Mercury-Silver Stars Preview
Apparently, all the Phoenix Mercury needed was a change at the helm.
The Mercury look to stay unbeaten under interim coach Russ Pennell when they visit the San Antonio Silver Stars on Saturday night.
The defensive-minded Pennell has quickly made his presence felt since replacing sixth-year coach Corey Gaines last Thursday, leading Phoenix (13-11) to three consecutive victories. The Mercury have held opponents to an average of 60.3 points during their run, significantly lower than their league-worst mark of 81.6.
"I think fans have been wanting us to play defense for years now and the last three games have shown that we can do it," forward Candice Dupree said. "It's just a mindset. You get a coach in here that that is the end of the floor that he focuses on and us as players have to buy into it, and I think we have so far."
Phoenix continued its recent defensive prowess in a 75-58 victory over Indiana on Wednesday, limiting the Fever to 31.3 percent shooting.
"I am really proud of the ladies. As I told them in there, 100 percent of this credit goes to them," Pennell told the team's official website. "All we have done is come in and say these areas we can get better in and they said, 'sign us up.' They have been really good about it. I think that has been the formula."
Dupree led the way with 16 points and Diana Taurasi added 12 and 11 assists, moving into fifth place on the WNBA career scoring list.
"It is a little different," Taurasi, among the league leaders with 21.0 points per game, said of the change in approach. "We are trying to do some different things and they are working out now."
Phoenix, which outscored Indiana 42-20 in the paint and held a 10-2 edge in transition, last won four in a row during a season-high five-game winning streak June 21-July 2.
"Just got to keep building on it," Dupree said. "I think we are starting to see the better defense and the more defense we play, the easier it is for us offensively."
The Mercury have split two matchups with San Antonio (8-15) this year, with each team winning on the road. Star rookie Brittney Griner had 26 points, seven rebounds and five blocks as Phoenix pulled out an 83-77 victory June 25.
The Silver Stars return home after splitting back-to-back games in Seattle. San Antonio won 77-56 last Friday but couldn't keep up two days later, falling 69-63.
Jia Perkins had a game-high 19 points and Jayne Appel scored 11 with 16 boards for San Antonio, which was outrebounded 48-32 and limited to 33.8 percent from the field.
The Silver Stars are just 5-6 at home, but the Mercury are looking to avoid a season-worst third consecutive road loss.