Stars Have Shined, but Supporting Cast is Key
In the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Mercury’s superstars were exactly who we thought they were.
Indeed, they’ve been the living embodiment of the word “clutch” time and time again over the years.
Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree, Brittney Griner, Penny Taylor and DeWanna Bonner each put on a show at various moments throughout the entire season, especially against the Sparks. When it mattered most – as evidenced by Griner’s game-winning shot to help the Mercury advance – someone stepped up in a big way precisely when the team needed them to.
However, they didn’t do it alone.
The supporting cast of Briana Gilbreath, Lynetta Kizer, Jasmine James, Charde Houston, Alexis Hornbuckle and Krystal Thomas continually helped put the team in the right position to win, or, at least, with an opportunity to win.
Without their impressive play, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Phoenix advances.
“I think our bench has been really good,” said Russ Pennell. “What we need from them is to come in and give us effective minutes, however many it is, and they’ve really done that.
“A lot of what they do never shows up in a box score but we certainly recognize their value and worth in regards to our success.”
Against the Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference Finals, it’s imperative that trend continues.
“That’s what we’re here for,” added Lynetta Kizer. “We know we’re relied on to bring energy on both ends of the floor. That’s something we’ll definitely need to keep doing against a great team like the Lynx.”
As Pennell asserted, the contribution from each member of the Mercury’s bench isn’t always quantifiable. Sometimes it’s a hustle play to the ball, other times it’s as simple as making the right rotation on defense.
The “little things,” as many people label them, often turn out to be huge factors in the game.
“They’ve been big for us,” said Diana Taurasi about the Mercury’s bench. “Especially in the last two months. I mean, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in right now without them.”
Case in point…
In the second half of the Mercury’s Game 3 win in Los Angeles, rookie Jasmine James hit a running layup off a pass from Taurasi. The bucket counted for just two points, but put the Mercury up by three at a key juncture in the game.
James only received credit for one basket, but it was one of the most important shots of the Mercury’s season.
“It comes down to doing whatever it takes to help the team win,” said Charde Houston. “But we mean that sincerely. If the team needs 30 minutes from me or any of us, we’ll be ready. If they only need five or ten, that’s fine, too.
“We’re a team, and we are proud and willing to help in any way we can.”