Arlington, TX -- Before tonight's contest, both teams had a record of 8-10 on the season, but that doesn't necessarily mean they play the same. For instance, Phoenix currently sits at the top for points per game (88.6), so you can already imagine this team is attempting to score every chance they get.
However, Phoenix is also 12th in points allowed per game (88.6). The Mercury shoots well, but struggles defensively, and you can almost say the same about Dallas.
The first quarter ended in a tie of 16-16 with three lead changes, as both teams scored on almost every possession. Quick shooting by Wings forward Glory Johnson and guard Skylar Diggins, lit the fire under the Mercury to pick up the pace. Both teams utilized their bench early in the match most likely on the basis of resting their starters for the high-intensity second half they have experienced during the last two meetings.
"I thought it was a good team effort, especially defensively. It was a low scoring game for two teams that score in the 90s and 80s regularly," said Wings head coach Fred Williams.
Phoenix clearly has size as one of their advantages against Dallas and forward Plenette Pierson is still out with a concussion. With center Brittney Griner as a threat on the inside, Dallas was forced to rely heavily on perimeter shooting, rather than simple layups. Not to mention the Baylor alum recently became just the sixth player in WNBA history to record a triple-double.
The Mercury have yet another offensive threat: first name Diana, last name Taurasi, who became just the third player in WNBA history to score 7,000 career points against Washington. Dallas and Phoenix are the only two teams in the league with at least five players averaging 10 or more points per game.
The Mercury led the way 42-40 going into halftime.
Since both teams have savvy shooters, the next question is, who can slow the other team down the best and most effectively? It was a constant battle throughout the game, as the Wings would find a way to slow down Taurasi and double team Griner, but in return, struggle to get many points inside the paint. That's where Dallas rookie forward Aerial Powers came in clutch.
"I feel like defensively we were way more energetic, and we had each others helps on rotations way better than the last few games," said Powers.
Powers has had a phenomenal season thus far and is only getting better and playing smarter each game. She touched the hardwood with one mission in mind: beat the Mercury for the third time in a row.
Powers had much-shooting success in the first half putting up 11 points, nine of which came from the second quarter alone. She also had help from Johnson, who was already at 15 points and 17 rebounds at the start of the fourth quarter. Guard Odyssey Sims played her part as well, earning 12 points in the first half.
"Glory Johnson had a great game on the boards, a career high, and made some tough shots in the end for us. I was pleased with the way we played tonight and shared the basketball," said Coach Williams.
"I had my teammates talking to me and telling me to keep going, keep working hard, and keep crashing the boards. It feels so good to have your teammates there, and they are pushing for you, and they want you to keep going...If they keep getting it done, I should be getting it done too," said Johnson.
Johnson and Griner were previously married and divorced rather quickly (and ugly) but tonight's meeting was all about business for the two. You would think Phoenix would play like they have something to prove since they have lost twice in a row, but instead, it was Dallas who had the aggressive edge the entire contest, which is something they have found much trouble in doing the past couple of game. Finishing strong is not one of the Wings' strengths but tonight was different.
"We let this one slip. We did really good on our schemes, but we didn't do good on the boards...That one thing - rebounding. If we had just tightened that up just a little bit, we probably would have won, because we lost only by three," said Griner.
The Mercury's guard DeWanna Bonner, had a quiet night recording only four points in the first half even though she once scored 38 points against Dallas. During that game, she scored the most points a sub has scored in WNBA history and ties for most scored by a WNBA player.
The second half made it crystal clear that Dallas was playing on a higher level of intensity and physicality than Phoenix. With only 5.3 seconds remaining in play, a pair of made free throws by Powers secured the win for the Wings, despite a late effort by Taurasi's three-point attempt.
"At this point, we're just trying to concentrate on little things we're just not good at as a whole team. When you don't take care of those details, it's hard to get anything done," shared Taurasi.
"A day of practice and us getting some breakdown drills in helped us. The young ladies just came focused and ready to play tonight," said Coach Williams.
Taurasi: 22 points, 3 rebounds
Griner: 13 points, 6 assists
Candace Dupree: 12 points, 6 rebounds
Johnson: 22 points, 23 rebounds
Sims: 19 points, 3 rebounds
Powers: 17 points, 3 rebounds
Dallas will take on the Atlanta Dream in a road match, and the Phoenix Mercury are away as well against the Indiana Fever.