Series Preview: (2) Seattle Storm vs. (3) Phoenix Mercury

Sep 13 2011 9:07PM

Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Seattle and Phoenix?
Which team will win the Conference Semifinal matchup between Seattle and Phoenix?
View Results

Game 1: Phoenix at Seattle
Thu Sept. 15, 10 ET, ESPN2
Game 2: Seattle at Phoenix
Sat Sept. 17, 10 ET, NBA TV
Game 3*: Phoenix at Seattle
Mon Sept. 19, 10 ET ESPN2
* if necessary
Is there such a thing as having a team�s number? It certainly seems like it when you look at the results of the past two years between the Seattle Storm and the Phoenix Mercury, who will meet in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The Storm have won 10 of the 11 meetings between the teams over the past two seasons:

-- 2010 regular season (5-0)
-- 2010 postseason (2-0, West Finals)
-- 2011 regular season (3-1)

The Storm�s latest victory over the Mercury, on Sept. 9, held added significance, as it clinched the No. 2 seed for the Storm and the home-court advantage in the first-round matchup that comes along with it. How difficult are the Storm to beat at home? Well, they finished the season 15-2 at KeyArena, tied with the Connecticut Sun for the best home record. And this follows the 2010 season when the Storm went undefeated at home in 17 regular season games and four playoff games. The Mercury were 8-9 on the road this season.

In addition to the history of this rivalry and the Storm�s dominance at home, this series also presents the matchup of the league�s top offense (Phoenix, 88.97 points per game) against the league�s best defense (Seattle, 69.85 points allowed per game).

The Mercury have been a mainstay as the highest scoring team in the league since the arrival of Paul Westhead, Corey Gaines and the fast break system they have run since 2007. During that time the Mercury proved that you can certainly win titles with offense, claiming the 2007 and 2009 WNBA titles.

So much of that scoring has come from Diana Taurasi, who just wrapped up her fourth consecutive scoring title (fifth overall) by edging out Atlanta�s Angel McCoughtry with an average of 21.625 points per game. Of course, Phoenix has much more than Taurasi. The Mercury also feature a pair of talented forwards with Penny Taylor contributing in every aspect of the game (16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists per game) and Candice Dupree (14.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), one of the most underrated players in the league.

After dominating the WNBA in 2010 en route to their second title in franchise history, the Storm faced a much tougher road to the postseason in 2011. Reigning MVP Lauren Jackson suffered a hip injury in late June that forced her to miss 20 games before returning to the lineup three weeks ago. During her absence the Storm remained in the playoff contention due to the outstanding play of veterans Sue Bird and Swin Cash as well as a replacement-by-committee approach to picking up the slack for Jackson.

While Jackson has yet to dominate as she has in the past since her return, her presence on the floor must be accounted for and makes life easier for Bird, Cash and the rest of the Storm. Will a healthy Jackson be the key to continue Seattle�s reign over Phoenix? Or can the Mercury rise up and find a way to defeat their nemesis when it matters most?

Some fast facts about the first-round matchup:
  • Phoenix is the highest scoring team in the league for the fifth consecutive season.
  • Diana Taurasi won the scoring title for the fourth straight time and fifth overall in her eighth WNBA season.
  • Sue Bird was called upon more to score than facilitate this season due to Jackson�s absence. The result was a career-high average in scoring (14.7) and an assists average (4.9 a game) that fell was the second lowest of her career. However, that total was still good for fourth in the league in assists.
  • Seattle was the only team in the WNBA to allow less than 70 points per game (69.85 opp ppg).

2011 Regular Season: Seattle 3, Phoenix 1

Saturday, June 4, KeyArena, Seattle, WA.: Storm 78, Mercury 71 | Box score | Highlights
Seattle Leaders: Sue Bird (13 pts., 10 ast.), Camille Little (18 pts., 9 reb.)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (31 pts., 2 stl.), Candace Dupree (12 pts., 9 reb.)

Tuesday, July 26, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Storm 83, Mercury 77 | Box score | Highlights
Seattle Leaders: Sue Bird (18 pts., 7 ast.), Camille Little (15 pts., 5 reb.)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (26 pts., 3 stl.), DeWanna Bonner (10 pts., 7 reb.)

Tuesday, August 126, US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ: Mercury 81, Storm 79 | Box score
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (24 pts., 5 reb.), Penny Taylor (16 pts., 3 ast.)
Seattle Leaders: Sue Bird (23 pts., 8 ast.), Swin Cash (15 reb., 5 ast.)

Friday , September 9, Key Arena, Seattle, WA: Storm 85, Mercury 70 | Box score | Highlights
Seattle Leaders: Katie Smith (26 pts., 2 stl.), Sue Bird (16 pts., 6 ast.)
Phoenix Leaders: Diana Taurasi (36 pts., 2 reb.), DeWanna Bonner (9 pts., 14 reb.)

See how the teams match up position by position

Sue Bird, G, Storm
14.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 4.9 APG
Note: Averaging two ppg this season over her career average (12.7)
Temeka Johnson, G, Mercury
6.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 4.4 APG
Note: Averaged 9.5 ppg in the 2010 Playoffs
Tanisha Wright, G, Storm
10.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG
Note: Scored 66 more points at home than on the road this season
Diana Taurasi, G, Mercury
21.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.6 APG
Note: Won her fourth regular-season scoring title in a row
Swin Cash, F, Storm
13.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.4 APG
Note: Had a season-high 15 reb. against Phx. on Aug. 16
Penny Taylor, F, Mercury
16.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.7 APG
Note: Had a career-high 10 ast. on 6/17
Camille Little, F, Storm
9.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
Note: Had a career-high four blocks on 7/3
Candace Dupree, F, Mercury
14.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 APG
Note: 8.2 rpg is the highest average of her career
Lauren Jackson, C, Storm
12.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Note: Missed 20 games due to a hip injury this season
Nakia Sanford, C, Mercury
4.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.4 APG
Note: Scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in Phx.'s only win over Sea. this year

Western Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals

Eastern Conference

Conference Finals

Conference Semi Finals