Energized Mercury gets first win under Nikki Blue

Courtesy: Mercury

The Mercury delivered its best game of the season and it’s still just the first week under interim head coach Nikki Blue.

“For us to get this win,” Blue said. “It just reminds me of that saying…’God doesn’t call on the qualified, he qualifies the called.’…All I needed was an opportunity…So grateful we got this win and I got my first win as a head coach. I’m truly appreciative of that.”

“It’s just been refreshing,” Diana Taurasi said. “The last couple days of trying to reset as a group. Coach [Blue] has been the main factor in that. It’s been really good trying to move forward and get some clarity…it’s a credit to her hard work.”

Desperate to snap its six-game losing streak, the squad’s sense of urgency was clear to see.

Phoenix got the 85-63 victory over the Fever while doing something they haven’t had the chance to do all year: protect a large lead sparked by a great start.

They did it by getting out in transition (14 fast break points) and finding a flow through ball movement (28 team assists on 34 shots).

“To go where we want to go we have to find a way to make sure the ball has energy in a lot of ways,” Taurasi said. “Getting stops and being able to rebound the basketball gave us an opportunity to run a little bit more…When we can do that, it takes pressure off BG to go down there and grind every possession.”

One of the silver linings from their loss earlier in the week was doing a good job giving Brittney Griner (22 pts, 10/16 FG, five rebounds) space to operate, and that carried over in a big way.

“Teammates believing in me,” Griner said. “Putting me in good positions to score. It was a team effort tonight.”

“Our coaching staff put together a great plan,” Blue said. “It was mostly our players – they executed offensively, they defended well, their energy level was at an all-time high. It was very fun basketball to watch and even more fun to coach.”

Defensively, it was as hard-nosed a performance as we’ve seen in 2023, consistently getting back when Indiana seemingly had numbers going the other way.

While the Mercury let up 18 second chance points, nearly every shot was contested.

The proof is in the pudding… or the box score.

All-Star starter and rookie phenom Aliyah Boston (six points, nine rebounds, five fouls) had a tough night at the office along with her running mate in Kelsey Mitchell (15 points, 5/15 FG).

“[Aliyah] was BG’s matchup,” Blue said. “It was a scheme that we felt didn’t require a double-team. We let BG be there on her own and defend her, stay walled, and try to frustrate her as much as she can.”

“I loved the way Breezy [Brianna Turner] was defending,” Griner said. “All of us. Getting jump balls…defending better than we have in the past.”

The combination of role players like Moriah Jefferson, Michaela Onyenwere, and Brianna Turner stepping up and stars like Griner and Taurasi (17 points, six assists) doing what they do best is what we’ve been waiting to see.

10 players found the bucket in the matchup.

“When we’re hitting on all cylinders, we could be very dynamic,” Griner said. “We can be very hard to guard. Tonight… you see what the end result is. Just gotta get everyone firing off when we start each game.”

PHX will need a lot more of that, as this team simply can’t shake the injury bug:

Let’s see if the Mercury can maintain this momentum as it hosts the Lynx on Saturday at 7 pm.

Extra sights and sounds from the game: