The Seattle Storm enters its first game of the 2018 WNBA season with two solid preseason wins against the Phoenix Mercury. But the Mercury are coming off a dominant regular-season win against the Dallas Wings on Friday night during which Diana Taurasi shot her way higher into the record books.
Both teams have momentum going into tonight’s game and each has new difference-making players. But read on to find out what Taurasi thinks of her new-look squad and the reason the Storm potentially have the edge in this one.
When: Sunday May 20 at 9:00 p.m. EST
Where: KeyArena, Seattle, WA | TICKETS
Storylines to follow
Basketball legend Diana Taurasi told Swish Appeal recently that she is stoked about the new additions to the Phoenix Mercury team. In particular, she sung the praises of play-maker Briann January and behemoth of the intangibles Sancho Lyttle.
Taurasi on January:
Bri’s a WNBA champion. She brings that toughness and she’s one of those players that the minute she gets on the court, she raises the intensity of everyone. And I know that first hand, playing against her for the last nine years. She plays every possession, and that’s really going to help us as a team when we have those tough moments. And she can make a play. And you know the WNBA is all about making plays.
Taurasi on Lyttle:
Sancho [is] one of my favorite players ever that I’ve gotten to play with. And we played in Ekat together in Russia and Sancho’s ... the type of player that makes teams great. She does all the little things that do not show up in the box score. But in any given possession, she’ll guard all five players, she’ll help everyone, she’ll always make the right pass, she’s an unselfish screener. She brings all the intangibles to a team like ours that can only make us better.
The DB factor
Before the Friday night opening game of the 2018 WNBA season, DeWanna Bonner last played for the Mercury in 2016. She sat out the 2017 season to grow and give birth to adorable twins. In between caring for her sweet-cheeked children, Bonner carved out a little time to declare to the WNBA, in total, that she is back and ready to contend for another championship.
Teammate Taurasi calls DB “the most versatile player in the world” and explained the reasons:
We all know two years ago DB was first team All-WNBA. And overseas she had a monster year taking her Orenburg team to the Finals. It’s just going to be really exciting having her back and just seeing her be the most versatile player in the world, because that’s what DB is. At 6’4”, she can guard anyone, she can score on everyone, and I think as to her time off, and not playing last summer, and her being healthy and just ready to go, she’s the type of player that puts you over the top.
In the Mercury’s first game of the season, the eight-year forward out of Auburn scored 17 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, dished 3 assists and grabbed 3 steals.
A Storm-y preseason
The Seattle Storm won both preseason games against the Mercury. At KeyArena in Seattle, the Storm eked out a 69-73 win without Diana Taurasi. At Talking Stick Arena Resort in Phoenix, however, the Mercury were on the wrong side of an 84-61 drubbing with most of the key players on the court, including Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Lyttle, January and Bonner. Leilani Mitchell was the only game-changing player out of the lineup.
In an interview with Swish Appeal following what Taurasi called her longest practice since college, the legendary player stated that it was important for all of the new players to come together as soon as possible — a need for all teams, to be sure, given the short training camp and preseason. Such a big loss, though — even in a game that did not count towards regular-season wins and losses — could be considered eyebrow-raising nonetheless.
Add in that Storm rookie Jordin Canada tallied 17 points atop Breanna Stewart’s 14 in the second preseason matchup and it is impossible to deny the prowess and potential of a team captained by Sue Bird: a basketball legend in her own right. Additionally, the fresh legs and firepower of Canada — on top off what Stewart, Bird, and Jewell Loyd can do — gives Seattle the edge in this matchup and, potentially, in a battle for a trip to the 2018 WNBA Finals.
When asked to pick the teams most likely to make a trip to Finals for a Bleacher Report roundtable, Seattle and Phoenix were at the top of my list of contenders to face Minnesota in a Lynx title defense.