Positive Signs in Loss to Sky

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: September 11, 2013

The Mercury lost 70-68 to the Chicago Sky tonight, but there are far more positives to the outcome than one would initially think.

To start, Phoenix was without Diana Taurasi (serving a one-game suspension for her technical foul total) and Penny Taylor (still working her way back from her knee injury).

It was also the team’s second game of a back-to-back on the road and their third road game in four nights (fourth in six days overall).

On top of that, because of their schedule, the Mercury didn’t arrive in Chicago until just hours before the tipoff.

Yet, in spite of all the obstacles going against them, they still managed to take the East-leading Chicago Sky to the final seconds. In fact, Delle Donne hit the game-winner with no time remaining after the Mercury’s Jasmine James hit a clutch shot with 5.8 seconds left to tie the game.

Phoenix (18-14) had a four-game winning streak snapped despite 15 points from Candice Dupree and 12 apiece from DeWanna Bonner and Briana Gilbreath. Delle Donne’s shot capped a Sky rally from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit for their second consecutive victory.

Indeed, while nobody likes to lose this game was hugely beneficial for the Mercury’s bench and overall confidence as they head full steam into the playoffs.

“We’ve had a tough season, a lot going on,” Candice Dupree said after the game. “Coaches changing, a lot of injuries, but we’ve fought back. I think we’ve been 10-2 or 10-3 since everything second half. We fought back, and we’re ready for playoffs.

“I think everybody played really well tonight, and we showed that we can go pretty far in the playoffs and hopefully make it to the second round.”

In the end, a loss is still a loss. Even though the final games in the regular season won’t impact the Mercury’s status in the postseason (Phoenix is locked into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference), there’s little denying that each player on the team wants to come away with a victory every game.

However, for a tired, short-handed team to play with the amount of heart, hustle and energy that the Mercury did tonight certainly bodes well before the playoffs begin next week.

“I liked our fight,” Russ Pennell said. “We knew coming in we would have to pick up the slack somewhere. What I found out is that we’ve got some good players, and I’ve known that, but when you take your best player away, someone’s got to step up. I thought we did that. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t make some shots in the fourth quarter. Our defense was good enough.

“We just didn’t make enough shots.”

Phoenix returns home to face the San Antonio Silver Stars on Friday, September 13 at US Airways Center. It is the team’s final home game of the regular season. The Mercury plays the Sparks on Sunday, September 15 to cap off the 2013 season before facing Los Angeles again in the Western Conference Semi-Finals just days later.