July 30, 2020 

Big night for Bria Hartley isn’t enough as Mercury fall to Fever

Defense fails Phoenix once again

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PALMETTO, FL – JULY 25: Bria Hartley #14 of the Phoenix Mercury handles the ball against the Los Angeles Sparks on July 25, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Just two games into the season, Bria Hartley has shown why the Phoenix Mercury brought her in this offseason. An 11-point game against the Los Angeles Sparks to open the season was followed by a 26-point explosion against the Indiana Fever on Wednesday. The offensive output tied her career high.

It wasn’t enough for the Mercury, though, as they fell to the Fever 106-100. The loss dropped Phoenix to 0-2 on the young season.

“Bria Hartley, obviously she had a great night tonight,” Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s not only our best scorer and creator, she’s our best defender on the ball, as well. We’re asking a lot of her, so we need others to step up.”

As a team, the defense was once again the Mercury’s Achilles heel. They allowed the Fever to shoot 51.4 percent from the floor.

“Really what hurt is we decided to over help and we didn’t need to over help,” Brondello said. “You know, we gave them really easy looks, like baseline penetration. (Brittney Griner) would help, they’d pass to (Teaira) McCowan. Lack of communication, lack of toughness, to be quite honest…. I thought our second unit was better than our first unit.”

Hartley was the leader of that second unit on both ends of the floor, a role that she’s taken to since joining the French national team in 2018.

“My national team coach, she was one of the coaches that really told me I could be very disruptive,” Hartley said. “I think when I went and played with the French national team, every time we played a team, I’m guarding the other team’s best player. So I think I take a lot more pride in my defense.”

Brondello is looking for that commitment from her entire line-up as she works to find which groups work the best together.

“We’ll just mix it up in a way to try and find what’s going to be our best line-ups at different times,” the coach said. So, still working on that, but, in the end, defensively we’ve got to make sure that…we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to make sure I’m putting them in better positions.”

The Mercury don’t have long to make those adjustments as they head into a 10-day stretch of playing a game every other day. And they don’t want to rely on the excuse of having five new faces this season.

“I’m not gonna use that as an excuse, because the things that we messed up on, those are basketball,” Griner said. “That’s just playing basketball. Those are things that we already know. That’s not, you know, playing with each other or nothing, so I’m not gonna use that as an excuse. Because the things that we messed up on, we all know what they are and they’re very fixable. So that’s just us coming out making that conscious effort to do what we need to do in practice and translate that to the game. It doesn’t matter what we do in practice if we can’t do it in the game.”

Written by Kim Doss

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