WNBA

Resilient Mercury Seeking Postseason Magic Against Aces

on

The Phoenix Mercury had mostly flown beneath the radar this season as title contenders. Phoenix struggled to establish a winning rhythm, going 9-10 in the first half of the season. The Merc’s momentum really commenced before the Olympic break, when Phoenix went 2-1 against Seattle and Las Vegas.

The WNBA season paused for a month, allowing the USA Women’s Olympic team to bring home their seventh consecutive gold medal. Brittney Griner, who scored a game-high 30 points in the gold medal victory over Japan, averaged 16.5 points per game and 7.2 total rebounds per game during this year’s Olympics. Mercury legend Diana Taurasi has also solidified herself as one of the greatest Olympians of all time. Taurasi, along with fellow WNBA legend Sue Bird, are now the only players of any gender to win five gold medals.

Perhaps no other team in the WNBA benefitted from the Olympics more than the Mercury did. After adding more gold accolades to their respected collections, Taurasi and Brittney Griner hit the court running when they returned to Phoenix. With a championship-minded itinerary, the Mercury opened the second half of the season with a 10-game win streak. That win streak also included a 7-0 month of August.

POSTSEASON FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS

Despite dropping the final three games of the season, Phoenix entered the first round of the playoffs with high hopes. Although they hardly escaped with a nail-bitting victory over New York, the Mercury remained optimistic heading into the second round.

Facing a short-handed Seattle Storm was far from smooth and easy. Even without star Breanna Stewart (left foot injury), the Mercury still had to overcome the great Sue Bird. Bird scored 16 points, had five assists and pulled down three rebounds. Katie Lou Samuelson led the scoring for Seattle with 18 points.

This postseason rivalry game was certainly not going to be a snooze fest. A back and forth battle all game long ended as a WNBA classic. Sue Bird hit a clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 73 with 1:01 left to play in the fourth quarter. Phoenix had an opportunity to seal the game at the end of regulation, but a triumphant block by Mercedes Russell on Skylar Diggins-Smith sent the game into overtime.

Phoenix kept their foot on the pedal as the Big Three helped secure the upset.

Brittney Griner led all players in the contest with 23 points, while adding 16 total rebounds and four assists. Taurasi finished the night with 14 points (six in OT), four total rebounds and five assists. Diggins-Smith also had a tremendous performance with 20 points, seven total rebounds and six assists.

FIRST SEMIFINALS SINCE 2018

A tenacious playoff run thus far will truly become even tougher. Surely, that’s to be expected. But this season’s Las Vegas Aces may be the hungriest team in the league. With star forward A’ja Wilson emerging as a WNBA icon, a championship would absolutely help her case. Wilson is averaging 18.3 points per game, 9.3 total rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game this season.

Wilson is also accompanied by arguably the best point guard in the league, Chelsea Gray. Gray is averaging 11.1 points per game, 5.9 assists per game, and 1.2 steals per game. Phoenix will certainly need an answer for the Point Gawd.

Gray’s Game Vital for Aces’ Championship Push

The Mercury will play the Aces in their first semifinals appearance since 2018. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner are preparing for their biggest challenge since the gold medal match against Japan. Phoenix dropped two of three games this season against Las Vegas. The two teams last played each other on September 19, where Vegas edged the Merc 84-83.

Game 1 tips off 9:00 PM CT at the Mandalay Bay Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

About Mike Konicek

Recommended for you

Powered by themekiller.com