By: Kayla Mortellaro
There is a saying that permeates throughout sports, ‘defense wins championships’ and the Phoenix Mercury have taken that approach behind head coach Sandy Brondello.
The Mercury handed the Minnesota Lynx a huge loss in game one of the WNBA Western Conference Finals, 85-71, and more impressively held the league MVP, Maya Moore to just nine points. During the regular season, Moore averaged almost 24 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field.
Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner all season-long has taken the task of guarding the other team’s most formidable offensive player. Friday night, Bonner took Moore completely out of her rhythm resulting in Moore shooting only 33 percent from the floor with four turnovers on the night.
After the win, Brondello said,
Obviously, DeWanna Bonner, she is a great defender. She probably doesn’t get that kind of recognition, as she should, but she is, and she is always locking down the best player. Maya Moore is a great player but I thought we executed quite well against her.”
The Mercury’s defense prevents teams from getting into their offensive sets and get into a rhythm. Every member of Brondello’s squad plays with excellent defensive hustle and has a complete understanding of where to be, when to be there and how to close out throwing lanes.
Brondello knows her team is playing well, especially defensively and said,
Defensively we were just the team unit, so locked in, we have been so consistently good on the defensive end all season long and that was the key for us.”
Not only are the Mercury locking down teams defensively but they are also playing unselfish and well-executed offense.
Brittney Griner continued her dominant offensive production from last series by giving the Mercury 23 points on 64 percent shooting from the floor. Bonner contributed 16 points on 57 percent shooting from behind the arc and Taurasi had an off-night shooting but still gave the team 17 points and five assists. The Mercury got a huge lift from guard Penny Taylor, with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Taylor said after the game,
It’s been tonight what I have been trying to do all season, is just fill the gaps, do what I can to lift the team when we need to. Tonight it was a lot of assists in the first half and then in the second, I tried to be more aggressive on the boards and that sort of thing.”
According to the Phoenix Mercury’s twitter account, it was only 12 hours from the end of Friday night’s game that the team was back in the gym for practice. Brondello has her team understanding the path needed to be taken to a win a championship and the players are all on-board.
Taylor echoed the desire to keep getting better and what they need to do in game two even though they hold the 1-0 lead in the best of three series. She said,
Our frame of mind doesn’t change. We know if we relax for a second, they’ll be on top of us. They are such a good team.”
The WNBA Western Conference Finals continue Sunday, August 31, in Minnesota. The game will be nationally televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time.