Another classic game for the WNBA and one that demonstrates both the talent and determination fans of the league are used to seeing but taken to another level for the playoffs.
For a recap of the game visit here:
Seattle Storm Vs. Phoenix Mercury Final Score: Storm Eliminated From WNBA Playoffs In a 77-75 Heartbreaker - SB Nation Seattle
With the game tied in Game Three of a best-of-three playoff series, the odds would normally favor the Seattle Storm at KeyArena where they'd only lost three times in 40 previous games. But ultimately the final minute was won by exactly what won the series: rebounding and tenacity in the paint.
Following the jump we the transcriptions of the postgame interviews as provided by the Seattle Storm media relations staff.
Coach Corey Gaines:
I told our players in the first half when we were down by 15 or 16, whatever it was, just try to cut it under 10. We got it to nine. I told them to just keep on pushing and try to wear them down and it worked. It worked.
(on bringing Candice Dupree to the Mercury two years ago): When I was with Coach Westhead, he was the head coach, we went to go see Candice play. Her demeanor is very calm, she's level all the time and we liked the way she preformed. Whether she won a game or lost a game she was at the same level of playing all the time.
(when Diana Taurasi fouled out in the fourth quarter): I called Penny (Taylor) over and said, "Penny, take as many shots as you can possible get right now." I told her that. And I said I didn't care if they were "threes, twos, let the ball go. I need you to take as many shots as possible." And she did. She did. And she also got 17 rebounds which was pretty big.
(on DeWanna Bonner): She's playing great. I took her out just to get a drink of water. I didn't want to call a timeout and she got a drink of water and came right back in. She's doing it all. She's rebounding, shooting threes, playing defense on guards, on bigs. She's just a lot of energy and she loves playing the game. The game was tight and she was out there laughing on the court and ready to go. She was ready to play.
(on going big and playing zone): We didn't want to get beat inside because they were trying to throw the ball into Lauren (Jackson) the whole game. We had worked on it maybe two weeks before the season was over. I said, "Let's try the big lineup." Because what happens is it is hard for Diana because I'm asking her to bring the ball up the court, guard the best player, run the team, and score. Some of the other coaches were saying that it was a little bit much for her to do, but I said if we play a zone she should be capable of doing it and that's what we did. We went to a big lineup and made them take outside shots. It plays into our style if you shoot outside shots because usually there are long rebounds and we can just go.
(on being fresh at the end of the game): The first time we played Seattle up here I think they were waiting for us for six days. And then we knew they had to fly down and play us, and we both flew back at the same time so it was to our advantage. The game alone would wear them down and we kept on pushing, kept on pushing. They were kind of tired at the end.
(preference for the next round in the playoffs): I guess the obvious team we have home court advantage against and that would be San Antonio, but we do play well against Minnesota. So it doesn't really matter to us. Sometimes you get what you ask for. I'm just going to go with whoever wins. We're ready either way.
(beating Seattle after having so much trouble against them the last two years): It's not a relief. I would say Seattle's a good team. Brian's (Agler) a great coach. I respect him. It's tough playing here and they beat us at home also. For some reason in sports some teams just have your number. Their style of play and their sagging defense sometimes hurts us because we can't run the sets that we usually run. They really sag off on us. On certain players they clog up the middle and clog up the stuff we do. Our style is different from theirs and their style causes us a couple of problems.
I think, again, coming back to Seattle we knew what it was going to be like. We knew the atmosphere here. We started off a little sluggish, obviously getting down by quite a bit. No one really panicked. Diana got us going. (Candice) got us going with some easy ones and from there we just fought really. Nothing special. We just fought it out. To beat a team like Seattle is huge for us and we don't take that lightly.
(beating Seattle after having so much trouble against them the last two years): Even the fact that we've lost to them so many times the last couple of years. For me it's that Seattle is such a good team. They were full strength tonight and such a good team. To beat them at home, and to beat them when we started off so badly, a whole lot of positives.
(when Taurasi fouled out in the fourth quarter): I tried to be a creator. Seattle has such a solid defense; it's sometimes tough to crack it off the first play. My thought process was just to draw as much attention as I could. It sort of worked. We had some fighting out there. Nakia (Sanford) was setting some monster screens getting us open. I think everyone contributed so much to what happened in that fourth quarter and it was all about the fight. We had some rotations that everyone pretty much looked exhausted, but we managed to fight through that.
(on what happened on her last second shot): Penny missed. Corey drew up a play for Penny to either shoot a jumper or attack the basket. I thought for sure her layup was going to go in, but it bounced out and everybody was tipping the ball around it happened to land in my hands. I put it back up as quick as I could.
(on coming to Phoenix): I've loved the last two years in Phoenix. I always enjoy playing for a very competitive team, competitive conference. It wasn't easy adjusting to a system like that. When you play against it you think they're just running up and down, but there is a method to the madness. I got to be a part of that last year and I've been excited to be a part of that this year.
(preference for the next round in the playoffs): Me personally, I enjoy playing against Minnesota. They play a fast-paced game like we do. It makes it fun to get up and down the floor a little bit. We match up well against them. San Antonio is a great team, but they're a little more half court. We like to get out and run. Either way, we're ready to take on whoever wins.
HEAD COACH BRIAN AGLER
On the game: Congratulations to Phoenix. They competed hard. Their backs were against the wall in Game 2 and they came out and played well. We had them down today and they hung in there and found ways to stay in the game. They responded and made some plays down the stretch.
On the final play: We figured it was going to be some kind of combination or individual thing for (Candice) Dupree or for (Penny) Taylor. Taylor got it and tried to go one-on-one baseline. We rotated over, challenged the shot and she missed it. I don't know if it was batted around once or twice, but I know Dupree came up with it and put it in.
On the Mercury's zone defense: Definitely got us stagnant. In all honesty, I thought at times we had some open shots and missed. But if you're missing open shots, I guess it's effective. The majority of those shots we'd take over and over again, in all honesty. We just missed shots. But that was part of what got us out of our rhythm. We really were taken out of our rhythm in the third quarter. The rhythm of the game slowed down. We had to substitute a lot. They got to the free throw line a lot. It was hard for us to maintain our lead.
On the low score being positive for the Storm: Absolutely, but if you look at the score, the last three quarters, they were up scoring in the 20s. It wasn't like we were inconsistent, but we dropped off and lost our rhythm - although I will say we made plays down the stretch. We had opportunities down the stretch. We had people hit big shots. There were a lot of things tonight that were just uncharacteristic of our team - missing free throws. We'd make plays and we wouldn't convert, whether it be to get back in the offense or whatever it might be. It was very tough. Not that we disrespect Phoenix or anybody else in this league, but we didn't expect to be in this situation right now. We thought we could win and we did a lot of good things tonight, but sometimes things aren't meant to be. That's sort of how this game was. It wasn't meant to be tonight.
On missed opportunities in a close game: Absolutely. After watching the film, I'm sure a lot of things will come back. But we competed hard. I'm proud of our team. We went through a very difficult and demanding season. We probably showed as much character, maybe even more character than we did a year ago with the difficulties we went through with regards to injuries and personal issues to players and inconsistent play. We found a way to get ourselves in the playoffs and we found a way to give ourselves home court advantage in the first round, which we really wanted, and we had an opportunity tonight. It just didn't work out.
On this being one of his most difficult seasons to coach: It's really twofold. Very demanding, very difficult season. A lot of variables there. But, at the same time, probably as rewarding as well to see a core group of people just hang in there and fight through certain things - losing your best player for a long period of time, and she's a big part of what we do and a big part of our success, obviously. I think you could see when she came back what kind of difference it made. But just both - it was tough, demanding, but in a lot of ways very rewarding as well.
STORM GUARD SUE BIRD
On the game: Game 1 it was clearly our style, us putting our style on it. Game 2 was definitely them onto us. Then I think tonight it just kind of seesawed a little bit. We got off to a great start, of course, and really played to our strengths. I think when they went zone, it kind of got our offense a little stagnant. From there, they were able to cut into the lead. In the second half, it was back-and-forth. Unfortunately, the ball didn't bounce our way in the end.
On her message to fans: Of course we want to thank them. Obviously this season did not end the way we would have liked, but no matter what - we've been here a long time - win or lose, our fans are the best in the WNBA. The energy they give us; this building is very tough to play in. I know that Phoenix was able to get the win tonight, but that takes nothing away from how difficult it is to play here. That is not just largely but completely because of our fans. They are very supportive and we are very appreciative of that.
On putting being eliminated into words: It's actually very difficult because the season's over and kind of the way it happened - very quickly. All of the sudden, the buzzer's going off, and there's this, 'Wait a minute' moment. This is one of those things that doesn't set in until a day, two days later. Right now, it just feels like, 'We have a game in two days. We must.' Obviously, we don't. Like I said, it will set in as the playoffs continue - every time we see a commercial, every time we see a game, it's a reminder.
On the final play: We knew the ball would go to Penny. She drove. I think Katie (Smith) was on her - made her take a very tough shot and then it got bobbled around. I don't know if it just came out to Candice Dupree or someone actually tipped it; that I don't know, but all of a sudden the ball was in her hands all around. That's just a situation where it could go either way. Maybe it gets bobbled out to one of us. Unfortunately, it didn't. Obviously, no one drew that up. It's just unfortunate that it happened.
STORM CENTER LAUREN JACKSON
On whether she ever felt like the lead was comfortable: Not at all. We definitely went into halftime feeling like momentum sort of swung a little bit before the break. I don't think there was one minute we took for granted or thought we were going to win it because we know what they can do. Like Sue said, the ball just didn't swing our way at the end. We've caught a lot of lucky breaks here, but tonight wasn't one of them. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing we can do about it now.
On her hip: It's numb, like the rest of me right now. My hip is nothing in comparison to how I feel emotionally. I think the same could be said of every one of my teammates. I think everyone fought so hard this season to get in this position, to have this third game at home and we didn't capitalize on it, we didn't maximize it. I just feel sorry for my teammates, our coaches and all of our fans because everyone's given so much this year. It was just unfortunate. I know it's going to make us better. Every one of us will learn from this and hopefully we're never in this situation again.