Fowles, Taurasi Duel in the Desert
Team USA teammates put on a show
By Ben York / @bjyork
“Sylvia Fowles is a beast. Proven. She’s one of the few I’d pay to watch play.” – Diana Taurasi
The pair shined overseas together in Russia and have Team USA looking as good as ever. But it was their classic back and forth shootout on Sunday that proved to be even more amazing.
Jordan vs. Wilkins, Bird vs. Magic, Kobe vs. Lebron – pick one. Sylvia Fowles and Diana Taurasi’s duel was every bit as exciting, dramatic, and fun to watch.
Fowles came out dominating with 18 points in the 1st quarter alone on 9-12 shooting. Phoenix simply had no answer for her in the paint or outside of it. In fact, Fowles had 18 of the Sky’s 26 points in the quarter. Not to be outdone, Diana Taurasi answered back in the 2nd quarter scoring 10 points and dishing out 4 assists. At the half, Taurasi had 14 points and 6 assists while Fowles had 21 points and 5 rebounds.
Phoenix started the 2nd half in their “Rover” zone which forced Fowles to become more of a distributor. Thus, Fowles had just 2 points in the 3rd quarter while Taurasi continued her hot shooting scoring 12 and handing out another 4 assists. Not surprisingly, Fowles forced her way onto the block in the 4th quarter and kept the Sky in the game with another 12 points and 3 rebounds. A Candice Dupree lay-up assisted by Diana Taurasi would pull the Mercury to within 1 point with just under a minute left in the game. Two free-throws by Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner would give Phoenix the lead by 1 until Jia Perkins hit a 16 foot jumper to put Chicago back up by a point. Diana Taurasi was fouled with 3.7 seconds left in the game and hit both free-throws to give the Mercury their 12th win of the season, 97-96.
Sylvia Fowles finished with a career-high 35 points and 8 rebounds on 14-23 shooting in just 32 minutes. Diana Taurasi answered with 35 of her own to go along with a career-high 11 assists in 35 minutes.
After the game, praise for both players was abundant.
“This is the first time I’ve played against Sylvia [Fowles] as a head coach,” Phoenix’s Corey Gaines said. “She’s great. She does it all. She had her way with us in the 1st quarter and when we finally woke up she still had her way with us. We tried to switch to zone in the 2nd half but she still found a way to post-up on the block.”
In typical Sylvia Fowles fashion, she was quick to deflect any credit back to her team and gave the Mercury props for executing down the stretch.
“We did everything in our power to do what we were supposed to do,” Fowles said after the game. “It came up to the last few minutes and they get two offensive boards and that is just unacceptable with a team like Phoenix. I was a little nervous because this was my first time playing here [in Phoenix]. I was kind of jittery. After the tip, I was fine.”
For anyone who saw this game, “fine” was a bit of an understatement. It’s clear the Sky’s offense revolves around Fowles but she doesn’t force anything that’s not given to her. Similar to Dwight Howard in the NBA, Fowles is so strong that she often times can create a high-percentage shot for herself and is a good enough passer to dish to the open person if a double-team comes.
“At the half, Diana [Taurasi] told me I needed to be a little more aggressive on her [Fowles],” Candice Dupree said after the game. “I tried to do that in the 2nd half, make it a little more uncomfortable, step off the ball. I thought we did a better job of helping each other in the 2nd half. She [Fowles] is a great player. She’s big, strong, and not easy to defend.”
And then…there’s Diana Taurasi.
Many people say with the season Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm is having that she is currently the best player in the world. While both a convincing and compelling case could be made, it’s increasingly difficult to take that title away from Diana Taurasi. For a person who is so selfless, the impact Taurasi has on the Mercury’s success is virtually immeasurable. Tonight, she had to do a little bit of everything (literally) in order to will her team to a win. She became just the second player in WNBA history with a 30-point, 10-assist night. Additionally, it was her eighth 30-point performance of the 2010 season and the 31st of her illustrious career.
“I was just trying to get some more people involved,” Taurasi said of her 11 assists. “We have some really, really good scorers out there. I think when we move the ball we’re one of the best and it starts with me.”
In the end, it doesn’t matter who you’re a fan of or what team you wanted to win. Tonight was about two superstars who refused to let their team quit and did everything they could to win.
Instantly, one of the WNBA’s classic shootouts.