The Phoenix Mercury and the Seattle Storm met for the second time this season and the first time in Phoenix in 2011. The long-time rivals resumed their intense match up with the results following a familiar pattern. The Storm now own a 26-15 series advantage (2-0 this season) and have won the last nine meetings.
Once again Seattle used their muck-it-up style of defense to take away the rhythm and flow that's so vital the high-powered Mercury attack. The Mercury gave some credit to the Storm defense, but from their perspective the loss is about energy and desire.
"We didn't come to play. I talked to the team, they listened. We just didn't come to play," a frustrated Mercury head coach Corey Gaines said after the game.
Phoenix jumped out to a nice lead with a 27-point, 50 percent shooting first quarter but in the second things got sloppy to the tune of seven turnovers. It never got better right down to a crucial late possession down one with a chance to pull ahead. A bad pass by Temeka Johnson led to a Storm fast break and the decisive points in the game.
Storm point guard Sue Bird credited the win to her team's commitment to defense and stubborn tenacity on the offensive end.
"Our team is very defensive minded. We're kind of the opposite of Phoenix in that we really thrive off of our defense...We just kind of ran the same play over and over (in the third quarter) and they had trouble guarding it so when that happens in basketball you just got to milk it."
The ugliness continued throughout the game with the Mercury missing easy shots and booting the ball all over the court.
The normally steady Penny Taylor even got into the act with an uncharacteristically poor showing (7 points, 2 rebounds). In fact, the only Phoenix players who brought their A-game were Diana Taurasi (26 points) and DeWanna Bonner (10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks).
"We give her (DeWanna Bonner) a lot of credit. It's you guys that don't give her enough credit. We know how important DB is to our basketball team. When she steps on the court she brings a dynamic that no one else can," Diana Taurasi said about Bonner's defensive presence.
Unfortunately, Bonner couldn't do it alone on the defensive end just like Taurasi couldn't score enough points by herself.
As a team, the Mercury just didn't have it and Taurasi explained why, "It's energy. It's the moon. Sometimes you have more energy than others. You try and sometimes it's not there but if you keep plugging away at it good things will happen. We're fine."
Alexis Grey-Lawson provided a lift that helped close the gap in the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run but in the end it wasn't enough to overcome horrible games from Kara Braxton, Temeka Johnson, Taylor and Ketia Swanier in her first game back from an eye injury. Swanier had trouble adjusting to the protective glasses she's been instructed to wear for the rest of the season.
The Storm were led by 18 points and seven assists from Bird and shot 44 percent from the field while holding Phoenix to just 40 percent.
The Mercury fall to 10-6 on the season while the Storm are now 9-7 after beating the home team 83-77. The Mercury depart Phoenix for a road trip that starts in San Antonio on Thursday and then goes to New York on Saturday and Minnesota on Tuesday before returning home on August 7 against Connecticut.