After suffering an old-fashioned butt-whooping in Phoenix Thursday, where they lost game one of the Western Conference Semifinals, 106-93, Saturday's game two was, as Charles Barkley so eloquently put it, win or go home for the San Antonio Silver Stars. Well, the Silver Stars were already home, at least their basketball home at San Antonio's AT&T Center, so they didn't have far to travel, but Phoenix was simply a bit too much for the home team, as they took a 92-73 game two victory, to sweep the Silver Stars, 2-0.
This is the second straight year that Phoenix has eliminated San Antonio from the playoffs; indeed, the Mercury has knocked the Silver Stars out of playoff contention three times in last four years. The two most recent times, 2009 and 2007, the Mercury went on to win the WNBA championship.
Diana Taurasi, coming off her first ever postseason double-double in Thursday's game one, scored a game-high 23 points in Saturday's eliminator, Candice Dupree added 19 (plus 11 boards to make it a double-double and Tangela Smith added 16 for Phoenix in a game that proved to be a total rout from start to finish. Penny Taylor also doubled for Phoenix, complementing 12 points with 12 assists (a WNBA playoff record) for the Mercury, who shot 53 percent from the field. Taurasi and Smith combined to make the Mercury's first nine shots as Phoenix sprinted out to a 21-2 lead in the first eight minutes and never looked back.
For five seasons, the Seattle Storm toiled without reward. For five seasons, they met an early end to their season. For four of those five seasons, they ran into a nemesis they simply couldnt overcome.
Once again this season, the Storm had to go through the Los Angeles Sparks to escape the first round of the WNBA postseason. They had to tear down the wall that had stopped them cold in playoffs past. San Antonio might have been the preferred match-up for coach Brian Aglers bunch, but a 28-win team should welcome challenges instead of flinching from them. The ballclub that has ruled the roost this year in the WNBA needed to face its demons and the Sparks in order to dispel the Storm clouds that have hovered over the Seattle franchise since its 2004 WNBA championship run.
After taking a decisive, 79-66 home win in round one, game one of this year's playoffs, the Storm headed south to Los Angeles, looking to close out the series. At roughly 2:15 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday afternoon, inside the bowels of the cavernous Staples Center, you could see the rays of sunshine filter through the visitors locker room. The deed was done. For Seattle, the "Curse of the Sparks" was no more. A ticket to the WNBA Western Conference Finals had finally arrived for the women in the green road jerseys. The 81-66 win in Southern California was vintage Storm, a 15-point thumping of an opponent who was simply overwhelmed by Seattle's multifaceted attack.
Team Bing will now get a chance to take on the defending WNBA champions from Phoenix in a blockbuster series loaded with star power. Mercury previews, though, are for another day. The Saturday storyline concerns Seattles ability to finally dispatch Los Angeles, the rival who had cut their season short for three out of the past four years, in a best-of-three battle, enabling the Storm franchise to move forward to the second round of the WNBA playoffs after five years stuck in neutral.