It was about more than just "Beat L.A." for the Mercury as they hosted the Western Conference's best, the Los Angeles Sparks on a special night. All season long the WNBA has made the effort to bring awareness to the 40th Anniversary to Title IX including having two ESPN televised games highlighted by this Mercury game.
The team also honored U.S. soccer star Hope Solo with the 2012 Inspiring Women of the Year Award.
With the big lights on and the Mercury on center stage for the world to see they got off to a very hot start highlighted by Samantha Prahalis. Her "Show Time" pass in transition to DeWanna Bonner nearly blew the lid off the U.S. Airways Center and the crowd was electric from that point on.
The Mercury had a typical 2012 Mercury quarter where they went into a slump though. In the second quarter the team had totaled 11 turnovers and only 9 points. At the half the Mercury trailed 49-27 in what setup as a route.
Basketball is four quarters however and the Mercury took advantage of it.
In the second half the Mercury caught fire behind DeWanna Bonner (24 points 6 rebounds) and Prahalis (22 points 5 rebounds 5 assists). They fought hard trimming the lead to as little as seven points (85-78) late in the fourth, but did not have the legs to finish off the comeback.
The Mercury (3-8) dropped another to the Sparks (10-3) by the final of 93-84.
DeWanna Bonner after the game, "We got down 20+ and you can't win a ball game that way. With eight people trying to comeback like that is pretty tough on your body. We did a great job of trying to get back and not give up. It was kind of embarrassing on National TV we told ourselves to cut it down, and we could have won if we hit more shots."
For the Sparks they played without Candace Parker who was out for a "DNP Coaches Decision," but was resting and taking the game off to be fresh for later games. With Parker out it made sense to see a lot of Nneka Ogwumike, but she took long breaks in the action and only logged 23 minutes.
The turnovers were the key. In the first, third, and fourth quarters the team had a total of seven miscues. In the second they tallied up 11.
Overall the team plays a lot of zone out of necessity with only eight players in uniform. During a stretch in the second and third quarters the team made numerous bad baseline rotations giving up open jumpers to Sparks players. Coach Gaines chalked that up to having a few players in that did not practice the zone and were missing assignments.
"When we put a few new players in there who hadn't played that much they forgot the scheme."
Up next for the Mercury is a four game road trip starting in Minnesota. In fact, the Mercury will play four of the next five on the road in a stretch that may define the season for them.