Taurasi Primed for Game 3

By Stefan Swiat, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Sept. 10, 2007

Most players would try to find the nearest rock to hide under after fouling out of their first WNBA Finals game. But most players aren't Diana Taurasi.

The fourth-year phenom rebounded from a 10-point, four-turnover outing to erupt for 30 points and eight rebounds in the Mercury's 98-70 road thrashing of the Shock in Game 2 on Saturday.

Taurasi shot 11-of-20 from the floor and 7-for-14 from behind the arc, including four 3-pointers in a 14-point third quarter. It was an opportune time for Phoenix's star guard to catch fire, prompting the Mercury to pilfer the all-important home-court advantage from Detroit.

One would think that it would be a sign of relief for Taurasi, who has struggled mightily against the Shock this season, but she seems to be taking it all in stride.

"The great thing about our team is that if one person doesn't have it going, someone else does," she said. "That's the strength of our team and because of that balance, I don't really need to go out there and do anything different than what I do usually."

Coming into Saturday's contest, Taurasi shot a combined 11-of-42 (26 percent) from the field against Detroit this year, averaging only 10 points per contest. With that figure being almost 10 points lower than her season average, what did she do differently to find her touch on Saturday?

"I think it all started with our defense," said the former UCONN Husky. "Because we were able to get stops on the defensive end, we were able to get out, run and get some easier looks at the basket."

Coach Paul Westhead had his own interpretation.

"You would think that she did something different from the first game to the second, but she's just the type of person who feels the flow of the game," he said. "There was no pattern in her struggles against the Shock. During the regular season you are going to have a few rough games. But great basketball players rebound from tough games and that's what she did."

Last year, Taurasi shouldered the majority of the offensive load, claiming the league's scoring title by posting 25.3 points per game. Her 19.2 points still paced Phoenix this season, but she was able to distribute the ball more efficiently, finishing eighth overall in the WNBA in assists.

"We going to win or lose, live or die, with Diana Taurasi," Westhead said. "She is the heart of our team and she has always been that. She is the difference-maker for us."

In the playoffs, Taurasi has continued to thrive when it has mattered most, compiling 20 points a night, while shooting at a 51-percent clip from the floor. The three-time All-Star has also shot 42 percent from downtown, 79 percent from the line and swiped 1.7 steals a night.

Westhead believes that Taurasi is at her best when she is able to attack from different areas on the court.

"We try to move her and Penny Taylor around so the defense can't lock in on her," he said. "With those two and their versatility, we try to play a little of the whole 'now-you-see-them, now-you don't' game. She can beat people down the court, trail on the break or come around screens to get herself going."

It's a formula that has paid dividends, with the Mercury winning 10 of their last 11 games and 16 of their last 18. They are the only team that has won on the road in the playoffs, having done so three times. Their last victory away from Phoenix has put them in position to take firm command of the series. Tip-off for Game 3 is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the US Airways Center.