Mercury Falls to Chicago

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

Coming into today’s game against the Sky, the Phoenix Mercury had dominated the all-time series with Chicago winning 12 of 13 games since the franchise’s inception in 2006, including a perfect 6-0 record at US Airways Center.

Tonight, however, the result was vastly different in an 86-55 loss against a Sky team desperately fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We just didn’t seem to have much pop,” Corey Gaines said. “They seemed tired tonight.”

Playing again with the same lineup of just seven healthy players for the second straight game, a squad of young players is taking advantage of Phoenix’s depleted roster. Last Friday against the Shock, the Mercury featured a lineup of two undrafted free agents (Nakia Sanford and Dymond Simon), four third-round draft picks (Charde Houston, Krystal Thomas, Lynetta Kizer and Briana Gilbreath) and just one player selected in the first round of her respective draft.

In that game against Tulsa, Kizer stepped up to score a team-high 19 points along with seven rebounds. Today versus the Sky, it was Briana Gilbreath’s turn to take a leadership role scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. She is averaging 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds as a starter.

No loss is easy to deal with, but one positive throughout the entire season has been the Mercury’s rebounding, where they average 37.6 rebounds per game, second only to Minnesota (38.0). It’s an impressive (and encouraging) number since Phoenix hasn’t ranked better than fourth in rebounding in any of the past four seasons (tonight they out-rebounded the Sky 40-37).

“Whenever you put on your uniform, whether you are making the playoffs or not, you have a job to do,” Charde Houston said. “As professionals, I’m just so proud of us and how we’ve handled everything with the injuries. It’s just nice to know that for the fans we’re they type of team that never gives up.”

Leading the way on the boards has been Krystal Thomas, especially since being inserted into the starting lineup on June 20. In the last 22 games, the 6-5 center is averaging 8.3 rebounds per game and has recorded six double-digit rebound games this season, highlighted by a career-high 16 rebounds against the Sun and Tina Charles. Thomas had 13 rebounds today after recording her first double-double on Friday against Tulsa (14 points, 11 rebounds).

“We’ve been working really hard so it’s difficult when you don’t come out with a win,” Thomas said after the game. “You have to keep playing and everyone has to continue to do their roles and keep going.”

Ultimately, other than their struggles shooting the ball (19-63 from the field, 30 percent) the Mercury’s 19 turnovers was the main factor in the loss. Not only did it create issues with continuity, they lead to 27 Sky points.

Notes

  • Krystal Thomas recorded her second straight double-digit rebound effort, her third in the last five games and single season career-high seventh of the season.
  • Charde Houston scored a team-high 15 points for her third double-digit scoring performance in the last four games.
  • The Mercury heads to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks Tuesday, September 18 at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time.