Phoenix Mercury Coach Corey Gaines is leading his team to a record shattering scoring pace in the playoffs and in the process could be changing how the league approaches the game of basketball. Photo by Max Simbron
The Phoenix Mercury are 3-1 and are averaging a blistering 100 points per game (on 46.5% shooting and 44.4% from three) through the first four games of the 2009 WNBA playoffs. Those numbers are up from the regular season where the Mercury set a WNBA record with 92.8 ppg (on 42.4% shooting 38.6% from three).
100 points per 40 minute game is simply an unbelievable scoring pace. It is even more amazing when you consider that it translates to 120 points per 48 minute NBA game. When was the last time an NBA team averaged 120 points per game in the playoffs? (seriously, when? I can't find the answer)
The other day at practice Mercury Coach Corey Gaines mentioned that his team was defying standard basketball logic with its increased post season scoring. Typically we see games slow down and scoring to drop in the playoffs. At the time I thought the sample size was a bit small (and 4 games is still only 4 games) but so far what Gaines and the Mercury are doing is defying the gravitational laws of professional basketball.
If the Mercury can keep up this pace, or anything close to it, through the rest of what they hope will be another championship run then they will have to be considered among the all time great offensive basketball teams in any league. That will surely change the way the game is played in coming years as teams seek to adapt to a fan-friendly style that also wins playoff games.
We saw how the 04-08 Phoenix Suns changed the NBA with Mike D'Antoni's Seven Seconds of Less. Scoring has picked up across the NBA as has the pace of the game. The defensive slug fests of the 90's were replaced with a more athletic game that emphasized skill over brawn. The Suns weren't able to win a ring with that style (due in no small part to untimely injuries) but they're impact on the sport was lasting.
The Phoenix Mercury are on pace to take that to a whole new level and that will surely have a similar impact on the WNBA. Teams naturally follow a winner and the result could be a big benefit to the WNBA as it tries to grow its "swish appeal".