The China National Team managed to keep it close through the first ten minutes in part due to their unorthodox style of play as explained by Coach Gaines, "They don't run any pick and rolls. They run off the ball picks which is different then the way we play basketball."
The Mercury defense which had been preparing in practice for pick and roll coverage eventually adjusted and held China to 36 total points in the 2nd and 3rd periods after giving up 24 in the first.
The stops lead to even more Mercury run outs which created more easy opportunities and wham-bam Phoenix drops 65 points in the middle two quarters which is how you end up with a 30-point lead after three.
Thanks for coming to town, China. Enjoy the weather and be sure to grab some good local Mexican food while you are here.
Gaines said his team is still not in shape and the "push" wasn't as smooth as he wants it to be and yet the Mercury drag play in transition left the Chinese completely baffled. His exact quote, "They had no idea."
As for the pace of the game, Gaines said:
"The pace is what wore them down. They're not used to playing at that pace. If you rev up the pace to point where they're not used to playing at that pace they just can't function. If you get up on them and the pace is going so fast they were giving you the ball. They just hand it to you. It was just too fast for them. Too fast."
Asked about his camp players vying for a spot on the roster he named Taylor Lilly as the standout. Lilly finished with 11 points on 4 of 9 shooting (3/7 from three) and showed me that she's a bit more than just a catch and shoot player.
Corey was even impressed with her defense against a much bigger opponent, "I knew Lilly could shoot. She's a shooter. That's what she does but her defense was impressive too. She was really locking and trailing and she was battling down there trying to post her up."
I still don't expect her to make the team. Too small. Too young.
Candice Dupree started the game getting several good looks in the paint that she wasn't able to convert. She blamed nerves, "I was a little nervous. First time playing in front of the home crowd."
In the second half she calmed down and went 4 from 5. More important then her shooting was the Mercury's ability to find her in the paint. Candice racked up 17 points and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes.
For his part the coach of the China National Team Sun Fengwu said, "They were very fast and moved well on offense and had very good transition."
That's why he gets paid the big Yuan.
Court side Observations
- Understanding that the level of competition wasn't near what it will be when the season starts, the Mercury showed a lot of energy and aggression on the defensive end. With Lenae Williams, Sequoia Holmes and Ketia Swanier the Mercury were able to switch a lot and play aggressively on that end of the floor. I look forward to seeing if that continues into the season.
- Gaines didn't use the Rover Zone at all saying his Rover (Taurasi) isn't here. He indicated he will continue with that scheme and will also use DeWanna Bonner as the Rover.
- Bonner said she played mostly three/four for her team in Brno. She was slated to play more of the two but injuries moved her up. Any thoughts of a sophomore slump don't seem to apply. If any thing her handle looks better and overall she played with more polish and yet the same high energy level. Scary.
- Both Johnson and Swanier ran the point well and pushed the attack. Both also looked to take over some of the slashing duties with Cappie gone. Temeka lead all scorers with 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting. The Mercury as a team only had two turnovers which is mighty impressive considering the circumstances.
- Overall, it looks like a more athletic, longer Mercury team especially if Williams and Holmes make the final cut.
- Bonner tweaked her left ankle in the third quarter and didn't return but Gaines said it's fine and it didn't swell.
- Nice to be back watching the Mercury. Looking forward to the season getting underway next week.
Not much in the way of a preview for a pre-season game against a national team filled with players we will never see again.
Here's what Bridget Pettis told Swish Appeal when asked for a scouting report on tonight's opponent - they run and they shoot. Should be the perfect scrimmage partner for the Mercury.
Center Nicole Ohlde won't play. I'm told she's healthy but is just going to rest which isn't all that unusual for an exhibition game. But given Nicole's injury history last season....we'll track down some more info on that.
Stay tuned, we'll live blog the game with an eye towards Lenae Williams and Sequoia Holmes.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 05/08/10 6:58 PM MST ]
Nicole Ohlde is listed as having a "left hamstring strain" which hopefully isn't serious. Ashley Paris (right ankle sprain) and Yuko Oga (Visa issues) also are inactive.