On Friday night, the Phoenix Mercury did something familiar: Win.
The Mercury defeated the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, 85-71, in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals.
Led by Brittney Griner’s 23 points and Penny Taylor’s near-triple double, the Mercury never surrendered the lead and proved to be the much more aggressive team, as evidenced by their 27 free throw attempts (twice as many as the Lynx). Despite missing all of her 3-point attempts and turning the ball over five times, team leader Diana Taurasi chipped in 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Overall, the offense was free flowing, resulting in 17 team assists.
More impressive than their offensive attack was the job the Mercury’s team defense did on Minnesota’s two star scorers. League MVP Maya Moore had an inefficient 9 points on 9 shots, and looked every bit uncomfortable most of the night. Lynx coach Cheryl Reave shared here thoughts on Moore’s difficult outing.
”Early in the game I thought that Maya didn’t have an understanding of what was available. I thought that Phoenix, in typical fashion, their team defense was really good. So maybe where Maya had openings, they closed quickly and her recognition of what happens next was not very good.”
–Quote courtesy of the AP
Seimone Augustus didn’t fare much better, shooting 4-14 from the field and finished the game with zeroes in the rebound and assist column. Lindsay Whalen, whose frustration was apparent by game’s end, served as the best offensive option with 25 points, but they came on 23 shots, an atypical total for her.
For the Lynx to keep their championship aspirations alive, the team will need for Moore and Augustus to be more efficient and come out with greater intensity. The defending champions will also have to do a better job securing rebounds, as the were -11 in that category. The Mercury will look to close out the series on Sunday and head back to the finals for the first time since 2009.