By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX— The Phoenix Mercury pulled off the upset Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Lynx 81-66.
Head coach Sandy Brondello preaches defense as the key to winning games for the Mercury. Sunday, the team knocked down one of the best teams in the Western Conference who was previously undefeated and averaging 85 points per game in the first three games of the season.
“We have to get out to a good start,” Brondello said. “We hang our hat on defense and our defense really created our offense for us.”
Lynx guard Seimone Augustus is in her ninth year in the league and is one of the best at creating shots and being an offensive weapon. The Lynx also have the defending WNBA MVP on their team, Maya Moore. For the Mercury, rookie Alex Harden and Monique Currie had the task of stopping Augustus and Moore all afternoon.
“Alex Harden, she is our defensive stopper, she locked down Augustus and Moore when she was on her and that is what she’s capable of,” Brondello said about Harden. “She just moves her feet and has the physical presence.”
Augustus finished with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting while Moore tied for a team high with 17 points but was 5 of 18 from the floor.
“They just told me don’t let her touch the ball, control her moves and if she gets a shot off, just contest it, just make her take tough shots,” Harden said.
In addition to Harden’s defensive effort, she finished the game with a career high 10 points as she was 3 of 6 from the field and 2 of 2 from behind the arc.
The Mercury desperately needed this win to pull back to .500 on the season after dropping two-straight on the road.
“We are still a work in progress but you saw what we are capable of doing on any given night,” Brondello said. “This is three games in 3 and a half days really, so, grueling schedule but they’re competitors.”
For the Mercury who are short-handed without Brittney Griner for three more games due to suspension, the team has to get off to good starts.
“That was one of our keys to the game,” Brondello said. “We have to get off to a good start, we can’t get turnovers or be on our back foot.”
Candice Dupree led the charge in the first quarter scoring 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting. DeWanna Bonner joined the scoring party in the second quarter adding 9 points and giving her 13 points at the half.
At game’s end, Bonner finished with a game-high 22 points and 7 rebounds. Dupree contributed 16 points, Leilani Mitchell added 11 points on 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc. The bench for the Mercury out-scored the Lynx’ bench 20 to 8 points.
“I just thought that they were persistent on not letting us go where we wanted to go,” Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “When we had good matchups, they brought the help. It’s what they do. They’re a good defensive-concept team and we didn’t exploit what we wanted to exploit.”
It was a good time for the Mercury to come home and play at U.S Airways Center. With the win, the team extended their franchise home-winning record to 17 games.
“Of course we want to protect home-court, that’s what we go out and say every time we step on that court,” Bonner said. “They [the fans] help us a lot, our fans are great. So, we just wanted to come in and get a win.”
The Mercury will play next at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against the Connecticut Sun.