The Mercury came into Sunday's game looking to add to their franchise record winning streak after their first real struggle in the streak while San Antonio was coming off a blowout home loss to Seattle on Friday. The starting lineups for the Mercury continued to be the same while San Antonio matched up with Phoenix with Danielle Adams in the first five for the first time after splitting the first two games.
The first quarter began with both teams missing their first couple shots but being aggressive and looking to get off well. Both teams shot it well as San Antonio hit 50% of its shots but Phoenix was able to pull ahead behind its own 53% shooting while also forcing 6 turnovers from the Stars. The Mercury continued to pull away in the second quarter, pushing the lead 20, 52-32 at halftime. While picking up five assists and not scoring in the first quarter, MVP candidate Diana Taurasi picked up the load scoring 9 of the Merc's last 10 points going into the half, starting at the 2:26 mark of the quarter. The Mercury really stepped it up defensively, holding the Stars to 34% in the second quarter, including 0-8 from three.
The third quarter started a bit slow as there was a lot of contact, mostly uncalled, that restricted play early on as the first points of the third weren't scored until the 6:02 mark. The offense never really picked up for either team but the Mercury sustained their defensive excellence, allowing the Stars only four makes and adding five points to their lead. For the second time in three games, the fourth quarter was essentially garbage time as none of the starters saw the floor. It proved to be a good thing though because the bench in this game, as opposed to the Seattle game, was able to continue what the starters began, winning the fourth quarter 22-18.
TAKEAWAYS FOR THE MERCURY
- This team really likes each other and enjoys playing together and it shows. There's no ego issues here. NOBODY cares who the leading scorer is each night, and every player seems to be happy with their role. This shows in their assists numbers as they continue to lead the league and assisted on 23 of their 33 buckets (70%) in today's game.
- The defensive rotations and attention to detail for the Mercury has grown in leaps and bounds. They got better under interim head coach Russ Pennell last season, but they look like a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor, which isn't something you could say for the Mercury, even in their championship years.
- Erin Phillips seems to be finding her niche off the bench and is more aggressive looking for her shot. This was her first double figure scoring game since the fourth game of the season against Tulsa and in her 19 minutes today, she also was able to produce the highest plus/minus in the game at +25 and did a great job in helping contain Kayla McBride/Danielle Robinson
- San Antonio's struggles this season HAVE to be traced back to the makeup of the team. With both Sophia Young-Malcolm and Becky Hammon returning from injuries, not to mention on the wrong side of 30, this team goes as Kayla McBride does. In their wins, she's averaged 14.8 points on 51% shooting and below a turnover per toss-up. In losses? She's at 9.3, 30% and just under 2 turnovers. In today's game, she finished 1-11 with 4 points and a turnover. This is a good thing for their future but in terms of their 2014 season, the rookie is only going to be able to do so much.
- The Stars came into today's tip as the best three-point shooting team in the league at 39%. Relying on the three-ball is not the best option as there are so many factors that change nightly that can impact a shooter. In their wins, Dan Hughes' team has shot 43% from three as opposed to just 33% in their losses. The Stars shot 18% from three (3-17) in today's game and ended up being blown off the court. They led early, 2-0, but from there it was really all Mercury.
- The Stars have been looking to get Jayne Appel more involved in the offense and I think that's in their best interest. Her season high for shot attempts is 8 and in this game, she took 7; meaning had this game not included extended garbage time, she would have eclipsed that. Appel came out of Stanford a career 14.6 points per game scorer while shooting 54% over the course of 4 years. Granted, a lot of that came in the scheme of the triangle, but being in her 5th season and with the Stars seemingly confident going forward her as their starting center, she has to be a threat offensively. She took a lot of jump shots today, which she is capable of knocking down but Appel showed solid moves and an array of counter moves at Stanford and it's disappointing so far that she hasn't been more aggressive as a professional.