Watched some of the Mercury’s shoot-around this morning here in Phoenix and how they were drilling to prevent the Sparks from getting deep in the lane the way they were able to in Game 2.
LA and Phoenix have now played six times this season, so they all know everything about each other. Still, there were points that Mercury coach Corey Gaines went over and over to make sure everybody understood that all it takes is a half-step of indecision to be “too late.”
After the shoot-around, I asked Phoenix’s “big three” – yes, even if she’s not starting, Penny Taylor is still one of them – about what had to be different tonight for the Mercury compared to Friday.
Cappie Pondexter said, “Rebounding. That probably had to be a team low (last night). But I’m more than confident you’re going to see that tonight. We’re not the tallest team in the league, but we’re the fastest and we need to use that to our advantage. That comes from setting the tempo from the beginning. We came out very passive yesterday and gave them confidence to know, ‘Maybe these guys aren’t going to fight as hard as they did in Game 1.’ ”
Taylor, who’s come back strong after ankle surgery earlier this year, has felt pretty close to 100 percent in the past three week. She relishes the chance to be competing in a series like this.
“It feels really good – these are the situations you want to be in,” she said. “Big games like this when you have that pressure going against a team that wants to win as bad as we do. And is such a talented team as well; they are legends of the game.”
Speaking of which, Diana Taurasi has been in many, many big-game situations, including three NCAA title contests. She says there’s definitely an awareness that the level of play between these two teams is exceptional.
“You can feel the intensity when you’re on the court,” Taurasi said. “Whichever team gets that little window of opportunity seizes it. Last night was their opportunity and they sure took advantage of it.
“Last night, they played like a team that was on the ropes. Tonight, there are going to be two teams on the ropes.”
Meanwhile, LA’s Candace Parker said after Friday’s game that these past two LA-Phoenix contests have been indicative of what happens when two great teams collide.
“I see this as a marquee matchup, and it would have been all season if everyone had been healthy and on the court,” she said. “It’s fun to play Phoenix … their style is great, but sometimes you get caught up playing their game. And they’re going to win at their game. So you have to settle down and be smart.
“We learned something from watching San Antonio (against Phoenix). They slowed down the ball and tried to execute their offense.”