Relentless Taurasi Gets Mercury Back on Track
After the Mercury captured their first win of the 2013 season against the Indiana Fever Saturday (82-67), Diana Taurasi gathered the entire team for a huddle on the court before they made their way into the visiting team's locker room.
She wasn’t messing around.
“This is how we have to play!” Taurasi yelled with a determined scowl. “Exactly like this. No excuses from here on out.”
From the second they took the court against the Fever, it was obvious this was a different Phoenix Mercury team.
No smiles. No jokes.
Falling to 0-4 on the season couldn’t happen.
Rather, Diana Taurasi wouldn’t let it happen.
With 26 points, five assists and four rebounds on the night, this was the Taurasi of old – intense, physical and, most importantly, unrelenting.
Ultimately, the turning point of the game occurred in the second quarter. Indiana was nursing a near double-digit lead with just three minutes before the half. This was the exact moment that hurt Phoenix in all three games prior – the opposing team goes on a run and Phoenix falls too far behind to catch up.
Instead, today, Phoenix rattled off a 7-0 run heading into halftime to cut the Indiana lead to just one. A 26-12 third quarter for the Mercury eventually sealed the deal.
That’s the Phoenix Mercury we know – the team who plays with heart, passion and intensity all 40 minutes.
“It was a tough game,” Diana Taurasi said afterwards. “It was hard fought. They always make you play your best. We had to come with a lot of effort today.”
To date, the Mercury has been somewhat tentative and hesitant offensively as they integrate a 6-8 dominant post in Brittney Griner into their system. That was not the case, however, against the Fever – Phoenix was aggressive, motivated and united to come away with a win.
Phoenix shot 48 percent from the field, made six 3-pointers, tallied 20 assists, nine steals and seven blocked shots (even without Griner).
Indeed, 1-3 sounds a lot better than 0-4.
“It was a good game for us,” said Corey Gaines. “We played our style of basketball – pushing the ball. It was a good start.”
DeWanna Bonner seemed to pick up where she left last season scoring from all areas of the floor en route to a 24 point, 11 rebound performance. Bonner seemed determined to find ways to score – a hugely promising sign as the season winds on.
“We played great basketball,” DeWanna Bonner added. “Rebounding, passing, shooting – all the things necessary to win on the road. We did those things and got the win.”
Was this a much-needed and welcomed victory for the Mercury? Absolutely.
But, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t amount to much unless they build upon it.
“It was a good step in the right direction,” Taurasi said even more determined.
Something tells me she isn’t going to accept anything less.
Keys to the Game Revisited
Heart – Playing with heart and passion was never an issue today. The entire Phoenix Mercury team was united in a common goal: do whatever it takes to win.
That goes for both areas on the floor. Phoenix was visibly more active on defense and held the Fever to 37 percent shooting from the floor with only two players reaching double-figures in points (Zellous – 29, Catchings – 14).
Attack the Glass – The Mercury dominated the glass 42-30 while also beating the Fever in offensive rebounds, 13-9. Needless to say, Phoenix made a point to focus on the boards which certainly helped both their transition game and overall tempo and flow offensively.
Collective Response – This was a game they had to win, and the team responded as such. The Mercury proved, as a group, they aren’t satisfied with mediocrity.
They’ll no doubt look to continue this momentum as they face the Los Angeles Sparks at home on Friday, June 14.
The Mercury assisted on 20 of their 31-made field goals, a season high. Obviously, this means their ball movement and rhythm improved dramatically from their first three games – a great sign.
Quote of the Night: Lin Dunn on the Mercury's Effort
“Have to give Phoenix credit because they did not have [Brittney] Griner and they adapted to it. We were ready for Griner and when she was not there, we did not make an adjustment. We were not prepared for a Phoenix team that switched as much as they did. And obviously we did not rebound well.”