The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Posted: June 9, 2009
After being down the majority of the game on Saturday night, the Phoenix Mercury rallied back to open the season with a 90-79 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars.
The box score will show that the team coasted to a win behind Diana Taurasi’s 25 points and Cappie Pondexter’s 23, but it was a collective effort on both sides of the ball that pushed the Mercury to victory over the reigning Western Conference champions.
By the end of the first quarter things were looking bleak. The Mercury offense had shot 20 percent from the field and the defense seemed out of sync.
“At first we were aggressive and they started reading our defense,” said Head Coach Corey Gaines.
By the end of the third quarter, the Silver Stars had a two point lead and their star players were shining bright. Becky Hammon had 15 points along with seven assists, and Sophia Young had 22 points and ten rebounds.
“Sophia’s one of the top stars in this league,” said Gaines. “She is a pain to guard.”
But the fourth quarter proved to be all Phoenix when rookie forward DeWanna Bonner gave the Mercury the lead on a wide open lay-up with 5:33 left to play. The Mercury then kept running and never looked back.
“We had to push the pace to the point where they couldn’t take the pace any longer,” said Gaines. “There comes a point in a game where teams just can’t go anymore, and that’s when we turn it up. They tried to push it back on us but it’s a double-edged sword.”
The up-tempo offense forced both Hammon and Young to struggle in the fourth quarter while the Mercury gained momentum.
“The tempo that we use in the game is what we practice,” says Phoenix guard Cappie Pondexter. “Teams come in and think they can run with us, but if we keep going and keep pushing the tempo eventually, in the fourth quarter, when their legs get tired, shots stop falling. It gets harder and harder (for them) and we push it into another gear.”
Pondexter proved this theory to be true by adding eight points and two assists with no turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Phoenix finished the game shooting 44.7 percent from the field after their abysmal start. Credit the big three of the night Pondexter, Taurasi, and Bonner, who combined to shoot 51 percent. The rookie closed out the game with a double-double including seven rebounds and four points in the fourth quarter.
The floor general of this high octane style, point guard Tameka Johnson keeps a phrase from John Wooden in her mind, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
The evidence of that statement showed to be true when the Mercury did not make many mistakes having only turned the ball over seven times compared to the 15 turnovers committed by the Silver Stars.
One thing is for sure, the Mercury may be down at times, but they can come back; fast.