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First it was three-time All-Star Penny Taylor, out for the season with a torn ACL before the season started. Then it was Diana Taurasi, who missed all but two games with a strained left hip flexor. Add Candice Dupree and Charde Houston, who may or not make it back this season, to the list of walking wounded in Phoenix and there's no wondering why the Mercury stumbled to only four wins in the first half.
Things, however, may be looking up in Phoenix.
The salvation comes in the form of a five-time All-Star and former MVP - Taurasi. Inarguably one of the best players in the game when healthy, Taurasi will give the Mercury a big boost in the second half. With a career scoring average of 20.7 points per game, the 6-foot guard will likely help ignite a Phoenix offense that uncharacterstically fell to eighth in the league in points per game in the first half. Taurasi has looked impressive playing with the USA National Team, so expect her to carry that form over to the Mercury.
One player Taurasi's presence is sure to help is rookie point guard Samantha Prahalis, who is seventh in the league and first among rookies with assists at 4.7 per game.
“I’m super excited," Prahalis said of getting to play with Taurasi in the second half. "She’s so good that she makes everyone better. And she’s just a leader, like you can feed off her attitude and her intensity. I’m looking forward to having her on the court."
Look for the offense to run through Prahalis and Taurasi, but also expect DeWanna Bonner, who had a breakout first half, to still generate a lot of looks as coach Corey Gaines' up-tempo philosophy will once again be put to the test.
Phoenix starts the second half five games out of the fourth spot in the West, so it will need to heat up quickly to get back into contention.
Enter DeWanna Bonner.
Bonner led the team in scoring with over 20 points per game, nearly six points higher than the next best player on the Mercury, but she needed 17 shots a night in order to do so as she's shooting a career-low 36.5 percent from the floor in 2012. It will be interesting to see how Bonner responds when Taurasi comes back and immediately becomes the focal point of the offense. The never-ending opportunities to shoot might dry up a little, but it may force her to be more selective and that may be a positive development for this Phoenix attack.
Bonner also led the team in rebounding, steals and blocks, so her contributions in those facets of the game will once again be heavily relied on.
– Anthony Oliva, WNBA.com