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."