PHOENIX – For the third time this season, the Storm fell to Phoenix in a WNBA game – this time by a 78-58 score Wednesday afternoon at US Airways Arena.
The teams were tied at 16 after one quarter, but the Mercury pulled away with a 19-0 run in the second period.
“We turned it over,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “That was pretty much the ballgame.”
During the Mercury’s second-quarter run, the Storm went scoreless for seven minutes.
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“We just weren’t being aggressive against them,” Storm forward Shekinna Stricklen said. “They hit their sweet spot, and they were getting comfortable. And they just went on a run.”
The Storm scored four points in the second quarter and trailed by 17 at halftime. The third quarter began with a scoreboard video of Phoenix center Brittney Griner holding a giant stop sign and encouraging her teammates to “Stop the Storm.” It seems the Mercury took this command to heart.
“They just started forcing us into turnovers,” Storm center Crystal Langhorne said. “We didn’t execute, and we turned the ball over. You can’t beat a team like that.”
The Storm had 20 turnovers, which led to 31 points. Phoenix had seven turnovers, which led to six points.
“A team that talented offensively — when you give them those opportunities to score in transition, it’s hard to play against them,” Langhorne said.
Because of the Storm’s offensive struggles, Agler said the Mercury rarely had to play against his team’s half-court defense.
“They scored points off our turnovers,” he said. “Those were times we didn’t get a chance to get our defense set. So it was usually them playing in transition that they were scoring and separating.”
Langhorne had nine points and 10 rebounds. Angel Robinson had 10 points off the bench.
Guard Penny Taylor scored 14 points to lead Phoenix. Newly-named All-Star Game starters Griner and Diana Taurasi scored 13 and 11 points, respectively. Griner also had eight rebounds.
The Mercury extended its winning streak to eight games and has the best 17-game start in franchise history (14-3).
“We haven’t played well against them yet,” Langhorne said. “It was a rough one. We have to let it go. We have other games to go win.”
The loss was the worst of the season for the Storm, but Stricklen said the team will learn from it.
“We just need to play Storm basketball,” she said. “We need to get back to Seattle defense, and we’re not there yet. We’re not rotating, having each other’s back and being aggressive on the defensive end. That’s something we have to get better at.”
The Storm, 8-13, will have two more chances to avoid a season sweep when it hosts the Mercury on July 22 and Aug. 17. The Storm’s trip continues Friday in San Antonio at 5 p.m.