Keys to the Game: Minnesota Lynx, July 7
“Our defense still needs work,” Corey Gaines said after the Mercury's win over the Liberty earlier in the week. “We still have little lapses where we get up by 16 and then we relax. So instead of blowing somebody out we let them come back in the game to where they cut it down to nine and then we push them back to 15, then they cut it to eight and it continues through the game.”
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Looking for their sixth win in a row, the Mercury heads to Minnesota on Sunday, July 7 at 4:00 p.m. Arizona time. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Arizona Plus. For a channel listing, see the chart below.
The Lynx has had the Mercury's number of late. Two of Phoenix's four losses have come against Minnesota, both in convincing fashion. Nevertheless, when the Mercury and Lynx face off, it's never a dull game. The teams are amongst the league leaders in scoring (1st, Mercury -- 87.0 ppg, 3rd, Lynx -- 82.0 ppg), rebounding (1st, Lynx -- 40.9, 6th, Mercury -- 35.2) and shooting (2nd, Mercury -- 46.0, 4th, Lynx -- 44.0).
While Minnesota has beaten Phoenix twice, there is little doubt that this Mercury team is different even from when they last met on June 19. The Mercury has Penny Taylor back in limited minutes and is becoming increasingly efficient on the offensive side of the floor.
Phoenix, undoubtedly, still has to beat the Lynx to truly make a statement that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Here are the keys to a Mercury win:
Containing Maya Moore
The last time these two teams met, Maya Moore had 26 points and 16 rebounds on 9-17 shooting.
That simply cannot happen on Sunday if the Mercury wants to win.
Like Taurasi, stopping Maya Moore is much easier said than done. But we've seen Phoenix defend prolific scorers on other teams very well (as evidenced by Gilbreath's defense on Cappie Pondexter recently).
Maya Moore is one of the best players in the world for a reason. Thus, she'll get her points and will make an impact on both ends of the floor.
The key, however, is forcing her into as many difficult shots as possible from the perimeter, and force her to expend much of her energy on the defensive end.
In their last game, the Lynx out-rebounded the Mercury 48-26.
Not only does that hamper the Mercury from an offensive standpoint as it slows their game down, it gave Minnesota 10 more field goal attempts than the Mercury.
So, while the Lynx didn't shoot overly well in the game (43 percent), it didn't matter -- they were too tough on the boards for Phoenix to make any sort of impact on the game.
Rebounding fuels every single thing the Mercury does. That's why they've routinely out-rebounded their opposition during their current five game winning streak.
That same type of mentality is absolutely mandatory for Phoenix as they face the Lynx on the road.
Imagine what shooting just a couple percentage points better from beyond the arc will do for the Mercury's offense.
They're already leading the league in scoring, but remain in 11th place in three-point shooting at just over 30 percent.
Hitting shots from downtown will force Minnesota into opening up their defense; they won't be able to simply clog the paint against Phoenix.
Additionally, it will create more opportunities for Brittney Griner to score in the post on isolations. Griner has proven to be an exceptional passer already, so double-teaming her and leaving a shooter open along the perimeter might not be the best option for the Lynx. Conversely, if Phoenix isn't hitting the 3-ball, there is no better team in the league at protecting the paint and crashing the boards than Minnesota.
Having Penny Taylor back will help, even if it is just in limited minutes. Indeed, if the Mercury can come close to hitting 10 three-pointers (a number they are more than capable of) it will certainly bode well for Phoenix.