Wins Till A Championship:
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Playoff Record: 2-0
Playoff Points Per Game: 84.0 (4th)
Playoff Points Against: 70.0 (1st)
A tale of two games is about as on the nose a description for this series as you are going to find where the Phoenix Mercury dispatched the Los Angeles Sparks in two games. Game one was one of the tougher games of the season for the team that finished with the most wins in league history, while game two, was a slightly different story.
In game one the Mercury were thrown off their game by the Los Angeles Sparks, who, are not known for their defense, but on every play were in the face of the Mercury smothering them. It threw them off. Brittney Griner was a non-factor, the score was low, and the Mercury trailed with a few minutes to go at home. What kept them in the game were three things:
1) Penny Taylor was on top of her game. She was distributing the ball, rebounding, scoring timely buckets, and leading the offense. She was not sitting around waiting for things to figure themselves out.
2) DeWanna Bonner may not have stopped Candace Parker on every play (22 points on 19 shots), but limited her good looks, forced a ton of long two's, and limited her ability to get to the free-throw line with only four attempts. Her contest on the final offensive burst for the Sparks was as good as it gets, but then following that with the single toughest rebound of her career and two game sealing free-throws won the game.
3) Diana Taurasi went into video game mode hitting her first five three-pointers keeping the Mercury in the game single-handily from an offensive scoring perspective. She finished with 34/75 points for the team, which is 45.3% of the scoring load. That is a lot. Scoring 34 points is one thing and scoring 34 points on 15 attempts is another. Taurasi was aggressive going to the basket (8-8 free-throws) and dialed in from distance (6-9) making her impossible to defend.
Game two was a completely different story as the Mercury scored 30 first quarter points (35 in the first half of game one) and took a 19 point lead into the half on the road.
It was utter domination as Griner woke up 21 points including a thunderous dunk in transition setting the pace early. "I wasn't running myself out of the paint or letting them push me out so I was close to the rim. When you're close to the rim and 6'8", that helps," stated Griner after the game.
Taylor and Bonner chipped in on the perimeter with 17 and 11 points respectively. Erin Phillips came in and made a huge difference with her confidence, decision-making (5 assists), and steadiness. Those three allowed Taurasi to play only 23 minutes in this lopsided affair.
The Mercury ended the Sparks season abruptly and now take on the team that has ended the last three seasons in the WNBA Finals; the Minnesota Lynx.
"When we move the ball and get it through hands and have an aggressive mentality we're hard to guard, and I thought that was good for us tonight. D (Diana Taurasi) initiated it with the speed, but then the players around her: BG (Brittney Griner) getting deep, obviously Penny (Taylor) attacking on closeouts, DB (DeWanna Bonner), Candace Dupree, we just had so many weapons and it was hard for them to combat it." -- Head Coach Sandy Brondello after Game Two
...Two Greats Playing Like MVPs.
Through the 1990's we saw the "anything you can do I can do better" fad sweep across the nation with sports being the epicenter of it all. Flash forward to 2014 and the M.V.P. of the WNBA Maya Moore and the M.V.P. of the Phoenix Mercury Diana Taurasi are playing like M.V.P.'s for their respective teams in the playoffs leading to a collision in the Western Conference Finals.
In game one against the San Antonio Silver Stars Moore needed to be more giving the Lynx a scoring boost with 26 points (adding in 7 assists and 6 rebounds as well) showing off her ability to score with the bright lights on.
The next day in game one against the Los Angeles Sparks Taurasi finished with a playoff career-high 34 points (2 assists and 3 rebounds) scoring like a machine for the victory.
In game two for Moore she saw her teammates catching fire and became an M.V.P. in a different light going for 11 assists (with 16 points and 8 rebounds) leading the comeback win to advance her team. Then, yes, the very next day Taurasi saw her teammates were ready as she changed gears as well dishing out 7 assists (9 points 5 rebounds) in 15 less minutes than Moore as her team cruised to the most dominate win of the playoffs to date.
Each player is an M.V.P. in their own right. Taurasi led the best team in the WNBA and Moore had a statistically dominant season as Lynx stayed with the Mercury nearly all the way. They can both erupt for big scoring nights and run the offense allowing the plethora of talent around them to shine.
They are both remarkably unselfish for being great individual talents, which is exactly why they are going head-to-head for the right play in the WNBA Finals this week.
Western Conference Finals Schedule
Friday vs. Minnesota Lynx at 7:00 p.m. AZ Time
Sunday @ Minnesota Lynx at 12:30 p.m. AZ Time (NBA TV)
Tuesday vs. Minnesota Lynx at 7:00 p.m. AZ Time (NBA TV)