The Mercury came into this game facing a much inferior Chicago Sky squad missing their 1st year star Sylvia Folwes (knee). The Sky lost last night in Sacramento and they certainly looked like a tired and deflated team to start this game. Is this really the second best team in the East? Maybe it's not fair to be so critical given their circumstances but aside from Candice Dupree there wasn't much there to be impressed with.
You can only play the team in front of you and the Mercury took care of business tonight. They exploded to a 24-4 start in the first five minutes and looked to be on pace to break a WNBA record for points in a quarter (40) until Cappie Pondexter picked her second foul and was replaced by Kelly Mazzante. The backup shooting guard is without question the biggest hole on this otherwise powerful roster.
With the win the Mercury retake first place in the West by half a game over the Minnesota Lynx.
And speaking of the Mercury roster, a certain Australian forward sounds like she's going to be back "soon". Diana Taurasi had this to say about Penny Taylor, "Penny makes us a better basketball team and obviously a great friend to me. It looks good though. That's all I can say." Diana finished that sentence with that patented Taurasi grin and chuckle. I had asked Diana if she felt there was a point where it was too late in the season for Penny to return. Her answer, "This is what I always say. I would rather have Penny for one game then zero games."
There's little question what Diana thinks should and will happen and reading between the lines (and grins) I would say sooner rather then later.
Diana lead this game with 22 points on top of her 10 rebounds and with one blocked shot becomes the franchise leader with 185 rejections. Mount Taursi was pretty pleased to learn that stat, comparing herself to the great finger-wagging shot blocking Dikembo Mutombo.
If (when?) Penny does come back the log jam up front would likely result in Le'Coe coming off the bench and seeing her minutes decline and unfortunately Brooke Smith would probably have to be cut. Her presence would make this team better but especially if DeWanna can slide over and pick up more minutes at the three that are currently going to Maz.
The one area of the bench that looked to be in question at the start of the season has shaped up nicely is the back up point guard. Ketia Swanier has progressed steadily and is turning into a solid back up for Tameka. Coach Gaines feels like her speed and defense provide a spark off the bench and he's please with her progress, "At first she wasn't sure how she was going to fit in to it because she was just learning so what happened was over time she's kind of fit in, she's more comfortable."
Ketia recognizes her progress as well but admits that she needs to be a bit more aggressive looking for her own shot, something both assistent coach Bridget Pettis and Cappie Pondexter remind her of. "Sometimes I pass it up and that's one thing I've got to work on, shooting it."
There's not much else to say about a Chicago team that was mauled by the more aggressive and much more energetic Mercury squad. Coach Steven Key who was ejected in fourth quarter after arguing a call said this about his team's slow start, "Part of it was driven by our offense because we weren't getting good shots. They were running at the basket and we were scrabbling to get back on defense and transition and that's not a good thing when you play the Phoenix Mercury."
The Mercury (9-4) have the Sacramento Monarchs (3-8) on the road Saturday followed again by the Monarchs at home Wednesday for a 12:30 day game.