In a game that saw the Storm score 100 points for the first time in franchise history, it’s somewhat inevitable defense will take a back seat in the discussion. However, everybody knows the Phoenix Mercury isn’t much defensively and the Storm can certainly put points on the board when going well. After all, the Storm had 97 against Phoenix a little less than a year ago.
What is a surprise is holding Diana Taurasi to 14 points, and a lot of credit has to go to Iziane Castro Marques, who kept Taurasi from getting many easy looks. The Storm defended the three-point line well, holding Phoenix at bay despite 30 attempts – the most ever by a Storm opponent.
On offense, the Storm was disciplined and worked its advantage in the paint most of the night instead of settling for quick shots and getting into a “score immediately” mentality. Other than Izi, who was quiet on offense, the rest of the team took turns carrying the load offensively.
After the game, I had a couple of people tell me the Mercury isn’t a contender, or won’t make the playoffs, or whatever. I’m not buying that. This time a year ago, the Storm was losing by 20 to Houston. Bad games like that are an inevitable part of the early WNBA season, especially for a Phoenix team that got so many key players back so recently.
Just four nights ago, this Mercury group played great defense and handled the Silver Stars (winners tonight over Connecticut) with relative ease in the Valley of the Sun. Writing them off would be extremely hasty. I am still concerned about who does the dirty work for Phoenix. That’s not Tangela Smith’s game, and Kelly Schumacher slows down the Mercury offense when she’s in the game – something Kamila Vodichkova and Kristen Rasmussen, ultimate role players, did not do last season.
There is definitely work for Paul Westhead and company to do, and the veteran coach knows it. He said before the game he’s still learning about his team – and tonight probably provided a wake-up call to the Mercury that they must be focused on defense. We’ll see where they go from here.