It's no secret that the Phoenix Mercury have been banged up this season. To start off the year, it was Diana Taurasi nursing a hand injury and several other players exhausted and dinged up from international play.
There were a few times when the team finally started to be clicking, then Tangela Smith would roll an ankle. Something would happen. After the injury woes finally started to seem behind the team, the Mercury were looking to be rounding into championship form. Then the game against the Indiana Fever happened. DeWanna Bonner was knocked out, elbows were thrown and it just turned into a giant, injury-ridden mess.
Now, with Bonner's main issue just having to get back up to game speed after missing a few games, the team is going into protection mode. The team locked up the second seed in the Western Conference with its win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday. With home court advantage locked up through the Conference Semifinals, all the Mercury want to do now is stay healthy.
Head Coach Corey Gaines confirmed the notion that everyone would get rest. "Average is probably around 30 minutes per game for most of the players. We'll probably cut down to like 25 or 20," he said after yesterday's practice.
The Storm have long since locked up the number one seed in the West and have already been resting their starters.
"More than anything, the last three games, we rested some players, we weren't really in our normal rhythm," Sue Bird said. "Right now we're trying to get back into that. We want to be peaking come playoff time and that's what we're focused on."
So maybe the Storm will play their big guns more minutes. Regardless, the outcome is meaningless to the standings and we can expect it to be played that way by both coaches who are focused on the postseason.
It is unlikely that Diana Taurasi will play against the Storm tonight. Penny Taylor, who sprained her ankle against Indiana and sat out against New York, is also doubtful to play large minutes. Taurasi and Taylor were also held out of yesterday's practice.