Phoenix Mercury showed why they are a team in the second half Thursday night.
Phoenix (11-15) beat the Washington Mystics (15-11), 80-75, in what turned out to be a back and forth battle in the final 20 minutes.
Mercury took the lead in the final eight minutes of the game and never surrendered again – unlike Tuesday’s double overtime loss to the Minnesota Lynx.
“Minnesota was a hell of a game when he came without a break,” Sophie Cunningham said. “Everyone except (Skylar Diggins-Smith) hadn’t played in a while, so one kind got us started, got us in rhythm, but today I think everyone played so solidly from top to bottom, and everyone contributed “And I think we’re just starting to find our rhythm a little bit. As we’re always said, we’re a team in the second half.”
Not much went right for Phoenix in the first 10 minutes. Phoenix’s first goal, a layup by Brianna Turner at the 9:16 mark, was taken back after the referees ruled that the ball did not leave Turner’s hand before the shot clock expired.
From the bench, Diamond DeShields blocked a Mystic basket near the end of the first quarter. On the next possession, DeShields hit the ground hard and ended up leaving the game after a comeback attempt in the second quarter. DeShields was on crutches after the match.
“It’s still up in the air,” DeShields said of the severity of her injury. “I’ll probably find out more tomorrow, but I think it’s okay. It was a bad series of events, but I should be fine. ”
Without DeShields, Phoenix’s bench was not effective offensively Thursday night. Between DeShields, Reshanda Gray, Megan Gustafson and Jennie Simms, the Mercury bench together took three shot attempts and recorded no points.
Despite the lack of offensive power, Diana Taurasi believed the bench contributed physically on Thursday.
“It’s fun, the bench actually came in and gave us a lot of good minutes,” Taurasi said. “I do not know if it’s translated into statistics, but you know, Jennie came in, Megan came in and brought the physical character, (Reshandas) has been amazing since she came here. So we got some good minutes. It was just not translated into points. ”
Mercury had to recover from a 15-point deficit after the first quarter. But Taurasi, an 18-year-old WNBA veteran, gave his teammates encouragement in a pinch. Taurasi led all goal scorers on Thursday and finished with 29 points.
“I think when you get into this league, those matches are that long and you can be down, no matter what, 12, 13 points, but it’s a long match,” Taurasi said. “I do not say much, but I always say that it is a long battle. It’s a long game. There are many possessions and many things that can happen. ”
And Mercury took advantage of the long game. When the break sounded, Phoenix outscored Washington 32-19 in the second quarter and was only two points behind, 45-43. The second-quarter comeback also included something spicy, Cunningham said.
Nygaard received a technical error at 4:42 a.m. in the second quarter to quarrel with officials. Just a minute later, Cunningham and Mystics’ Myisha Hines-Allen came into a heated exchange after a Cunningham 3-point attempt, resulting in a double technical.
“It’s nothing,” Cunningham said. “I mean, if it happened to guys, we would not even talk about it. But I thought I had gotten dirty, she stepped on me, so why can I not be a little angry and naughty?”
Diggins-Smith and Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne also received a double technical foul in the fourth quarter, and Cunningham said their argument did not justify a technical foul.
At the end of the game, all Mercury starters played over 34 minutes on Thursday night, with Cunningham resting for just 54 seconds of playing time.
“They are warriors, they are absolute warriors, they fought in every way,” Nygaard said after the game. “We checked our defense a lot up. I wish there were more timeouts to give them more rest, but they are constantly fighting.”
With DeShields questionable, Phoenix may have only nine players available for its next game against Atlanta Dream on Sunday at 6 p.m.