Mercury Roundtable: Keys to the Second Half
In our inaugural edition of PhoenixMercury.com Roundtable, the digital team takes a look at the first half of the 2013 Phoenix Mercury season, and discusses the keys to the second half. To weigh in with your opinions, be sure to log onto our Facebook page.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THE FIRST HALF OF THE MERCURYíS SEASON?
BRAD FAYE: Consistency. More specifically, the trouble to find it. Through the first handful of games, the Mercury either looked like a team struggling to find itself or a team that simply couldnít be stopped. Injuries were obviously a major factor in this, and unfortunately, injuries are a factor that arenít within a teamís control. But if the team can manage to stay healthy with the pieces that they have, hopefully the second half of the season will allow us to see more of the juggernaut team we have quickly grown to love. Long win streaks are nothing new to the Mercury organization. But while in prior years we have seen win streaks to close out the season, for the sake of the X-Factor, I hope we can avoid putting ourselves in a position to need games down the stretch to make the playoffs as opposed to needing games down the stretch to improve our playoff positioning.
BEN YORK: Identity. In my opinion, theyíve found itÖthough, it took them a few games to feel comfortable going back to their run-and-gun, up-tempo style. The key, however, is continuing to learn each otherís respective games and have confidence that their style works. Weíve seen glimpses of that during their five-game winning streak but their consistency has been hampered a bit as their squad continues to get fully healthy. Still, if a team doesnít have an identity, they arenít going to win. The Mercury has found theirs; now, they just have to get healthy.
LOOKING AHEAD, WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR THE MERCURY IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON Ė LIMITING TURNOVERS OR REBOUNDING?
FAYE: Rebounds. Iíve just always been a firm believer in the whole ďrebounds get you ringsĒ theory. When you look at what teams shoot from the field on average, itís plain to see why giving an opponent a second-chance opportunity can be so detrimental. On the other side of the coin, offensive rebounds can greatly improve your teamís chances of assuring the addition of points to the scoreboard. In a perfect world, the Mercury can dominate in both of these categories, but if Iím forced to choose between the two, I would have to say rebounds are more important as we head into the seasonís second half.
YORK: Both are important, but Iím going to say limiting turnovers is more vital. For as fast as the Mercury wants to play, taking care of the ball affects everything they do on both ends of the floor. Not only that, but each turnover takes away a shot attempt. For the Mercuryís system to truly work, things have to be perfectly timed on the offensive end. Turnovers halt momentum and synergy which disrupts the flow of the game. Indeed, no team will have a perfect offensive night, but as a general rule, the fewer turnovers the Mercury has the more points they score. Every time the Mercury has scored 90 points this season, theyíve won.
DIANA TAURASI HAS OBVIOUSLY HAD AN AMAZING START TO THE 2013 SEASON. WHAT HAS BEEN HER GREATEST CONTRIBUTION TO THE TEAM THUS FAR?
FAYE: Leadership. I honestly donít believe there is a player in all of professional sports whose attitude is more contagious to her teammates than Diana Taurasi. Some professional athletes lead by fear, others by their performance, but Diana leads by example in terms of her confidence. When she has it going, itís not only fun for us to watch as fans, but it also helps her teammates to feel that they canít be stopped either. And as we have seen, when this Mercury team is clicking on all cylinders, they are not easy to slow down.
YORK: More than anything, Taurasi has provided stability in the midst of adversity. With over half the team missing games due to an injury, Taurasi has managed to still aid in the fostering of a winning atmosphere. This starts in practice. Her intensity and leadership (as Brad mentioned) continue to instill a sense of confidence in the team even when things arenít necessarily going well. That type of mentality will be huge in the second half of the year and, hopefully, throughout the playoffs.
FILL IN THE BLANK: TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS, THE MERCURY HAS TO __________________.
FAYE: Find ways to take pressure off Diana. As fun as she is to watch when in the zone, Diana canít continue to do it all over this long of a stretch for the Mercury. Itís exhausting to feel the weight of an entire team on your shoulders, and to make the playoffs, Diana will need to know that others are alleviating her of responsibilities. The good news for Mercury fans is that with such a talented roster, this shouldnít be a very difficult objective to accomplish. It isnít like there is a lack of talent surrounding Diana. But the rest of the team will need to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble if theyíre going to help take some of the pressure off of her. Itís great to show your support from the bench, but the real difference between wins and losses is Diana having her teammates out on the floor with her.
YORK: Have fun. It sounds tired, but the Mercury seems to play better when they are loose and enjoying the game. Indeed, that comes much easier when youíre playing well and winning, but I think itís a cyclical process. By nature, the Mercuryís system is fun Ė it allows players to improvise and play to their collective strengths. Theyíll absolutely need to do that in the second half of the season, especially at home.