Mercury Escape with a Win in Atlanta
In a game where the Mercury turned the ball over 28 times, they still escaped with a win in Atlanta against the Dream, 79-71.
They are now 17-13 on the season and 7-2 under Russ Pennell – the best start for a head coach in franchise history. Currently on a three-game win streak, it is also the second three-game streak under Pennell.
"Our defense was pretty solid but we kept bailing out on some fouls," Pennell said after the game. "They’d drive to the hole and instead of playing in good position and making them shoot over our length, we were kind of swatting down. We had to get back to what we were doing in the first half, which was playing position defense and making them shoot over the top of us.”
The win marked Phoenix’s second consecutive road win for the first time since June. The Mercury is 2-0 in September (their best start to a month this season) and is now 9-1 in games against Eastern Conference teams (they’ve won nine consecutive games against the East and are 4-0 on the road against East teams).
Led by Diana Taurasi's 25 points (her league-leading 18th 20-point game), nine rebounds and six assists, the Mercury led by as many as 18 points in the game before Atlanta fought back.
“It was a tough game," Diana Taurasi said. "We played well in stretches, and there were stretches that were lousy. But it’s a game of runs, and we had the last one, which kind of sealed the game. The early lead came from good defensive play, getting the ball and getting out in transition. And on the flip side they did a good job of pressuring us defensively in the second half and they got a lot of easy buckets in the second half, so it was kind of tale of two halves.”
DeWanna Bonner finished with 15 points, Brittney Griner scored 13 with 11 rebounds (the first back-to-back double-doubles of her career, three in the last five games) and Candice Dupree added 12 points (bringing her streak of scoring in double figures to 21 consecutive games, the second-longest streak of her career) as Phoenix survived Atlanta's fourth quarter rally and swept the season series.
In spite of the turnovers, the Mercury assisted on 21 of their 28 field goals, outrebounded the Dream 43-30, and had eight blocks to Atlanta’s one.
Under Russ Pennell, the Mercury has held teams to under 40 percent shooting in four of their nine games; they did so in six of their 21 games before Pennell’s arrival.
Phoenix is now 5-1 when scoring under 80 points under Russ Pennell; they were 0-9 before.
Up next, the Mercury remains on the road to take on the Liberty on Tuesday, September 10 before facing the Sky in Chicago the following day on Wednesday, September 11.