By now it might seem inevitable that the Seattle Storm will beat the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the 2011 WNBA Playoffs to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Storm have now beaten the Mercury in 11 of their last 12 meetings - regular season and playoffs - and with the matchup problems the Storm present at full health, that might figure to continue. But the Mercury do still have the WNBA's leading scorer in Diana Taurasi and after a sub-par 11-point performance against the Storm on Thursday, you almost have to expect that she'll have a bigger game today.
The thing is, the Mercury have more problems than their scoring as quoted by the AP.
"Obviously, I didn't play as well as I wanted to," she said. "But I'm more worried about our team. You get 36 and you lose and it doesn't matter. You get 11 you lose, so it doesn't really matter how many points you score until we can find a way to beat this team. We'll see if we can find that answer."
The Storm scored twice as many points in the paint as the Mercury (40-20) and beat them badly on the boards (49-35). Part of that is certainly that Mercury center Nakia Sanford was out with an injury, but the mismatches the Storm present explain that as well.
Aside from 6-foot-6 center Lauren Jackson, Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner struggled to contend with the Storm's stronger Camille Little inside and Swin Cash went to work tying Little with a team-high 11 rebounds. When those two weren't beating them inside, guard Tanisha Wright was able to take advantage of her size against smaller Mercury guards.
As Taurasi implied, regardless of how many points she scores, the Mercury just haven't found a way to beat the Storm given those advantages. And while the attention has gone to Taurasi's sub-par performance, point guard Sue Bird's 8-point, 1-assist performance wasn't exactly typical.
Mercury-Storm games are exciting more often than not, but their ability to figure out how to defend the Storm is likely more significant to victory than whether one player scores more points.