Mercury Feed Off Taurasi and Crowd For Game 2 Win
Posted: Sept. 19, 2009
While the votes are already in as to whom this season’s WNBA MVP is, Mercury guard Diana Taurasi showed emphatically on Saturday night why she is considered by many a favorite to take home the first such trophy in her young career. “DT” enjoyed a lights out performance in the 106-78 Game 2 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars, with 20 of her game-high 24 points coming in the first half of play.
“We made shots tonight and when you make shots and you are playing well on offense it puts pressure on the other team,” Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines said. “They were missing shots and we rebounded the ball really well, it’s as simple as that.”
“Obviously they came out very strong,” Silver Stars guard Becky Hammon said. “I thought the first couple of minutes of the game we were right there but they just caught fire, they didn’t miss anything.”
There were a number of contributors for the “Mighty Mercury” in that first half, a key reason why the ballclub was able to score a WNBA playoff record 64 points in those two quarters of play. Cappie Pondexter scored 11 of her 18 points in that first half while Penny Taylor and DeWanna Bonner contributed a combined 16 off the bench.
But no player was hotter than Taurasi who shot 4-for-5 from beyond the three-point arc and 8-for-11 total. It was a performance that caught the eye of spectator and Suns forward Grant Hill, who asked Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale if perhaps his team could borrow Taurasi at some point during the season.
“She was just in a zone and came out determined for this contest,” Hill told PhoenixMercury.com. “Every time she touched the ball she was looking to make something happen.”
Hill said he arrived to the Saturday evening affair a little late, but knew right away that the Merc sharpshooter had a hot hand.
“You can just tell when a player is feeling it,” Hill said. “You can tell in her body language, in the body language of her teammates and definitely in the body language of the other team. I came out here tonight and didn’t need to look up and see the score or who had how many points. I could see she was in the middle of something special.”
Hill’s teammate and fellow forward Alando Tucker was just a couple of seats over from the veteran, but agreed that the performance was one he will remember.
“She is focused and I think somebody needs to stop and do a heat check in this place because she is on fire,” Tucker laughed at halftime. “I love watching Diana play and for this team, it really starts with her. I watched Game One on television and she wasn’t able to get it going which led to the team struggling. On nights like tonight when she’s able to get it going, the team feeds off that. If I’m this hyper watching this performance as a fan, that should tell you just how much it means to her teammates and just how easy it is for her momentum to spill over to them.”
The team did indeed feed off that energy – energy which Taurasi said in large part, came from the fans.
“They don’t call them the best fans in the WNBA for nothing,” Taurasi said. “They were very, very, very key in this win and I think everybody watching on television tonight saw what a difference it can make for us when we’re at home and have their energy to get us going.”
This season, the Mercury and Silver Stars had met five times including the playoffs with the home team defending its court in each and every contest. That trend continued on Saturday for their sixth meeting and the Mercury are hoping it again proves to be the case in Monday’s decisive Game Three.
“We know San Antonio is going to come and play out of their minds’, we expect that from them,” Taurasi said. “That just means we are going to come in and play with the same sense of urgency. Every possession counts.”
RESERVES A KEY IN VICTORY
Many will look at Taurasi’s lights-out performance in Game Two as the story of Saturday night’s contest, but according to many in the Mercury organization, the bench should be largely credited for keeping the momentum going. Among those leading the charge off the bench were Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and Nicole Ohlde.
“When you have a players like DeWanna Bonner who can get you a double-double on any night or Penny Taylor who would probably be starting on most other teams in this league, those are the efforts you’re going to get,” Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said. “Tonight I also thought Ketia Swanier was huge for us in continuing to push the tempo while Nicole Ohdle was big for us on the boards.”
Ohlde who joined the Mercury just prior to the 2009 season and was limited earlier on in the campaign with a left foot injury, said it felt good to be on the court contributing for her new team in such a big game.
“It feels great, especially with this being my first-ever playoff win,” Ohlde said. “Going through some injuries this year and being able to come out in the playoffs and contribute is definitely a good feeling. The key is to understand that this is one game and we all need to come out with the same collective effort again on Monday.”
“I think with this team you see a lot of depth and a number of reserves that could be starters for most other teams in this league,” center Tangela Smith said. “Nicole was a big presence for us and was very aggressive which you need against a team like San Antonio.”
It was quite fitting that on a night in which the bench would play such a key role in the do-or-die victory, one member of the Mercury would be presented with the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award.
BONNER RECEIVES SIXTH WOMAN AWARD
After helping the Phoenix Mercury to the league’s best overall record with averages of 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest, nobody was surprised to see DeWanna Bonner recognized by the WNBA for her efforts on Saturday.
But the first-year player out of Auburn wasn’t receiving the Rookie of the Year Award prior to Game 2 like many expected. Instead, Bonner was handed the league’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award thanks to her incredible contributions this season off the bench.
“I’m very excited and want to be sure to thank my teammates and my coaches,” Bonner told PhoenixMercury.com. There are a lot of players in the league who could have gotten this award so I’m very honored and very happy it was me – especially considering I’m a rookie.”
While the panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who vote for the WNBA and NBA regular season awards do tend to lean towards veterans when handing out awards not initialized R.O.Y, Bonner is not the first WNBA player to be handed this honor in her first season. In 2008, Minnesota Lynx rookie Candice Wiggins also received the annual award presented by Kia Motors.
“It says something special about a rookie to receive this honor, and shows what confidence her coaches and teammates have in her,” Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said. “(Bonner’s) shown the ability to come off the bench and affect the game by contributing not only offensively, but defensively as well.”
As far as Bonner’s goals from this point forward, No. 24 says that hasn’t changed since her first day of training camp.
“I’m just looking to continue contributing any way I can to this ballclub. Scoring, rebounding, providing energy and all the things that eventually helped us finish with the league’s best record this season. It’s been a great ride and I’ve really enjoyed playing in front of these fans in Phoenix. Now I just want to keep it going in the postseason.”