If you had never seen the Mercury play before and only watched the 1st quarter of this game, you would likely have walked away with a negative impression of this team. Fortunately, the 10 points on 20% shooting was the exception and not the rule.
Point guard Tameka Johnson who finished her first game with the Mercury with 9 assists and 7 points including a late dagger three said this about the start, "Everyone was excited to play and we just got off to a - it wasn't even a slow start, I can't say it was slow because we got the shots we needed and they just weren't falling."
After getting behind 18 to 10 in a quarter marked by missed open shots, slow defensive rotations on the trap and being out rebounded 16 to 8, the Mercury's leaders took over the game for the final three periods.
The difference was night and day on both ends of the floor. Deliberate half court sets gave way to quick strikes from Diana Taurasi curling off screens and individual brilliance from Cappie Pondexter. Their aggression in the second period sparked the team to 80 points in the final 30 minutes on 53% shooting.
Cappie explained how she and DT view their role, "We kind of know when it's time to create some stuff for our teammates and ourselves. As leaders we challenge each other to do that. If we don't have anything, create something because we have that ability to do it."
As Diana and Cappie became more aggressive and effective they began to draw double teams out on the wing which lead to several open looks for rookie DeWanna Bonner. Bonner finished her pro debut with a very impressive 16 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. After the game she was excited as always saying, "I just kept running the floor and my teammates kept getting me the ball. Great game. Great game."
Silver Stars head Coach Dan Hughes thought DeWanna's play was key, "I thought Bonner's inclusion was huge for them. Taurasi and Pondexter are great players but Bonner was the wild card to me that I thought was the difference in the game." High praise for a rookie playing in her first professional contest.
On the defensive end, the Mercury came out trapping the ball as expected but the ball handlers from the Silver Stars were able to find the open player, often center Ruth Riley, who knocked down the open shots. Riley had 8 of her 12 points in the first quarter before the Coach Gaines adjusted and pulled back on the traps for everyone except the brilliant Becky Hammon. Mix in a few zones and the defense managed to create 15 turnovers which lead to 24 points.
The Mercury were plus 6 over the second and third quarter but were still down 2 going into the final period. At that point Coach Gaines thought the pace caught up with the San Antonio team, "There's comes a point in a game where a team can't go anymore and that's where we turn it up and that's what happened."
Not only did the Mercury out score the Silver Stars 28 to 15 in the final period, they dominated the glass 16 to 6 and held them to 31% shooting. Whether it was the pace as Coach Gaines suggests, or just mistakes on the part of the Stars as Sophia Young said, the Mercury's strong close over the final four minutes turned a 1 point lead into an 11 point victory.
To put the Mercury's scoring in perspective, the 80 points scored over the final 3 quarters translates to 128 points in a 48 minute NBA game.
GM Ann Meyers Drysdale summed up the victory this way, "There's nothing like it. I'm relieved. It was very difficult last year losing to LA and then we went 0 and 4. San Antonio, we struggled with them last year. They're a better team as we're a better team this year."
The Mercury's next home game is Wednesday against the New York Liberty. There are far worse ways to spend your summer and $10 then watching competitive basketball. This was a fun game and a great win against last year's Western Conference champions.
Post game audio appearing in order: Coach Gaines, Sofia Young, Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, DeWanna Bonner, Tameka Johnson, Ann Meyers Drysdale.