Despite dropping their first two games of the season, the Phoenix Mercury are not ready to panic.
That might change should the Mercury drop a third consecutive game Friday night when they face the Las Vegas Aces at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
With Brittney Griner, a healthy Diana Taurasi and the addition of All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith in tow, Phoenix (0-2) was feeling good about its chances within the “Wubble” of this 2020 season – at least from the standpoint of improving upon last year’s 15-19 effort.
However, the first two games of this season have not been kind to the Mercury. They endured a rough second half in last weekend’s 99-76 loss to Los Angeles then fell 106-100 on Wednesday to Indiana. Phoenix shot 49.3 percent from the floor and 9 of 22 from 3-point range, but allowed the Fever to make 51.4 percent of their shots and 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Though the Mercury are dealing with some early disappointment, they still feel there’s plenty of time to get back on track even amid this shortened season in which victories are obviously at a premium. Phoenix dropped its first four games of the 2016 season, but still made the playoffs.
“I don’t think I would be too disappointed yet,” guard Bria Hartley, who posted a career-high 26 points off the bench versus Indiana, told the Arizona Republic. “We can fight through some adversity. We’ve got to keep working to get better every day, and hopefully we can string some wins (together).
“We’ve just got to make sure we’re building and get in the playoffs. We’ve got to be playing our best basketball when it comes to the end of the season. We don’t need to be playing our best basketball right now.”
While that might be one way to look at things, the Mercury would rather not dig themselves a hole too deep to climb out from. Especially from a defensive end, where the issues seem to be most prominent.
Things don’t expect to be any easier against Las Vegas (1-1), which features two of the league’s top offensive players in A’ja Wilson (21.5 points per game, 11.0 rebounds per game) and Angel McCoughtry (18.5 ppg). Wilson had 21 points with 11 boards and Dearica Hamby scored 20 as the Aces used a 30-point third quarter to record a 100-70 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
It was a strong bounce-back effort for the Aces, who suffered a heartbreaking 88-86 season-opening loss to Chicago. Las Vegas, which took two of three from the Mercury in 2019, is playing this season without star center Liz Cambage (medical exemption).
“We’re not 0-22,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer, whose team held Atlanta to 40 percent shooting and 5 of 28 from 3-point range, told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “Every coach to start the season worries about when they’re going to get their first win. I thought our team played an outstanding defensive basketball game, executing our game plan across the board. It was a lot of fun to watch.”
Griner (15.5 ppg) averaged 22.0 points against the Aces last season.