Mercury Weather Storm

By Arash Azarmi, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: July 1, 2009

Wednesday’s Phoenix Mercury win versus the Seattle Storm featured the WNBA’s top two high scorers in the league. Coming in at number one was Seattle’s Lauren Jackson averaging 22.8 points per game, but the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi wasn’t too far behind in second place with 21.1 ppg.

Much has been said about athletes getting fired up more than usual when they know they’re going against a top rival. But these two All-Stars share more than just a rivalry, but a deep friendship, as well. However, with both teams wanting a win to stay close to the top of the Western Conference, something had to give. In fact, there were moments shared between both teams where things got chippy. Rookie DeWanna Bonner was taken down on a fastbreak layup by Storm guard Tanisha Wright which resulted in a flagrant-1 foul in the third quarter. Also, both Taurasi and Jackson could be seen jawing with each other throughout the game, as well. But both captains chalked it up to just being competitive.

“Lauren’s my girl,” Taurasi told PhoenixMercury.com. “I’ve never been big on scoring a lot of points against anyone specific. But when you see great competitors like Lauren or Sue [Bird], you have to take your competitiveness to a whole other level. You have to if you want to compete and win against them.”

Whether she wanted to or not, Taurasi won the scoring battle tonight. She shot 7-for-15 (five of those from beyond the arc), to end the game with a game-high tying 22 points, while Jackson put in 17 points on 6 for 14 shooting. By the way, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss high point tallies and not talk about Cappie Pondexter’s huge contribution Wednesday night. The Mercury All-Star threw in 22 points herself and almost came close to a triple-double with 11 boards and eight assists.

For Jackson though, talking some trash is just part of basketball. It wouldn’t be enough to come between her and Taurasi.

“Diana’s a great player and a great friend,” Jackson said. “I don’t think about the other stuff like stats and records when it comes to her. I just know that when she’s out on the court, she’s gonna give it her all. And she can expect the same from me as well.”

With the Mercury win Wednesday night, Phoenix drew the season series with the Storm to 1-1. These top teams in the West are set to meet each other two more times later this season, and with the way the first two games have played out so far, you can expect to see more of their competitive spirits. But Taurasi insists that all those factors stay just on the court.

“You know, we’re just two great big competitors,” Taurasi said. “I’ve played with her and against her for a lot of years. Whatever happens on the court, will just stay on the court.”

Getting others involved

Two of the WNBA’s prolific teams in terms of assists went head-to-head Wednesday night. Phoenix and Seattle are ranked second and third, respectively, in assists per game.

Individually, new Mercury floor general Temeka Johnson is averaging a career-high 5.4 assists which places her in third place in the WNBA. With Wednesday’s win, Phoenix is now 6-0 this season when dishing more assists than its opponent.

And the could be…

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi has been nominated for The 2009 ESPYs. Taurasi, who led the WNBA in scoring last season with 24.1 ppg, is nominated for Best WNBA Player. She is up against Detroit Shock guard Deanna Nolan, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker and Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen.

Taurasi is looking to win her fourth ESPY, which would tie her with Chamique Holdsclaw for the most ESPYs for a female basketball player. Her previous awards came back in 2003 and 2004 for Best Female College Athlete of the Year and Best Female Athlete of the Year (2004). A fourth nod this year would make Taurasi the first Mercury Player to receive an ESPY.