Taylor, Defense Powers Mercury Past Lynx
In a tough, physical battle, the Mercury's stellar defense propelled them to an 85-71 win over Minnesota in Game 1 of the 2014 WNBA Western Conference Finals on Friday night.
The Mercury has a 1-0 series lead and needs one more victory in this best-of-three series to advance to the WNBA Finals for the fourth time in franchise history. Game 2 is in Minnesota on Sunday, August 31 at 12:30 p.m.
Phoenix is now 3-0 in the 2014 WNBA Playoffs. With the win Friday, Phoenix recorded their first postseason win against the Lynx and snapped a six-game Western Conference Finals losing streak that dates back to the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
"That was probably the best stretch we’ve had on both sides of the ball this year in a game where we obviously have to play at that level to beat them, because that’s just how good they are," Diana Taurasi said about the team's Game 1 win. "We saw that in the fourth quarter; a 20-point lead really doesn’t mean anything."
Brittney Griner led the Mercury with her first career playoff double-double, tallying 23 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. Penny Taylor, however, was impressive in all facets of the game. Taylor finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals for the Mercury, who led by 25 points in the third quarter before holding off a Lynx rally late in the fourth.
"What I’ve been trying to do all season is fill the gaps," Taylor said. "Do what I can to lift the team when we need to. Tonight, it was a lot of assists in the first half, and then in the second, I tried to be more aggressive on the boards. When we go down and run, that’s when we look our best, and that’s where I felt like I could contribute."
DeWanna Bonner was spectacular finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Bonner also played stellar defense on Maya Moore who finished with nine points.
"DB [DeWanna Bonner] is a great defender," Sandy Brondello said. "She's good individually and tonight, defensively, we were just a team unit. They were locked in. We’ve been consistently good on the defensive end all season long, and that was the key for us."
Diana Taurasi added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists for Phoenix. Phoenix held Minnesota to 39.7 percent shooting and 27 percent from the three-point line. The Mercury also out-rebounded the Lynx 45-31 and assisted on 17 of their 29 made field goals.
The Mercury know full well that Sunday's game won't be easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Minnesota is a phenomenal home team and Phoenix will need to play even better to come away with a win.
"We know we’re going to get a harder effort from the Lynx," Brondello said about Game 2. "They’re the champions. We’re going back home there, but we have to bring the same kind of effort [that we did tonight] and even more."
The Mercury heads to Minnesota for Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, August 31 at 12:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ABC.
The Mercury shot 23-of-27 from the foul line in Game 1, including 10-of-11 by Penny Taylor alone.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
You could easily give this nod to Brittney Griner who finished with an impressive 23/11 double-double, but Penny Taylor's near triple-double was simply too good.
Not only did Taylor come up with key shots in the second half, she tallied two huge offensive rebounds when the Lynx were making a run late in the game.
STAT(S) OF THE NIGHT
13: the number of rebounds by Penny Taylor, a career high.