Seimone Augustus injures her left knee on a this play during the second quarter of the Minnesota Lynx game against the Phoenix Mercury. June 17, 2009. Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Max Simbron
A subdued Jennifer Gillom spoke after the game about the loss of her team's leading scorer Seimone Augustus.
"It's not good. It's not good at all. I'm hoping for the best but I don't think so", explained Gillom about one of the league's most dynamic players who went down at about the five minute mark of the 2nd quarter.
According to Coach Gillom, Augustus went up for a lay up and was cut off by Diana Tuarasi causing Siemone to land hard and injure her left knee. She was in obvious pain and had to be carried off the floor.
Gillom couldn't say for sure but thought that it could be an ACL injury. Siemone was just today named by WNBA.com as the leading early season candidate in the MVP race and now she could be out for the season.
It is a shame an injury like that marred what was otherwise a tremendously hard fought and entertaining contest. Both teams came out firing and battling hard for loose balls and at the end of the first half the Mercury held a slim 54 to 48 point lead. In the second half a tired Lynx team without Augustus was unable to keep up as the Mercury broke open the game with greater effort and hot shooting.
The 104 - 80 win puts the Mercury in sole possession of first place in the West and extends their record to 4-1 on the season.
The Mercury were lead in the points column by a tremendous shooting performance from Diana Taurasi who had 28 points on only 15 attempts.
Cappie Pondexter's shot wasn't falling as well as it usual does and while she went 5 for 12 from the field and only had one free throw attempt she found other ways to contribute. Cappie was only one rebound and one assist shy of a triple double. A fact she was well aware off when she asked to come back into the game with 4 minutes left and a 20 point lead.
Cappie has this to say about getting the triple double, "I wanted it so bad. I wanted it really bad but it's alright. I'll get it next game. That's my challenge to try and get it next game." Before you get the wrong impression that Cappie is all about her own stats, "To me it's about the team. When I got other people like Diana, DB, Tameka and Tange shooting the way they are why not get them the ball. It's fun like that. That's fun basketball."
Coach Gaines left her in a few more minutes before becoming worried about her getting injured in garbage time and pulled Cappie with a stat line of 11 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Long time teammate and Euroleague opponent Diana Taurasi called it the best game she had ever seen Cappie play.
Defensively, the Mercury did well to make adjustments as the game progressed. Early on the refs were calling a tight game and the Mercury bigs were having trouble with Lynx center Nicky Anosike and the explosive Charde Houston. Nicky scored a career high 21 points with a variety of post moves and Houston faced up Le'Coe and Tangela and drove the ball either right or left before finishing with great touch.
In the second half, Coach Gaines doubled the post more and had his team play off Charde, daring her to shoot from outside. As the team's primary go-to scorer with Augustus in the training room, Houston wore down in the second half. She was 6 for 11 for 15 points in the first half but only 2 for 9 for 6 points in the second.The Mercury held the league's second highest scoring team to just 12 points in the fourth quarter.
You have to feel for the Lynx losing their star. Coach Gillon explained, "It looked like we just kind of ran out of gas. Without Augustus out there it's hard to make that adjustment that quickly. We do have a day or two to get prepared for Seattle without her. It's going to be tough but I think we can make the adjustment."
The Mercury continue to get great production out of rookie DeWanna Bonner who had 21 points and 10 rebounds in only 20 minutes of play. She had her second career double double in her first five games as a pro and she leads all rookies in both points and rebounds. DeWanna is well on her way to rookie of the year a goal she set for herself before the season even started.
The key stat of the game was the 48 to 29 rebound advantage for the home team. Coach Gaines wasn't pleased that his team let an 11 point lead slip to 6 at the end of the first half but he was happy with the way the Mercury attacked the glass and then got out and ran.
This Mercury team is not only fast but highly efficient and confident in it's half court game. Diana Taurasi explained the team's offensive mindset, "We're playing with three point guards out there. At any time we should be able to get good shots. The fast break is something we pride ourselves on but against good teams you have to find a way to score in the half court and that's been why TJ's so important and Le'Coe on the block, to get her going. If we don't get it in 7 or 8 seconds then it's time to pull it back and see if we can't get something good. There's no reason why we shouldn't be a great half court team."
That kind of half court execution also helps the defense by allowing the right shot to go up with a balanced floor and of course it is always easier to defend when the other team is taking the ball out of the basket.
This was a great win for the Mercury and unfortunately one that might have a lasting impact on the Western Confernce if Siemone is indeed out for an extended period of time.
In a game filled with story lines, there were a few others:
Kelly Miller's return to Phoenix
Kelly Miller made her return to Phoenix where she played the last three years and became a fan favorite. Kelly said it was a little weird coming back to play against her old team and had this to say to the Phoenix fans, "The fans here are great. My whole time here, some of the best fans in the WNBA. I deffinately miss the fans and thank them for their support."
Kelly received a warm welcome from the crowd but none of them were sad to see Miller get outplayed by Tameka Johnson who was more aggressive then normal looking for her shot. Tameka finished with 13 points, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks while Kelly had only 3 points, no assists and 3 turnovers.
Jennifer Gillom returns coaching another team
This game also marked the return of Phoenix Mercury legand and new Hall of Fame inductee, Jennifer Gillom.
Gillom, who's name hangs on a banner honoring her time in Phoenix, was emotional about returning as the coach of another team. She was thrilled with the video tribute presented on the big screen during the first quarter and the fans gave her a standing ovation.
Nicole Ohlde in uniform
Nicole suited up for the first time this season, but as expected didn't play. She is targeting a possible return to action on Friday against the LA Sparks. She was very excited to be healthy and close to playing again after missing 6 weeks with a broken bone in her foot. In Nicole's first 5 years playing with this same Minnesota team she started and played in every game, never once missing time with an injury in her entire career.
Post game audio - Coach Gaines
Post game audio - Coach Gillom (she talks about Seimone at about the 2 min mark)