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.