Going into the second half, I was fairly confident that the Mercury would run away with this game. They blew the doors off the Silver Stars and tied their season high in first half points with 59 and had a 23 to 10 edge in rebounding.
But San Antonio proved that even without (former head coach) Dan Hughes on the bench, they are still that same scrappy team that doesn't have any quit in them. They chipped away at the Mercury in the 3rd quarter by being more aggressive on both ends of the floor. 15 Silver Star free throw attempts helped them not only score 30 points, but they slowed the game down and prevented the Mercury from getting out in transition.
Tangela Smith, who had a horrible shooting game (2-11), had four of the Mercury's ten total fouls in the 3rd period alone. The Stars stopped settling for outside shots and got inside both with their three bigs (Holdsclaw, Young and Snow) and with more direct attacking from Becky Hammon of the high pick and roll.
Still, the Mercury had a two-point lead going into the fourth and I was confident the Mercury would turn the tempo back on and blow the game apart. Unfortunately, they all seemed to be waiting for that to happen, as well. My job is to wait and watch, their job is to go make it happen.
"We just can't give away 15-point leads," Taurasi said with her normal candor. "You know we work that hard to get a lead and then, for whatever reason, we put it in cruise control and these teams are too good and we're not that good. We can't play like that or we'll lose games. It's everyone, it's everyone."
The Mercury had two chances to take the lead in the final seconds. Taurasi missed a contested three, but Dupree was able to grab the rebound. Out of a timeout, Taurasi ran a side pick and roll and attacked down the lane, drawing help which she correctly read and delivered a pass to a wide open Smith, who missed the potential game winner.
"Sometimes they go in, but for us to put ourselves in that position after playing a pretty good game, that's completely our fault," Taurasi said without excuse.
Coach Gaines, however, was more than willing to find external factors that went wrong for his team, "The clock was messed up. There was gum on the floor. We're looking at the crowd, we're looking at what's over there in the corner ... I don't know. It was like sloooow doooown to nothing."
This is the type of game that the Mercury are going to have to learn how to win. They found their fast-paced game and proved they can win when they are getting transition baskets, but teams in the playoffs will take that away and if it means mucking up the game with physical play, they will do it.
Last season, the Mercury got to the point where they were able to win these types of games. Obviously, this year's team still has a ways to go in that regard.
Give the Silver Stars credit, they made a halftime adjustment and got after it. They were proud of the win and rightly so.
"They decided this is it, we need to pick it up. We got after them a little bit at halftime and they responded," Silver Stars head coach Sandy Brondello said.
Brondello's halftime emphasis was on eliminating open threes and transition points. The Mercury hit eight threes in the first half and only one in the second. San Antonio also out-rebounded Phoenix 22-19 in the second half after getting killed 23-10 in the first.
Taurasi put a cap on the miserable game after rattling off a list of problems such as rebounding, missed defensive assignments and poor execution. She added, "And then you lose and you feel like shit all night."
Notes from the Mercury PR crew
· After scoring 12 of the Mercury's 30 first quarter points, Diana Taurasi cruised to a season-high 39 points on 11-of-24 (.458) shooting for her fourth 30-point performance of the season and WNBA-leading 27th of her career. The reigning WNBA Western Conference Player of the Week finished with a season-high seven assists and a season-high-tying seven rebounds.
· With 19 points and 11 rebounds, Candice Dupree recorded her third double-double of the season and 31 of her career. Missing her first shot attempt of the game, the league-leader snapped a streak of 14 consecutive made field goals, tied for second most in WNBA history. Dupree finished the game shooting 9-of-13 from the floor increasing her season percentage to 66.0%.
· Penny Taylor finished the game with 22 points on 9-of-13 (.692) shooting and three assists in 19:45. With 28.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the game tied 79-79, Taylor exited the game with a sprained ankle and did not return.
SILVER STARS HIGHLIGHTS
· Becky Hammon finished with a career-high-tying 10 assists and a season-high 21 points to lead San Antonio.
· Young scored season highs in points (25) and rebounds (10).
· San Antonio scored a franchise record 108 points.
Post Game Audio