San Antonio, CA (Sports Network) - Reigning WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi scored 23 points to lead the Phoenix Mercury to a 92-73 rout of the San Antonio Silver Stars and sweep the Western Conference semifinal series.
Candice Dupree added 19 points and 11 rebounds for the defending champion Mercury, who won both games of the series to advance to their third conference finals in four seasons. Penny Taylor had 12 points and 12 assists for second- seeded Phoenix, which will play either top-seeded Seattle or fourth-seeded Los Angeles in the next series.
Tangela Smith had 16 points and nine rebounds for the victors.
Becky Hammon had 21 points and seven assists to lead the Silver Stars, who fell to the Mercury in the conference semis for the second consecutive season. Sophia Young added 15 points and nine rebounds, while Ruth Riley had 13 points in defeat.
Phoenix never trailed in this game, beginning the contest on a 21-2 run to seal the outcome early. A string of 19 straight points ended with Dupree's layup with a little more than four minutes left in the first quarter, and the Mercury held a 30-15 lead after 10 minutes.
The lead expanded to 18 at halftime, 48-30, and the Mercury cruised to the finish line down the stretch.
- Any questions if the Mercury could and would turn it up in the playoffs have been answered. Throw that 15-19 record out the window, this team is ready for money time.
- Loved the adjustment to play Taurasi off-the-ball more on the road. You know star players make shots on the road that role players don't. Having Penny Taylor (12 assists) and Temeka Johnson (7 assists) gives Coach Gaines the luxury to adjust his game plan.
- Defensively, the Mercury were solid again albeit against a team that had limited options and never looked to me like they believed they could win the series. In shoot-around before Game 1 they already looked beat. Mercury held San Antonio to 37.5% from the field and their three-point shooting returned to their season average at about 32%.
- I gave Tangela Smith hell all season for her low energy level which I think was part of the reason she shot the ball so poorly and inconsistently. She's proven again this year that she's a veteran who knows how to step up her game in the playoffs. 16 points, 9 rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting.
- Temeka Johnson is going to HAVE to hit those open shots against the Storm.
- Becky Hammon continues to prove why she's one of the great players in the game. Tough as nails but just too much to ask of her to carry the entire team.
- San Antonio did a better job matching Phoenix in the paint and in transition: The team's tied with 34 points in the paint each; tied with 10 second chance points each; 23-16 points off turnovers advantage for San Antonio; and San Antonio outscored Phoenix 24-15 in the fast break.
- The difference was the Mercury shooting 53% from the field (mostly in the half court game) and preventing the Silver Stars from getting good looks. Defense. Half-court offense. Playoff basketball.
- When you can win on the road in a playoff elimination game and win big by playing out of your comfort zone than you are a dangerous team.