Silver Star Becky Hammon may match up with Mercury point guard Kelly Miller on the perimeter in Game 1 Thursday.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
Breaking Down Today's Playoff Action
The Watch:
Thursday on TV
By Adam Hirshfield,

Game 1: Phoenix at San Antonio
8 p.m. EDT on
ESPN Classic

As Taj McWilliams-Franklin so eloquently stated, this is a series of stark contrasts: the young, up-tempo, shoot-'em-up, run-and-gun Mercury versus the older, more experienced, methodical, halfcourt-loving, defensive-minded Silver Stars. And both have been successful with their styles.

Phoenix has been particularly hot, winning seven straight games and 13 of its last 14 entering Thursday's Game 1 in San Antonio. How, you ask? Well, you've heard about Phoenix's terrific trio of All-Stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor. They can all shoot, they're great in the open court and they all have the strength to create tough matchups if they decide to post up down low.

"When we came back from the All-Star break, we were all focused on winning and making it happen, and I think everybody bought into that," says Pondexter. "Since then, we've been rolling. It's a different tune during the playoffs but I think we are all eager to win."

Taurasi may be especially enthusiastic, now that she is finally participating in the playoffs for the first time in her four-year pro career. But she insists the wait never got her down.

"We never felt like we had a monkey on our back," says the 2006 scoring champ. "People were always (saying) 'Oh, you never make the playoffs,' but we were confident that everything is a gradual process."

Now that the Mercury have made it -- for the first time since 2000, in fact -- and have swept past the Seattle Storm in the first round, they are the consensus pick to reach the Finals. And Taurasi realizes the value of winning Game 1 on the road in this 1-2 Conference Final format.

"It's important. Ö If you can get that first game on the road then you have a pretty good chance of coming home and closing it out."

But winning in San Antonio will be no easy feat. Though the Silver Stars posted a mediocre 9-8 mark at the AT&T Center during the regular season, they topped the tough Sacramento Monarchs twice at home to advance to the Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history.

And while the Silver Stars are unlikely to match the Mercury's tempo, they'll be happy to play their own style with All-Star and MVP candidate Becky Hammon driving, passing, shooting and generally leading the way. Hammon will also be feeding the ball into the post to fellow All-Star Sophia Young. If Hammon is able to involve Young and center Ruth Riley in San Antonio's halfcourt offense, they may well be able to slow Phoenix's charge.

That's precisely what the raucous San Antonio fans will be hoping for Thursday night, so tune in to ESPN Classic at 8 p.m. EDT for all of the exciting action.