Mercury Wins Fifth in a Row
The New York Liberty came to Phoenix having won three-straight meetings with the Mercury, their longest win streak in the series since a three-game streak 2004-05. Additionally, New York had won its last two visits to US Airways Center, its only consecutive wins in Phoenix in series history.
That all changed Tuesday night in the Mercury’s 94-87 victory.
The Mercury now has a West-leading eight wins this season having won eight of its last nine games – only the Atlanta Dream has more wins than Phoenix (10). They are now in a virtual tie with Minnesota (7-3 with tonight’s loss at Los Angeles) for first place in the Western Conference standings.
Perhaps more significant, the Mercury has now won five in a row -- the team’s longest win streak since July 1-15, 2011 (six-game streak).
“Our defense still needs work,” Corey Gaines said after the game. “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.”
In spite of "little lapses" on defense, tonight’s win against the Liberty was probably the most complete game the Mercury has put together all year. They shot 46 percent from the field, made nine three-pointers, scored over 25 points in two quarters and tallied just seven turnovers as a team.
The Mercury has scored at least 90 points five times this season, five times in the last eight games – all wins.
“I think it’s just being more comfortable with the team and knowing where everyone is going to be,” Candice Dupree said about the team’s streak. “Offensively, everyone has the sets down.
“Also, I think Brittney [Griner] is doing a great job of finding people when she’s getting double and triple teamed.”
One of the most encouraging aspects of how the team is playing deals with how each player steps up in multiple areas. For example, Diana Taurasi didn’t shoot the ball overly well but she dished out 10 assists with zero turnovers. Penny Taylor played just 12 minutes but managed to score five points while also tallying four assists and three rebounds.
Making a solid case for an All-Star bid, DeWanna Bonner connected on a season-high five three-pointers, one shy of her career high set last season. She finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists, her second game this season with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists and fourth of her career.
Not to be outdone, Candice Dupree scored a season-high-tying 20 points on 8-of-15 (.533) shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. It was the seventh time this season Dupree has shot better than 50 percent from the field, all coming in her last 10 games. In her last three games, Dupree is averaging 18.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds.
Needless to say, the entire team is committed to doing whatever it takes to win.
“DeWanna [Bonner] kind of set the stage early by knocking in some outside shots,” said Diana Taurasi. “When we do that you’re not able to focus on Brittney [Griner] as much.
“We just had contributions left and right and every time we needed a basket whether it was Candice Dupree, Penny Taylor, Chardé Houston, DeWanna Bonner – we found a way to get a crucial basket and we got a good win.”
Key Moment of the Night
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi placed a personalized #19 Yarnell Mercury jersey, signed by the team, at half court. The tribute was a symbol of support for the victims and families of the Yarnell Hill Fire Tragedy, and was followed by moment of silence.
Briana Gilbreath's defense on Cappie Pondexter was about as good as anyone could ask for. Gilbreath held Pondexter to just 17 points on 5-14 shooting in 32 minutes of action. The Liberty goes as Pondexter goes, so it's important not to overlook Gilbreath's effort tonight.
“I don’t care if she scores four points or about her scoring," said Corey Gaines. "She makes it so Diana doesn’t have to guard Cappie Pondexter and expend her energy on the defensive end. Briana was chasing her all over the court and although Pondexter scored, she had to do step backs, use the pick and roll, and come off screens. She made it tough for her.”
Quote of the Night: Diana Taurasi
"This is always the hardest game coming back from a long road trip where you’ve been traveling for eight days and then you come home and try to settle back in. This has always been the hardest game.”