In hope of braving Storm, Mercury need to demonstrate consistency
PHOENIX — Finishing has not been a problem for the Phoenix Mercury this postseason.
Led by winner-take-all extraordinaire Diana Taurasi, the Mercury ousted the Dallas Wings and Connecticut Sun in two single-elimination games, outscoring both opponents by 14 points after halftime.
Against the No. 1 seed Seattle Storm, consistency has made all the difference as back-to-back four-point losses sent the Mercury to the brink of elimination with the series shifting to Phoenix for Game Three.
In the first two games of the series, Phoenix is a combined minus-31 points in the second and third quarters but has kept both contests close, relying on a pair of fourth quarter runs to mount comebacks before ultimately falling short.
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello attributed the inconsistencies to lapses on both ends of the floor.
“Defensive breakdowns, it starts on offense really because we’re turning the ball over, we’re not taking the best shots,” Brondello said. “We’re allowing (Seattle) to get out and run and they’re the best. They’re No. 1 in the WNBA in fastbreak points.”
Playing in the league’s semifinal round for a fourth consecutive season, Phoenix enters Friday’s game attempting to avoid a sweep, a result it has experienced in each of its past three trips.
Trailing two games to none, a short-term approach could be a key to extending their season.
“We can’t be overwhelmed about trying to win three in a row because you can’t do that. All we’re playing is one quarter, two quarters, three. It’s 40 minutes of basketball,” Taurasi said. “They’re a really good team, we know that. I think we have enough experience, enough talent to be able to come out tomorrow night and expect a win.”
Despite Seattle being on the cusp of its first WNBA Finals appearance since 2010, the Storm are not underestimating the abilities of Taurasi, center Brittney Griner and forward DeWanna Bonner, an All-Star trio that has helped Phoenix raise three championship banners since 2009.
To recently annointed league MVP Breanna Stewart, closing out the series serves two purposes.
“For us, we want to continue to get better and improve from one game to the next. As far as Phoenix (it’s about) not letting them get a head of steam. Obviously it’s gonna be hard to win on their court, but we don’t want to give them the confidence,” said Stewart.
Down but not out, the Mercury take the floor on Friday in search of the spark that could reignite their season.