Mercury Down But Not Out

By Ben York,
Posted: September 26, 2013

In Game 1 of the 2013 Western Conference Finals, it was the Minnesota Lynx who came out as the aggressors in an 85-62 victory on Thursday night.

Diana Taurasi scored 15 and Brittney Griner had 13 points and six rebounds for the Mercury, who now faces a must-win situation in Game 2 in Phoenix on Sunday at 2pm. Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore scored 20 points apiece and Seimone Augustus added 18 to lead the Lynx.

Neither team started out very well in terms of fluidity and shooting, but Minnesota quickly recovered thanks to the play of Lindsay Whalen. The Lynx hit 16 of 23 shots after hitting just one of their first six field goal attempts.

The Mercury, on the other hand, shot just 24 percent in the first half and never fully recovered.

“Some nights, the ball doesn’t go in the basket,” Russ Pennell said. “I was more disappointed in our defense than actually missing shots. I thought it was a combination of them guarding us well and us taking some quick shots that led to some fast breaks, and it was just kind of downhill from there.”

The Lynx has now won all six meetings with the Mercury this season, but Russ Pennell is optimistic they can turn the tide.

“Sometimes you kind of get something in your head that maybe isn't true, and if you think about it long enough, you'll think it's true,” added Pennell. “I want to make sure they understand that Minnesota is beatable.

“But we're going to have to get out of our own way and focus on what we do.”

Indeed, Phoenix has continually heard about their record against the Lynx of late, but at this point, that isn’t something they can worry about. They cannot control what has happened in the past.

However, they absolutely can control how they respond in Game 2.

“We need to move on,” said Diana Taurasi. “What happened was they made every play on both ends. They had a hell of a game. They had a checklist and they probably did everything on it, and we had a checklist and we didn't do anything on it.

“And we need to change that."

For Mercury fans, there’s something tangible in this year’s Mercury team that they’ve fallen in love with. Like the team, they aren’t ready for that to be over. I’ve seen it firsthand, in tweets to the team/players and through encouraging comments on Facebook.

But more than anything, fans identify with the 2013 Mercury because they’ve seen the team experience loss and struggle, and manage to crawl their way – slowly, but surely – out of the darkness.

There’s beauty in that.

Struggle certainly is one way to describe Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals for the Mercury. Yet, Phoenix has continually met and solved problems and/or struggles all season long, which has given it vastly more meaning.

It is through those struggles, problems, etc. that true growth happens. Rather, it’s through the pain of loss that we ultimately learn more about ourselves, or, in this case, the team. And we’ve learned a lot about the heart, strength and unity of this Mercury team over the past two months.

“We understand what we have to do,” Brittney Griner said. “We need our fans to be loud on Sunday like they have been all year. We’ll make some adjustments and have fresher legs with a couple days off.

“We’re going to play our tails off as a team.”

Again, the Mercury is fully aware of what’s at stake.

It’s actually pretty simple: if they don’t win Game 2, the season is over. That, alone, serves as incredible motivation.

Still, if history serves as any indication in times of adversity, look for the Mercury to be a different team on Sunday.

“That game’s over,” Taurasi said about Game 1, which is already a distant afterthought. “Now we go home and try to win Game 2.

“We’ll be ready.”