Keys to the Game: Sparks, July 18

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: July 17, 2013

"Not executing on offense," said Diana Taurasi on why they lost to the Sparks recently. "We get positions where we take bad shots and that gives them a good opportunity to run. They do a better job of that. We fought for forty minutes; it just wasn’t our day today.”

Playing at Staples Center for the first time this year, the Mercury and the Sparks split the first two games of the season series at US Airways Center. Phoenix has not won at Staples Center since Aug. 17, 2010, a four-game road losing streak in the series.


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The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 7:00 PM Arizona time.

After dropping three in a row, the Mercury is in dire need of an uplifting win. Beating the Sparks in their home building will do that.

Perhaps more than anything, the team will need a better overall effort from each player on Thursday. Similar to their big win in Indiana earlier in the year, they may not shoot the ball very well from the field but they can make up for that by hustling and playing with energy on both ends of the floor.

Here are the keys to a Mercury win:



Rebounding

The game against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 14 was physical on both ends of the floor from start to finish. A total of 44 fouls were called with a combined 49 free-throws attempted. More importantly, the Sparks out-rebounded the Mercury 37-27.

Needless to say, if the Mercury wants to bounce back with a win in Los Angeles on Thursday (who will be on the second night of a back-to-back), they simply cannot afford to be out-rebounded by double-digits.

Brittney Griner and Lynetta Kizer are still day-to-day, so rebounding will likely need to come by committee.

Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker led the Sparks in their last meeting with a combined 37 points and 21 rebounds. Ogwumike grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, 10 of those on the defensive end. If nothing else, Phoenix needs to make the Sparks fight for every rebound on both ends of the floor.

Turnovers



Over the course of their three-game losing streak, the Mercury has amassed a total of 55 turnovers.

Couple that with being out-rebounded largely due to Griner and Kizer's absence, and it's obviously led to struggles on both ends of the floor.

Against a high scoring team like the Sparks, giving them multiple extra possessions to score simply cannot happen.

The Mercury will need to play free, yes, but also smart. They'll certainly need to make up for any lack of size with relentless energy.

Scoring Flow

The Mercury has scored at least 90 points five times this season including five times in the last 11 games, all wins.

Perhaps more telling, the Mercury averages 92.8 points per game in their eight wins and just 73.6 points per game in their seven losses.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that when Phoenix shoots the ball well, it usually translates into victories. In fact, Phoenix has shot 50.0 percent or better four times in 15 games this season, after doing so just twice in 34 games in 2012. The Mercury is 4-0 this season when shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field.

If the Mercury can find their shooting touch, they are poised for a breakout game (again).