Keys to the Game: Silver Stars, June 25
“We made it a point to attack the basket tonight,” said Head Coach Corey Gaines after the team's win against Washington. “I think what happens is sometimes you attack the basket and sometimes you don’t get the call. In the back of your mind you're thinking, ‘I didn’t get the call; I’m forcing it.' “We changed that tonight.”
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After dropping one to the Lynx at home, the Mercury fought back with a 90-82 win over the Mystics last Friday, June 21.
The victory wrapped up the team's June home schedule at 2-1, the fewest home games in June of any team in the WNBA. Now, Phoenix hits the road again on its annual week-long Circus Trip, visiting San Antonio (June 25), Washington (June 27) and Connecticut (June 29).
At 3-5, San Antonio has been playing some great basketball even without superstars Sophia Young (knee) and Becky Hammon (hand) in large part due to the Danielle's: Robinson and Adams. Robinson averages 12.4 points and 6.1 assists each night while Adams adds 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. Furthermore, Jia Perkins and Shenise Johnson combine to average 22.5 points while shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line.
The Silver Stars encompass the definition of "team play" as evidenced by their 16.75 assists per game total, good for fourth in the WNBA. Additionally, Head Coach Dan Hughes is one of the best in the league at game-planning and preparing his team for the opposition. San Antonio might be banged up, but Phoenix will need to bring its "A" game to come away with their second-straight victory.
Here are the keys to a Mercury win:
Continuing Defensive Improvements
Corey Gaines has often said that the Mercury's offense has a huge effect on the team's defense. Meaning, the more their offense is going, the better their defense is.
In its last two games the Mercury defense has held its opponents to just 81.0 points per game (including a season-low 80 for the league's highest scoring team, Minnesota), 41.8 percent shooting and 5-of-18 from the three-point line.
Now, facing a Silver Stars team that is ninth in the league in scoring at 72.8 points per game and eleventh in field goal percentage (39.0), it's imperative Phoenix continues the trend as San Antonio features multiple players that can score in droves (Adams, Perkins, Robinson, Johnson, etc.).
Rebounding/90 or More
The Mercury scored 90 points for the third time this season in their win against the Mystics last week. It was the third time in the last four games they reached the mark, all in wins. The Mercury is averaging 94.3 points in its four wins this season as opposed to 75.0 points in its four losses.
Much of their increased scoring output is due to a better overall effort in terms of shooting the ball. After shooting a season-low 34.4 percent from the field two games ago against Minnesota, the Mercury shot a season-high 51.6 percent against the Mystics. Phoenix has shot 50.0 percent or better from the field three times in eight games after doing so just twice in 34 games last season (2012).
The Silver Stars allow their opponents to shoot 47 percent from the field, tenth in the league. Certainly, that's a good thing for the Mercury. The key, as always, will be controlling the boards and getting out in transition.
As Diana Taurasi continues her amazing play (averaging 28.2 points per game in her last six, and a league-best 24.6 for the season), a huge factor in each of the team's wins has been other players who have stepped up.
Against the Mystics, it was Brittney Griner's 21 points in 26 minutes of play. In the win against Tulsa, Candice Dupree's double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds perfectly complimented Taurasi's near triple-double of 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Prior to that, DeWanna Bonner tallied 23 points in addition to Taurasi's 34 in their big win over Los Angeles. Finally, in the Mercury's first win of the year which came against the Fever, it was Bonner again who chipped in 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Taurasi will get her points, but the key might be her fellow teammates' contributions.