Mercury Eliminated From Postseason Following Loss to Storm

By Brad G. Faye, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: September 5, 2010

Even with a bounce-back performance from Diana Taurasi and a career-game from her backcourt mate, Temeka Johnson, the Mercury couldn’t stave off postseason elimination on Sunday afternoon, falling to the Storm, 91-88.

Taurasi responded to her lackluster Game 1 with a 28-point performance, while Johnson notched playoff career-highs in both points (15) and assists (12). The performances by the guards helped Phoenix to a 20-1 second-quarter run, but the Storm managed to cut into the Mercury's lead in the second half, taking the final lead of the ballgame behind a Sue Bird trifecta that left just a couple of seconds on the clock.

“We stopped making baskets and stopped making the same stops,” Mercury Head Coach Corey Gaines said of what was a vanishing 19-point lead. “They started making free throws and (three-point plays) which slowed the game down and they hit some big shots.

“I told our players it was a funny year for us. We started off slow and a lot of teams could have given up right there, but we didn’t. We kept on fighting, got into the playoffs and continued to fight. Seattle’s a good team and I can’t take anything away from them. They were a good team all year and a good team tonight, sticking with it and hanging in there.”

Strangely enough, after winning titles in 2007 and 2009, and missing the playoffs altogether in 2008, this marks the first time the Mercury have been eliminated from a postseason since 2000 when they fell to the Sparks in the Conference Semifinals. The season marked Cheryl Miller's last as Mercury coach, and featured a roster of players which included Jennifer Gillom, Michele Timms and Bridget Pettis - who now works in the team's front office.

While postseason elimination may not be common for Phoenix, the results still sting for veteran players including Taurasi - the league's leading scorer during the regular season - and Penny Taylor. The latter of whom appeared to be playing the ballgame through an undisclosed shoulder injury. While specifics were never given, the forward’s toughness and ability to play through the pain were appreciated by the team’s head coach.

“I’ll say this much about Penny,” Gaines said before pausing. “She’s a strong-willed person and she gave her all today.”

Candice Dupree, who completed her first season with the Mercury and competed in the postseason for the first time this year, said whether making the playoffs or not, ending the season with a loss is always difficult for a competitor.

“The playoff run was great,” the forward said. “I obviously wish we could have gone further and thought I played pretty well overall but a loss still hurts whether it’s the last regular season game or the last playoff game so it’s tough.”