Series Preview: Phoenix Mercury (2) vs. San Antonio Silver Stars (3)

Aug 23 2010 11:20AM
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Phoenix and San Antonio?
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Phoenix and San Antonio?
View Results
When the 2010 season began back in May, the 2009 WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury were expected to be the class of the Western Conference once again.

When Chamique Holdsclaw went down with a torn Achilles' tendon last Sunday in San Antonio's crucial loss to Minnesota, the Silver Stars' were expected to fade from postseason contention.

But here we are, with the Mercury (15-19) finishing up the regular season four games below .500 and settling for a No. 2 seed and the Silver Stars (14-20) not only making the playoffs, but grabbing the No. 3 seed. Now, after paving unexpected paths, for the second straight season they're about to do battle for the right to move on to the Western Conference Finals.

The vaunted Mercury figured to have an altered attack in 2010 by virtue of the departure of superstar Cappie Pondexter and the arrival of perennial All-Star Candice Dupree, but few foresaw such a fall from grace. As Seattle has risen to become the team to beat, the Mercury have struggled to find consistency with their new core. Phoenix didn't post consecutive wins until games nine and 10 of the season and on July 1 they were just 5-11 on the year. A welcomed hot streak after that finally helped them break away from a mediocre West pack, but they're entering the playoffs on a down note, having lost two straight and six of their last seven.

Gm 1: at Phoenix., Thur., 8/26, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 2: at San Antonio, Sat., 8/28, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Gm 3*: at Phoenix, Mon., 8/30, 10 p.m. ET, NBA TV
The Mercury's last loss of the season occurred against San Antonio, which with the victory was able to seize the third seed and set up this matchup. It marked the second of back-to-back wins for the desperate Silver Stars, who earned their fourth straight trip to the postseason. Although "earned" might be pushing it, as the Silver Stars, who finished six games below .500 for their worst record since 2006, benefited from a down Western Conference and a collapse by the Lynx.

So after clawing their way into the postseason party, the Silver Stars now face an opening-round date with the defending champs and reigning MVP, Diana Taurasi, who had herself another dominant year even if the team did not. Taurasi averaged 22.6 points per game to win her fourth scoring title, edging out her former teammate Pondexter for the honor. She also averaged a career-best 4.7 assists per game to finish in the Top 10 in that category.

But the Taurasi stat that may concern San Antonio the most is that in their two prior postseason matchups she and the Mercury have come out on top. Defending Taurasi will no doubt be the top priority for Silver Stars coaches Sandy Brondello and Olaf Lange, who are at the helm in the playoffs for the first time after taking over for Dan Hughes prior to the season. San Antonio has experienced on-court leaders though in Becky Hammon and Sophia Young, and with Ann Wauters not in the mix this year and Holdsclaw done for the season, it'll largely be up to Hammon and Young whether San Antonio advances into the next round. San Antonio though does have one aspect working in its favor and that's size. With Young, Michelle Snow, Ruth Riley, Jayne Appel and Crystal Kelly, the Silver Stars will likely look to slow down the game and win it down low.

But Phoenix, known for its uptempo game and affinity for offense, is better up front than it is given credit for. With Dupree, DeWanna Bonner and the mid-season acquisition of Kara Braxton, who came over from the Shock, the Mercury have mobile bigs who can rebound with anyone. The x-factor though may be Penny Taylor, who puts up outstanding numbers that get overlooked because she plays with Taurasi and Dupree. Their combined firepower just might be too much for the depleted Silver Stars.

2010 Regular Season: Phoenix 2, San Antonio 2
Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
  • These teams are meeting in the postseason for the third time in four seasons, with Phoenix having won the previous two encounters. The last time they met was during the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals. Phoenix won that series 2-1.
  • Diana Taurasi averaged 24.3 ppg in three starts against the Silver Stars
  • Becky Hammon registered two of her three double-doubles against the Mercury
  • Both team registered 1-1 home-court records
Friday, June 18, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Silver Stars 108, Mercury 105 | Box score
San Antonio Leaders: Sophia Young (25 pts., 10 reb.), Becky Hammon (21 pts., 10 ast.)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (39 pts., 7 reb., 7 ast.), Candice Dupree (19 pts., 11 reb.)

August 3, AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX: Mercury 103, Silver Stars 92 | Box score | Highlights
Phoenix Leaders: Candice Dupree (24 pts, 12 reb.), Diana Taurasi (21 pts., 10 ast.)
San Antonio Leaders: Sophia Young (24 pts., 3 ast.), Chamique Holdsclaw (20 pts., 7 reb.)

Friday, August 6, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 103, Silver Stars 87 | Box score
Phoenix Leaders: Penny Taylor (18 pts., 8 ast.), Kara Braxton (17 pts., 7 reb.)
San Antonio Leaders: Chamique Holdsclaw (21 pts., 9 reb.), Sophia Young (17 pts., 6 reb.)

Sunday, August 22, AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX: Silver Stars 83, Mercury 82 | Box score | Highlights
San Antonio Leaders: Becky Hammon (30 pts., 3 ast.), Michelle Snow (22 pts., 7 reb.)
Phoenix Leaders: DeWanna Bonner (20 pts., 12 reb.), Ketia Swanier (16 pts., 3 ast.)

See how the teams match up position by position

Temeka Johnson, G, Mercury
9.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.7 SPG
Note: Started every game for the second straight season.
Becky Hammon, G, Silver Stars
15.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.4 APG
Note: Averaged a career-best in assists.
Diana Taurasi, G, Mercury
22.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.7 APG
Note: Claimed her fourth scoring title.
Roneeka Hodges, G, Silver Stars
7.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.4 APG
Note: Played in all 34 games for the first time in her career.
Candice Dupree, F, Mercury
15.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 APG
Note: Playing in her first ever playoff series.
Edwige Lawson-Wade, F, Silver Stars
6.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.8 APG
Note: Made a career-best 19 starts.
Penny Taylor, F, Mercury
15.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.0 APG
Note: Finished fifth in the league in assists.
Sophia Young, F, Silver Stars
15.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.4 APG
Note: Led the Silver Stars in scoring for the first time.
Tangela Smith, C, Mercury
9.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.85 BPG
Note: Set the WNBA record for most career games played.
Michelle Snow, C, Silver Stars
10.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
Note: Led San Antonio in rebounding.

Series Info
Game 1: SEA 79, ATL 77: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 2: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video
Game 3: SEA 87, ATL 84: Box | Recap | Photos | Video

Gm 1: SEA 82, PHX 74
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 91, PHX 88
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: SEA 79, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: SEA 81, LAS 66
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: PHX 106, SAN 93
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: PHX 92, SAN 73
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 81, NYL 75
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 105, NYL 93
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: ATL 95 WAS 90
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: ATL 101 WAS 77
Box | Recap | Photos

Gm 1: NYL 85, IND 73
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 2: IND 75, NYL 67
Box | Recap | Photos
Gm 3: NYL 77, IND 74
Box | Recap | Photos