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Mercury vs. Lynx, Game 1 recap and stats: Phoenix's defense in third quarter run was key to win

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We examine some of the key stats that helped the Phoenix Mercury take Game 1 in their Western Conference Finals series against the Minnesota Lynx.

The Phoenix Mercury is now just 40 minutes away from returning to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2009, winning 85-71 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Lynx.

Critical Run: 14-0 run by Phoenix from 6:48 until 2:11 left in the third quarter

To just show how big that stretch was, let's use the Four Factors stats.

First, here are the four factors of the entire game:

MERCURY LYNX
EFG% TO% ORB% FTR EFG% TO% ORB% FTR
47.69% 16.33% 35.29% 35.38% 41.78% 15.10% 21.43% 13.70%

In short, Phoenix's FTR sticks out because the Mercury made 23 of 27 free throws in the game, while the Lynx made just 10 of 13. Then, the eFG% is noticeably in favor for the Mercury, but not too much.

Finally, here are the four factors for this critical stretch:

MERCURY LYNX
EFG% TO% ORB% FT% EFG% TO% ORB% FT%
83.33% 20.49% 100.00% 66.67% 0.00% 44.44% 0.00% 0.00%

Besides eFG%, the stat that really sticks out here are the turnovers and the offensive rebounding rate for the teams in this 4:20 stretch. The Lynx committed five turnovers attributable to a player in the third quarter as a whole which turned into 9 Mercury points. But in this stretch, Minnesota committed four of those five turnovers, which were converted into 8 of those 9 points. Then with rebounding, the Mercury grabbed four rebounds, while the Lynx had none on either end of the floor.

The result of that stretch was that a 49-39 game that was already favoring Phoenix turned into a 63-39 blowout, thanks to some great defense by Phoenix, and horrible offensive execution by Minnesota.

Sure, the Lynx got the lead down to 10 points with 1:30 left in the game after Rebekkah Brunson made some free throws. But by then, the outcome of this game was not in doubt.

Game 1 MVP: Brittney Griner

Griner had an excellent game, where she scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had three blocks, two of them on Lynx center Janel McCarville. Griner showed different elements of her game where each half, highlighted a different element of her game.

In the first half, Griner, scored 12 points, on 6-of-8 shooting, mostly from midrange shots, and her ability to stretch a defense isn't highlighted enough if this is any indication:

And then in the second half, Griner's defense became the most notable aspect of her game. She had all three of her blocks during this half.

You can watch Griner's excellent performance in the video above from the WNBA's YouTube channel.

Game 1 X-Factor besides Phoenix Mercury season ticket holders: Penny Taylor

Taylor has multiple weapons to affect a basketball game besides her ability to make a three point shot. She scored 16 points, led Phoenix in rebounding with 13, and also dished 7 assists.

Like Griner, Taylor also had a different aspect of her game highlighted in each half. During the first half, Taylor only scored two points and didn't make a single field goal. However, she did grab five rebounds and dish six of her seven assists.

Then in the second half, Taylor made three of six shots, and eight more shots at the free throw line. Also, throughout the game, she was playing some great defense, and disrupted Phoenix's offense during the critical third quarter run.

Player who must step up: Maya Moore

The reigning WNBA MVP scored 9 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished three assists in the loss. Moore also only shot a paltry 1-of-6 in the first half, and didn't do too much in the second half. This must improve or the Lynx could be playing their last game of the season on Sunday.

Bench units must step up

The Phoenix Mercury bench only scored a total of three points, while the Lynx's scored only seven points. To be fair, the starting units were playing the vast majority of this game, so this is perhaps a flow issue.

These are just the main factors that happened during this game. But are there any more things you noticed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.