10:00 PM ET, May 22, 2010
Phoenix coach Corey Gaines declared his team rusty after a sloppy season-opening victory. He also hopes a one-week layoff will have the defending WNBA champions better prepared than they have been in recent years to defend Seattle's Lauren Jackson.The Mercury resume play Saturday night when they meet the Storm for the first time this year.Phoenix (1-0) won three of four against Seattle (2-0) last season, and finished three games ahead of the Storm for the best record in the Western Conference. The Mercury, who had a league-leading 23 victories, went on to win their second title in three years while the Storm were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by Los Angeles.Although Phoenix won the season series, it again struggled to contain Jackson, who has averaged 24.7 points against the Mercury the last three seasons.She averaged 20.0 points in three games last season, missing the final meeting -- a 92-84 Mercury win in Seattle in September -- due to a back injury that kept her out of the playoffs.Phoenix opened defense of its latest title with a 78-77 win over the Sparks last Saturday. Penny Taylor hit two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining, and Diana Taurasi scored five of her 14 points in the final five minutes.The Mercury held Los Angeles to 36.0 percent shooting, but weren't completely happy with the effort. They committed 22 turnovers, including eight by Candice Dupree in her Phoenix debut."(We're) a little rusty," Gaines said. "Twenty-two turnovers is not like us. It's going to take a little time for us to jell, it's a different type of team."Gaines was referring not only to the addition of Dupree, formerly with Chicago, but that several of his players were competing overseas until last week. That included Taurasi, who finished 2 of 11 from the field.Taurasi, the finals MVP, led the league in scoring last season with 20.4 points per game. She averaged 22.0 against the Storm.She may have trouble putting up similar numbers Saturday as the Storm have excelled on defense early this season. After holding the Sparks to 67 points in a win last Sunday, Seattle rallied from nine down in the second half against Minnesota en route to a 79-76 win Wednesday.The Storm limited the Lynx to 31 points after the break."I feel our core group, when we're out there on the floor, we have the best opportunity to come back and take a lead or execute down the stretch," said forward Swin Cash, who led all scorers with 24 points.Jackson finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. She has averaged 20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks so far in 2010.