The game was over after one due to the Alexis Gray-Lawson Show. From the opening tip the Mercury had a clear physical advantage over the Japanese National Team. After the first quarter the score was 34-16 Mercury and they never looked back.
Gray-Lawson was the whole show for the Mercury as they took the friendly exhibition pre-season game over Japan 100-73.
Playing off of the two headed point guard group of Samantha Prahalis and Andrea Riley points came to Gray-Lawson through the flow of the offense. She had a monster game shooting the ball with 34 points total. The offense flowed through her as she played 34 of the 36 total game minutes.
On defense she was a sparkplug getting back to force turnovers and get the ball back for the Mercury who could not be stopped all night. As Corey Gaines joked after the game, I know it was the Japanese National Team, but we should have scored 160 tonight." It was that kind of game for Gray-Lawson and her teammates.
Acquired via trade, another player expected to step up in the absence of injured star Penny Taylor is Charde Houston. The forward got off to a hot start scoring two early baskets on long jump shots. She was playing with a lot of confidence calling for the ball nearly every play early in the game. Last season she had a down year statistically on a deep Minnesota team that won the WNBA Championship. This season she has the potential to breakout again.
Houston played with good poise in this exhibition taking advantage of mismatches to score 14 points on the night.
The Battle For The Paint
There were a few storylines coming into tonight's game including how were the Mercury going to assemble their rotation in the paint. A few players are vying for the chance at major minutes including Krystal Thomas.
Thomas did not see a lot of game action, but made her presence felt on the glass. She corralled eight rebounds in her time out there and was imposing in the paint. One aspect that was lacking from Thomas was finishing strong on defense. She was able to lead the defense calling out assignments and making sure her teammates were in position, but often times that distracted her from covering the basket allowing easy baskets.
The same can be said for Nakia Sanford and Avery Warley who combined for 19 rebounds and only 1 blocked shot. Throughout the game the interior defense was not up to par and Coach Gaines acknowledged that after the game, "it was tough because the Japanese National team is really small, they are not big. They are more threes out there."
Chastity Reed - another new acquisition - played really well off the bench. She brought energy and toughness to the team as well as a solid outside jump shot. She is a bit smaller than the others, but she plays with great passion on the court. Zane Tamane was clearly the biggest player on the court for either team. She made an immediate impact with rebounding and a long frame in the paint. She had a few turnovers due to losing her footing and balance out there.
Overall the bigs tonight played well in a few aspects, but have a long way to go to being a Championship frontline.
Point Guard Duel
The point guards on this team are night day, which is an abundance of riches for Coach Gaines. Riley got the start for the team and was a scoring threat all night. She was able to get into the paint and make shots to keep the defense off balance. She finished with 6 assists as well to go with her 10 points.
She is still working on being a passing point guard as she attempted a few passes where her teammates clearly thought she was taking the shot. On two separate occasions the ball went off a teammate for a turnover, one of them right off the head and out of bounds.
The rookie sensation Prahalis did not disappoint, but was noticeably nervous in the games first few minutes as she seemed to have a bounce in her step when running the offense. "It was a little bit of both. I was excited, I had a few nerves, nothing crazy, but excited to play" was how the rookie described the early jitters.
After the game she assessed her performance as, "could do a lot better. It was alright, but everyone played well so it was cool."
That about summed up the game, everyone had a good game, but it could have been a lot better. After tonight where Coach Gaines played a tighter nine man rotation he has some decisions to make to trim the roster down to 10.
Most of those who didn't play are the players close to a lock for the roster. Coach Gaines has a lot of decisions to make, and many of them are going to be very tough after a week of Training Camp and tonight's game.