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.