On paper, the Seattle Storm's 83-77 win against the Phoenix Mercury tonight was their first road win of the season against a quality opponent.
However, there's no reason to believe that the Storm got the Mercury's best effort tonight. And whenever you catch an opponent playing that poorly, even a close win can be mildly disappointing.
After shooting 50 percent in the first quarter and applying defensive pressure that forced the Storm into rushed decisions, the Mercury shot 36.17 percent over the final three quarters while the Storm handled their traps better to get into their sets more easily on offense.
But the worst part of the Mercury's second half performance - and particularly the third quarter - was their mind-boggling turnovers. Whether it was passes through traffic, sloppy passes on the interior, passes to the Storm, passes to nobody, bad hand-offs, or just dropping the ball out of bounds, the Mercury just never really seemed to find a rhythm.
Nevertheless, the Mercury arguably outplayed the Storm in the fourth quarter after finishing the third quarter down 10. After the Storm got up by 12 points early in the fourth quarter, the Mercury went on an 11-2 run late in the game to make it a one point game.
Down the stretch, it was Mercury All-Star Diana Taurasi who scored five points in the final two minutes to keep the game close but it was ultimately two late turnovers by point guard Temeka Johnson that allowed the Storm to hold on to their lead.
It might seem odd to focus so heavily on Mercury mistakes in discussing the Storm's win, but this was the Storm's game to lose and rather than hurting themselves with turnovers they clamped down on defense and capitalized on the Mercury's myriad errors.
Otherwise, it was a familiar narrative for the Storm: Sue Bird led the way with 18 points, seven assists, and five rebounds while Camille Little finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Taurasi carried the Mercury with 26 points, four assists, and three rebounds.
The Storm win sets up a big game on Thursday in Minneapolis with their fourth and final game against the Minnesota Lynx, who are currently in first place after remaining idle tonight. Even if the Storm didn't play outstanding basketball tonight, a win is a win and this one is made even more significant by gaining a win against a team now just a game ahead of them in the Western Conference playoff race.