Mercury Makes Progress in Loss to Storm

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: June 2, 2013

Tonight against the Storm marked the first game of an exceedingly tough three-game road trip during which the Mercury will face the last three WNBA Champions (Storm, Lynx, Fever).

On top of that, Seattle has won 12 of the last 14 regular season head-to-head matchups against Phoenix overall. Needless to say, the Storm has had the Mercury’s number of late.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, tonight was no different in a 75-72 loss to Seattle.

In the Mercury’s first game against the Sky, Brittney Griner was cited for three personal fouls in the first 7:15. Tonight, she had just one foul in the entire first half to accompany her 10 points on 5-6 shooting. The Mercury jumped out to an early 8-0 lead but led the Storm by just three points at halftime, 38-35.

In the third quarter, the Storm came out on fire playing with much more energy than the Mercury, and took the lead from Phoenix early on (up by nearly double-digits at one point). Phoenix rallied back to cut the lead to four heading into the final quarter, 60-56. Seattle pulled away late to capture the victory in spite of a Mercury comeback.

“We came out aggressive, attacked the basket and were flowing on offense,” Corey Gaines said after the game. “We let them make a run in the first quarter after we were up by nine. They came back and we were up by six. We got beat in the second quarter, but still had the lead (at the half). We came out in the third, fought back, but they hit some shots. And we didn’t.”

Obviously, a loss is never fun. But the team played much better than they did against the Sky. They turned the ball over just 12 times (while forcing 17 from Seattle), shot almost 50 percent from the floor and featured four players in double figures – all positive signs.

Ultimately, Seattle’s shooting from the perimeter (8-19 from downtown) sealed the deal.

“We didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line and they were shots,” Gaines added. “It happens. That was the game right there for them. They had no inside game and no answer for the inside game.”

In difficult times like these when facing a rough start to a season, it’s important for the team to fix their mind on a steady purpose; nothing aids in soothing the mind more.

For the Mercury, their sole focus is on improving every single day.

“It’s all a process,” Diana Taurasi said about the team’s mentality moving forward. “You obviously want to win during the process, but today was an improvement from the other night.”

At this point, the Mercury has two choices: sulk in defeat or work to get better every day. Escaping pain and loss isn’t possible, but how they evaluate it and respond is.

“We’ll be okay,” said Alexis Hornbuckle. “We know that we have to improve and we will. Nobody likes losing but I can promise you we are working to change that.

“As a team, we don’t have a defeated attitude; we have an assertive one.”

Keys to the Game Revisited

Aggressiveness – The Mercury certainly started out that way, but was not able to maintain that same intensity throughout the night. Instead, Seattle became the aggressor in the second and third quarters. We saw spurts in the third and fourth quarters again from the Mercury as they battled back into the game, but the Storm was far more consistent in terms of attacking the basket. Certainly, making eight 3-pointers helps, too.

Hot Hand – The most consistent player on the court for the Mercury tonight was Candice Dupree. Dupree was 7-11 from the floor in an 18 point, five rebound performance. Brittney Griner started the game on fire but struggled a bit in the second half as she got into foul trouble. Griner finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.

Rebounding – Considering both teams shot a solid percentage from the field (49 percent for the Mercury, 43 percent for the Storm) Phoenix did a better job on the boards tonight. Seattle ended up out-rebounding the Mercury by three (32-29), but it didn't have a direct impact on the game. The Storm's lights-out shooting from beyond the arc was far more detrimental to the Mercury who hit just one 3-poiner on the night -- and that came from DeWanna Bonner with less than three seconds left in the game.

X-Factor

After Taurasi's jumper pulled the Mercury to 68-67 with 2:31 to go, Noelle Quinn followed with a basket 20 seconds later. Little's late shot from beyond the arc with 57.6 seconds remaining stretched the lead to 73-67.

Quote of the Night: Diana Taurasi on Continually Improving

“We have two more games on this road trip so we just have to keep improving little by little. We need to play hard, but more than that we have to be intelligent with what we do. We’ll be okay. We’ll get there.”