The Phoenix Mercury came into today's matinee matchup with the rival Seattle Storm on a franchise-record tying seven game win streak. Seattle has always been capable of a battle but not on this date as the Merc cruised past the Storm for a 20-point win.
The first quarter started as you would expect for a 12:30 p.m. tip in Phoenix as both teams missed their first 7 shots combined and the first basket came at the 8:19 mark. The quarter ended with a 16-16 tie and you figured this would be another battle between the old Western Conference foes.
Then the rest of the game happened.
Phoenix was able to outscore the Storm 62-42 over the course of the next three quarters and walked away setting a new franchise record for consecutive wins. In fact, the Merc was leading by 30 points at one point until the bench units came in during garbage time.
The second quarter was where the damage was done as the Mercury held the Storm to 4 points on 2-11 shooting, forced 9 turnovers, and held the Storm without a point for just over 7 minutes.
The Mercury also handled business on the offensive end shooting 53% while finishing the quarter without a turnover. At the 5:42 mark in the third quarter, a very impressive possession illustrated both the lackadaisical effort from Seattle and the chemistry Phoenix has: Taurasi pushed the ball up to Bonner and with the exception of the initial drive and drop-off from Taylor, the ball touched all 5 players hands and didn't stay long before Taylor received the ball back in the middle of the lane and hit the layup plus the foul.
What's probably most impressive about all this is that the Merc only committed one foul in that strong second quarter. Usually when a team is struggling, they pound the ball into the paint and try to get the open looks that the free throw line presents. Phoenix was able to take that away and force Seattle into countless jump shots and shifted into cruise control for the rest of the afternoon.
Sandy Brondello has to be happy with this performance. The bench still didn't play great, but they were able to get extended minutes for the first time all season, which could be key going forward. Erin Phillips saw the ball go down twice from three. Shay Murphy saw her first playing time since returning from Montenegrin national team duty. Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (spelled it without looking I think I've got this now!) played 22 minutes and even Tiffany Bias was able to get some sweat on her jersey. Additionally, after committing 3 turnovers in the first quarter, the Mercury only added three more over the course of the game.
What's concerning is the rebounding. As impressive as this team has been during the winning streak, they were out-rebounded yet (-13) again. With an 8-game winning streak and 1.5 game lead in the standings at the mid-point of the season, this is nitpicking but as much as we've talked about the success of the big lineup and their nightly height advantage, this team doesn't attack the boards that well. Early in the fourth quarter, nobody even budged after a free throw miss from Seattle's Angel Robinson dropped into the hands of Jenna O'Hea for a short jumper.
All things considered, this team is farther ahead than most expected and it's a joy to watch.