It didn't take Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, long to get into her element Thursday night. In the opening quarter, Taurasi scored 12 of her team's 22 points. The WNBA All-Star went on to be perfect from the free throw line, sinking 13-for-13 and Taurasi tallied a game-high 31 points — locking in her second 30-plus point game this season, and 40th all-time.
Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said Taurasi's leadership was essential for tonight's win.
"I mean look... one of the greatest players to play the game. We certainly needed that tonight, her leadership," said Brondello. "It's not just about her scoring baskets for us; it's just getting us going.
“I thought we came out a little stale, a little flat in that first half, we're just not playing the defense we needed to. But I was happy with the way we picked up the intensity in the first half, because if we don't play defense the way that we're capable of, it's going to be a struggle to win games."
Phoenix, who was 2-6 on the season heading into tonight's match-up, needed this win to help get its season back on track and to build the team's confidence on the court. Mercury led for the majority of the game, leaving the Stars to play catch-up.
After the Mercury had pulled away with a quick lead early in the first quarter, the Stars capitalized on fast break opportunities and went on a 5-0 run. Monique Currie sank a shot from downtown, tying the game at 11. San Antonio finished the opening quarter strong — pulling within one from the Mercury — but Phoenix held on to its 22-21 lead.
During the second quarter, the Mercury began to make a run for it, leading by eight points at one point. Phoenix outscored San Antonio, 22-18 in the paint. Currie threw down 16 points in the first half and six defensive rebounds. Taurasi finished the half with 21 points. The Stars continued to trail, 50-44.
The last half of the game was all about Mercury. Phoenix went on a 12-3 run to begin the third quarter, forcing Stars head coach Dan Hughes to take a timeout, so he could try to regroup his squad.
Kayla McBride, who leads San Antonio in scoring and averages 17.3 points per game, could not get in the groove tonight. She hit a pull-up jumper in the third quarter, but couldn't produce much more. The Mercury's defense kept McBride covered and out of the Stars' offensive game.
"I think it was the third quarter [was the turning point]," said McBride. "I think defensively we kind of let them go on a run, and we couldn't find anything on the offensive end. It was just little things on the defensive end."
Both teams were cold behind the arc tonight. Phoenix shot a measly 29 percent from behind the arc and went 4-14. The Stars, who were ranked last in the western conference for three-point percentage, shot 38 percent.
In the fourth quarter, the Mercury pulled away with a 23-point deficit — the largest lead of the season for Phoenix.
San Antonio was defeated on the road, 90-75. This was the Stars third consecutive loss and San Antonio fell to 1-6 on the season. The Stars will look to bounce back from tonight's loss this Saturday, June 11th, when they take on the New York Liberty at 8 p.m. ET.
The Phoenix Mercury hold a 3-6 overall record, and will face the Chicago Sky on Sunday, June 12th at 6 p.m. ET.