(photo credit: Ned Dishman / NBAE via Getty Images)
On Friday, the Phoenix Mercury broke a four-game losing streak, beating the Los Angeles Sparks 80-66. With Diana Taurasi still out due to injury, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner have had to step up the pace and carry the offense. The win places them at fourth in the Western Conference with a 6-7 record. In a conference where two contenders (one being the defending champions) seem to be dominating, is there a cause for concern for this Mercury team? After all, most of their losses have come at the hands of solid teams, and the extended injury to their veteran superstar isn’t exactly ideal. Come playoff time, do they have enough to make a solid push?
Bria Hartley has missed the entire season so far, and Diana Taurasi is just now getting closer to returning to the lineup. Taurasi suffered a fractured sternum about a month ago, and has been out ever since. In the four games that she did play, Taurasi averaged 15.8 points per game, including a thrilling game-winner in their first game. Without Taurasi there to provide production on offense, players like Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner have had to carry the load. The big three are just two now, but they’ve needed the help of newly acquired guard Kia Nurse.
The Mercury have been rocking with the SDS-Nurse-Cunningham-Turner-Griner starting lineup the past couple of games, switching out Megan Walker for Sophie Cunningham. Their game is in the paint, as the Mercury have 44.9% of their points there, and it helps when you have 6’8” Brittney Griner dominating on the inside. She is currently averaging a double-double, 20.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg. Griner’s prowess down low has been the key for the Mercury so far, along with Diggins-Smith.
This is a stacked team on paper, with their Big Three getting the call to represent to Team USA in the Olympics Monday morning.
I’m sure they’re anticipating the return of Taurasi, since they’ll have a tough schedule heading into July, where they’ll run into both the Aces and the defending champions, the Storm.