absence of Taurasi and this loss was a building block on the new look Mercury creating an identity and a rotation.
They hit the court next against the basement of the WNBA last year - the Tulsa Shock on Tuesday, May 20th at 5pm local time. The game can be seen via Live Access on Phoenix Mercury.com.