Mercury looks to ‘fight back,’ Charles makes history

There’s something to be said about staying the course.

Even when things don’t look great, trusting that steady progress will lead to enjoying the fruits of labor.

Through 17 games, Phoenix is 6 and 11, dropping to 10th in league standings after falling to the Lynx, 84-71. 

“We’ve found a lot of different ways this year to lose, but I want to find more and more ways for us to fight back and win,” Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard said.

The Mercury is no stranger to fighting back. 

Last season, before the Tokyo Olympics, the team was 9 and 10 coming off a blowout loss to the Lynx.

They went on to make the 2021 WNBA Finals.

Basketball Hall of Famer and Phoenix Mercury Vice President, Ann Meyers Drysdale, was candid when assessing the year so far.

“Where we are right now is probably where we should be.”

Despite not having superstar Brittney Griner, dealing with injuries, and all of the newness from top to bottom, there’s plenty of hope (and time) with 19 games to go.

“They’ve had some close games that they’ve lost,” Meyers Drysdale said. “They’re just trying to figure each other out…There’s been a lot of adjustments…Once we get moving within that offense, our defense really picks up.”

Whether or not the offense is clicking on the court, according to Tina Charles, shouldn’t affect what they can control: effort.

“We have to punch first, which we did in the first quarter, but we can’t let a couple turnovers take us away from the game,” Charles said. “We have to come back to our foundation, who we are, and what our identity is. That’s something that we’re still looking to find on a consistent basis.”

“We have to play a little bit more physical and just be a lot smarter,” Nygaard said. “We can’t just be playing well when we’re in the lead.”

It was the combination of 16 turnovers to go along with a lack of depth and defensive prowess for Phoenix that allowed Minnesota to turn an 11-point deficit into a 13-point win.

“When they picked up their intensity, we weren’t matching that physicality right away,” Nygaard said. “That’s happened in a previous game, so that’s something we definitely need to address.”

What poses a bigger challenge is addressing the need for more help off the pine.

Sophie Cunningham’s injury has made Nygaard and her staff rely on the starters for nearly all of the scoring – but one shining light on the bench has been Shey Peddy.

Peddy finished with 12 points, knocking down a trio of treys and providing a much-needed spark.

“Shey’s been very consistent for us,” Charles said. “That’s what lasts you in this league – someone who shows up, consistent, great teammate, great in the locker room, just overall good person.”

If anyone would know what it takes to last in the ‘W,’ it’s Tina Charles.

Charles became the first player in WNBA history to reach at least 6,850 points and 3,500 rebounds after grabbing seven boards against the Lynx.

Naturally, she deflected and showed others love for helping her along the way.

“I’m very thankful,” Charles said. “I’m just out here doing my job ever since I started playing this game…I just dedicate that to Coach Auriemma. He was really hard on me when I was at UConn and just the standard and what he wanted me to reflect…Him and Christine Dailey – it’s just a testament to them…what they instilled in me and what my role needs to be night in and night out.”

As Charles continues to make an impact, we’ll see if Nygaard’s hope of seeing her squad ‘fight’ will be felt in their rematch in Minnesota on Thursday at 5:00pm.