Keys to the Game: Minnesota Lynx, June 19
“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” said Diana Taurasi after the Mercury beat the Shock Sunday, 108-103. “Tulsa has been playing tough all season; they took [Los Angeles] to overtime. They have a good team that makes you work and play hard every possession. We had to come out and match their energy; we withstood every single run they had.”
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The last time they played the Lynx, it didn't end so well for the Mercury.
That’s putting it mildly. Minnesota beat the Mercury 99-79 on June 6 and it wasn't even that close.
However, it forced the Mercury to reexamine themselves and dig deep from within. Since that time, the Mercury has won three-straight games in convincing fashion over the Fever, Sparks and Shock.
Based on the team’s mentality before, during, and after practice, Phoenix is determined to make sure the result is different in their rematch with Minnesota at home on June 19.
Here are the keys to a Mercury win:
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
The above quote was written by Jane Austen (yes, I just quoted the author of Pride and Prejudice in a game preview – bold, right?).
But I couldn't think of a more fitting description of why the Mercury needs to play with pride on Wednesday. Ask any player, and they’ll tell you the loss to the Lynx was a turning point in their young season. It isn't so much what other people think of them; it’s more that getting beat the way they did just isn't acceptable for each and every person on the team.
Minnesota dominated every category and played with more energy and determination – exactly the way Phoenix wants to play on Wednesday night.
Playing physical affects virtually everything the Mercury does on the floor – whether positively or negatively.
But there’s a difference between being physical and playing dirty. When the Mercury is physical they attack the glass on both ends of the floor, play better defense and are assertive on offense. They also create more offensive possessions and their transition game clicks.
Against the Lynx, one of the more physical teams at every position in the league, Phoenix has to match their physicality and play with even more energy.
Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree have been on a tear of late with their exceptional play.
However, it’s important not to overlook how other players have stepped up as well. Charde Houston has been a huge presence both starting and off the bench in terms of energy and scoring. Briana Gilbreath’s defense (during the Sparks game especially) has been incredibly impressive. Finally, Lynetta Kizer and Krystal Thomas have more than held their own while Brittney Griner has played limited minutes due to her knee sprain.
If the team can continue to elevate their play in conjunction with Taurasi and the like, they’ll be tough to beat.