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.