The Phoenix Mercury, losers of five of their last six games, desperately wanted a win against a Minnesota Lynx team they feel will be their main playoff competition. The Lynx held a 2-1 season series advantage going into Tuesday's home game at US Airways Center. It was a closely contested and hard-fought game throughout, but in the end the Mercury were able to get a big stop and with that, a big win.
Diana Taurasi led the Mercury with 26 points but gave credit for the win to the team's defensive effort and specifically by veteran Marie Ferdinand-Harris, "Marie came in and just worked her tail off. When she got in there it just changed the whole aggression of our team."
In the first half both teams shot the ball well with the Lynx connecting on 50 percent (19-38) of their attempts and the Mercury weren't far behind. The score was tied at 48 going into the break.
In the second half that all changed for both sides. The Lynx were held to just 32 points on 10-30 shooting and the Mercury managed just 37 points with 17 of those coming from the line where the Mercury held a significant 29-13 advantage in free throw attempts for the game.
Ferdinand-Harris (3-10, 8 points) clearly sees her role on the team as a perimeter defender and against a Lynx team who's primary threats are on the wing, that's a big help.
"I just feel like, we've been losing these games, it's not all about the turnovers. Yeah, those are part of the reason, but I also think that our defense needs to step up so I was determined to come and change the game defensively and give everything I had to help the team on the defensive end," she said.
"People talk all the time about Phoenix being an offensive team, but you know, when we come together and we play defense and we commit to it, we're a pretty good defensive team too and sometimes it only takes one person to get it going and it's contagious."
That person, Marie agreed, was her.
On the season, the Mercury are holding opponents to a very respectable .439 percent shooting which is a solid sixth in the league. Offensively, they remain on top of the pack at .470.
The Mercury had five players in double figures and out-rebounded the best rebounding team in the league 40-34. It was gutty win overall.
"Phoenix is a tough opponent. Tonight felt like a playoff atmosphere. The fans did a great job of being behind their team and they executed down the stretch. That's the difference in the game," according to Lynx star Seimone Augustus (26 points, three assists).
Rookie Maya Moore was very impressive with a career-high 28 points including 6-6 from three. She played great defense on Penny Taylor (13 points, six assists) who denied any specific injury but hasn't played with the same pop she had earlier in the season.
The Mercury are now tied for second-place in the Western Conference and are 12-9 on the season. The Lynx are now 16-5 and still firmly in control of the best record in the league.
The Mercury have one more home game on this stand on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. against the 10-11 Atlanta Dream.