Game. Set. Season. The Mercury End The Year At Home Verse The Seattle Storm

Through all the drama, injuries, loses, and tough times the Mercury held their heads high in the locker room after the game ready, ready for next year.

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Game. Set. Season. The Mercury Finish The Season At Home Verse The Seattle Storm

All things considered this has been a season of mixed emotions. Once Penny Taylor went down the expectations diminished a little bit, but then Diana Taurasi began missing games, and this season became about development, not wins and losses.

Coming into tonight's game the Phoenix Mercury had locked up the No. 2 position in the WNBA Draft Lottery and the Seattle Storm secured the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture. With the action on ESPN the season ended the right way against a rival on National Television where both teams could go out there and just play basketball.

The season series has been one sided this year as the Storm have taken three of four, but the one Mercury win was in the last meeting.

It was a close game for the most part in the first half as the Mercury were forcing turnovers and getting up-and-down the floor with ease. They forced 10 first quarter turnovers on their way to five point lead. Krystal Thomas put on an amazing show with a career-high 18 rebounds. Towards the end of the game she knew she was getting close to the franchise record (20) and was at times finger-tips away.

"I was told what I needed to go and get," said Thomas about falling short of the team record. "I was trying and trying, usually it is when you know and you try that you do not get it."

As the third quarter came to a close Tina Thompson nailed a rainbow three that seemed to be a back breaker for the team.

In the end the season came to an end with an unfortunate outcome as the Mercury (7-27) lost to the Storm (16-18) by a final of 71-57 to a standing ovation at home on ESPN. This concluded a rather tough and unfortunate season for the Mercury as they finished with only seven wins and a 20.6 winning percentage, both a franchise low.

"We were plugging in players out of position," said Coach Gaines after the game. "It gets you to learn some things, when I was younger a coach I had -- Pat Riley -- he had the guards play the bigs spot and the bigs to play the guards spot. These players got a chance to appreciate that, DB (Bonner) played the one this year she knows how it is to play the one and how to get everyone into the right spots, and how it is always the point guards fault. I think it's only a good thing. I know it was a bad year for us, but we did have some positives come out of it for us. "

Despite all of that the team remained up-beat, competitive, and most importantly hopeful of what this season means for seasons to come.

Balance took over for the team as DeWanna Bonner (13 points 3 rebounds) admittedly took a step back allowing her teammates Samantha Prahalis (7 points 6 assists) and Candice Dupree (10 points 3 rebounds) a chance to get into the offense.

"It was tough being the leader and having the target on your back every game," said Bonner about the year. "There is always someone doubling you, holding you, and doing whatever they can to stop you. More power to those three All-Stars (Taurasi, Taylor, Dupree) who play with a target on their back every game, that is tough."

It was that kind of a year for Bonner where she stepped her game up to an MVP level leading this team on and off the court. She elevated her game to be on the same level giving the Mercury four All-Stars. The meant a lot for those players that are not used to being starters or getting major minutes, like rookie point guard Prahalis.

"It was decent, not really good and not really bad somewhere in the middle" was Prahalis take on the season. "We had a lot of injuries. A lot of people helped me. Corey helped me and was patient with me. Hopefully getting thrown into the fire without a healthy squad will pay off next season."

It will be interesting to see how this team rebounds because the most important statistic of this season is what Head Coach Corey Gaines teams do after missing the playoffs. They win Championships.

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Routed By The Champs, Dupree Re-Signs

The defending Champion Minnesota Lynx came in and played like the defending Champions, but not before Mercury gave the fans a glimpse of what they will look like next year at 50% capacity still awaiting the return of Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor of course.

With Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner, and Samantha Prahalis all on the court for the first time since July 7th where they combined for 54 points in a high scoring loss that finished in double overtime there was a buzz in the arena. That buzz was saying, "Watch out Minnesota, we will be back next year."

This time the trio came out and fought in the first quarter to a respectable finish trailing only 24-22 combining for 15 points 4 assists and 4 rebounds.

"DB has done a great job this year carrying the load for the entire summer," said Dupree about the trio. "Playing with them is fun. I think we have bonded a lot this summer even though we have been losing. Being friends off the court has helped."

The second and third quarters were a different story as Erin Thorn caught fire fueling a run with her three made three's in the second quarter ballooning the Lynx lead to 22 points after three. The Minnesota Lynx (27-6) capped off the 89-66 win over the Phoenix Mercury (7-26) dropping them 2.5 games behind the Tulsa Shock -- locking up last place in the Western Conference and the second slot in Wednesday's Draft Lottery.

Bonner led the way with with 17 points and Prahalis was impressive with 14 points 8 assists in the loss. Turnovers (19) and shooting (36.2%) hurt the team again, but getting Dupree on the court was the most important statistic.

"They are a tough team," said Bonner after the game. "Maybe they will go all the way and are definitely a contender."

The team finishes off the regular season Sunday, September 24th at home against rival Seattle Storm (15-18) at noon local time on ESPN.

However, it was not all bad news for the Mercury.

Per team policy the terms of the deal cannot be disclosed, but those are the semantics that are not important. What is important is that the Mercury officially re-signed Candice Dupree, one of the best players over the past few seasons even with the likes of Taurasi and Taylor aboard.

It is a multi-year deal that will keep the presumed core of the Mercury intact for a few seasons.

Dupree has only been on the team for three years after being drafted by Chicago in 2006 where she spent her first four years in the WNBA. These last few years have not only been great for Dupree, but historic on a team level. She has produced the two highest rebounding totals in team history in 2010 and in 2011 as well as the most double-doubles in team history.

She easily could have entered free-agency to pursue a deal with another team, a contender that could add her to a rotation, but for her it was merely a formality to put her name on the dotted line. There was not a team in the WNBA that could offer her what the Mercury do in terms of opportunity and the invaluable friendships she has established here.

"There wasn't any other team in the league I wanted to go to," said Dupree before the game. "It was Phoenix or bust."

Over the past two seasons the team has locked up Taurasi, Taylor, and now Dupree while growing good young talent around them. The team next year will be the polar opposite of this season -- an embarrassment of riches.

That is why this signing, above all actually, was the most important. The rugged style Dupree plays with allows for the finesse of Taurasi, Taylor, DeWanna Bonner, and now Samantha Prahalis to shine.

"I like to think I am a pretty versatile player," stated Dupree on her value to the team. "If they need me to post up I can do that and do a good job of getting Diana and Penny open so they can get their shots off. Crashing the boards and running the floor, it is pretty easy."

It is that versatility that gives the Mercury a chance to be a great, not good, but great team in 2013. This is basically the calm before the storm, the opportunity to learn how to lose before taking the next step as a Championship contender.

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L.A. Down, And Two To Go

It has been a tough year, that is not a matter of debate, but the Phoenix Mercury seen to perform better on the road than they do at home. Of their seven wins four have been on the road.

Playing in Los Angeles is always a tough task no matter the scenario or how many wins the team has had in the past. For this game there was a little more excitement than others before it as Candice Dupree made her return after missing 16 straight games and DeWanna Bonner suited up for the first time in two games.

With what seemed like an army of a thousand the Mercury went out with nearly a full roster at their disposal for the first time in weeks.

An early hot start by the Sparks gave them a 12 point lead after one and then fueled behind a 20-11 run led by Candace Parker and Alana Beard they took a 54-40 halftime lead. Parker led the way for the Sparks with 26 points 11 rebounds and 7 assists doing a little bit of everything to push the game out of striking distance for the visiting Mercury.

In the end it was another loss by a margin of 101-76 for the Mercury (7-25) as the Sparks (23-10) locked-up the second seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

"We ran out of juice a little bit, and they kept on scoring," said Coach Gaines about the third quarter. "We hit a couple shots, and got some momentum going into it, but we just couldn't stop their momentum. I could only play three starters per quarter, and had to play subs, and we kind of dropped off a little bit."”

Bonner controlled the game for the Mercury almost as well as Parker did for her squad with 23 points 6 rebounds and 6 assists basically playing every position on the court. That has been Bonner all year though.

"We made a couple turnovers," said Bonner after the game. "When you're trying to come back on a team, you can't afford turnovers."

This loss was highlighted (as was their last loss) by the turnover differential and the points scored off of those miscues. When I asked Coach Gaines if players having to play out of position had to do with that, he simply replied no.

It is hard to not look at Alexis Hornbuckle (9 turnovers in two games) who is primarily a two or even a three having to handle the ball more and the same with Bonner primarily a three having more play-making responsibilities, and therefore turning the ball over more as being the problem. This is primarily due to the injuries to Samantha Prahalis and Diana Taurasi, the teams primary play-makers, but it is still a major issue.

Take away those turnovers (37 over the past two games) or at least even them out with the opposition (21 in that same time) and the Mercury are not losing by 25 and 31 in the last two games. Sounds simple, but just inserting Dymond Simon into the line-up does not fix the issue. A lot of this will clean itself up when the remaining injured players return next year.

The Mercury get a nice home sendoff as they host the Minnesota Lynx (26-5) on Friday night at 7 p.m. local time on NBATV and then host the rival Seattle Storm (14-18) on Sunday at noon local time on ESPN2.

On a slightly more positive note the Mercury join the Tulsa Shock, Washington Mystics and either the New York Liberty or Chicago Sky in the WNBA Draft Lottery on September 26th. This draft is extremely important for the Mercury as they can make the leap from Bottom Four to the best team in the WNBA next year when fully loaded, especially if they can "win the lottery."

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Seven Players Again And Again Another Loss, 86-55 To The Sky

The "Good job, Good effort," kid would be proud of the Phoenix Mercury for the most part in this losing affair. They came out (again) with only three players dressed to face yet another playoff contending team.

Traditionally the Chicago Sky have been a welcomed opponent as the team is 12-1 all-time against them, but this has been the least traditional year in the team's history.

With the usual suspects on the bench in street clothes -- Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree they were joined by Samantha Prahalis, Diana Taurasi, and DeWanna Bonner. Again, 78.1 PPG on the bench wearing pant suits or jeans rather than sneakers and a jersey.

Against a shorthanded rotation of only seven total players the Sky (13-18) got their second ever win against the Mercury (7-24) by a final of 86-55.

Won the third quarter, first two we couldn't score," said Coach Gaines after the tough loss. "We didn't have any pop, everything was just short."

For the most part the game was over in the second quarter after a series of team turnovers led to a 27 point deficit. That was the story of the game, turnovers and the easy points the Sky were able to get off of those turnovers. Overall the team finished with 18 turnovers leading to 27 points. There was a sequence where the team turned the ball over multiple times leading to a couple of dagger threes to build that lead.

Combine those turnovers with a short rotation against a tough playoff caliber team and you have the recipe for a 31 point blowout loss.

The effort was there as Briana Gilbreath (8 points 7 rebounds) and Krystal Thomas (6 points 13 rebounds) really played hard every play even though it doesn't show up in the boxscore. As a team that is out of the playoffs officially and getting closer to putting a final chapter to this tough season it is a testament to the players' professionalism and character that they still play with effort.

"It doesn't matter whenever you put on your uniform whether you are making the playoffs or not you have a job to do," said Charde Houston after the game. "As professionals I am just so proud of us and how we have handled everything, with the injuries, but it is nice to know for the fans that we are not the type of team that just gives up."

There were some parts of the game where looks of disgust or lack of energy to stop another fast-break were evident. That happens to teams that are winning. This game was the team's second in three nights with only seven players as mentioned above explaining the low shooting percentages and tired legs tonight.

It does not get easier for the Mercury as their run of facing 14 playoff teams in their final 15 games continues with a trip to visit the Los Angeles Sparks (22-10) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. local time on WNBA Live Access. On the season the Mercury are 0-4 against the Shock losing by a margin of 13.75 points each game.

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Falling Short While Shorthanded

Over the course of the long season both the Phoenix Mercury and the Tulsa Shock have spent their share of time in the cellar out west. This late in the season a match-up between the teams -- who combine for 13 wins -- is merely for pride.

These two teams have locked up three times this season already. The first two went to the Mercury and were the teams only wins during a tough 2-7 start to the year. Unfortunately the last match-up went to the Shock and provided them their first win of the season after starting off 0-9 on the year.

It is always fun playing the Shock as they are led by Tameka Johnson who played the past three seasons with the Mercury.

This game was uncomfortable from the start as the team came out with only eight players in uniform with DeWanna Bonner was not listed as a starter. Diana Taurasi, Samantha Prahalis, and Bonner all registered a DNP as well and throw in Candice Dupree along with Penny Taylor and you have 78.1 points sitting in street clothes on the bench.

"We knew before tip-off that we were going to have only seven people," stated Briana after the game. "We got our minds right that people that might not have logged as many minutes in prior games would be logging 20 minutes tonight."

Early on the team could not score for anything with lineups that were not used to playing with each other and relying on two bench players.

Lynetta Kizer (19 points 7 rebounds) and Dymond Simon (16 points 6 assists) had career nights coming off of the bench and were nearly enough to pull off the short-handed victory. The Mercury outplayed the Shock in the middle of the game 55-44, but got dominated in the bookend quarters 48-29.

That was the deciding factor for the Tulsa Shock (7-23) as they knocked off the Phoenix Mercury (7-23) by a count of 92-84 setting both teams into a dead tie at the bottom of the west.

The fight in the Mercury cannot be measured by points on the scoreboard at the end of a game. This game told many stories, none of which were that of a team at the bottom of the conference. Overwhelmingly the theme of the season has been about who is not on the court, not about those on the court. With seven total players available for Coach Corey Gaines he turned to three rookies to play major roles.

"Corey tells me to go out there and play like I play in practice which is like basically like pick-up," said Simon after the loss. "This is a great experience for me even though we are not getting the results we want."

When the offense was stalling Simon came in and provided some major energy allowing Alexis Hornbuckle (13 points 3 assists) to get her groove going on offense. Once that happened she became a highlight reel with two amazing crossovers that led to a great finish at the rim and then a Magic Johnson like pass to Simon for a mid-range jump shot. WNBA.com needs to reevaluate the voting for the leagues best crossover after Buck went And-1 style on the Shock defenders.

For the Mercury it is not about the amount of dogs in the fight, but the fight in the dogs that are fighting. This pack of dogs can fight.

Up next for the Mercury is a visit from the Chicago Sky (12-18) a team they are actually 1-0 against after beating them back in late June. Take a break from football and check out the Mercury at 3 p.m. local time.

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Mercury Fall Hard To The Sun 100-73 At Home

With the playoffs officially out of the question the Phoenix Mercury are simply playing for pride. Playing against the Connecticut Sun for the second time in five days on ESPN nonetheless had to heighten the level of pride they played for.

In their first encounter five days ago the Mercury parlayed a hot start with a steady four quarters to complete a solid their best road win of the year. They started with that same formula tonight hoping it would translate into the best home game of the year.

Admittedly it was a little confusing every time the public address announcer stated, "Sun ball," with Kendall Marshall, Goran Dragic, and P.J. Tucker all courtside, but I figured it all out.

The team got off to a hot start jumping out to a 10-3 run with good shooting and energy from a hot crowd. That shooting remained a factor as the team shot 51.6% from the field building a 45-43 halftime lead despite being without Diana Taurasi and Samantha Prahalis -- two starters.

All of that changed when Sun Coach Mike Thibault began pressuring the ball full court and forcing the Mercury into a lot of shortened possessions because of the pressure. It seemed to wear on the Mercury throughout the third quarter as they were outscored by 11 building the up a lead that became insurmountable.

The Mercury (7-22) lost to the Sun (22-8) by a final of 100-73 as Connecticut avenged the earlier, embarrassing loss.

"In the second half we ran out of juice," stated Coach Gaines after the game. "They changed their defense on DB. They denied her the ball and made someone else score. We couldn't score, when we can't score our defense suffers."

The Sun took the loss last week a little personal as they were a little extra physical and a little extra quicker to the loose balls. Late in the game Alexis Hornbuckle (3 assists 3 rebounds) was ejected for what appeared to be a normal foul, but ended with Mistie Mims hitting her head hard on the floor for the Flagrant and an ejection.

The team was led by DeWanna Bonner again with her 24 points and 10 rebounds, but she struggled to get easy shots with the defense focused on her. Charde Houston ended up as the teams second leading scorer with 13 points, but had six of those in the first six minutes of the game.

Earlier in the day the Mercury announced that they were keeping point guard Dymond Simon and Briana Gilbreath, but had to let go of rookie Avery Warley in the process. Warley had been a coach's favorite as a rugged rebounder, but they needed more ball-handlers. Tonight they apparently needed even more ball-handlers with Taurasi and Prahalis out relying on Hornbuckle and Bonner to carry the load as out of position guards.

With Hornbuckle potentially being fined or suspended it will be interesting to see how they manage Taurasi the rest of the way as Coach was very open about the potential to sit her.

"We are out of the playoffs mathematically. She has played a lot of games over all these years, Europe, WNBA, Olympics. She needs a rest. Now Hornbuckle may be suspended i don;t know the ruling, but I know the rule is the President has to go back and look at the call to either fine or suspend."

With their peers courtside the Mercury were run out of the gym, but played with a lot of fight. Up next is a visit from the Tulsa Shock (6-23) at 7 p.m. local time. The Mercury are 2-1 against the Shock this season and battling them for a Top 3 pick, which is another conversation all together.

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The Mercury Finish Off The Road Trip 1-2 After An 89-83 Loss In Indiana

The final leg in the tripod road trip visiting three of the Eastern Conference's best teams climaxed with a day game against the Indiana Fever. This game was eerily similar to the previous four games (two at home) for the Mercury facing a playoff contender.

Everything started off well as could hope for the team with a 9-0 run fueled by back-to-back threes by Diana Taurasi.

That lead evaporated shortly after as the Fever gained their stride closing out the first half by outscoring the Mercury 54-32 from that point on. Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas were the catalysts in the first half combining for 25 points.

In the second half the Fever had a counter for every run by the Mercury.

The third quarter lead was cut to 11 and momentum was starting form for Phoenix, but a four-point play by Briann January (Arizona State Alum) took the air out of that. Then in the fourth, after getting the game back in a manageable situation of 10 points, Catchings (19 points 5 rebounds) hit a jumper followed by a steal and a three by Erin Phillips.

For all the effort and fight the Phoenix Mercury (7-21) fell to 1-2 on their road trip losing to the Indiana Fever (19-9) by a count of 89-83, Douglas led the way with 30 points on an efficient 12-18 from the field.

"They're a great team," stated Bonner after the game. "They came out aggressive. We made a run in the second half. Coming off a long road trip, still feel like we played well."

This road trip provided good signs for the team overall. In those three games they lost in blowout fashion to New York and knocked off (in a route) the top seed in the East Connecticut before losing a tough one to Indiana. The offense seems to be back in a groove.

Despite the offense being back in old form to a reasonable extent, those death nail quarters are still affecting the team.

Tonight's second quarter is a prime example. After hanging 26 in the first quarter on the WNBA's second best per point defense they only netted 15 in the second quarter. The law of averages plagued them once again in this game.

At one point in the game a member of the Fever announce team commented on DeWanna Bonner (23 points 8 rebounds 5 assists) and her shooting numbers this season. "She doesn't look like a 29% three-point shooter," he said as Bonner nailed a deep three. Well, she makes nearly two shots from three a game and can get hot, but it is fire that burns both ways as she can go through stretches missing 4-5 in a row as well. For the season Bonner only has six games where she shot 50%, or better from three, but has gained a reputation as a fearless gunner from deep.

The bench chipped in with 14 points from Charde Houston and 11 out of Lynetta Kizer.

With Seattle clinching a playoff berth the remainder of the season is now for the coaching staff to evaluate the roster for next year and avoid any more major injuries. There are only six games remaining on the schedule, five of which are at home giving the team something to play for as they close out this tough, down season.

Up next for the Mercury is a visit from those same Connecticut Sun (21-8) that they beat handily on this road trip. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. local time.

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Knocking Off Playoff Teams Like It Is A Habit

When it has been good this season, it has been great. When it has been bad, it has been truly rough to watch. The team effort against the Connecticut Sun was one of those truly great moments.

Just like against San Antonio and Seattle last week, Connecticut came in looking for a win over the six win Mercury as they sit atop the Eastern Conference. Sitting in the polar opposite position in the Western Conference staring up at every other team in the conference are the Mercury.

Behind a furious start on offense and a great individual performance by DeWanna Bonner - more on that in a bit - the Mercury (7-20) cruised to a win over the Sun (20-8) on the road 91-82. That is three wins in four games against playoff bound teams.

With this win they are no longer in the cellar showing signs of life with a healthier roster, emphasis on healthier, since the Olympic break. This game was won in the paint and behind Bonner's touch from behind the arc.

The dominance on the glass was particularly eye-opening in the first half as the Mercury collected as many offensive rebounds as the Sun did rebounds as a team. For the game the rebounding margin was +24 for the road Mercury. Krystal Thomas - as per the norm lately - was all over the glass finishing with 16 rebounds for the game leading all players and a putting together a career-high. In fact Thomas out-rebounded the Sun on the offensive glass (seven-to-five) all by herself.

That excellence on the glass allowed more opportunities on offense for the team and for Bonner. It was one of those great nights for Bonner who had a career-high six three-point makes on her way to 35 points. After dropping two straight bombs from nearly thirty feet out Bonner gave the boost needed to fight off a last run by the Sun.

The WNBA's leading scorer on the season notched her third game of 30+ points this season putting a major stamp on scoring books. As a career Sixth Woman Bonner has surfaced as one of the most dynamic scorers in the league this year with two All-Stars on the shelf.

Over the past week the team has felt a little bit more like the 2011 Mercury again scoring, laughing, and winning games.

Despite losing Samantha Prahalis to a shoulder injury against New York, the team just functions better with Diana Taurasi (16 points) in the game. The team has a bounce in their step since they came back from the break as they have also welcomed back Charde Houston (9 points 4 rebounds) to the court early from injury.

At nearly full health the Mercury have more options on offense, which has been the issue during the 4-19 start to the season. During that period they shot a WNBA low from the field and from three. In the past three wins they have shot it considerably better from the field at 42.4% and from three 31.1% with more scorers on the court in the three wins.

It is much tougher to score points with line-ups that have Avery Warley and Krystal Thomas on the floor who are great rebounders, but very limited offensively.

Now with Taurasi and Houston back, Briana Gilbreath and Lynetta Kizer offering a boost, and more depth on the roster the team is winning games. It shouldn't be a shock to the fans and teams of the WNBA that the Mercury can beat anyone on the floor with Taurasi in the line-up, even if she is now playing sidekick for the first time in her career to the emerging DeWanna Bonner.

Up next for the Mercury is the final leg in the three stop road trip to face the Indiana Fever (17-9) on Sunday, September 9th at 3:00 p.m. local time. The first time these teams played the Fever took the win in Phoenix 85-72.

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The Winning Streak Ends In New York With No Liberty

It was tough right out of the gates and right then and there you knew it was going to be a rough night. By basketball standards it was the textbook definition of "not pretty."

The game started off with an 11-0 run by the Liberty fueled by many missed long jumpers by the Mercury. Early on the team could not muster any rhythm or momentum as the deficit never was cut no lower than nine points after that point in the game. All good things come to an end, and for the Mercury, their brief flirtation with season ending perfection ended at the hands of the Liberty 87-59.

With this loss the Mercury fall to 6-20 while the Liberty rise to 11-16 as they battle for the final playoff spot out east.

Knocking off two playoff caliber teams was impressive with the team winning at home against the Storm and Silver Stars before hitting the road, which has been much tougher on the team this season. In those two games there was a flow to the game as the team played off of the crowd and their energy.

There was also a great group dynamic as the ball was moving around well getting a lot of different players involved.

While totaling only 59 points, the ball seemed to stop a lot ending possessions with long, quick jumpers. DeWanna Bonner (20 points), Diana Taurasi (10), and Alexis Hornbuckle (10) were the only players in double figures, all shooting under 30% from the field after shooting much better during the two previous games.

The Liberty were that team oriented pass happy team tonight. They finished with five players in double figures while Cappie Pondexter (10 points 8 assists) was able to lead the offense rather than be the offense.

A big part in the offense not having a flow was due to Samantha Prahalis going down with an undisclosed shoulder injury. She did not get on the scoreboard in her six minutes of action giving the team one less playmaker on the court. Taurasi also saw limited action tonight (15 minutes) as the game got out of hand quickly.

This runs some parallels with the big home loss to the Silver Stars a few weeks ago. In that game the shots were not falling and defensively the team gave up a lot of easy buckets at the rim. The same could be said tonight.

Overall this season cannot be judged by wins and losses as this game cannot be judged by the final score. This season, thanks to the injuries and a slow start, has created an open tryout for the final three to four roster spots on the 2013 roster. It is also a major opportunity for Prahalis and Bonner to garner experience not only as starters, but producers at a high level. Those two have not disappointed in their larger than normal roles this year.

Up next on the road trip is a visit to the east leading Connecticut Sun (20-7) who the Mercury have not played yet this season. It will be another unique challenge for the team on the road, especially if it is minus talented rookie Prahalis leading the charge.

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Two For The Money, The Mercury Drop The Silver Stars At Home 94-90

There was one thing that really stood out all season for the Phoenix Mercury and that is that they have yet to put together one winning streak all season. With a win in Seattle earlier in the week the team hosted the San Antonio Silver Stars with that -- and vengeance -- on their mind.

It was just one of those nights where everything was clicking for the home team early on. Watching the team make back-to-back-to-back threes early in the fourth was like a scene out of Space Jam where the players all drank from Michael's (Jordan) "Secret Stuff" and gained the energy and confidence with how good they were playing.

Or maybe it was the memories of the embarrassment that was a 42 point loss on Sunday, August 19th here in Phoenix.

The San Antonio Silver Stars came in with the third best record in the West and probably expected a cake-walk against the Mercury as they are still chasing the Lynx and Sparks out West in playoff seeding while the Mercury were circling the drain not but three days ago.

Instead the Mercury came out on all cylinders in the first quarter connecting on five threes including a series of back-to-back-to-back deep balls immediately followed by a DeWanna Bonner three-point play. The offense was clicking with great balance early as six players scored from the field, despite all that they trailed by three after one.

All season the team has been plagued by one bad quarter that doomed them to another inevitable loss. The second quarter was the exact opposite as Bonner's 10 points and Briana Gilbreath's 8 points combined to outscore the Silver Stars as a team. The Mercury hit cruise control.

It was 2011 all over again with this cast rallying around Diana Taurasi and enjoying the fruits of a defense that was pulled magnetically to the All-Star giving them scoring opportunities.

"Diana really causes a lot of people to shift towards her," stated Coach Gaines. "It makes the offense work just that much better, it is just space. You can't just stay with the players you have to stay on Diana."

Late in the game it got a little more interesting as the shots stopped falling and the game was cut to as little as two points with :37 seconds to go.

Krystal Thomas's (8 points 5 rebounds) clutch buckets off the pick-and-roll and Diana Taurasi's (25 points 4 assists) free-throws down the stretch gave the team the lift they needed. Despite the late game push the Mercury (6-19) bested the Silver Stars (17-9) by a score of 94-90 for their second win in a row.

That is two wins a-in a row and to make it even sweeter, that is two wins in a row against the fourth and third best teams in the West respectively.

The games seem to have a better rhythm now that the team is getting healthy bodies on the floor and discovering some undervalued young talents like Gilbreath and Lynetta Kizer to fill the void, essentially giving them a team tryout on the fly. Gilbreath has really taken advantage of this opportunity averaging 6.5 PPG with really solid defense to compliment the offensive prowess of the team.

Bringing back Taurasi has been a major punch of energy for the entire team. Since her return the team is averaging 80.3 PPG an improvement of 6.9 PPG. The schedule does not get easier, but as of tonight the Mercury are five games behind the Seattle Storm for the final playoff spot out West. First up is a three game east coast swing in New York (September 5th), Connecticut (September 7th), and Indiana (September 9th) before coming home to face Connecticut (September 12th) again. All four games are against teams that have beaten the Mercury this season and are in the playoff hunt out East.

Getting a few of those games is important for playoff odds as the regular season finale is a home game against those same Storm. It just got interesting.

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The Losing Streak Is Over As The Mercury Defeat The Storm 75-68

In a game that was essentially meaningless for both teams the Phoenix Mercury traveled up north to play the last game this season in their rivalry with the Seattle Storm. The Mercury were maligned in a 10-game losing streak entering the game while the Storm were in their own downward spiral losing three out of four games as of late.

Coming into the game the team was in the basement out west, but that was before Diana Taurasi came back.

"We've been saying that sometimes when you lose 10 games in a row you focus on the 10 losses," said Taurasi. "But we've focused on putting quarters together."

That was exactly what the team did as they came out on the road finally finding their rhythm. The problem all season has been putting together four solid quarters. In this game the team was consistent for all four quarters as they scored 18 points in the first and second to lead at the half 36-32.

Basically sitting a 2-3 Zone for the entire game the Mercury played their best defensive game all season against the team they are the most familiar with. That zone was the key to keeping Katie Smith (3 points on 1-4 shooting) and Lauren Jackson (6 points on 2-8 shooting) at bay. It also forced Sue Bird into one of her worst games of the season in terms of turnovers (5) as she could not get into her own rhythm.

Throughout the game the team was able to ward off the runs of the Storm even after squandering an 11-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Key buckets from Briana Gilbreath (3 points and 2 steals) and Samantha Prahalis (16 points 6 assists) made the difference in the game. As the Storm were gaining momentum, Gilbreath stole a Bird pass, threw it ahead to Taurasi (13 points 4 assists) only to get it back for the And-1 bucket to give the Mercury their largest lead of the night.

That ended the first run, but Prahalis sealed the victory with a running floater in the lane high off the glass to end the Mercury's (5-19) 10 game losing streak as they weathered the Storm (11-14) by a final of 75-68.

"I was telling her she has to do that," stated Coach Gaines about Prahalis being aggressive. "I was calling her number. Before, she would get to the same spot, but then wouldn't shoot it and turn out. So now she's shooting. She made a step in the right direction. She's a pain when she starts going. And she can do it all the time, too. I told her to just learn from it."

This win was a half glimpse into the future the Mercury have with the trio of Taurasi, Prahalis, and the team's leading scorer this season DeWanna Bonner (24 points 11 rebounds) all clicking and playing well together.

They are still missing Candice Dupree and Penny Taylor, which bodes very well for the 2013 version of the Mercury.

In the mean time the team is concerned on trying to salvage this season with the remaining schedule. Again, the playoffs are unrealistic at this point as they are 5.5 games behind the Storm with 10 games remaining. Either the Storm fall apart or the Mercury catch fire going perfect - or near perfect - to end the season. The search for perfection continues Saturday, September 1st at 7 p.m. local time as they host the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Silver Stars are currently the third seed in the West and the last time they were in Phoenix it led to a lopsided 89-47 affair.

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The Mercury Drop Their Tenth Game In A Row To The Fever

What a difference having an all-star, all-world talent makes on the overall cohesion of a basketball team. For the past 19 games the Mercury were without star Diana Taurasi, but welcomed her back to action against the Indiana Fever.

"It was a different game, a different feel, a different energy," said Bonner about having her star teammate back. "It was exciting and it was fun."

It was the first time playing the Fever all season and the first game with Taurasi in seemingly forever.

Early on Taurasi and the Mercury caught fire jumping out with back-to-back threes from DeWanna Bonner and the returning star. The offense faltered a bit after that only offering up another six points in the first quarter creating the patented hole to climb out of like they have all year.

With timely shooting from the duo of Bonner and Taurasi the Mercury fought their way back in the game at the half trailing only 35-31. In the first half Taurasi showed no rust and was the catalyst for the team bringing the energy to her teammates with her infectiously positive attitude and demeanor.

The second half was competitive for the Mercury as they did not allow Tamika Catchings to score a basket after the first quarter all the way until the 9:15 mark in the fourth. That was not enough however as former Sun Devil Briann January scored 22 points and was assisted by Katie Douglas's 16 points, nine of which came in the final quarter.

In the end the Fever (14-8) spoiled the return of Taurasi for the Mercury (4-19) in a 85-72 defeat.

"We are going into every game with a good attitude," said Taurasi about her team. "That is probably the one thing I have been the most impressed about coming into the locker room and in practice."

Having the opportunity to watch the team from the sidelines made Taurasi's comeback that much easier as she has seen the way Prahalis, Hornbuckle, and the other newbies have been able to do this season. The knowledge and awareness of Bonner, (Krystal) Thomas, and Nakia Sanford's games was evident as well, but still some rust to knock off.

This was a great opportunity to get some chemistry and cohesion with the team as Taurasi has not been in uniform for 19 straight games as Bonner and Prahalis starred. The group played well together overall, but there was a lack of on court chemistry as they were able to do things individually, but not collectively.

"It is easy to play with Sammy (Prahalis), DB (Bonner) I obviously have been on the court with a lot, and Krystal I know her game pretty well," said Taurasi after the game about her learning curve after missing 19 games.

Taurasi finished with a team high 19 points and Bonner complimented her with 14 points and 9 rebounds. It was another tough shooting night as the team shot 37.8% from the field and 35% from deep.

"It was a lack of focus," said Bonner about the off shooting. "Maybe we were too excited that she was back, we were anxious to play with our Gold Medalist. It will be the same when Candice (Dupree) and Penny (Taylor) come back."

The Mercury are built a lot like the Oklahoma City Thunder that is if the Thunder lost Russell Westbrook for the season, Kevin Durant for over half the year, Serge Ibaka for half the year, and thrust James Harden into a star role they would not be a Finals contender either. Well the Mercury lost Penny Taylor for the season, Taurasi for over half the year, Candice Dupree for half the year, and relied on Bonner to be a superstar because of those injuries.

Now that Taurasi is back there is an outside shot of salvaging the season. Making the playoffs is not really in the cards, but ending the nights of 42 point routes and uncompetitive games is a distinct possibility.

Up next for the Mercury is a trip to Seattle to visit the Storm (10-13) for their forth meeting of the season at 7 p.m. local time on Live Access. The previous three games resulted in three loses by an average of 16 points per game.

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The Losing Streak Hits Nine For The Mercury At Home Against New York

As the Mercury took the court in an environmentally conscious fashion on "Go Green Night" the team not only promoted recycling in life, but also on the court. Looking up and down the roster the team suited up five players that made the final roster back in May.

The additions of Briana Gilbreath, Dymond Simon, and Krystal Thomas all were prime examples of how injuries have whittled this team down this season.

"I was very nervous at first, but these girls and the coaches made me feel real comfortable," said Gilbreath after the game.

For the first time in seven games the Mercury took on another struggling team in the New York Liberty. It was a slow start out of the gates as the Mercury fell behind by 14 points early and played catch up all game.

Former Mercury star Cappie Pondexter (31 points) put on a show stopping any kind of run or momentum shifts with her keen offense and timely shooting. She battled point-for-point with DeWanna Bonner especially in the second half.

The Mercury went into the half down ten (50-40) in an entertaining, high scoring first half.

The show between Pondexter and Bonner in the third quarter was worth the price of admission. In the third quarter the Mercury outscored the Liberty 21-20, but saw Pondexter outscore Bonner 15-12 in a close, pivotal quarter. If the lid was put on Pondexter then the Mercury would have clawed back into the game. Instead they went into the fourth in the same position they were at the half despite some good basketball.

In the end the Liberty (9-13) took this win on the road 89-77 over the Mercury (4-18).

"We cut it down to three (in the third)," said Coach Gaines after the game. "They shot better from the three than they did from the two. Tried to slow them down with the zone, Cappie hit some shots in our faces. That is why Cappie is Cappie."

Bonner put forth a good effort, but was a volume shooter on her way to 34 points on the night. It took her 26 attempts to get her points as the shots were not falling at a high percentage. Samantha Prahalis did her best to shoulder the rest of the load with her (12 points 4 assists), but it was not enough as her shots were not going down at a high clip either.

"Cappie had a great game today," said Bonner after the game. "When they needed a big bucket she knocked it down and that stopped us from getting over the hump."

Diana Taurasi suited up, warmed up, and took her spot on the bench for this one. The problem was the only time she left that spot on the bench was to high-five teammates in timeouts and between quarters.

The Mercury get one more at home before traveling again as they host the Indiana Fever on Saturday at 7 p.m. local time. The Fever are 13-8 on the season and have yet to play the Mercury in 2012.

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Mercury Ink Briana Gilbreath To A Seven Day Contract

The Mercury signed yet another "seven-day" contract bringing in 2012 third round pick (of the Washington Mystics) Briana Gilbreath. With Candice Dupree and Charde Houston on the shelf the roster spot opened up.

Gilbreath is a 6-0 guard from Southern California (USC) standout was drafted by the Mystics in the third round this year. She did not make the roster in the nations capital, but will have an opportunity to play on a Mercury team that has seen three players go down with season ending injuries.

With Samantha Prahalis and Alexis Hornbuckle starting and newcomer Dymond Simon coming off the bench the Mercury can use all the help they can get in the back court. She is a scoring guard that was very active on the glass in college, both will be welcome additions.

The Mercury host the New York Liberty on Thursday night at 7 p.m. local time.

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Mercury Drop Their Eight In A Row 89-47 To The Silver Stars

Something had to give when the Phoenix Mercury, losers of seven straight hosted the San Antonio Silver Stars, winners of 10 straight. Well, maybe nothing had to give, but those two streaks did play a major factor in the outcome of this game.

It was a tough first half where DeWanna Bonner unfortunately picked up right where she left off from the last outing as she scored only three points. The Mercury as a team struggled to get any offense going consistently dribbling out the shot-clock before kicking the ball to an unwanting offensive threat.

Too often the ball found its way into the hands of Dymond Simon, Lynetta Kizer, and Avery Warley with less than five seconds on the clock. That is no way to score as the Mercury fell behind 41-22 at the half.

It is tough to be in any game when Samantha Prahalis (1-7) and Bonner (1-7) shoot a combined 2-14 from the field, a combined 0-4 from three in a half.

Coach Gaines joked after the game about the way teams are focusing on Bonner and Prahalis asking if we had any ideas to share them, “If you got any ideas tell me, I will gladly take them.”

The second half was only good in the respect that the Mercury matched their first half scoring output (22) in the third quarter. There was more of a flow on offense as Prahalis assisted on four baskets. On the other hand the defense gave up 24 more points keeping the Mercury at bay.

This loss was a tough one for the Mercury (4-17) as they drop two straight out of the Olympic Break and the Silver Stars (15-5) continue rolling with an 11-game winning streak 89-47.

Bonner (10 points 5 rebounds) could not get anything going on offense struggling to score from the perimeter all game. The same can be said for Prahalis (8 points 4 assists 5 rebounds) as she struggled to get any offense going. This game was all about Alexis Hornbuckle (11 points 7 rebounds 3 assists 3 steals) as she did everything in her power to push the team to victory, but it was not enough. Her effort and energy in the first quarter was the difference in a 7 point difference that easily could have been a 20 point difference.

“I just feel like with the injuries anyone can step up and have a great game on this team,” said Hornbuckle after the game. “I never want to be a liability whether it is on defense or offense. Over the break I took it upon myself to get better.”

Overall this season has been tough as role players have been cast into the role of team leaders by default. It is starting to wear on the likes of Bonner and Samantha Prahalis as defenses are keying on them more forcing them into tougher situations than they were seeing say 10-15 games ago.

“There is like 60 points on the bench,” stated Coach Gaines after the game when asked about his other players getting a chance to step up. Then when you rely on others who are not used to being in that spot you get mixed results, “they are not those type of players they are role players.”

Up next for the Mercury is another home game on Thursday night at 7pm local time as they host the New York Liberty at U.S. Airways Center.

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Losing Streak Stretches To Seven As The Mercury Fall To The Storm

Coming out of the Olympic Break the Phoenix Mercury were looking to make the second half of the season hum with a different tune. There was hope that Olympian Diana Taurasi would be available to play, but she was not able to make the trip due to her travel schedule.

There was a lot of motivation for this game in particular as the Mercury dropped two games to the Seattle Storm before the break and are five games behind them in the playoff race.

The Mercury came out with a lot of heart despite being severly short-handed keeping the game close for most of the first half and third quarter. Rookie Samanatha Prahalis (15 points 3 assists) did her best early scoring in a variety of ways to keep the game in striking distance.

Her made shot at the buzzer before half ended up being waved off taking a major momentum push away from the Mercury. Instead they went into the half down five 34-19 struggling to score.

In the third quarter the team went through a familiar stretch where they could not score and the Storm finally caught their rythme behind Tina Thompson (8 points) and Camille Little (17 points) stretching the lead to 11 points entering the final quarter.

The team just ran out of gas as the Storm (10-10 pulled away for the 72-58 win over the Mercury (4-16). As of now the losing streak is at seven games for the Mercury.

"We just couldn't score in the second half," said head coach Corey Gaines. "DB (DeWanna Bonner) was 3-for-18 and we just couldn't score. Missed open shots. We've been trying to find our rhythm all year, and injuries don't help."

Bonner was not able to get going missing tough shots due to the tough defense the Storm played on her. She finished with not only a season low 7 points (her first game in single digits all season), but also shot a season low 16.6% shooting from the field. Her shooting was not as alarming as the fact that she only had one free-throw attempt all, another season low.

Prahalis did her best to keep the team in the game, but it wasn't in the cards as the team is now six games back with only 13 games to play. Her New York confidence was evident after the game.

"It was alright. We were all ready to play, but we were a little off shooting. We'll be okay."

Up next for the team is a home game against San Antonio as they host the Silver Stars on Sunday at 3p.m. local time.

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Return From Olympics To WNBA Has Taurasi, Bird Going From Friends To Foes

Every four years longtime Western Conference rivals Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi team up for the red, white, and blue, but now it is back to business in the WNBA.

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Who Do The WNBA Coaches Vote As Rookie Of The Year Today?

It has been an impressive year for two rookies, but which has stood out in the eyes of the WNBA's coaches and general managers? Can Samantha Prahalis be that rookie?

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Mercury Sign Dymond Simon

With the second half of the 2012 season right around the corner in the WNBA the depleted Phoenix Mercury have signed another player to fill a void. In this years training camp Arizona State University alum Dymond Simon was brought in after going undrafted.

With both Charde Houston and Candice Dupree out for the season after undergoing surgery Simon slides in as a roster exemption. The team has one more to fill if they choose to.

Simon did not make the cut to start the season, but she has signed a seven day contract that will begin on August 16th when the team visits the Seattle Storm. This contract will allow Simon three chances including the Seattle game and two home games against San Antonio and New York to make an impression on the coaching staff.

This addition is a familiar one with the current roster because of playing together in training camp. She is an Arizona native from Phoenix who attended Saint Mary's High School. With ASU she was a standout guard who everyone was rooting for to make the team.

The back court is a little crowded now with Samantha Prahalis, Alexis Hornbuckle, Alexis Gray-Lawson, and DeWanna Bonner taking the bulk of the minutes there.

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Mercury Down, Charde Houston The Latest To Have Season Ending Surgery

The injury bug keeps nibbling even during the scheduled time off. This was supposed to be a time during the Olympic Break for the players to kick back and watch their Nations team compete for gold, heal, rest, and enjoy this much needed time off.

Instead a second surgery happened today, this time by forward Charde Houston who needed it to repair a torn meniscus in her left knee. The surgery was successfully completed by Dr. Evan Lederman who also completed successful surgery earlier this month on Candice Dupree. The reported timetable for Houston's recovery is 6-8 weeks which pushes her out for the regular season in all likelihood.

Houston had become a major part of the Mercury's rotation as the team's third leading scorer at 13.2 PPG and chipping in 3.9 RPG as well. She was able to insert herself into the rotation despite being a new face in the locker room.

A big chunk of the offense is lost with Houston hitting the sidelines.

As the season progresses the team is diminishing right before our eyes. Penny Taylor has missed the whole season, Diana Taurasi played just two games, Dupree has played in 10 games, and now Houston looks to miss the remainder of the season.

The season resumes on August 16th in Seattle and has a total of 15 games remaining on the docket for the Mercury. With the roster down to nine active players and zero full-time starters from last season it will be an interesting ride to see what head coach Corey Gaines and his staff can do weather the storm.

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Candice Dupree Has Successful Knee Surgery

When it is hard to imagine the Mercury getting anymore shorthanded than they already are the team just announced star forward Candice Dupree has had surgery.

Dupree has been fighting through various injuries throughout the season and decided to have Arthroscopic Knee Surgery on her left knee during the Olympic Break. The surgery was performed by Dr. Evan Lederman of Phoenix today (July 24th). At this time the tentative timetable is 6-8 weeks of recovery for Dupree before she can get back into any kind of basketball action.

This season Dupree has stepped up to be the teams second leading scorer (14.8 per game) and one of the better rebounders (5.2 per game) on the WNBA's second best rebounding team.

Eight weeks from today the Mercury will be in Los Angeles in their third to last game of the season making this injury basically season ending for Dupree. If all works out she could make it back into the lineup to finish the season, but by then it may not be worth it. The team is currently 4-15 and nearly at the bottom of the Western Conference.

With Dupree out the Mercury are minus their three top scorers from last year in Diana Taurasi (21.6), Penny Taylor (16.7), and Dupree (14.6) as well as a combined 16.30 rebounds per game.

No word yet on whether the team will fill the void on the roster yet or who they would target. This is a blow the team is ready for with Nakia Sanford, Avery Warley, Krystal Thomas, and Lynetta Kizer all playing well in the past six games that Dupree has missed.

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Diana Taurasi Is Ready For London

As the WNBA goes into summer hibernation the 2012 Women's Olympic Team is just getting started. Team USA will be lead by a familiar face to local fans in Diana Taurasi.

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Same Storm, Same Outcome As Mercury Fall Again

It was not sweet music by the Mercury at home verse the Seattle Storm as the clangs on the rim were countered by the ripping of the net for their Western Conference rival opponent.

It was especially tough early as it seems shooting the deep ball is solo act for the Storm. In the meeting earlier this week it was Sue Bird with her familiar tune casually floating around and picking her spots for 31 points on near perfection.

Bird was a different kind of great today as she was the leader of the symphony pulling the strings (9 assists) and directing her teammates like a masterful conductor. This time around Katie Smith took on the solo role as she filled it up with 14 first quarter points (5-5 shooting) and some dazzling notes.

The Mercury however were not interested in smooth orchestra, rather they showed their toughness with heavy metal relentlessness fighting off the Storm with half-court defense. That was evident at the half as the Mercury erased a double digit deficit to trail only 41-37 at the half.

In the first half 21/41 points for the Storm came via the long ball, which was countered by the Mercury attack as 25/37 points came via the foul line or inside the arc. At the half the Mercury got themselves into the game with that style.

For all their effort any noise the Mercury thought about making in the second half was quickly muted with a 26-6 third quarter collapse. It was the 2012 Mercury Patented "collapse quarter" where they could neither score nor stop the other team.

Rookie Samantha Prahalis (7 points 3 assists) may be the toughest of the Mercury as she overcame a very bad looking ankle sprain in the second quarter to return in the second half with effectiveness.

"It is just sore," said Prahalis after the game. "I will be alright when we come back (after the Olympic Break)." On her first 19 games as a WNBA player? "It was alright. I can make a lot of improvements, but it was decent. I just need to get used to all the travel and keep my body healthy."

The smooth orchestra played by the Storm (9-10) was enough to top the Mercury (4-15) for the second time this week 83-64.

Again, DeWanna Bonner (18 points) led the way in points as she has in 15 of the teams 19 games this season. She struggled from the field shooting through double teams and over the defense consistently.

Head Coach Corey Gaines had one word to describe the first half of the season, "tough, it has been really tough."

The team heads into the Olympic Break with the second worst record in the WNBA as they have struggled mightily without their two All-Stars. They now have a tough decision to make, but in the back of their mind the answer has to be obvious. Do you sit Diana Taurasi during the second half of the season to go for the Top Pick in the draft, presumably Brittney Griner?

Only time will tell how they answer that question as the team will enjoy one month out of action before the face of against, yes, you guessed it the Seattle Storm on August 16th.

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Mercury Re-Sign Lynetta Kizer

If you wanted more Lynetta Kizer your wish has been granted. The Mercury signed her to an initial seven-day contract on July 5th and signed her to a scond one today. She will be an official member of the Mercury through the end of the first half of the season.

The 6-4 rookie center has appeared in three games so far totaling 14 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. She adds more size to the roster and another three-point threat for Corey Gaines attacking offense. Each game Kizer has progressed in minutes from 3, to 6, to 19 during her time with the team.

Of those three performances Kizer's best came against the Seattle Storm (8 points in 6 minutes), who the Mercury play tonight after being ran out of the gym in Seattle earlier this week.

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Mercury Fall In A Route To The Storm

Just 20 hours after a gut-wrenching double overtime loss to the Atlanta Dream the Mercury hit the road up to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Storm.

The game itself started off as bad as it can with Sue Bird lighting up the Mercury for 13 first quarter points. Bird was on fire from everywhere on the court, especially from deep as her three makes from deep were the difference after one.

More alarming than the early start for Bird was her sustained excellence in the first half. She finished the first half with nine field goals and the Mercury as a team ended with eight themselves. Not a recipe for success on the road against a quality team.

At the half the Mercury trailed 45-28 because they could not contain Bird who had 26 in the first half.

The second half was nearly a repeat of the third quarter the other night where the Mercury allowed the Dream back in the game. In an early flurry the lead was cut to 14 and had some momentum. It was short lived however as the Storm rattled off a run that was the final blow.

When the dust settled the Mercury (4-13) fell to the Storm (8-9) by the final of 83-68.

"Give credit to Seattle," stated DeWanna Bonner after the game. "They played a great game tonight. They were knocking down shots. Sue (Bird) played one of the best games I've seen her play. She was lights out in the first half."

For Bonner it was a nightmare of a game. She tried to force the action early and it did not go her way. It was her overall worst performance of the season as she finished with 12 points (2-11 shooting) with only 3 rebounds. The 12 points tied her season low and the rebounds were one off of her season low.

The season as a whole has to have taken an effect on Bonner. She has gone from Sixth Woman Candidate to the star of the team. Statistically she has been able to perform on that level, but it has to have worn on her mentally.

For the second straight night the team struggled shooting (32.8% for the game) and could not connect from deep (2-17) despite their insistence on shooting them in bulk.

There is a little time for reflection as the Mercury host the Los Angeles Sparks at home on Tuesday, July 10th at 12:30 p.m.

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The Dream Welcome The Mercury Home With A Double Overtime Loss

Points were coming at an absolute premium early as the Phoenix Mercury hosted the Atlanta Dream, but came at a furious pace towards the end.

Throughout the first half the ebb-and-flow of the game was erroneous at best. Each team took turns turning the ball over, missing easy buckets in the paint, and launching carelessly long jumpers. To the Mercury's credit, they did play good overall team defense holding the Dream to 14 first quarter points and 17 second quarter points to hold a 34-33 lead at intermission.

It took some time - a full 20 minutes - but the home team finally woke up in the third quarter to the delight of the crowd.

The overall flow of the game never found any consistency though. When the Mercury began to get out and run they took an amazing 17-point lead in the third quarter and where a big play away from blowing the lid off the arena. Instead they gave it all back with back-to-back threes from Cathrine Kraayeveld (deep threes) to bring the Dream right back into it.

Each team had the scrappiness in them to not give up when knocked down, but neither team had the wherewithal to throw the much needed knockout punch.

In a span of 30 seconds in the fourth quarter (6:13-5:43) Samantha Prahalis and DeWanna Bonner were tagged with questionable technical fouls.

This is not an opinion, it is an observation - the officiating was horrible at best. Not the sheer numbers, but the calls that were being made, or for that matter not made. In the final box score the Mercury were 17/21 at the free-throw line losing the battle (17/23) by a small margin. Bonner ended the game going 8/11 from the free-throw line, but the officials left about another dozen freebies to the imagination as they swallowed their whistles.

"I think we were taking it in there," said Bonner after the game. "Probably weren't getting the calls, but that is neither here nor there."

Good thing about this game is that the officials didn't have the chance to throw the knockout punch on the Mercury. With an amazing performance from Alexis Hornbuckle (11 points 11 rebounds 4 assists) and Bonner (27 points 15 rebounds 6 steals) were able to force overtime.

"I just wanted to bring the energy," said Hornbuckle after the game. "We have been losing games and I am not digging it so I tied to dig deeper."

The final sequence that allowed for an extra five minutes of basketball is what Disney Movies are made for. Hornbuckle was whistled for a mysterious offensive foul, which revved her up on defense to cause turnovers on consecutive possessions. The first lead to two Krystal Thomas free-throws and the very next trip down court Hornbuckle forced another turnover, this time a steal by Prahalis leading to a game tying three by Bonner.

Overtime.

In overtime the pace stayed the same as each team matched punch for punch and headed into double-overtime. Not only was this the Mercury's first overtime game of the season it was obviously the first double as well.

The final five minutes belonged to the Dream. Missed opportunity after missed opportunity amounted to the Mercury (4-12) losing to the Dream (8-8) by the final of 100-93.

Mercury players made no excuses, but it was clear on their faces when talking about the officiating that the game was - to an extent - decided by the lack of calls.

"We shot 103 shots and shot 32%," said coach after the game. "I have seen that before, but usually we win those games."

It is a quick turnaround for the Mercury as they get on a plane to face the Seattle Storm in less than 24 hours. The Storm are another challenge, but also struggling this season in general with injuries as well. The game will be on Live Access at 6 p.m. local time.

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Mercury Sign Rookie Center To Seven Day Contract

The already big Mercury roster welcomed in another young, big addition to the team in rookie big Lynetta Kizer out of Maryland University.

With Andrea Riley no longer under contract the team had one open roster spot and are giving Kizer a chance for a week as the team is getting ready for the Olympic Break. They play three out of their next four at home before getting basically a month off for the Olympics.

Kizer averaged 12.2 PPG and grabbed 7.2 RPG over her four year career in the ACC.

As of today the team has Nakia Sanford, Krystal Thomas, Avery Warley, Candice Dupree, and now Kizer vying for minutes in the paint. The Mercury play next at home as they host the Atlanta Dream at 7pm local time on Saturday, July 7th.

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DeWanna Bonner Dominates In An 82-81 Loss To The Silver Stars

For the Mercury this marked the end of their four game road trip that has not brought the team a ton of success. After a 1-2 record so far a win at their rival the San Antonio Silver Stars would make this a even split on the road, a reasonable feat.

The game was a seesaw battle from the beginning that had a theme from the start; DeWanna Bonner. She scored 17 first quarter and actually outscored the Silver Stars after one - 17-16. Bonner was getting hers in transition, from the free-throw line and even from deep early. The basket was as big as the ocean.

To combat the shear greatness of Bonner the Silver Stars countered with Becky Hammond (22 points 4 assists) and Danielle Adams (24 points 6 rebounds) worked together. Those two made tough shots and scored 28 out of the teams 31 fourth quarter points in an equally great display of basketball.

Coach Corey Gaines after the game, "they made a run and we were still up by three going into the fourth. (Danielle) Adams and Becky (Hammond) took over in the second half."

Two late threes from Alexis Hornbuckle and Bonner cut the final score to 82-81 as San Antonio (8-5) defeated Phoenix (4-11) for the second time this season.

In the loss Bonner was flat out special. She was on from the opening tip to the final buzzer as she dominated with a career-high 38 points while chipping in 8 rebounds.

"I'm always looking to be aggressive," said Bonner after the game. "I'm always looking to score. Tonight my shots kept falling so I kept shooting and was aggressive."

Foul trouble plagued the effectiveness of rookie Samantha Prahalis (9 points 5 assists) all game limiting her aggressiveness.

The Mercury head into the Olympic Break with three out of four games at home all against teams above .500 for the season. This is a critical stretch for the Mercury as they have a chance to still make a run here and fight for the Playoffs or head into a battle for the first pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft.

Brittney Griner Watch



Team

Wins

Loses

Games Back


Tulsa Shock

2

12

-


Washington Mystics

3

10

1.5


Phoenix Mercury

4

11

2


New York Liberty

5

9

3


Seattle Storm

7

8

4.5

Continue

Prahalis Named June Rookie Of The Month

Today Samantha Prahalis was named the Rookie of the Month for June. She has come along way since her debut and stepped up in a big way minus Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree, and Nakia Sanford for most of the month.

The rookie was Top 3 in most general statistical categories. She was 1st in Assists (5.1), 1st in Free-Throw Percentage at 96.3% (26-27), 2nd in Points (13.8), and 3rd in Steals (1.8) among rookies this season. As the sixth overall pick Prahalis has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise forgettable season for the proud Mercury. With injuries galore she has stepped up as a leader running the offense for just under 31 minutes a night (30.8).

Watch out, this is an indication that Prahalis is having a season worth being on the radar for Rookie of the Year. Sure, Nneka Ogwumike is having a really good season on a very good team, but the impact of the first and sixth overall picks is not as big as it seemed.

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Road Woes, Mercury Lose 90-77 To The Mystics

The Mercury continued on the road heading way east to face the Washington Mystics. In their last game the team was able to dominate the WNBA's best rebounding team the Chicago Sky on the road in a victory and were looking to continue that success.

This time out the Mercury played like they left their jump-shot and hard hats on the tarmac. Early on the team fell behind and were trying to fight back from the opening tip.

The Mystics defense was set on not letting the WNBA's third leading scorer DeWanna Bonner win this game forcing her into bad shots (7-22) and scoreless from three despite her 20 points. It was up to Samantha Prahalis (20 points 5 assists) and Charde Houston (26 points) to carry the load late. This was the third game with 20+ for the rookie and Houston matched her career-high.

In the second half the Mercury were able to cut the lead to as low as 8-9 points, but never had enough to complete the comeback. The final score of 90-77 drops the Mercury to 4-10 and the moves the Mystics to 3-10.

Rebounding and free-throws did the Mercury in as they lost the rebounding battle by eight (38-30) and took 12 less shots from the charity stripe.

"We just didn't shoot the ball well," stated Coach Corey Gaines after the loss. "We shot 38% [from the field] and 27% [at the three point line]. They shot 31 free throws and we shot 19. That's a big difference. We made ours but I'd rather get more attempted."

Despite the great play of Prahalis and Houston the team as a whole looked tired late. They play an aggressive, attacking, and fast style with only eight players in the rotation. Not to mention they are led by a rookie point guard and are missing ALL five starters from last year.

It is going to be a tough end to the road trip as they face the always tough San Antonio Silver Stars (7-5) on Tuesday, July 3rd at 7pm local time on Live Access (and NBATV in certain networks).

After the game the Mercury waived guard Andrea Riley after nine games and 2.8 points per game. The roster is now trimmed down to nine and they have a spot to sign another free agent or they can welcome back Diana Taurasi. When asked the Mercury stated Taurasi does not have a set timetable to return.

Brittney Griner Watch

Team

Wins

Loses

Games Back

Tulsa Shock

2

12

-

Washington Mystics

3

10

1.5

Phoenix Mercury

4

10

2

New York Liberty

5

9

3

Seattle Storm

7

8

4.5

Continue

The Mercury Hold On For A 84-81 Win Over The Sky

Two struggling teams took the court as the Chicago Sky hosted the Phoenix Mercury. The Sky were a midst a three game losing streak and the Mercury are flirting with the basement of the Western Conference.

In the end it came down to who wanted the game more, because down the stretch each team made mistakes to prove they didn't want.

Through two quarters the Mercury were in full control as the play of Alexis Hornbuckle (8 points 9 rebounds) and Krystal Thomas (9 points 11 rebounds) were critical in stretches. Midway through the third quarter with the Mercury up 11 and the Sky making a bit of a push Hornbuckle hit a critical three. Those three points were relevant in the end as the Sky had a shot at a tying three in the final seconds.

It wasn't a smooth finish, rather a photo finish as the Mercury (4-9) held on late over the Sky (7-5) for the 84-81 win.

The Mercury were led by DeWanna Bonner and her career high 27 points.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and come out and get a win," said Bonner after the win. "We are struggling right now since we only have eight players so I just try to come out and play hard every night and take what the defense gives me."

Outside of Bonner the team took care of business on the glass outrebounding the Sky by 17 total rebounds (42-25) and dominated the offensive glass 17-7.

Head coach Corey Gaines on the rebounding margin, "We just tried to box in Sylvia (Fowles). Put one person in front, one person in back so she couldn't get the rebound and let our guards rebound."

Outside of the final score the Mercury dominated the game, which is even more impressive with the eight man rotation. Since losing Candice Parker and Nakia Sanford the team has had the philosophy of dominating the glass as a team. For the game six of the eight players that suited up had at least four total rebounds.

Up next for the Mercury is a trip to Washington on Sunday July 1st to face off against the Mystics at 1 p.m. local time and can be seen on Live Access.

Continue

Tough Start On The Road Trip, Mercury Lose In Route To Lynx 96-80

Hitting the road can be a bonding experience for a team as they have to overcome adversity as well as live with each other, hotel after hotel. For the Mercury the road trip began at the defending Champs house and continues for a total of four games in seven nights.

On the season the Mercury have struggled (as has everyone) against the Minnesota Lynx. On the season they dropped the first two games by an average of 20 PPG meaning this was an uphill battle to begin with.

Early on the game was a back-and-forth affair as the teams were feeling each other out.

Heading into the final minute of the first half the Mercury actually took the lead on a Samantha Prahalis three as the team looked to go into the half with a lead on the best team in the WNBA. After that three went through the net the Mercury went on a drought that they could not recover from.

To end the half the Lynx poured in seven straight points to recapture the lead.

The third and fourth quarters were the death nail for the Mercury as their defense (not the offense) took a break for 10 minutes. This season it has been commonplace for the team to have a quarter where they struggle to score usually ending up with 8-12 points. Well, the offense was fine all game averaging 20 points per quarter, but the defense was what collapsed in the fourth quarter.

"We've just got to put four quarters together," said DeWanna Bonner after the game. "We haven't done that yet. Once we do that one time, I think we'll find a way to do that and continue to do that to get some wins."

Despite a scrappy effort from Prahalis (20 points 3 assists 4 rebounds) the Mercury (3-9) fell to the Lynx (13-1) by a final of 96-80.

The Lynx seemed locked into two goals for the game.

First, to lock down Bonner and prevent her from dominating the game. For the most part they accomplished that goal holding her to 6-18 shooting, but Bonner (23 points 7 rebounds) still got hers in by getting to the free-throw line (8-8) and making threes (3-7).

With Bonner struggling from the field more was put on the plate of Alexis Gray-Lawson (13 points) and Charde Houston (11 points) who delivered.

The second goal was to bust the Mercury out of the 2-3 Zone they have lived in because of the limited roster. The zone itself has been effective for the Mercury as they have had the edge on the glass in most games and are holding teams to low shooting numbers.

However the Lynx systematically picked apart the zone with their patience and depth of scorers.

This loss continues the Mercury's struggles against good teams as all three wins came against the Tulsa Shock (two) and the Washington Mystics. The road trip continues on to Chicago Friday night against the Sky at 5:30pm local time on Live Access.

Continue

The Mercury Come Up Short At Home Verse The Sparks

It was about more than just "Beat L.A." for the Mercury as they hosted the Western Conference's best, the Los Angeles Sparks on a special night. All season long the WNBA has made the effort to bring awareness to the 40th Anniversary to Title IX including having two ESPN televised games highlighted by this Mercury game.

The team also honored U.S. soccer star Hope Solo with the 2012 Inspiring Women of the Year Award.

With the big lights on and the Mercury on center stage for the world to see they got off to a very hot start highlighted by Samantha Prahalis. Her "Show Time" pass in transition to DeWanna Bonner nearly blew the lid off the U.S. Airways Center and the crowd was electric from that point on.

The Mercury had a typical 2012 Mercury quarter where they went into a slump though. In the second quarter the team had totaled 11 turnovers and only 9 points. At the half the Mercury trailed 49-27 in what setup as a route.

Basketball is four quarters however and the Mercury took advantage of it.

In the second half the Mercury caught fire behind DeWanna Bonner (24 points 6 rebounds) and Prahalis (22 points 5 rebounds 5 assists). They fought hard trimming the lead to as little as seven points (85-78) late in the fourth, but did not have the legs to finish off the comeback.

The Mercury (3-8) dropped another to the Sparks (10-3) by the final of 93-84.

DeWanna Bonner after the game, "We got down 20+ and you can't win a ball game that way. With eight people trying to comeback like that is pretty tough on your body. We did a great job of trying to get back and not give up. It was kind of embarrassing on National TV we told ourselves to cut it down, and we could have won if we hit more shots."

For the Sparks they played without Candace Parker who was out for a "DNP Coaches Decision," but was resting and taking the game off to be fresh for later games. With Parker out it made sense to see a lot of Nneka Ogwumike, but she took long breaks in the action and only logged 23 minutes.

The turnovers were the key. In the first, third, and fourth quarters the team had a total of seven miscues. In the second they tallied up 11.

Overall the team plays a lot of zone out of necessity with only eight players in uniform. During a stretch in the second and third quarters the team made numerous bad baseline rotations giving up open jumpers to Sparks players. Coach Gaines chalked that up to having a few players in that did not practice the zone and were missing assignments.

"When we put a few new players in there who hadn't played that much they forgot the scheme."

Up next for the Mercury is a four game road trip starting in Minnesota. In fact, the Mercury will play four of the next five on the road in a stretch that may define the season for them.

Continue

Mercury Narrowly Escape With An 80-77 Win Over The Mystics

It was a nightmare scenario for the Mercury as they went into the game against the Washington Mystics. Playing at home minus Candice Dupree and Nakia Sanford, oh and Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor to add insult to injury. No pun intended.

The loss of 19.1 points and 9.4 rebounds from their normal starting frontcourt was not felt initially as the team got off to a hot start.

Samantha Prahalis' was electric early with six points in the first as the Mercury put up a season high for the first quarter with 26 points, but a tie after one.

The fourth quarter was a thriller, but initially it was the foul show. In the first six minutes of the quarter the Mercury amassed six total fouls including Alexis Grey-Lawson's face fouling the elbow of a Mystics player. That run in questionable whistles swung the game giving the Mercury their largest deficit of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

It was a deficit short lived as the Mercury came back firing on all cylinders. "It was fun, it felt like the old Mercury from when we won our Championship and last year when got great wins," was how DeWanna Bonner described the final two minutes of the game.

It got jump started by Sammy when she squeaked out for a second after an offensive rebound by Avery Warley and nailed a three. Once that ball went through the net the team and crowd simultaneously went on an emotional high.

Prahalis (15 points 7 rebounds) and Bonner (19 points 7 rebounds) scored the final eight points and the Mercury (3-7) closed out the 80-77 win over the game Mystics (2-7).

In that final sequence Mystics Head Coach told Jasmine Thomas to "crowd her (Prahalis)" and it burned her in the end as Sammy noticed the defensive pressure and burst past her for the tough layup. Prahalis on that play after the game, "She was on me and I just thought get to the basket."

Bonner played every minute of the game and according to Coach Gaines, "still hasn't broken a sweet."

One impressive element of this game - playing with essentially an eight man rotation - was the effort on defense. The team forced four shot-clock violations in the game with a consistently good on that end of the floor.

The obvious X-Factor was the play of Avery Warley and Krystal Thomas as they combined for 21 points and 15 rebounds platooning the paint so to speak for the injured starters.

There was an odd moment on the games most pivotal play as Michelle Snow won a jump ball by the Mystics basket, but also ended up with the ball which is a violation. After that play there were 1.6 seconds on the clock and the game was over.

The effort on defense was there, tough plays were made by the rookie point guard, and more importantly the raw emotion was in the air for the Mercury. That is something they have lacked over the past 3-4 games and it was back tonight.

It wasn't a "coach's win," but it was a win for the fans as they got to see Phoenix Mercury Basketball back in action despite the obvious lack in Phoenix Mercury basketball players in uniform.

Up next for the Mercury is a home test against the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, June 23rd at 7pm local time. The Mercury are 0-2 against the Sparks this season.

Brittney Griner Watch

Team

Wins

Loses

Games Back

Tulsa Shock

1

10

0

Washington Mystics

2

7

2

Seattle Storm

3

7

2.5

Phoenix Mercury

3

7

2.5

Atlanta Dream

4

7

3

Continue

On The Road The Mercury Lose To The Winless Shock

The Phoenix Mercury hosted the league’s best team, the undefeated Lynx on Friday night and traveled to the other side of the spectrum to face the winless Tulsa Shock. On the season the Mercury have faced the Shock twice beating them in two thrilling games.

For the Mercury, the Shock have been the team that they could rely on for an uplifting win during down times.

In this Father’s Day match-up the Shock were not looking to be uplifting. They came out strong playing the Mercury point-for-point through three quarters. In a dominant second quarter the Mercury outscored the Shock 20-10 to take a small half-time lead.

On the Mercury’s 23 turnover of the game late in the fourth quarter the Shock capitalized on the miscue with a backbreaking three by Tameka Johnson. That shot gave them a nine point lead with just over three minutes to play.

Samantha Prahalis gave a valiant effort in the final two minutes as she hit a couple of quick, easy buckets making it a game towards the end.

It was a too little too late however as the Shock (1-9) are no longer winless beating the Mercury (2-7). The final score, 87-75.

Coach Gaines after the game, “They had pressure defense the whole game. We missed shots and they made shots. I think we opened up 8-0 on fouls in the third quarter. They were in the penalty instantly. They shot a lot of free throws, something like 40-18. That helps them.”

The Mercury have been playing solid defense as of late holding teams to low shooting percentages and out-rebounding their opponents. The stats don’t lie, the Mercury are playing better defensively, but the numbers are deceiving.

For the improved effort on defense in the half court it is effecting the offense leading to way to many turnovers. Against the Shock the Mercury had 25 turnovers leading to 23 easy points in transition. Holding the Shock to 39% shooting and out-rebounding them by 10 is good on paper, but the turnovers killed them.

DeWanna Bonner (24 points 9 rebounds), Prahalis (10 points 5 rebounds 6 assists), and Charde Houston (22 points) did as much as they could on offense to keep the team in the game. More telling were the 11 turnovers the trio combined to commit.

The last two games have been telling for the Mercury. It seems the players know this is not a playoff team and they are going through the motions. They may just be in a funk, but if they don’t get out of it soon they will find themselves looking up at 11 other teams at the end of the season.

Brittney Griner Watch

Team

Wins

Loses

Games Back

Tulsa Shock

1

9

0

Seattle Storm

2

7

1.5

Phoenix Mercury

2

7

1.5

Washington Mystics

2

5

2

New York Liberty

3

7

2

Continue

The Mercury Drop Another To The Undefeated Lynx

It got contentious quick as the Lynx jumped out to a double-digit lead and the lid just sealed up on the basket. The game was physical and the calls were inconsistent, even the crowd at US Airways Center could feel it.

"They called a lot of fouls - offensive fouls - in the first half and it threw us out of our rhythm," was rookie Samantha Prahalis take after the game.

They Lynx - the WNBA's best team - attacked in waves like a powerful storm hitting an unsuspecting coast, which is what makes them the toughest matchup in the WNBA. The tidal wave of the bunch was Lindsay Whalen as she put on a scoring clinic scoring with 29 points (11/14 shooting) including a dominant 11 point second quarter.

It seemed like the Mercury were going to be able to weather the storm at home, but just as they seemed to, they walked into the eye of the storm instead. After a competitive first quarter where the Mercury starters kept the game close trailing 21-16 with balanced scoring (five different players scored) the second quarter doomed them.

In the second quarter the Mercury were outscored 22-11 and the doors were officially blown off the game. In the end the Lynx (10-0) started the season with a win against the Mercury (2-6) and ran their undefeated streak to 10 straight after the 78-60 win.

There were not many positives to come out of this game. The team as a whole looked flat, lethargic, and uninterested in the game overall. To start the game there even appeared to be a stoic look of defeat on their faces.

Outside of DeWanna Bonner's general brilliance that she has displayed all season this is 40 minutes of tape Coach Gaines can toss away. Bonner finished with a team high 18 points and 3 steals all while once again playingall five positions on the court.

According to Bonner there isn't much to take out of this loss, "No. Not really. We rebounded well, which is a good change. We had a bad shooting night tonight and it is hard to beat the No. 1 team when you have a bad shooting night."

Early in the game the team ran Bonner at the point getting Samantha Prahalis off the ball to capitalize on her shooting. It worked the first time they ran it, but after a second try on that set the team went away from it.

The wrinkle to the offense is something the team has in their arsenal, "Certain plays to get her (Prahalis) open for pick-and-rolls - it's called Chin - it is like a play-action."

Call it pre-mature or just right, but after tonight's loss we are going to track the Brittney Griner Watch. The 6-8 center is a lock for the No. 1 Overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and the Mercury are in that conversation:

Brittney Griner Watch
Team Wins Loses Games Back
Tulsa Shock 0 9 0
Seattle Storm 2 7 2
Phoenix Mercury 2 6 2.5
New York Liberty 3 7 2.5
Washington Mystics 2 5 3
Continue

The Bigger Sparks Roll Past The Mercury 90-74

When the Mercury traveled to Los Angeles for what is traditionally a Western Conference battle it revealed two teams on different paths.

Outside of a 10-9 lead in the first quarter this game was about as lopsided as any game this season for the Mercury. Behind a steady dose of No. 1 pick Nneka Ogwumikes' 25 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were career highs, the Mercury struggled to stay in the game.

The length of the Sparks really bothered the Mercury out on the perimeter. Samantha Prahalis didn't struggle with turnovers in sheer numbers, but the zone forced her into bad decisions and broke up any chance at a flow on offense. The move to the zone allowed the Sparks to crowd DeWanna Bonner who had been on a tear as the Western Conference Player of the Week as of late.

Bonner finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Her hot shooting in the third quarter was nearly enough to bring the Mercury back.

She spoke about the Sparks clear advantages tonight, "We actually just tried to stop them inside. They are big and aggressive. They are just a big team."

It was Ogwumikes scoring on second chance points and as well as in transition in the late third and early fourth that put the final nail in the Mercury's coffin. The Mercury (2-5) lost in a route to the Sparks (6-1) 90-74.

Coach Corey Gaines after the game, "We need to try to be in the game and play as hard as we can to get some wins."

The Mercury are in a unique situation this season, not only because of the loss of Penny Taylor and the recent slump without Diana Taurasi. It is a particularly unique because the team is too talented to be the worst team in the league despite the shortcomings. With Candice Dupree, Bonner, and Prahalis the team is good enough, but not good enough.

For this team they have to answer some questions about who they are: Where is the shooting going to come from? Can they win with defense this year? And, most importantly, what is the identity of the team sans two All-Stars?

Now the team has a week to prepare for the currently undefeated Minnesota Lynx on the road on Friday, June 15th.

Continue

DeWanna Bonner Named Western Conference Player Of The Week

How to do you know you are playing outside your mind during a rough 2-4 start to the season? You win the Western Conference Player of the Week.

It was announced today, June 4th that DeWanna Bonner of the Phoenix Mercury won the award after averaging 20.7 PPG and 10.7 RPG in the teams' three games this past week. The team overall went 1-2 in those games, but Bonner was consistently great in each of them.

On Thursday she notched a double-double scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the road loss to the Atlanta Dream. She then backed that up in a back-to-back against San Antonio with 17 points and 9 rebounds. That was nearly another double-double for Bonner on the young season, she has two already. Bonner is also creeping up on Jennifer Gillom's team record for "20+ point 10+ rebound" games. For her career she has seven, the franchise record is eight.

Bonner finished off the week with a 23 point 13 rebound performance against the Tulsa Shock to give the team some confidence and momentum. Her performance against Tulsa showcased her versatility as she played all five positions, and played them well.

A win followed by some recognition for the team. This could be a turning point in the season for Mercury as they try to make a push against the teams that beat them early in the season, at Los Angeles (Friday, June 8th) and verse Minnesota (Friday, June 15th) over the next two weeks.

Continue

Mercury Defeat Shock 79-72

Don't call it the "Prahalis Flu Game," but despite playing under the weather with flu like symptoms Samantha Prahalis had her best game in the WNBA as of today.

It was a battle of past and future for the Mercury and the future is looking very bright at the point guard position. The team welcomed back last years starting lead guard Tameka Johnson and her Tulsa Shock, and in an effort to stay out of the cellar of the Western Conference they brought their A game.

After an opening three gave the Shock an early advantage they were not able to climb back from the 18-5 run the Mercury went on to close the first quarter.

The Shock had their own run in the third quarter trimming a 12 point lead for the Mercury down to 1 in a see-saw battle until Charde Houston made the play of the game. As about seven players fought for the ball in a rugby scrum Houston came flying in from half court to steal the ball away starting a major momentum surge for the Mercury in the early part of the fourth quarter.

In the end the Mercury (2-4) took a step forward with the 79-72 victory over the Shock (0-6), the team is now 2-0 verse Tulsa and 0-4 verse the rest of the WNBA. This win took them out of last place and gave them a sign of good things to come.

The game was decided on the glass as the Mercury were in firm control of the rebounding battle. For the game they had a +12 advantage there and limited the Shock to one shot nearly every trip.

"Rebounding is a desire to get the ball. The last words I always tell them is Get The Ball," was how Coach Corey Gaines described the recent surge in team rebounding the past two games.

This was not the best opponent in the WNBA, but it was the right opponent. The team needed confidence after the rough start to the season. False hope is not what the team needs to focus on after this game, but rather that they have a roster capable of winning games this season with or without Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi.

Losing two All-Stars is never easy, but the team has rallied behind rookie Samantha Prahalis play-making (19 points 6 assists) and the familiar duo of Candice Dupree (15 points) and DeWanna Bonner (23 points 13 rebounds). When the trio is on the same page they are good enough to compete with anyone in the league. If just one or two of them show up, the team is not deep or talented enough to weather that storm.

Those 19 points by Prahalis were two off of the Mercury rookie record for points in a game. The previous record holder DeWanna Bonner had 21 in 2009 and had this to say about her rookies feat, "I have to tell her to stop that. No, she is a great point guard. She gets the ball where it needs to be, scores when we need a bucket, and like I said we have been riding her pretty hard these past couple of days trying to get her to understand Phoenix Basketball."

Rebounding (+12), limiting turnovers (12), and scoring fast-break points (10) were the keys in this victory, a much needed victory for the Mercury. The team is beginning to create a style of their own without their two stars led by Prahalis controlling the offense and according to Coach Gaines, "she will be putting up big numbers soon, 20 and 10."

Continue

Mercury Re-Sign Guard Andrea Riley

With the Mercury down a roster spot due to Diana Taurasi's injury they have brought back guard Andrea Riley. This move also indicates that Taurasi will miss a minimum of four games with her injury, potentially longer.

The 5-5 point guard was acquired via trade last season and was a part of Training Camp. There was a log jam at point guard with Samantha Prahalis, Alexis Hornbuckle, and Alexis Gray-Lawson playing some point this season, because of that Riley was expendable.

Bringing Riley back makes sense with the team struggling to score. She is more of a natural scoring point guard and can get her own shot when called upon. On offense Riley could be a spark for the team as they are struggling to get baskets outside of Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner. Riley is a quick full-court player that can put pressure on the ball the length of the court.

This move came just in time as Riley will join the team before they square off against her former team, the Tulsa Shock.

It will be interesting to see how Coach Corey Gaines handles the rotation now with four point guards on the roster that all play a different game. Riley is not known as a facilitator, but will be able to score the ball. Will that take away from Prahalis, Hornbuckle, Gray-Lawson, or none of the above?

Tune in Sunday, June 3rd at 3pm local time to find out as the Mercury host the Shock at U.S. Airways Arena and on Live Access.

Continue

Mercury Fall To Silver Stars 85-66

Playing in back-to-back games is hard enough all on its own. Adding in playing the games on the road against two tough playoff teams without your best player and it is nearly impossible.

For the first 20 minutes of game action the Mercury played tough against their rival, the San Antonio Silver Stars. Early on the duo of Samantha Prahalis and Candice Dupree shouldered the load offensively keeping the team in the game.

Prahalis assisted on the teams first five field goals while Dupree scored eight straight points early in the first quarter. The duo was en-sync getting easy, fun buckets in transition and it looked like Phoenix Mercury basketball. At the half the Mercury were hanging in there only down six.

In the previous game it was the second quarter, against San Antonio it was the third quarter when the wheels fell off. It wasn't so much defensively as the team was pretty consistent all game in that category, but they could not muster up any offense in the third and therefore trailed 64-50 after the quarter ended.

When it was all said and done the Mercury fell to 1-4 on the season as they lost to San Antonio 85-66. The star for the Silver Stars was Becky Hammond as she netted 30 points on 7-9 shooting from three. "Becky (Hammond) still got it. She may be a little long in the tooth but she can still go," was Coach Gaines take on Hammond's performance.

Outside of Prahalis' career high in assists (9), Dupree's interior scoring (17 points), and DeWanna Bonner's versatile scoring (17 points) the team did not get much out of the rest of the roster. Players like Charde Houston and Alexis Gray-Lawson have to give the team more than a combined nine points on 28.5% shooting.

After a tough lose Dupree was critical of the team's performance and any positives that came from the game, "Right now, no. But we'll go back and watch film. I'm sure there were a lot of positives."

The tired legs and lack of depth for the Mercury did not show up until the third quarter as they came out with energy and toughness early. In the end they did not have the personnel to come back once they fell behind. It has been a rough start to the season for the Mercury and it is only going to get tougher with their schedule going forward.

The team faces Tulsa (twice), Los Angeles, and Minnesota in their next four games. The only win on the season to date came at the Shock, but two of their loses were against the Sparks and Lynx. It is only going to get tougher going forward. Can the Mercury turn their season around?

Continue

Minus Taurasi Mercury Fall To Dream 81-65

This morning the Mercury found out they will be without Diana Taurasi "indefinitely" as her hip injury has not healed entirely. Then, just a few hours later, the team began preparation to take on the defending Eastern Conference Champion Atlanta Dream.

Losing Taurasi is a major impact according to Coach Corey Gaines, "Well I think Diana is one of the top players in the world. Let's put her in the top 5. It means something. Take any of the top teams in the NBA, take Durant away, take Duncan away, take Lebron away. You know whoever is left, it makes a difference in the game."

That was exactly what happened as the game got out of hand early when the Dream took a commanding 16 point lead at the half. It was the second quarter that buried the Mercury.

In the second quarter the team shot 5-18 from the field with 3 total turnovers. It was not a pretty quarter offensively for the Mercury as they struggled to find an identity without their leader. When the final buzzer went off the Mercury (1-3) lost to the Dream (2-2) 81-65.

Some positives came from the game, all of which came after the second quarter. For the last two quarters the Mercury played neck-and-neck with the Dream. They played with effort, passion, and even a little Mercury basketball in the second half where they limited the Dream to a dead heat 38-38 for those final two quarters.

On the road the team leaned on DeWanna Bonner. The on court leader by default led the team with 22 points and 10 rebounds leading the team, and the game in each category. This season she has stepped her game up in the absence of Penny Taylor, and now Diana Taurasi.

Through four games Bonner is averaging 18 PPG 7 RPG on 49% shooting from the field. She is on pace to best her career marks in all three categories.

For the opposition balance was key. The two leading scorers for the game were on the Mercury in Bonner and Candice Dupree (14 points), but the Dream were led with five scorers in double figures none scoring more than 12 points. Four out of five starters scored in double digits as Catherine Kraayeveld led the team off the bench with 12 points going 4-4 from the field (3-3 from three) for the game.

It has been a tough start to the season for the Mercury with the injuries, roster overhaul, and newfound focus on defense. All of those things will not be changing anytime soon and the Mercury have to figure out things in a hurry as they stay on the road tomorrow to face off against Western Conference rival the San Antonio Silver Stars (1-2) on Friday, June 1st.

As Bonner stated after the game, "We don't have much time. You just have to go out and play a little harder than that. Rebounding is all about desire and we just have to go out and get the ball."

That game will be available on Live Access at phoenixmercury.com.

> Taurasi Update: The team is aware of the opportunity to add another player to the roster if they acknowledge that Diana Taurasi's "indefinite" injury will be a minimum of four games. It is an option, but nothing is imminent. Any addition would be a patch, nothing permanent.

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Diana Taurasi Injury: Phoenix Guard Out Indefinitely With Strained Hip Flexor

The news for one of the WNBA's greatest is certainly not good as it was reported on Thursday that the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi will be sidelined indefinitely with a strained left hip flexor, leaving the Merc short-handed for the foreseeable future.

Taurasi did not travel with the team to Atlanta for their Thursday night meeting against the Dream, the defending Eastern Conference champs. She will be re-evaluated by team medical personel daily to check on her progress.

Taurasi sustained the injury during WNBA training camp, reporting with the Merc just seven days before the season opener after a full Eurolegue season where she played in Turkey, not to mention training with the USA Basketball team as well. Taurasi missed the season opener at Minnesota due to this injury and played only 10 minutes in their next game. She played 26 minutes and scored 18 points in Phoenix's home opening loss to the Los Angeles Sparks as well.

For more on the Mercury, make sure to check out SB Nation Arizona. For more on the WNBA in general, head over to Swish Appeal.

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Mercury Re-Sign Krystal Thomas

Late last week the Mercury made an early season cut in Zane Tamane that made little sense at the time. She was barely playing and was a center with great size.

The reason is clearer today as the team has re-signed Training Camp standout Krystal Thomas.

Thomas is a 6-5 second year center that plays a rugged style. She brings a tough presence to the team in terms of defense and rebounding, both low points for the team thus far. Last year Thomas was signed to a seven-day contract and earned her role on the team for the rest of the season. In the teams exhibition against the Japanese National Team earlier this month Thomas came off the bench for 7 points and 8 rebounds in just 13:18 of action.

The Mercury have been outrebounded 109-88 (-21) on the season and punished inside by teams, which is the reason for the 1-2 start.

So far this season the team has played a short bench. With Thomas being familiar with the system and the roster overall after being here for the past 10 months they will rely on her to contribute right away. The team plays in Atlanta on Thursday May 31st.

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Mercury Drop Home Opener To Sparks

In typical home opener fashion the crowd was loud and active early, staying on their feet until the home team got on the scoreboard. They didn't stay upright for long as Candice Dupree knocked down one of two free-throws 1:19 into the game. For the rest of the game the "Beat L.A." was chant was loud enough to hear at Comic-Con down the street.

From there it was a game.

The game flowed well throughout as the referees allowed both teams to play early and often. For most of the game the Sparks felt like a team that should have been up by a lot more than they were. They were getting up more shots, grabbing offensive rebounds, and scoring in bunches early. The Mercury kept fighting back.

Overall this game had the feel of a boxing match. They type of match where one fighter would continuously get knocked down, but refused to stay down. The Mercury kept taking the Sparks punches all the way till the end, but down the stretch Candice Parker was just too much in the paint and delivered the knockout punch.

Parker finished the game with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Eight of those points came in the final 5:03 of the game as the Sparks topped off a 99-88 win. This lose drops the Mercury to 1-2 on the season and the Sparks to a 3-1 mark.

The game was decided in the paint as the Mercury gave up 17 offensive rebounds and lost the rebounding battle 30-38. "Rebounding is a mindset. We cut down on the turnovers, but they scored 23 points off those rebounds that really killed us," stated Coach Gaines after the loss. One positive on the glass was rookie Avery Warley who finished with nine points and nine rebounds playing and was very active providing a lot of energy off the bench.

"I feel great. If you are playing, if you are on the court you got to play. Today I felt like I could move around a little better," was Diana Taurasi assessment of her health after her 18 point performance.

Just three games into the season the team knows they have more work to do and have to fit in these new faces on the court. The team is putting an effort into defense in practice and while it is not yet showing on the defensive end, it is on offense. Outside of Taurasi and Dupree (two players coming back with the same role as last year) the rest of the team is still working into their roles.

That is a good thing this time of year according to Taurasi, "little by little we are figuring it out, which is good. It is a long season we don't want to be at our best right now."

Next up for the Mercury is a visit to Atlanta to play the defending Eastern Conference Champion Dream on Thursday, May 31st at 7pm. Check out the action Live Access.

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Mercury Waive Center Zane Tamane

Even though the team is two games into the young season there was one more cut to be made. After a 1-1 start to the season the Mercury cut the roster down to 10 players when they waived center Zane Tamane.

In just 15 minutes total time on the floor she scored zero points and grabbed just three rebounds. Tamane was an interesting addition to the roster that was in need of size and she brought that to the table. The 6-7 center played just 16 games in the WNBA (with Washington) before this season back in 2006. Since then she has played in Europe where she has been a very consistent performer.

With Penny Taylor out and officially a part of the roster still the Mercury are down to a roster of nine in reality. This move will do very little to effect the team on the court as Tamane played a very limited role in her time with the team.

This leaves the Mercury with Nakia Sanford, Avery Warley, and DeWanna Bonner to protect the paint. The Mercury face the 2-1 Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, May 25th and their dynamic frontline of veteran Candice Parker and rookie sensation Nneka Ogwumike.

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Phoenix Mercury Home Opener Features Changes For 2012

The Phoenix Mercury open at home on Saturday against the L.A. Sparks. Diana Taurasi (hip flexor) expects to play after missing the first game of the season and being pulled early in the second.

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