Seattle, WA — If seeing Kyrie Irving sitting courtside didn’t convince you that this would be an intense match-up, maybe it was the five #1 draft picks on the court. Or, it could have been four of the nine top averaging scorers in the league in the lineup. But, perhaps it was the identical records that intrigued your attention.
Regardless of what initially sparked your interest, the battle tonight kept all eyes glued to the action as it resulted in a one possession game. The Phoenix Mercury bounced back for a win on the road and beat the Seattle Storm, 85-82.
“I think we bounced back pretty well after getting waxed in L.A.,” said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi. The next game (after a loss) really tells a lot about a team and today we came out and played hard. I think Seattle is on their way up. They have so many talented players and are playing a style of basketball that’s pretty hard to play against. Today we just had a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
Both Phoenix and Seattle entered KeyArena with a chip on their shoulders. The Storm exuding confidence following a win over San Antonio where Breanna Stewart lead the charge; and, The Mercury full of pride possessing the league’s brand new all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi.
Taurasi matched her 19-point game in L.A. with 19 points again. Only this time, her 19 points came in the first half alone. Teammate, Brittney Griner continues to lead the league in points per game, adding 10 in the first two periods tonight. The Phoenix duo acted as a two-woman team as they effortlessly placed 25 on the board a piece tonight.
Storm guard, Jewell Loyd went nearly unmentionable for the first 20 minutes of play. The same girl who scored at least 30 points in Seattle’s last two wins over Phoenix, entered the locker room tonight with only four in the first half. Finally heating up in the third period, she fought back and redeemed herself, finishing the evening with 18 points and six assists.
Suiting for a matchup between teams donning identical records, the first half contained 15 lead changes and five ties. The Mercury ended on a 7-0 run, securing a lead of just that, seven, by the halftime buzzer, 50-43.
Phoenix pressed forth to hold their lead throughout the entirety of the third period, but not without a fight from Seattle. With the last possession of the quarter, Stewart placed herself in the point guard position and drew two on the drive. Her buckets at the line put the Storm within a reachable five compared to an 11-point deficit they had earlier in the quarter.
At the climax of momentum for the Mercury, none other than Griner created the play of the game. She stunned Sami Whitcomb with a monstrous screen set for Leilani Mitchell before being passed the ball from Mitchell. With the basket only two steps away, she stepped and fiercely slammed the ball into the hoop for the ninth dunk of her career!
“I was more worried about the game,” said Griner. With the loss we came off of and everything we’d been working on in practice then translating it to the game. That’s our thing – we’ll have good practices then not translate it, but we did that today. We have to keep doing that. The dunk was just a dunk. It was good, I guess. Everybody else likes it. (My teammates) love it.”
Intensity was tacked onto the final minutes of play by two controversial calls for both competitors. A blocking call on Seattle was reversed to a charge on the Mercury’s Camille Little. With the charging call, she was out of the game. On the very next possession, the Storm’s, Crystal Langhorne was eliminated from the game with 16 points total as her sixth foul was called in what appeared to plainly be a jump ball.
With 32.5 seconds remaining, Lloyd sunk two free-throws for the Storm bringing the game within only one possession (maybe two), 85-82. Seattle regained possession of the ball with 12 seconds left, providing the opportunity to tie it up and seek redemption in overtime.
The final pass was inbounded to Whitcomb, but her three-point attempt far behind the arc was no good.
“I thought this game was about the first half actually,” said Seattle coach Jenny Boucek. “Just soft defensively, not enough urgency. The first half, give up 50 points, let a good team and good players get into a rhythm, and now you’re digging out of a hole and everything has to go right. I don’t really think the root of the problem in this game was the end, I thought it was the first half defensively.”
Looking ahead, Phoenix has a solid week to prepare for the Minnesota Lynx before they battle them at home in Phoenix on Friday, June 30th.
The Storm, on the other hand, is not so fortunate to rest long as they play again on Tuesday. Seattle departs from their now 5-3 record at home for a three-game road series traveling to Washington, Connecticut and then Dallas.