It turns out that the laws of basketball gravity still apply. Defense and rebounding do still matter as was proven again in tonight's 87-76 Sparks victory over the Mercury.
The LA Sparks came out to start game 2 with more fire, more energy and more will to win than the Phoenix Mercury and the result was a quick lead for the team that wasn't ready to end it's season. The Sparks jumped out to a 32-17 advantage in the first quarter and even more importantly out rebounded Phoenix 13-2 in the opening 10 minutes. Even Mercury Coach Gaines who is as committed to the run-and-gun as any coach anywhere admitted that his team can't continue to give up so many second chance opportunities and hope to beat LA.
Diana Taurasi (25 pts/5 reb), who played harder than most of her teammates put it this way, "They came out like the team that had to win the game and they did that throughout the 40 minutes and we came out like the team that was up 1-0."
Coach Cooper talked about defensive adjustments to try and limit the three point shooting of the Mercury. Lisa Leslie talked about the talent on her team's roster. Coach Gaines talked about his team missing shots they normally make.
All those things are true but for my money I am going with Taurasi on this one. It was evident that the Sparks wanted this game more, at least for the first 10 minutes.
Credit the Mercury for not rolling over when they were down 20. This game had blowout written all over it but Phoenix hung in and at least made the Sparks earn the win. And credit the Sparks, especially Betty Lennox with 17 points off the bench, for beating back any attempt by Phoenix to get the win.
Candace Parker with 24 points and 18 rebounds is just absurd. She is an amazing basketball player and as Lisa Leslie pointed out, she's often matched up with much smaller players. She uses her height, strength and quickness to beat almost anyone she's facing to a loose ball. Combine that with as much fight and desire to win as...well as Leslie and Taurasi and she's virtually unstoppable on both ends of the floor. She is the future and the future is now.
The Mercury can come back tomorrow knowing that they still have the deeper team and on a back to back at home that should be a plus. This Mercury team can and should play better tomorrow and with both teams fighting to move on it should make for quite a battle.
Game 3 is at 7pm in Phoenix and will be on NBATV
Post game audio - as usual there's some great stuff in here. Both Leslie and Taurasi were fantastic. Dee was funny and forthright while Leslie was classy and precise. As you will hear, neither Coach rose to the level of their players when it came to the battle of the press conference.