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Around the Web: Reactions to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals

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Words just simply cannot do the Phoenix Mercury's 120-116 victory over the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals last night justice.

However, it might be possible to capture just how good this game was by looking at the collective reaction on the web, starting with a great quote from Mercury coach Corey Gaines.

The Associated Press: Pondexter gives Mercury 1-0 lead in WNBA finals
PHOENIX — The WNBA finals was supposed to be Phoenix's offense against Indiana's defense. How about offense vs. offense? Enough for the highest-scoring game in WNBA history. Cappie Pondexter missed a potential winning tip-in at the fourth-quarter buzzer then scored seven of her 23 points in overtime Tuesday night to help the Mercury beat the Fever 120-116 in the highest-scoring game in WNBA history. "Well, if you didn't like women's basketball," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said, "I think you do now."

Given Gaines' quote, sometimes it's better to evaluate a phenomenon's quality by drawing on the opinions of those who are not quite as familiar (or jaded, curmudgeony, or smug) with it.

zodogg34 of the 122 Degrees in the Shade blog provides a testimonial from a first time fan to support Gaines' assertion (kudos to the Mercury for engaging Phoenix Suns ticket holders).

No Longer a Virgin | 122 Degrees In The Shade
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a WNBA basher - call me indifferent. I had no problem with the WNBA, but I have never had any desire to watch WNBA ball. But when the Suns sent an email out to season ticket holders offering free tickets to the Finals game, I thought I’d go check it out. After all, my son loves basketball of any kind, and I didn’t have any plans on a Tuesday night. What I saw was one of the most exciting basketball games I had observed in recent memory. Let by newly crowned WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi’s all around effort of 22 pts, 9 rbds, and 6 asts, the Mercury defeated the Indiana Fever 120, 116 in overtime. What I saw was clutch shooting from both teams, multiple lead changes, and clutch defensive plays when the game was on the line. I saw an MVP prove why she was indeed the leagues Most Valuable Player by overcoming a poor shooting night by grabbing important rebounds, locking down defenders, and getting to the free throw line.

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry is doing more than just writing about the game -- he's going to be the next to buy tickets for fans that want to attend.

Suns Coach Alvin Gentry's All In For the Upper Level of Mercury Finals Game :: SportsPageMagazine.com
"After watching the game from San Diego and feeling the playoff atmosphere from the crowd, I wanted to show my support for these ladies. We see the hard work they put in on the practice court and in the weight room, and I encourage people to take this opportunity to witness what we see every day," said Gentry. "I respect and admire Coach Gaines’ position right now and hope that the Suns find the chemistry the Mercury have this season."

So as Phoenix Stan wrote in his recap, Game 1 of the WNBA Finals might mark a turning point as the best game in what has arguably been the best WNBA season to date, an organic marketing tool for the league.

Even if you were already of "Expecting Great", this game probably managed to exceed or challenge most people's expectations, both of the two teams and the WNBA itself.

Mechelle Voepel of ESPN (who you need to contact here if you like Voepel's coverage) probably said it best by writing that it shattered records and notions about the Fever.

Game 1's high-scoring affair one of best WNBA games ever - ESPN
The teams combined for 83 field goals in a game that shattered all kinds of offensive records and any notion that the Fever were "just" a defensive team. But the big question now will be whether Indiana can recover from coming so close to "stealing" one on the road -- and almost beating the Mercury at Phoenix's own game.

Just looking at a brief summary of the game, it's clear that it was basketball at its best, almost played at double speed.

WNBA Finals Open With OT Thriller -- NBA FanHouse
Nineteen lead changes. Thirteen ties. Big shot countered by big shot; a knock-down, drag-out between the league's two best teams. The WNBA has long been knocked for not offering enough offense. This was more than enough. "It wasn't the defensive/offensive game that people were expecting," Mercury forward Penny Taylor said, referring to Indiana's reputation as one of the league's toughest defensive teams. "But anybody who saw this game tonight saw amazing displays of talent. I was proud to be a part of it." Indiana's Katie Douglas, who hit a three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left to send the game into overtime, had to admit it was pretty fun for a while. All, but the ending. "It's history we don't like because we lost," Douglas said.


Even though the Fever played right with the Mercury for most of the game and even got out to a double digit lead, the game was played at the Mercury's pace -- Gaines even said after the third quarter that the pace was too slow.

Fever, Mercury light up scoreboard at record pace | IndyStar.com | The Indianapolis Star
Gaines, a disciple of coach Paul Westhead's high-octane offense, said the Mercury allow so many points because their style allows so many possessions. "This is the type of game I feel we can win, up-tempo, a lot of points," Gaines said. "We practice that way, we train that way. "They played a great game, but we got 'em in the end."

On the surface, it might seem like a deflating loss for the Fever, who played an amazing game, but the attitude in the locker room proves otherwise.

Fever set records, but can't keep up with Mercury | IndyStar.com | The Indianapolis Star
"We know we can't hang our heads because Phoenix will just stomp all over us on Thursday (if we do)," said Douglas, who scored a playoff career high of 30 points. The Fever's Tamika Catchings fouled out with eight points, one more than her playoff low. "Of course, we're disappointed about the loss, but this is not the end of the season," Catchings said. "The best thing about this series is it's a best-of-five, not a best-of-three."

Games like this -- a season like this -- is exactly what the Fever needed...and you have to think that it strengthened the argument to keep the Fever in Indianapolis, despite the difficult economy.

Simon wants to keep Fever in Indianapolis | IndyStar.com | The Indianapolis Star
What changed? "I didn't want to give up," Simon said. "We have a good product out there. It's disappointing about the fan base, but we want to keep trying to make this thing work for the city and for everybody involved. I think we're headed in the right direction with things. I think it's important for the league that people have been showing great interest. We hope we can keep it up."

Other links (try to at least click -- there are still people out there who believe nobody reads about the WNBA):

WBIR.com | Knoxville, TN | MVP Taurasi, Mercury top Fever in OT to take Finals lead
Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Diana Taurasi complimented her 2009 WNBA MVP award with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists, as the Phoenix Mercury recorded a thrilling 120-116 overtime victory over the Indiana Fever in the first game of the WNBA Finals. The 236 total points are the most ever in a WNBA game -- regular season or playoffs. The two teams shattered the previous WNBA Finals scoring record by 28 points, accomplished by the Mercury and Shock two years ago, when Phoenix won its only championship

Pondexter, Taurasi step up in OT
"It wasn't the defensive versus offensive game people were expecting, clearly," Taylor said. "Anyone who saw this game (Tuesday night) could tell you that. It was just amazing displays of talent especially down the stretch."

Aussie Opal helps Mercury to 1-0 lead
Australia's Penny Taylor played a starring role as her Phoenix Mercury secured a crucial 1-0 lead in the best-of-five WNBA Finals series against Indiana on Wednesday.

In the highest-scoring game in WNBA history, Opals stand-out Taylor scored an equal team-high 23 points in the Mercury's 120-116 overtime victory at the US Airways Center in Phoenix.