Keys to the Game: Liberty, July 2
On July 2, the Phoenix Mercury gets their first glimpse at the new-look New York Liberty.
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They have a new coach, new players, and a new energy, but the mentality they bring to the basketball court remains the same -- tough, physical and defensive minded.
New Head Coach and General Manager Bill Laimbeer is already making his mark on both the team and league. Laimbeer brought in former Detroit Shock player Katie Smith to a team that already featured Shock legends Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton. Adding those pieces to an All-Star player in Cappie Pondexter makes the Liberty one of the most difficult (and intriguing) teams in the league.
Phoenix, on the other hand, is one of the hottest teams in the WNBA.
Having won seven of its last eight games, including four in a row, Phoenix looks to stay on the winning track by taking care of its home court.
Here are the keys to a Mercury win:
Playing three games in five days on the road isn't easy.
Sometimes, your adrenaline takes you to another level and allows you to maintain the high level of energy you need to win on the road. Indeed, winning seven out of eight games takes a toll on both the mind and body
Now, as the team returns home and plays just one game in seven days, it's hugely important for Phoenix to stay hungry and motivated.
To keep the four-game winning streak going, the Mercury can't afford to have any letdown.
It's no secret that the Liberty is a tough, physical team.
For the Mercury, it's imperative that they also play physical, but within their own game.
Meaning, they'll need to continue to force their style of play on New York, but also step up to the plate defensively and get after loose balls, rebounds, and all of the little hustle plays that the Liberty place a heavy emphasis on.
The Liberty currently ranks 3rd in the WNBA in rebounds with over 40 per game. If the Mercury can find a way to match their physicality while imposing a fast, up-tempo style of play, it will certainly bode well for the team.
Against a team like New York, pace of play becomes increasingly important. Rather, the flow of the game is key for Phoenix and has a huge impact on how they shoot the ball.
Currently, the Mercury is 2nd in the WNBA in field goal percentage (47.0) while the Liberty is 7th (43.0). However, in terms of three-point percentage, it's the Liberty who has the upper hand at 37.0 percent, 2nd in the league. The Mercury, however, remain at 11th place in the WNBA shooting just 31.0 percent from beyond the arc.
If the Mercury can play physical, keep the pace of play up, and avoid any letdown it will give them a good shot at coming away with a win.